While not the first fantasy RP video game on the market, to me Final Fantasy set the tone for unique fantasy in games. Before it most games seemed to be based on either high Tolkeinesque fantasy elements, sword and sorcery like Conan, or Dungeons and Dragons. While FF would eventually take that much further, and become ‘not-fantasy’, in my opinion, the early games had quite a few unique elements and were certainly my favorite RPGs I ever played.
Final Fantasy was developed by Square, before they became Square Enix, and created by Hironobu Sakaguchi. Originally called Fighting Fantasy, the game was seen as Square’s last chance to turn their business around. With a nod to the reality of the situation the game was renamed Final Fantasy and Sakaguchi was determined to leave the game industry all together if sales on the game were poor. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. Final Fantasy was released in 1987 for the Famicon and NES, and took the gaming world by storm. Over the years the franchise has spawned numerous sequels, crossovers into other games, manga, movies, and anime. An amazing rise for a game that was to be the last ditch effort to save a small gaming company.
Set in a world much like traditional fantasy worlds (but with some very unique elements for the time) the story revolves around a group of four heroes, Light Warriors, that must fight their way through the forces of darkness to restore the four elemental orbs and save the world. They begin with a quest to save a princess from an evil knight, and progress around the world, picking up quests and hints about the true enemy along the way. It’s a classic sort of tale, but with a great take on the old good versus evil/world saving storyline. The game itself plays much like a turn-based action game where the player selects an action for each member of the party and ‘clicks go’ and everything plays out on screen for that turn. The story is interesting and engaging, which isn’t always the case in early RPGs, or even modern ones, and was helped along by fun gameplay and (for the time) good graphics.
While this game definitely shows its age, the story could stand against any modern RPG in my opinion, and easily stand above many others. The game is a very fond memory of mine, and led to much of my love of fantasy, and even inspired much of my early world building for Dungeons and Dragons.