I was a big Nintendo player when I was younger. I remember getting Super Mario Bros 3 for Christmas, with a brand new system. Inside, a poster displayed some of their hottest games. Zelda looked pretty cool. So did Xanadu. But Final Fantasy blew my mind the first time I say it. I could fight with magic and swords, but how do I play this game? How do I control four people at one? Keep in mind, I was a young 90s kid, and all I ever played was Super Mario and Zelda. I thought I could move each character into an enemy, with them swinging their weapons wildly.
When I looked back at it, I guess Hironobu Sakaguchi tried to represent real-time battles. I hear it was pretty revolutionary at the time. You could see your characters fight on screen, instead of a first-person view. You could see your characters attack. You could level up your class. This was an improvement the game which inspired Final Fantasy, DragonQuest. So I heard. Besides Zelda, Final Fantasy was the only JRPG I knew, and even then it was real time.
I started with the seventh game in the series. In fact, it completely slipped my mind that this was related to the first Final Fantasy I saw on my Nintendo poster. I always wanted to get around to playing Final Fantasy on the Nintendo, but I never did. The game was always expensive for my price range, so I knew it was popular. But then the Super Nintendo came out. And then Nintendo 64. It wasn’t until the Sony PlayStation that I gave Final Fantasy a chance.
By then, I was much more interested in the later games. I would have moved on to Final Fantasy X after VIII and IX. But something about Final Fantasy IX made me want to experience the job classes of the old game. I recognized Vivi on the cover as the Black Mage on the Nintendo post. Before I played it, something about that game piqued my interest in the first.
Then I had a dream…
While walking around in a grocery store, I see an old copy of the Nintendo Final Fantasy. I walk over and pick it up. An old grocery sweeping the floors tells me that I should play it. I agree. I put it in my backpack and walk out.
I didn’t pay for it in the dream, but I did go to eBay. I no longer had a Nintendo, but thankfully I found it on the PlayStation: Final Fantasy Origins. I remember popping it in my PlayStation, and smiling when I heard the famous arpeggio melody that defined the series. Does this simple yet wildly popular piece still embarrass Uematsu? Sometimes simple is better.
Starting out the game made me smile. I remember the first time I played Legend of Zelda 64. I loved traversing the medieval feel of castles, knights, and kings. Final Fantasy brought back all of those memories of the medieval period and classic Nintendo. And wouldn’t you know it, somewhere n the game is a gravestone that reads:
“Here lies Link.”
Wandering to the castle, defeating Garland and going to the real adventure would have blown my kid mind. At that point, the game would have seemed pretty long for my platform-gamer-self. I had already fought Goblins, Wolves, and Tarantulas in a dilapidated castle. What was next? Dungeons? Dragons?
In a dream, I start on the world map. I traverse a curvy road maze and then reach a house in the shape of an Amanita Muscaria mushroom. Inside is Matoya.
Now that I’m older, I knew what to expect from the PlayStation Final Fantasy games. But I thought all six of the characters could come along. Oh well, I chose Warrior, Thief, White, and Black Mage. Monk and Red Mage would be for a later playthrough. I played the game at least eight times through. My definite play through happened on the 20th Anniversary edition on PSP. After the new dungeons and puzzles, and hours of more play, I figured I experienced as much as I could.
Well, maybe I’ll try for the White Mage solo challenge.
This world Sakaguchi created, that Amano drew, and Uematsu scored captured my imagination. Sure this game was the most basic of them all. Final Fantasy had an epic story Sakaguchi told well, but not an overarching narrative. The characters only upgraded job class and didn’t grow in character. The music was memorable but had the shortest soundtrack. Still, I came away from the experience knowing I had played the foundation of the series. I now knew the origins of the Final Fantasy game, and where it all began. It was Dungeons and Dragons, with a bit of Japanese quirkiness, and a lot of single player fun. After playing the first game, I wondered what was in store for me next. Well, also on the Final Fantasy Origins disc was Final Fantasy II. But that’s a story for next time…