Final Fantasy Classic Game Overview

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In the late 80s, in a studio supposedly doomed to failure, a humble game was rising. One who could not imagine that years after its inception, it would encompass dozens of mainlines, spin-offs, animes, books, manga, and (unfortunately) movies. I refer to the world-renowned franchise Final Fantasy, which was almost named Fighting Fantasy. Luckily for us, it wasn’t a final act, but a beginning for many other fantasies.

But before it pinnacled its current success and delivered everything that consecrates a video game as cutting edge: powerful cinematics, captivating characters, a mix between gaming, movie, and DLCs (ok, I jest – or not), Final Fantasy was a simple idea in execution carrying in its core the hope of a simple developer and storyteller: Hironobu Sakaguchi.

So, in this guide, we’ll give you a complete Final Fantasy classic game overview, so you can join us on a trip down memory lane to discover some development background and the beginnings of the Final Fantasy legacy. (And a lot of parentheses.)

Bottom Line Up Front: The classic and original Final Fantasy I is the franchise’s great-great-great-grandfather. Without it, there would be no way for this universe to expand majestically and brilliantly as it did. Revisiting the game today is a daunting task since it hasn’t aged well, and some bugs still linger and hamper your experience. But with so many re-releases, it’s easy to enjoy Final Fantasy I and get to know the one that came before them all.

How Final Fantasy Came to be

nes final fantasy

The NES classic Final Fantasy functions as a beacon of nostalgia and a milestone. For me, at least, it’s a trial trying to play it these days. But this doesn’t mean the game doesn’t deserve the laurels in the RPG industry since it was responsible for shaping the genre’s future.

At first, SquareSoft didn’t want to create an RPG game, despite how much Hironobu Sakaguchi pleaded. However, after seeing Enix’s Dragon Quest astounding success, it alighted the desire within (money talks), and Sakaguchi was elected to create the game. He became known as the father of Final Fantasy.

Alongside Sakaguchi were some stellar names such as Nobuo Uematsu, the Beethoven of video games; Hiroyuki Ito, the battle and ATB systems co-creator; and Nasir Gebelli, an Iranian-American programmer who developed the first three Final Fantasy games. However, they still needed visual inspirations to shape the world. Then, the artist Yoshitaka Amano stepped in, illustrating the game‘s main characters, villains, and monsters. To this day, Yoshitaka is responsible for designing most of the franchise’s logos.

Final Fantasy Inspirations

Final Fantasy has notable inspirations from Dungeons & Dragons, both in the enemies’ design (look at Beholder and Evil Eye) and its moniker. For quite a while, there was a rumor that the game was called Final Fantasy because it was SquareSoft’s final game at the time and that if it didn’t succeed, SquareSoft would have to shut down. However, Sakaguchi denied this years later, saying that the original name was supposed to be Fighting Fantasy because of the initials FF (like D&D). But there was a tabletop RPG with that name, and they changed it to Final Fantasy. I believe the game could be called Fried Fish, and they would be satisfied for all that it matters.

Another inspiration for Final Fantasy was Ultima and Wizardry, two of the oldest RPGs in the industry. SquareSoft’s intention with Final Fantasy was to create a novelty fantasy world with characters and settings detached from the real world.

For the battle system, Hiroyuki Ito and Akitoshi Kawazu wanted something easy to understand, practical, but distinguishable from the first-person RPGs at the time. As a reference, he used an American football schematic. Two teams, side by side, face each other and plan their tactics to confront the opponent. It’s easy to picture the inspiration after knowing this, right?

Final Fantasy Settings

Final Fantasy is set in a high fantasy world, and its territory spans three major continents. Long ago, four elemental Orbs (not yet crystals) controlled the elements they symbolized: fire, water, wind, and earth. The Lufenia, descendants of the Sky People who lived… in the sky, used the power of the wind orb to create airships and the Floating Castle. But when the wind orb began to darken, they saw their civilization crumble.

The wind fiend Tiamat attacked them and took possession of the Floating Castle. But Cid (who became a staple in every Final Fantasy mainline) hid one of the airships. (This information is unknown until later re-releases).

Two hundred years later, the seas raged in tempestuous violence. The water fiend Kraken emerged, flooding a civilization and using its former territory as their shrine. The water orb turned black soon after.

