Our next podcast recording (26.11.17): Final Fantasy (I)

This is where you'll find threads specific to the games we're covering in Volume Six
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JaySevenZero
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Our next podcast recording (26.11.17): Final Fantasy (I)

Post by JaySevenZero » December 24th, 2016, 10:50 am

Here is where you can leave your thoughts regarding Final Fantasy (I) for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

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BlueWeaselBreath
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Re: Final Fantasy (I) / Final Fantasy II

Post by BlueWeaselBreath » July 10th, 2017, 2:43 am

I decided to play the original Final Fantasy maybe a year or so after FFVII came out. I knew the series didn't follow a narrative sequence, but figured I should play this NES classic first if I was going to get the full enjoyment out of FFVII.

I had only played a couple JRPGs at that time: Earthbound and Super Mario RPG come to mind. Maybe some of Chrono Trigger. I had also played some early first-person RPGs on PC and one called Dungeon Magic on the NES. I also had some lite D&D style board games like Hero's Quest. So I was somewhat familiar with the idiom going in.

I played FFI on the NESticle emulator that was so popular at the time. It was immediately apparent I was playing an old game, as the overworld graphics and grid-based mechanics looked a bit dated. However, I really liked the main character and enemy sprites, which were both beautiful, even though they used two completely different visual styles. Looking back today, they are just as attractive, and probably the element that's held up best from these original games.

I started off the game completely confused, which is always a great sign. Having not read the manual, I didn't know what the different character classes were about. I knew the difference between a fighter and a mage, but Red Mage? Black Belt? Oh boy.

This vague sense of confusion lingered through my entire playthrough. The story is present, but somewhat minimal and generic, and I was never exactly sure where I should go next. Do I stay on the prescribed path or explore? If I go exploring, will I find side quests and special items, or will I end up in an area I'm not meant to go to yet? Later, more playable games in this genre implemented methods of communicating this better to the player, but this game, with its frequent random invisible encounters and open world seemed to both encourage and discourage exploration at the same time. Chrono Trigger and Earthbound had innovations such as non-respawning enemies and automatic wins over low-level enemies respectively, and you could see the enemies on the screen before you battled them! I think random battles are just the pits.

In the end I enjoyed the game, but I had a walkthrough and the benefit of save states. It wasn't the first video game to use RPG elements like this, but since Final Fantasy was such an inspiration for so many later games, this seems like such a pure and quintessential form of the RPG. Go out, fight some enemies, go to a town, buy better versions of all your equipment, then go fight some more enemies. At the time it was released, it must've been sweet. Modern gamers will have seen this done a hundred times better elsewhere, though, often in later Square games. Adolescent me dug it, though.

After FFI, I went straight in and played a translated version of the Famicom FFII, also through emulation. It had a tighter narrative than the first game, and despite its legendary inaccessibility to modern gamers, I didn't find it to be such a huge step up in difficulty from the first game. I don't remember how far I got in the game before my life overtook me and I stopped playing, but I know I didn't finish it. I don't think it was a problem with the game, I was just burned out on Final Fantasy from playing the first game, and the second one doesn't look or feel all that different from the first. If I hadn't just come off FFI, I would have had the stamina to finish FFII -- it's not a bad game if you can use save states and whatnot.

I've never touched any of the remakes although I've heard good things. In the end, Final Fantasy games end up being somewhat of a chore to get through, even though I enjoy elements of them, understand why others would love them, and am intrigued by them when I'm not playing. The endless random encounters and complex battle systems that fans love begin to challenge my stamina fairly early in the games. But if you're a fan of the series, or of the genre, or of retro gaming, you should try the original Final Fantasy games for a bit, or at least watch a playthrough, to appreciate where the series and genre game from, and dig the amazing sprite art.

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Re: Final Fantasy (I) / Final Fantasy II

Post by arry_g » August 15th, 2017, 2:36 pm

I own too many copies of Final Fantasy I and II. I own them physically on PS1, on GBA and on PSP and digitally on the WiiWare and PSN. I don’t know how this happened, I enjoyed the games when I played them and I didn’t dislike the second entry as much as many others do but with so many other games available out there and so many more interesting Final Fantasy stories, I can’t see myself playing them again.

I played Final Fantasy I and II as a means of exploring the legacy of a franchise that defined part of my childhood. In the UK (and Europe in general) we were a little late getting Final Fantasy, the first Final Fantasy I played was Mystic Quest on the SNES. I made note of the name and a couple of years later when I discovered emulation, I found pleasure in Final Fantasy IV and VI (both frequent residents of ‘Top 10 games’ lists). I loved them and so dived back further into the history of the series, I remember finding the first game an interesting simplification of the core gameplay and the second an interesting mechanical experiment that didn’t quite pay off. I wasn’t disappointed as such but the magic wasn’t there in the same way as it was for IV and VI, I didn’t recapture that magic until I played Final Fantasy VII and didn’t surpass it until I played VIII. Yes, VIII is my favourite, better get the torches ready internet...
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Re: Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II

Post by ashman86 » August 22nd, 2017, 10:04 pm

Somewhere between the release of Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII, I set out on a personal quest to collect and play all of the mainline Final Fantasy games minus the sole MMORPG entry at the time, FFXI. I had already finished and adored Final Fantasies 7-12 (again, with the exception of 11) plus tactics, and I considered myself a dedicated fan of the series despite my relatively late introduction to it.

