Story & World
Right from the onset of Final Fantasy, there is no doubt that these four Warriors of Light are the world's only hope against the destructive forces of the Elementals. Everyone seems to know who we are and we got props in every town. The lands have a variety of terrain though I'm not sure if these affected anything other than the battle background image. Dungeons were relatively short and not too maze like (didn't need to bother with making maps). While restricted to the land and seas, the world seemed very vast and had a feeling that there was always going to be some other place to discover. The airship made short work of that though (totally worth it). The whole place was a joy to explore even with it being fairly linear.
Interaction is standard for a game from this era.
Most people mention useful information, such as hints for an upcoming
quest or just adding to the world lore. A good number also have
pointless flavour text. One nice touch, especially for its time, is
that after destroying an Element, the nearby town would have a few folk
saying new things (usually just to acknowledge my awesomeness).
The main branch of the plot was prominant throughout
the game. There were tiny single branches along the way but always
returned to the main quest immediately after completion. These weren't
quite side quests because they had to be done in order to continue the
main plot. They were side quests storywise as they didn't relate
directly to the main plot. They broke up the story just enough to get a
sense that, even though we're on a major quest to save the world, there
still is a world beyond what the Warriors of Light perceive. 15/20
A very basic creation system with six classes to choose from but no way to alter any stats. It is fortunate that each class is pretty distinctive and with no restrictions on party recruitment, the possible combinations are endless (well, 126). Most character builds will be same for each class as there is not much in the way of being able to customize an individual. The class upgrade that can optionally be done around midgame adds more magic punch for most classes (regular punch for the others) but otherwise doesn't affect anything too much.
The variety of weaponry in Final Fanasty is grand in
comparison with other RPGs from its day. In the early game, it is a
basic matter of more expensive equals better offense / defense. Once
items with special abilities start being found, the choices get harder
when and where to equip a certain item. This is especially true for any
class that uses swords as there is a ton of them in this game. Each
character can carry four different weapons so there is lots of room to
swap between weapons (can only equip one weapon at a time). However,
the four slot restiction also applies to armour which most characters
will be using 3 or 4 slots for their equipped armours. There is no way
to tell how powerful an item is or its abilities just by looking at it.
The stats have to be looked at and then compared when the items are
swapped in and out. I don't mind teasing out the special abilities for
myself but the stats of the weapon should be easier to find out. 11/20
Combat & Monsters
Combat is the basic turn-based affair with the order of attacks randomized but affected by Agility. One quirk of the battle system that is not present in modern RPGs is if a character has a monster targeted and it dies before the character's attack, the attack is wasted. Most RPGs will have it automatically target the next available baddie. I know I'm in the minority here but I don't mind this "feature" at all. It requires you to constantly be monitoring and approximating the Hit Points of your foes while remembering how much approximate damage your own characters do. Makes it a little more interesting than just smashing the A button at least.
The magic system is such that a good number of spells never really get used (common in most RPGs). The party buffing spells (which can affect things like evading and weapon damage) don't do enough to make them worthwhile. The enemy status effect spells (putting to sleep or silencing a spellcaster for example) don't work often enough to make them a reliable choice. The remaining spells (mostly damage and healing types) will be worked hard throughout the game. The pure spellcasters are so weak that they will be relying on their own juice until some magical items with spell abilities become available. Proper spell usage is critical in defeating monsters that have high resistances.
A big beastiary with a good mix of classical and unique
monsters. Most monsters are strictly melee based with a handful able to
perform magic. A lot of creatures have vulnerabilities and resistances
that must be figured out via experimentation. If you are running a
fighter heavy party, a group of monsters with melee resistance will be
your worst nightmare. The boss battles were appropriately built up and
the feeling of tension was palpable until the fight started and they
were K.O.ed in round two. Knew I should have done a run with a more
difficult party. 13/20
Graphics & Sound
The sprites used to represent monsters were very impressive for how early in the NES's lifespan this game was. Big and detailed (especially Elementals) and without going nuts on the palette swapping like so many games had to do. Battle animations are also sweet with a icon representation for each weapon in the game being shown as it is swung. The outstanding music in the game has been pretty well established as being worthy of the title of classic. A lot of the musical themes that pervade the Final Fantasy series got started right here. Favourites would have to be the opening theme, Matoya's Cave, and the battle music. The rest of the score is very strong and most pieces are very appropriate to the atmosphere of where the party is (town theme is particularily relaxing). 18/20
Gaining gold in the early game can be a small problem.
When a new town is visited, most magic spells will be too pricey
initially. Equipment is more affordable. Once the party starts finding
magic items in dungeons and selling off the less useful ones, gold
starts to become obsolete. Most fights give good gold amounts with
certain foes giving tremendous amounts. Lots of gold also to be found
in dungeons in addition to magic items. Other than in the beginning,
characters will soon start finding better (or the same) items that are
available at the shops and most money will be channelled into Heal
Potions and purchasing spells.
This playthrough that I thought was going to be more difficult because of restricting level grinding still ended up being pretty easy. A big part of it is that I've played it many times before (the last being about a decade ago) and a lot of information was retained. It was still an enjoyable easy. One of the advantages of an easy RPG is that the storyline is continually progressing. There is a greater sense of urgency to quickly defeat the Fiends that I think would fade should the party slow down due to an ultra hard boss or unable to find a key artifact. While I quite like this approach for linear RPGs, I would conversely find it unsavoury for a more sandbox-oriented game. Final Fantasy plays out very much like a fantasy novel (though lacking understandably in dialogue) that gets more intriguing as the characters gain power and the plot unfolds. 14/20
Final Ranking: 71/100