Normally, a story like this would start out with me saying something like “I’ve been a fan of the Final Fantasy series for as long as I can remember.” I can’t start out that way, though, because it isn’t true at all.
I remember exactly when I started playing Final Fantasy games. I was in college, living in a dorm, and I had just bought the first console I’d ever purchased for myself—a Nintendo 64. By this point in my life, I’d been playing games since I was very young, but they’d mostly been platformers, adventure games, and the like; I hadn’t ever really played an RPG, much less become ensnared by the genre, as I would in later years. That changed when I picked up a copy of Paper Mario for my new system and proceeded to sink nearly all of my free time into it.
If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy yourself, you may have noticed something odd about where I chose to begin my story—there were no Final Fantasy titles released for the N64. There were, however, several released for the original PlayStation, and when my boyfriend at the time noticed how much I was enjoying Paper Mario, he suggested that I might like to try another popular JRPG that had, at the time, been out for several years—Final Fantasy VII. You can guess where it went from there.
I have played every numbered game in the Final Fantasy series at least once. I’ve even done stints on both XI and XIV (the two MMO entries), and I’ve played many (though by no means all) of the spin-offs and side titles as well. The idea to play through all of the main titles sequentially over a period of time has been something I’ve considered, and even started, several times in recent years, but I’ve never gotten very far; I usually get distracted by something else, or frustrated at lack of progress in an early game, and end up not making it to the titles that originally caused me to fall in love with the series in the first place.
For the new year, I’ve decided to take a serious run at the lineup once again, and to chronicle my progress in the hopes that it will keep me motivated (and provide some entertainment/insight/hilarity along the way). To that end, I’ve started with Final Fantasy, and will continue forward through each of the entries in the main series (from I–XIII, excluding the aforementioned XI and XIV, but including X-2 and XIII-2, because it will keep the number of entries correct, and also because I like them). I’d like to think that I’ll complete this project in a year, but I do intend to keep playing other games as well (and also, I have a job, and I like to sleep occasionally), so instead of making that broad declaration, I will make this one: I intend to continue my progress for at least one year, with weekly updates to be posted here, at the end of which I will evaluate how far I’ve come and possibly continue onward.
As I mentioned, my first week has been taken up with starting the original Final Fantasy, which was first released on the Famicom in 1987, and has since been ported to just about every system imaginable. For the purposes of this project, I’ve downloaded to my Vita the PlayStation version, which was released, along with Final Fantasy II, on a compilation disc as Final Fantasy Origins.
Many people don’t care for JRPGs. I can understand that. The characters can often range from simply generic to actively offensive, the storylines tend toward the silly and/or grandiose, and the systems, if not explained or implemented well, are often impenetrable and unforgiving. They can also, however, expose players to beautiful and bizarre creatures and environments, impart a sense of accomplishment as goals are pursued and reached, and—when they ARE explained and implemented well—show precisely how intricate and fascinating game systems can be. Final Fantasy takes cues from both the positive and the negative aspects here. In actuality, Final Fantasy ORIGINATED many of the tropes here.
The game begins with a group of four warriors who are dropped in front of a town with a castle. You have no direction. You have no identity (you assign names and roles to each character when you begin). There are no tutorials, and no story unfolds until you go and seek it out for yourself. By the standards of today’s games, it’s pretty harsh. Once things get going, you’re pretty much thrown into a stereotypical save-the-world-type story, and while the playable characters remain cyphers throughout the whole thing, you are able to shape their skills to your liking, which allows for a multitude of different play styles.
I began my quest with a fairly standard, balanced party: one warrior, one thief, and two mages (one white, a healer, and one black, a damage-dealing spellcaster). So far, the following things have happened to them:
- They have marched boldly into the Temple of Chaos to rescue a princess JUST TO PROVE THEY ARE WHO THEY SAY THEY ARE. Why, exactly, no one thought that building a town within a stone’s throw of a place called the Temple of Chaos might be a bad idea, I’ll never know.
- They have found both the elf town and the dwarf town. The elves live in a wood with several magic shops and a complex royal hierarchy. The dwarves like blowing shit up.
- They have dragged the broken dead body of their poor fragile white mage out of a big hole in the ground where zombies and purple blobs dwell just to get back to the town where people can be resurrected (because there are no spells or potions to get them back up in the field).
- They have gotten poisoned before the white mage learned a spell to get rid of it, and after running out of antidotes, so every time they took a step on the world map, the entire thing flashed green. With. Every. Step.
- They have run around in circles killing stuff. This happens a lot.
It may sound like I’m bashing Final Fantasy, but I’m really not. I’m poking fun at it a little, but I still think it has a lot of merit as a game, if only so that we can see where the genre came from. That doesn’t stop me from occasionally getting irritated at it, but so far, it hasn’t deterred me from my ultimate goal for the year. I suppose that’s as good a start as any.
WEEK 1 PROGRESS: 4 hours 49 minutes into Final Fantasy