Growing up, I was one of those kids who didn’t have an original NES. I always had PC games to play (and I played plenty of them), but there was always something magical about the NES. I never felt like any of the PC games I had could capture the awesomeness of something like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. Luckily, a friend decided it would be an acceptable choice to let me borrow his NES for a few months some time back in 1989 or 1990, and I finally had a chance to catch up.
At one point previously, a different friend of mine demonstrated Final Fantasy to me. It reminded me a lot of the Ultima series, one of my favorite PC RPGs, which got me really excited. Unfortunately, I did not have a copy of Final Fantasy and the prospect of buying a game for a system I did not own was obviously unacceptable. Luckily, this was the era when video stores rented NES cartridges. The store my family regularly went to had two copies of the game, so I rented it one weekend and started playing.
Many Friday and Saturday night rentals later, I finished the game (with a fair amount of assistance from the official Nintendo Power Final Fantasy Strategy Guide, borrowed from yet another friend). As it was my first JRPG experience, I enjoyed it quite a bit and made a point to get myself some sort of video game console so I could play more of these games. I always kept my eyes open for JRPG ports on the PC, but that was a relatively rare event in the 1990s.
Looking back, it occurs to me that one of the things that appealed the most to me as a PC RPG player was the linearity of the game. Where a game like Bard’s Tale or Ultima threw you into “the world” and let you figure it out on your own, Final Fantasy was a relatively directed game. You begin the game stuck on an island with only one dungeon to explore. When you complete that, you get to move onto another land mass with a cave and a city to explore. Each piece gives you access to a little bit more of the world, but that little bit ends up being the next bit you needed.
I will undoubtedly have more to say about the game as I continue to play through it, but here’s to the beginning of the Final Fantasy. Final, insomuch that there have been some twenty something sequels.