Today, is the 26th anniversary of the US release of the original Final Fantasy on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Itís hard to believe that the game has been around so long, and in so many incarnations. Since the original release in December 1987 in Japan, thereís been over a dozen re-releases, starting with the MSX release in 1989, which improved the sound and colorization. The US release was pretty faithful to the Famicom version, albeit with a single save file on battery (the MSX version saved files on blank floppy disks, so you could store as many as you wanted), and with more technical limitations. There was, as well, Nintendo of Americaís censorship, which prohibited use of religious iconography (such as churches, crosses, etc.). Despite all of that, the NES version of Final Fantasy was a very solid game.
Unlike the most current remakes, the NES Final Fantasy was restricted in the number of items, not only which you could wield, but also the variety. You were limited to the basic CURE, PURE and SOFT. Cure potions are a staple of the series, however, PURE and SOFT are not commonly used names. Today we better know those items as Antidote and Golden Needle respectively. However, the limitations of the NES hardware only allowed for up to four characters to be used for the names of items (as well as player names). Most monster names were limited to about six or eight digits. So a monster like Centipede became PEDE, Marilith became KARY (which Iím sure was Engrish for the Hindu goddess Kali) and Grey Goblins became GrIMP (imagine the Game GrIMPs on YouTube). Since this was the pre-internet era, most gamers didnít know there were restrictions. They just accepted it as is. Many even looked down on remakes use of Goblin for what we knew as Imps for so long! Heck, even the US version of Final Fantasy IV (which was called Final Fantasy II) used Imp. Job classes were also shortened, so Black Mages became BlMage, Monks were changed to BlBelts (black belts), and Warriors were called FIGHTER.
Another major limitation in the game were all the bugs. Many weapons and spells didnít work as intended. Spells like SABR and INVS did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Gamers spent hours of their lives grinding for GP just to buy spells that didnít work. Did they know? Probably not. Also there was an error in the code where the critical hit rate of a weapon was set as the index number of the weapon (for instance, the wooden nunchucks were zerowhile the Masamune was 40). An unarmed BlBELT (Monk) had a higher critical rate unarmed than one wielding nunchucks, even at Lvl. 1. Strangely, this has been kept in every version of the game ever since. Another error was in the Intelligence stat, where the higher the INT, the more useful spells were supposed to be. This however, was bugged out, so a Knight could use a CURE spell just as effectively as a WhWIZ.
However, the greatest glitch was the ďPeninsula of PowerĒ. This three-square area at the tip of a Peninsula east of PRAVOKA was available quite early in the game (after the KING of CORNERIA built the BRIDGE), and made available monsters that shouldnít have been available until way later in the game. You could face off against such fiends as FrWOLF and ZomBULLs. Generally you could go there, fight to near death, survive and run back to PRAVOKA to rest at the INN. Here you could quickly gain levels and GP, so you could buy all those spells that didnít work. This happened because the world map was broken up into 8 sectors. The programmers placed monsters in each sector based on when you would encounter them in the game. Apparently, the Peninsula just reached over to the upper grid, so monsters from that part of the game crept over.
But it wasnít all bugs and glitches in the first Final Fantasy. A lot of the game was inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. It was so inspired that Squaresoft had to change a character in the Japanese version from the Beholder, to the EYE in the US version so they wouldnít be sued (eventually Squaresoft would change its name to Evil Eye, and their name to Square Enix). The image of the creature was also altered from a bulbous monster with a large eye and tentacle eyes to one that was a large, skull-like Cyclopes head with smoke coming from below (which looked like tentacles on the NES). Piscodemons were changed to WIZARDs and Mindflayers to SORCERERs, even though neither monster used magic (Mindflayers/SORCERERS did have a death hit, though).
Despite all of this, the original Final Fantasy had plenty of challenge and was incredibly fun. Itís probably the easiest to pick up and play, without having to worry about a long winded storyline. Itís also simple enough to play where you donít need a tutorial to remember how to do anything. You go to town, you buy equipment, you put equip the equipment (DONíT FORGET TO EQUIP), and then you set out to smash IMPs until youíre strong enough to take on GARLAND. You may be asking whatís with all the CAPS. Well, that cannot be explained. Squaresoft just love to use CAPS for all the proper names. The late Ď80s and early Ď90s were a very strange time, just go with it.