symphony's Final Fantasy (Nintendo Entertainment System) review

The one that started it all.

** Author's note: This is a review/editorial of the -original- version of Final Fantasy, not of any of the remakes **

Final Fantasy was not the first RPG for the NES. Dragon Warrior and Ultima: Exodus were out years before, but Final Fantasy did indeed revolutionize the role-playing genre.

Instead of the oft tedius and confusing controls of previous RPGs, the control scheme was very straightforward; instead of an ambigious plot and not really knowing where to go or what to do, there was a clear storyline with well defined characters you met along the way. The combat system, while having it's share of problems (an insane hit/miss ratio early on, losing your turn if an enemy died before you attacked, etc), was a nice change from what previous games in the genre had offered.

One of the most ingenious marketting schemes of the old NES era I can think of involved the dedication of an entire edition of Nintendo Power to Final Fantasy. Instead of getting the usual issue, suscribers received a strategy guide for Final Fantasy. It was a great guide, even if it arrived almost a month late, and many of us had already finished it... Ahem. But yes, it got the word out to the masses and shortly after Final Fantasy was a household name.

Of course, a strategy guide alone does not hook someone onto a game. The game itself has to be good, and Final Fantasy was. It provided countless hours to gamers, young and old and terrific replayability, being able to choose from the different classes and then seeing their upgraded form later in the game. Being able to say you beat the game with 4 white mages was the ultimate way to show off amongst other gamers. The edition of the mini-game (where you pressed a&b 50 times while on a ship, if I remember right) was a cute touch.

Final Fantasy 1 is certainly not the best in the series, but it was a fantastic starting point, and single-handedly revolutionized the genre. I'm not sure it deserved three rereleases, as I think one was enough to give the new generation of gamers a taste of what it was like. But then again, Square has made no attempt to hide the fact they like to milk their games for all they're worth and then some.

The most important question facing those who have never played it before and are curious is -- is it still playable or should you play one of the remakes? In my opinion, the original is still definitely playable, but you need to have a good amount of patience and forgiveness, realizing that this game was made 20 years ago. The remakes are true to the source material and bring their own extra goodies to the table, but I found they lacked the feeling of nostalgia that the original provides. 
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