An undead monster, the Lich, stole the fertility of the land and damned a town. The earth orb dimmed. In this time, the ancient sage Luhkan told the prophecy about four Light Warriors (Warriors of Light) who will arise in a time of darkness to save the world.

The fiend of fire, Kary (nowadays called Marilith), sensed the rise of the Light Warriors and spread raging fires throughout the land, darkening the fire orb.

Final Fantasy Story

original final fantasy

The plot of Final Fantasy revolves around Luhkan’s prophecy, which claimed that four Light Warriors would save the world from darkness.

We start the game with the four Light Warriors in front of the kingdom of Coneria (Cornelia). In conversation with the King, he tells us that Garland has captured Princess Sarah. Just as the Luhkan prophecy foretold, it’s up to our four Light Warriors to rescue her from the Temple of Fiends – formerly Chaos Shrine. It’s important to note that each Light Warrior carries a darkened orb with them that you can see opening the menu.

After rescuing Sarah from Garland and returning her safe and sound to Coneria, the King notifies our heroes that he demanded a built bridge so the Light Warriors can journey away and make the orbs glow again. As you cross the bridge, a screen transition pops and shares a little more about the game‘s lore and how the now-darkened Orbs glowed 2000 years ago.

Traversing the bridge, the world map expands. The next main story destination is the city of Pravoka, which is overrun by pirates led by Bikke. After kicking some pirate’s ass and plundering their ship, we voyage through the sea, only to see our path barred by a chunk of land.

The dwarfs want to destroy the naval obstacle, but they lack explosives. Afterward, we go to a ruined castle to meet an elven king. He asks us to retrieve his crown from the Marsh Cave, and after we do, he reveals himself as the dark elf Astos. After smacking his pointed-ear head on the floor, we acquire the Crystal Eye, which we must give to the blind witch Matoya. After doing so, she presents us with an herb utilized to awaken the slumber-cursed elven prince.

We awake the elven prince and are again rewarded with a Mystic Key item that can unlock any door. Back to Coneria Castle, we open a mysteriously locked door and find TNT within. In most RPGs, dwarves are better at handling TNT, so we go back to our robust friends. They explode the chunk of land, freeing the sea from its closure.

With safe passage beyond the sea, the four Light Warriors resume their quest, aiding and abiding by any town, person, or entity they cross paths with. In this journey, they restore the Orbs but soon find out something else is jamming the orbs’ power. In a plot twist involving time travel, the four Light Warriors must face Garland once again.

Whenever people want to describe a good RPG story (myself included), we highlight characteristics such as dense plot, charismatic cast, and effortless world-building. To be honest, the classic Final Fantasy has almost none of this. The story does get slightly more interesting in the final quarter, but it’s still relatively shallow. The characters are one-dimensional, and the somewhat captivating and welcoming world is about as simple as an 8-bit console could handle.


Final Fantasy 1

Like the plot, the depth of the characters is established more on the different types of race or occupation they present in the world. Don’t even let me start on the four Light Warriors whose personality equals that of a pillow.

However, there are still some prominent characters in the franchise. Some who are always willing to grace us with their presence in every major Final Fantasy.

Light Warriors (Warriors of Light)

The four heroes of the story. When we begin the game, we choose the name and classes of the four. Immediately we are thrown in front of the city of Coneria and must follow Luhkhan’s prophecy for whatsoever reason or motivation; after all, we do not exchange a word during the entire journey, and even though we are the fateful Warriors of Light, we obey the orders of any passerby who has a little more vigor in his voice.

I imagine that the developers wanted to make us feel like we were in the role of our character. After all, it’s a role-playing game. But call me biased, nowadays I prefer a premade character with their anxieties, fears, and motivations to a blank slate. (This is coming from someone who has Final Fantasy XIV as its favorite mainline game.)

Princess Sarah

Despite her brief appearance, Princess Sarah of Coneria is the driving force behind the adventures of the four Light Warriors. She is kidnapped by Garland, and it’s up to the heroes to rescue her.

After they do, she gives them her lute, which will aid in their future quest. Sarah was the first princess in the Final Fantasy franchise, and her name appeared in several games later on.


The game‘s antagonist and the franchise’s first named character, Garland, is a former Coneria knight who succumbed to darkness. He kidnaps Princess Sarah and asks for the kingdom in exchange for her. But the Light Warriors jeopardize his plan in the most sincere way possible: brute force.