My first-ever game console had been the NES, but I was maybe five years old when we sold it and purchased a Sega Genesis instead. I was wholly indoctrinated into Sega fandom at that time, and it wasn't until the death of the Dreamcast that I finally branched out and bought a non-Sega console. While this meant that I was exposed to classics like Panzer Dragoon, Phantasy Star, Skies of Arcadia, and other first party exclusives, I missed out on the bulk of the JPRGS that dominated the market throughout the 90s with a few notable exceptions. Final Fantasy VII and VIII were both ported to the PC, a platform I have loved every bit as much as I did my consoles throughout the years, and I played them to death, not stopping until every ultimate weapon and every optional boss had been vanquished.

When I finally did pick up a PlayStation 2, my first non-Sega console, Final Fantasy IX was one of the first games I bought for it, followed by Tactics, and then I was there at launch for X and XII. Eventually I also picked up a Nintendo DS, which afforded me access to the Gameboy Advance's library, and it was by this route that I finally got my hands on both Final Fantasy I and II.

It was obvious from the start that the game lacked the depth I had come to expect from the series in terms of both game mechanics and narrative, but I'm not sure I expected anything more or less than that. It was an 8-bit era JPRG and the very first chapter of a now legendary franchise. I found the fundamental gameplay loop to be addictive fun, and I enjoyed hand-crafting my very own party from the get-go. I was surprised by how D&D the whole thing felt, and while I was familiar with the game's jobs/classes because of the later entries in the series, I balanced my party the same way I might in an Infinity Engine game or a dungeon crawler. In many ways, I suppose that's precisely what FF1 was.

In classic 8-bit game fashion, however, I eventually hit a point in the game, a little more than halfway through, when I was just completely at a loss as to where or how to progress in its story. The dancer in one of the town's square stopped giving me helpful hints, and I wandered aimlessly for a bit in my airship (I believe I had acquired the airship by then, although I may have been traveling by sea) before losing motivation completely. I set the game aside, and while I always intended to return to it--I suppose I might do so one day still--I believed I had seen and done enough of it to gain an appreciation for the series' roots.

Likewise, I never did play FFII. I knew the game had been somewhat divisive with fans, although I had originally been excited to check out its peculiar skill progression system, which sounded like something more likely to appear in an Elder Scrolls or Quest for Glory game than in a JPRG. There were other, more compelling Final Fantasies to play instead, not to mention the wealth of incredible modern games that the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube era were providing.

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Re: Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II

Post by duskvstweak » August 23rd, 2017, 11:27 pm

I didn't play the first Final Fantasy until the Origin's edition for the Playstation. This was long after I had played 6 through 10. While the first game showed it's age in it's NES graphics and simplified gameplay, I was surprised by how little had actually changed over the years. I felt right at home with the battle system, spells and classes. The music was right on point from the get-go and the sprites had character and made the party identifiable.
I think, what stands out in my memory, is that playing Final Fantasy 1 was still fun, even for a 16 year old coming to the game late. The story was simple to the point of being non-existent but what was there was charming, almost like a classic Dungeons and Dragon's campaign. There was also something warm about going back to not just the origin of Final Fantasy but to the NES itself, the system of my youth.
I never played the second game but I'll always remain impressed by how good the series started.

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Re: Final Fantasy (I)

Post by chase210 » November 11th, 2017, 4:17 pm

I've tried playing the first final fantasy a few times now, on PS1, GBA, and PSP, and I've never enjoyed it really. You can't deny the impact it had on RPG games as a whole mind, but as a game I don't think its held up well, and thats the updates its been given in the iterations I've mentioned, the NES one on the NES classic is even worse.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (25.11.17): Final Fantasy (I)

Post by blueallday » November 16th, 2017, 10:02 pm

Long time listener/lurker, first time poster here. Love the forum and the shows.

