Retro Scope: Final Fantasy

Mel comes back from her long hiatus to take a look at Original Recipe Final Fantasy.

By Mel Turnquist. Posted 04/24/2014 09:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

In the beginning, it was a last gasp effort from a failing video game company to stay afloat. The Hail Mary of video games, it was given a title that wryly paid tribute to the company that was producing the game: Final Fantasy. It was to be the company’s swan song, but instead, something happened. It became a hit and along the way revolutionized the RPG. While other games within its franchise are considered superior or are more popular, it’s the first one that made all the difference, not only for Square, but for RPGs in general.

I remember the first time I heard that prelude as a child and saw that introduction screen. It was a simple tale, especially considering how complex and nuanced the future Final Fantasy plots would go. In a world shrouded with darkness and chaos, the people of the planet clung onto a singular prophecy about the Four Warriors of Light who will come and save the world from the darkness. That’s where players comes in, as they control the four warriors, each of whom carrying a darkened orb. In the game, your journey is to defeat the four fiends in order to light up the orbs and to defeat Chaos (who was once Garland, who wants to make good on his promise of knocking you all down) so that darkness will cease to be.

The fact that you could customize your classes was also a huge plus. You could choose between Warrior, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, Thief, and Black Belt. The combinations of classes is usually what made each playing experience unique. Want a team of four Red Mages? Go ahead! All Mages? Go for it! No magic? Hey, more power to ya! It was all up to you. Naming your characters was also fun, though I’d advise against naming your Black Belt BUTTS or something else like that. I usually named them after baseball players.

This game also instilled a love-hate relationship with random encounters for me. Early on, random encounters are something that is embraced. The excitement of testing out your weapons and leveling up your characters is palpable. Doesn’t matter how many Imps you see, it’s all about getting those levels up. Yet by the end of the game, you scream in frustration when a random encounter appears, just wanting to get on with the story and getting sick of all these Imps who just won’t leave you alone. Sure, you could run away, but sometimes, it’s useless to trying to run. The only place worthwhile to travel along is the infamous Peninsula of Power, an area that was the result of a bug which had enemies that were leveled up higher than usual. That was a good place to grind and get your party up to tip-top shape for whatever fight you were prepping.

And of course, how could I go this far without mentioning the music? Nobuo Uematsu surely earned his keep with this soundtrack, which would help define the franchise for years to come. From the arpeggio laden Prelude to the mystical Matoya’s Cave, each tune was memorable and aurally pleasing. There are three tunes that have originated here that stuck around ¬†for Final Fantasies to come: the Prelude, the Victory Fanfare, and the Prologue. All three are well deserving songs to stick around for as long as they have and will likely continue to. I’ve said it to friends before, but one of my all-time favorite pieces of video game music is the NES version of the Final Fantasy Prologue. While I love all the versions including the majestic Final Fantasy IV Prologue and the slower, more understated Prologue in the SNES remake, it’s that 8-bit version that always takes me back to being a little girl sitting in the basement watching my sister cross that bridge from Cornelia and seeing that dialogue about what laid ahead. Plus, I’m a sucker for counter melodies and that 8-bit rendition has the clearest version of that.

It may not be the prettiest game to look at, it may not be the most complex and nuanced plot-wise, and it certainly isn’t considered the best in the franchise. However, it was the first and likely the most important game when it comes to RPGs. The game transformed Square from a failing company making just one more go at it into the video game powerhouse it is today (now known as Square-Enix). Those Four Warriors of Light did not just save their world from extinction and darkness; they saved the company they had sprung from and turned yours truly into an RPG fan. So here’s to original recipe Final Fantasy, and may its legacy live on.

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