A wise sage named Lukahn prophesied that four Light Warriors would rise when darkness engulfed the world. In other words, it’s his fault that our protagonists have no peace and are warfaring. In-game, we find him in Crescent Lake, acting as the likely leader of the Circle of Sages.


The witch Matoya has a quick passage in Final Fantasy I. Being blind, she can only see using the Crystal Eye, which we recover by defeating the dark elf Astos. Matoya then assists us in waking up the elven prince of Elfheim. She deserves mention because Matoya became a reference in many future Final Fantasy, depicting an old witch with legendary powers.


Bahamut Final Fantasy Classic

The dragon king would become the most famous summon/airship/doomsday-bringer of the entire franchise. In the classic game, the dragon lord is an ally that bestows a trial upon our heroes of light. If they succeed, Bahamut grants everyone class changes, empowering their abilities.


Even though Cid doesn’t appear in the original Final Fantasy NES version, it would be a disservice to his reputation not to mention him. Later on, in the re-releases, he still doesn’t appear. However, dialogue indicates that Cid is an ancient Lufenian and creator of the airship that our heroes use to brave the skies. He follows the same trope as most Cids: a brilliant inventor who provides the group with technologies. In this case, indirectly.



Final Fantasy Classic Classes

With strong inspirations from D&D, Final Fantasy couldn’t help but add classes to the characters. We select six classes for our four heroes at the beginning of the game. This limitation gave Final Fantasy an edge over other competitors’ RPGs in replayability.

  • Fighter – the traditional RPG warrior. They can equip most weapons and armor. They are always in the front line with great endurance, dealing chunks of damage with their giant weapons at the cost of lower agility.
  • Thief – the agile and sneaky ally of the party. At first, their limited weapons and armor arsenal make them an enfeebled version of the Fighter. Still, as the level increases, the Thief’s attack will strike the enemy multiple times, and their damage will match that of the Fighter. Thieves are also better at running away from battles.
  • Black Belt – nowadays called Monk, Black Belts thrive while fighting unarmed. You can equip them but don’t. However, your preference for a gear-free style can cost your Black Belt’s life since their defense is among the lowest. Oddly enough, equipping no armor gives you a bonus on Absorb. This attribute reduces the damage taken from the enemy. At high levels, Black Belts become the highest physical attack damage-dealer.
  • White Mage – many groups suffer without the aid of a White Mage. Despite doing minor damage and lacking defense, they are the primary support of any party with their healing spells and buffs. White Mage is the archenemy of the undead with their divinely-soaked spells.
  • Black Mage – the regular glass canon. Black Mage is incredibly fragile, but their firepower with offensive and debuff status spells makes up for it if they survive to the end of the battle. It’s one of the best classes to attack all enemies in the battle at once.
  • Red Mage – the all-around Red Mage can use both Black and White magic up to level 5 and can equip additional weapons and armor than their fellow mages. They are more resilient than the Black and White but can’t use all the magic levels.

A disclaimer is in order: the game was released with a boatload of bugs in the classic Final Fantasy NES version. Among them is the intelligence bug, which should technically increase spell damage or healing according to their value. However, that’s not the case, and intelligence doesn’t weigh in on the damage output. This means a Red Mage can heal and deal damage as well as a White or Black Mage.

Battle System

The battle system was turn-based, but unlike other RPGs of the time, it showed both your characters and the enemies side-by-side. You choose an action for your character, which could be an attack, magic, or items, for example. Everyone in the battle acts based on agility plus a random number generated, which can either help or bust the party.

An important note in this NES version is that if you order all your characters to attack the same enemy and the first character defeats the enemy, subsequent attacks will be wasted. Unlike current Final Fantasy, where your character automatically attacks another living enemy. The same practice applies to spells or items.


ff1 sPELLS

Magics are separated into two categories, Black Magic and White Magic. In Final Fantasy I, the spells work similarly to items. Before being able to cast one, you have to buy it. Each magic level could hold at most three spells, for a total of 24 spells split into eight levels, from weakest to strongest. If you wanted to swap a spell, you had to remove one and buy another.

There was no MP at the time. Instead, each magic level had a set quantity of use before requiring rest to recharge it. Caution was crucial when casting spells due to its constraints.

Final Fantasy Re-releases

Final Fantasy I had several re-releases down the road. Like, a whole lot. But I will stick only to those most relevant that bore drastic changes.

