Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary: The Worst of Final Fantasy - Part 1: FFI, II, III

By Gabriel Jones 19.12.2017 2

Let's not pretend that the Final Fantasy series is infallible. It has its highs and lows, its peaks and valleys. Some would argue that entire games should be buried and forgotten. Now, I certainly wouldn't go that far. Critical discussion is essential to understanding the medium that is videogames. We must all strive to find both the good and the bad. Only by analysing everything can we hope to come up with an explanation as to why a game succeeds or fails. Eventually, developers will realize that they've been making the same mistakes, and will decide to make different ones instead. That's what progress is all about.

Anyway, the following chronological list covers the absolute worst aspects of the first three Final Fantasy games, sometimes in agonizing detail. Considering this franchise has endured for over thirty years, there's bound to be a little misery. Understandably, they could have more than one significant issue. Though I'm well aware of them, I'm looking for the one problem that stands above all, the one that sticks in the nether reaches of my skull, like a decades-old splinter.

Final Fantasy

Every franchise has its humble beginnings; every humble beginning has room for improvement. When it comes to Final Fantasy, there are multiple sticking points. Getting ambushed by a flock of cockatrices tends to result in an entire party turning to stone. Earthquake spells habitually cause otherwise healthy heroes to slip through the cracks and into an early grave. Unfortunate as it is, that's all a part of adventuring. We can't all expect fairness when dealing with the unknown.

The real problem with this game is its agonizingly slow start. You see, back before blind became a temporary status effect in the Final Fantasy universe, it was a debilitation that everyone suffered from. As it turns out, skilled fighters and trained monks are laughably inaccurate. They're guaranteed to miss an attack at least 2/3rds of the time, stretching otherwise trivial battles to the point of absurdity. Eventually, with proper equipment and enough experience, the heroes will finally be able to consistently hit and damage their foes. Getting to that point requires at least a few hours of brutally un-fun grinding.

Over the years, Final Fantasy has seen a number of revisions that have alleviated the mind-numbing tedium. Using less of their precious time, players are able to make a lot more progress. Recently, I played both the NES and Game Boy Advance editions of this game. In the GBA version, I was able to get the ship, complete the Marsh Cave, rescue the elf prince, and reach the Cavern of Earth. In the NES version, I was able to get the ship. However, I won't deny that there's still a small (very small) part of me that longs for the days of ineptly shaking my fist at the screen, as my vision-impaired heroes continue to miss a sleeping wolf. It's a sleeping wolf, for crying out loud. Just walk up and stab it already!

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Final Fantasy II

Due to the incredible success of the first game, a sequel was inevitable. As it would become apparent to anyone that has played Final Fantasy II, Squaresoft wasn't quite sure what direction to take. The storyline is more involved, with higher stakes and consequences unlike other games of its ilk. It's not often that main characters are killed off or entire towns are wiped out, and yet this entry did both.

What could have been a compelling adventure is immediately cut off at the knees by a series of nonsensical and poorly-implemented design decisions. What's the fastest way for the heroes to become stronger? Ignore the monsters and bop each other on the head. The idea was that the levelling would be more fluid. Characters would make for better warriors if they attacked often enough, or better magicians as long as they casted plenty of spells. In practice, hours would be wasted for meagre gains. The alternative was to abuse the system, causing characters to increase their HP well into the thousands before they reached the second town.

As with the first game, Final Fantasy II received some much-needed revisions that make the levelling system more viable and less prone to exploits. It's too bad that these enhanced releases didn't address the game's other major flaw. Within each dungeon are several doors to nowhere. The only purpose they serve is to place hapless adventurers in an empty room, forcing them to take on multiple battles in order to escape. Apparently, the only reward for exploration is wasted time. Thanks for nothing.

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Final Fantasy III

The final entry in the Famicom saga, Final Fantasy III introduces noteworthy features like the job change system and presents an amazing world filled with secrets. Furthermore, this pivotal title establishes the direction the series would go for quite a long time. If only it didn't take until 2006 for this classic to receive an official release outside of Japan. Even then, it's a remake that doesn't compare favourably to the original.

As brilliant as this entry is, it doesn't quite stick the landing. As one would expect of a finale, there are massive dungeons and epic confrontations. In order to complete the game, players must deal with not one, not two, but six bosses. To add to this, four of the bosses are housed in the corners of a reasonably large dungeon, one filled with all manner of endgame fiends. Then there's the final boss, Cloud of Darkness. Her only attack is Flare Wave, which does staggering amounts of damage. If the party is wiped out at any point, this entire portion, bosses and all, must be retried from the beginning.

The entire rest of this game isn't nearly as difficult, nor does it ever require players to go for an hour and a half without an opportunity to save their progress. To get so far only to have a cement door slammed in their face is just dreadful. Couldn't there have been a save point at least? Final Fantasy IV has them, and it came out only a year later. You want to know the funniest part? The DS remake of Final Fantasy III doesn't have save points either, and that came out in 2006. Maybe Square Enix delights in the countless souls that have been crushed by such a merciless finale. At least in that edition, Cloud of Darkness uses attacks besides Flare Wave. Hurray?

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Well...I think the early FF's (1-7) were the best ones, so I guess we wait for my article Smilie

But this part sounds wrong: They're guaranteed to miss an attack at least 2/3rds of the time, stretching otherwise trivial battles to the point of absurdity
Were you in the back row?  It shouldn't be like this.

The NES version of FF1 didn't have rows. The party order determined how often certain characters would be targeted. Heavily-armoured characters would be moved to the front, while mages were shuffled to the back.

Anyway, yeah. the hit-rate is ridiculously low in the first few hours of FF1. I don't have screenshots handy, but classes had a startling low chance to hit. I'm talking 10-15% for a monk and 20-25% for a fighter. It smooths out after several level-ups, but the first few hours are still annoying with the near-constant misses.
 

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