When I heard Final Fantasy was coming up soon, I had to contribute to the conversation. I'll start with my earliest memories, then share my thoughts on the game itself a bit further down. Pardon the length!
It was 1990, I was 8 years old, and my friend Joey invited me to his house to play a new game his parents had bought him. The first thing I remember was the box. A black background, a floating orb, and crossed medieval weapons. It was unlike most NES boxes at the time. Konami's were silver. Capcom's were a shade of purple, Nintendo's were bright and colorful. This one set itself apart. Then I stared at the map. One of the best pieces of pack-in materials that I can remember. Before you even turn the game on, you see how huge this game world is. On the reverse side, a complete bestiary with photos and information on every enemy except for the final boss. I must have stared at that thing for half an hour. What were we about to get in to?
We sat in his living room, turned on the NES, and I was put in a trance by the melody from the title screen. Little did I know that this music would go on to be an earworm to this day. The prologue text, hardly enough to fill one screen, was enough to set my imagination on fire. We were going to save the world with warriors of light, fighting against dark forces determined to take over the world. My first RPG experience was going to be EPIC.
We traded off a bit, but I mostly watched my friend play the game that evening. Considering the nature of the game, I didn't mind. I was perfectly happy listening to the overworld music, selecting character classes, making shop decisions together, and taking over for an occasional battle. Each encounter felt like a big deal. The enemies were legitimately scary looking, and again, that music just keeps you rolling along. After what seemed like an eternity for an NES game, we fought Garland, returned to town to rest up... and then we cross a bridge. I don't know if I can explain how significant this bridge crossing was at the time, and I don't know if I can think of a recent comparison. Perhaps the feeling of jumping off of the Great Plateau in Breath of the Wild for the very first time, and floating down to a new and intimidating world would be a close analogue. In Final Fantasy, it was this moment when you realize your quest hasn't even begun. Now, away from the protection of the kingdom, you're on your own.
That night, we played until we were bleary-eyed, and got stuck on the long trek toward the fire fiend. After that, I couldn't get the game out of my mind. I must've asked my friend about it every day at school. He started to tell me about a rat's tail and how a character changed into a freaking NINJA! The next time I went to his house, he showed me what it looks like when you're all leveled up and ready to fight Chaos. Alas, we could never make it to the final battle. I never did own Final Fantasy when I was that age. It was this game that I experienced through rentals and sketching the characters and enemies in my notebook. The memories always stuck with me.

Fast forward 7 years, 2 consoles, and 3 more Final Fantasy games, and I'm the middle of my first of many retro moods through the years. I went back and bought some NES games I missed or never owned, including Final Fantasy at a Funcoland for $15. I thought it was steep at the time. I still have that copy.
This time, I played it through to completion one summer - I think 1997. Even though it was starting to show its age, I still loved it. The battle system was primitive, ESPECIALLY the lack of auto-target when a character follows up to attack an enemy that has already been defeated. They will attack a blank space, leaving that turn completely wasted. In such a difficult game, each turn is invaluable. However, this quirk that would be inexcusable in a modern game had a fun effect when I played it. It kept my mind engaged. I had figured out estimations of how many hits from each character it would take to defeat an enemy. For instance, one attack from a fighter plus one attack from a thief may work, or a spell from a black mage, or 2 thief attacks plus 1 attack from both mages. That's what I remember most about the battle system - the game within the game, strategizing how best to keep my party alive.
Final Fantasy requires you to grind too much, for both experience and money. I remember finding a hallway where literally every step holds an encounter of giants. Sounds crazy, but I must have walked the entire length of the hallway 10 times, just to get enough gold to purchase the next level of spells for my wizards and ensure I had enough left over for 99 potions every time I go into a new dungeon.
The difficulty spikes seem unfair, but as they say, it's about the journey. What my imagination as an 8 year old had filled in was much better than what I was then experiencing at 15. Defeating the 4 fiends, finding the rat's tail, upgrading characters, finding an airship, and confronting Chaos are so memorable as events that the lack of story doesn't quite drag it down for me. The game is more about objectives than narrative. Go get this, go fight that, bring this back, etc. In that sense, it's not much different from many open world games today that are asking you to get this and do that, with flimsy narrative reasons. I pressed on, through the increasingly sluggish grind, and finally got to the end - a giant yellow demon that fills the entire enemy display box. That final battle is punishingly difficult, and I remember barely scraping by with a couple party members left. Some nonsense about a time loop being closed and no one knowing your accomplishments was a bit meta and on the nose for beating a game, but at least it's better than the simple "congratulations" you got at the end of most games from the late 80s-early 90s.
Thank god the journey includes some of the best music of the era, and in my opinion, any era of gaming. The prelude, main theme, overworld theme, and Matoya's Cave are all such engrossing themes, it's no wonder the series came back to some of them over time. I never would have imagined that I'd be enjoying these themes played by orchestras as an adult. How lucky we are.

In closing, I think this game, though important historically, is best left to be remembered. I don't think I can recommend people play it today. This is a gaming touchstone for me, and I will always love it, but mostly for the memories. I do think some things still hold up, namely the character designs, the freedom to choose your party, and the music. But, there are too many archaic systems, too much grinding, and so little story that it's practically unplayable. I wouldn't expect anyone to grind through a game like that today. It's a bit like most things from childhood, best left to memory.
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