The first respectable re-release was for WonderSwan Color, which embellished the graphics, added background in the battle, and redesigned the sprites. Then we had Final Fantasy Origins, which brought both Final Fantasy I and II and featured graphics similar to the SNES games, remixed soundtrack, and even an FMV intro.

Then came Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, another collection of the first two games for the Game Boy Advance. This version added four new dungeons, a bestiary, and changed the magic system, swapping limited spells quantity for the MP system. The following major re-release was the PSP version, with higher resolutions and once more a remixed soundtrack. Graphic-wise, this one is considered the best version of Final Fantasy I.

Besides several other lowkey re-releases, Square Enix wanted to appeal to nostalgics and released the Pixel Remaster collection. This version is a callback to the NES version, making a high-fidelity remaster and keeping many classic features, like the limited usage spell system and the bugs. Just kidding, they took out the bugs. Final Fantasy I Pixel Remaster added some quality of life improvements to the game, such as fast forward, auto-battle, and a minimap. If you want to experience the nearest and most affordable version of the NES classic Final Fantasy, Pixel Remaster is your best option.

Puzzle Minigame

Puzzle Minigame

Final Fantasy had an odd puzzle minigame after you get the ship. If you spammed the buttons A and B together fifty-five times, you would enter a classic math 15 puzzle game where you had to align numbers in order by sliding their squares. You would get a whopping 100 Gil if you completed the puzzle, enough to buy some measly potions.

The prizes were way better in future releases, but you had a timer to complete the puzzle. The faster you complete it, the better your reward, which could be up to 10,000 Gil.

Friendly-poke easter egg

In Elfheim, the home of the elves, when reading a tombstone, you would read “Here lies Erdrick.” At the time, Erdrick was the title given to the protagonists of Dragon Quest, the then competitor to Final Fantasy before the merger. However, in the official Japanese language and in later releases, the message changed to “Here lies Link,” referencing the protagonist of The Legend of Zelda.


Question: Which Final Fantasy I version should I play?

Answer: If you want to experience the classic game but with an improved quality of life, I suggest the Pixel Remaster. It uses almost the same system but has graphical and other gameplay improvements, such as fast-forward and auto-battle. However, go with the GBA or PSP version if you want something a little more polished and like MPs to cast spells.

Question: What Modern Final Fantasy Games are best?

Answer: This is a pretty subjective question, but if you liked this classic adventure, you RPG fans would do well to try out these more titles in the Final Fantasy series:
– Final Fantasy IV
– Final Fantasy VI
– Original Final Fantasy VII
– Final Fantasy VIII
– Final Fantasy IX
– Final Fantasy X
– Final Fantasy X 2
– Final Fantasy XII
– Final Fantasy XV
– Final Fantasy VII Remake
– Final Fantasy Tactics

Question: What console is Final Fantasy I on?

Answer: Well, on a lot of them. Final Fantasy I released for NES, then re-released for MSX, WonderSwan, PlayStation, GBA, Mobile, PSP, and so on. But if you want to play it now, right now, you can quickly get the Final Fantasy I Pixel Remaster version on Steam.

Question: Do the Final Fantasy games go in order?

Answer: Unless they added a -2 in front of the greek numeral, then no. You can play any Final Fantasy in the orderly fashion of your choosing. But, I confess that the experience of playing from the first to the last available helps you see both the graphical, technical, and systems evolution of the franchise and recognize references, characters, monsters, and terminology that populate the universe. But this is just an additional flavor and will not compromise your entertainment.

Question: Who is the main character in Final Fantasy I?

Answer: There is no main character, but rather the four Light Warriors share the stage of importance. Nowadays, they are called Warrior of Light. In crossovers, like Final Fantasy Dissidia, the Warrior of Light based on Yoshitaka Amano’s illustration portrays Final Fantasy I. He is a man with long silver hair wearing bluish armor with a horned helmet and the stoicism of a noble and chivalrous hero.


Final Fantasy I classic game is by far one of the worst entries in the franchise. I don’t mean that pejoratively, but it doesn’t hold its own compared to the others installments. If I play the card: but in its day, it was an entertaining and trailblazer game, I would be throwing you to the sharks promising an experience that probably won’t delight beyond the historical and nostalgic spectrum.

However, Final Fantasy I is unavoidable. It was and is culturally necessary for the entire saga – albeit an obvious statement – and for the JRPG market. So whenever you pass near the original Final Fantasy game, remember to pay respects.

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