Final Fantasy (1) – Pixel Remaster Reflections

We recently had the idea of playing through and completing each of the main title Final Fantasy games, and share our thoughts on each title. A big idea behind this undertaking is passion; here at Geeks Under Grace there are many of us who are passionate about video games. There are quite a few of us who are specifically passionate about certain franchises, including the Final Fantasy series. With the release of its newest title Final Fantasy XVI earlier this year, and the series celebrating its thirty-sixth-year anniversary, we thought it would be appropriate to revisit some familiar and not so familiar titles, and see what makes this franchise so, well, fantastical. Without further ado, here are our reflections and thoughts after completing the first title in the series under the Pixel Remaster banner, Final Fantasy.


Derek Thompson:

While I never played the original Final Fantasy on NES, I did play it both on the PlayStation one port and the GBA port of the first two games with the Dawn of Souls subtitle. Somehow, though, Square Enix convinced me to pay for this game yet again, so here we are.

Since I have already played the game twice, this time, I was not looking to “play a game,” so much as explore a historical artifact and some nostalgia. I used a guide, and maxed out the Boost (4x XP, 4x Gil) options that are apparently only on the console editions (yet again, Square Enix messes up a port/remaster/special edition across platforms – I’m still mad about Dragon Quest XI S.) With these settings, the game was a breeze, and I was mostly admiring how much they accomplished 35 years ago.

The music has been rerecorded and the fonts upgraded, yet it’s amazing to even think about the level of composition that went into the chiptune music we heard so many years ago. The graphics have only been “remastered,” but they still presented a huge step forward, simply in the amount of content in the game: people, places, enemies, and so on. 

What impressed me the most, however, were the design choices around dialogue and secret areas. When you think back to these older titles, you think about NPCs saying one boring line over and over, and sometimes that’s true, but this game has more to it than you remember. The dancer in the opening town with her vague clues (and really, the vague clues that guide the game throughout), “Here lies Link” on a tombstone, and even the princess timidly stopping herself from asking you to stay with her instead of going on your adventure. Even after several prior playthroughs, I had no idea there was a hidden minigame, either. I’m currently playing through Final Fantasy VI and there are all kinds of hidden secrets, but I feel like that concept, so common in modern RPGs, started right here with the original Final Fantasy

I’m not sure how much playing this game now would convert someone who’s never played a Final Fantasy game. I mostly admired the game as if I was watching a movie from my parents’ generation or listening to one of my dad’s old vinyls, appreciating it for its historical value and inspiration for the future. But through that lens, this game is absolutely still worth exploring. 

Andrea Racoti:

It’s about time I took a look at the title that started one of my all-time video game franchises. I will admit that I had ambivalent feelings about playing Final Fantasy 1 for the very first time. On the one hand, you get the chance to see the beginning foundations of what makes Final Fantasy special to long-time fans with recurring themes: Magic Crystals that the heroes need to attain and use to prevent a great evil, creative fantastical monsters that takes elemental powers to defeat, using the strengths of the selected classes of the heroes to defeat each enemy and grow stronger, and so much more.

The cop-out with this being the first Final Fantasy title is that it more than likely will be the simplest out of the entire series. I expected the story to be standard, little to no character development present, a bugged and annoying battle system, and more factors I would find that would make my playing experience more of a chore than it needed to be.

While some of these fears were present while I was playing through the Pixel Remaster of Final Fantasy 1, I was ultimately surprised by how solid my overall experience was, and I ended up really enjoying it. The story, as I expected, is simple: You have four nameless protagonists, dubbed the Warriors of Light, whom you get to name and select their class for. They are prophesied to find the four Crystals and defeat the Four Fiends, who are disrupting the four elements of the world, restoring it to balance. That’s the story in a nutshell, but there’s a lot more to the game in order to get from point A to point B.

The world map of Final Fantasy 1, while perhaps not as massive as some other titles, gives players get the chance to explore, has a lot of different towns and areas that players will need to traverse throughout the course of the game in order to unlock new weapons and abilities. I was pleased to see that each town I visited was different, with its own unique style, even if there wasn’t much to do in each town aside from buying the essentials and restoring health. There are some bits of lore scattered here and there, but I found it not useful in the grand scheme of things aside from keeping aware of finding certain key items later on in the game. 

I found the battle system to be simple to master, if repetitive and mindless at times. I played on the PC for this port of the Pixel Remake, and I found that I sometimes was working on other things on my phone while just clicking away on each battle if it wasn’t difficult enough to gather my full attention. In fact, the game itself is not much of a challenge to complete. I think the only one I really did struggle with was the final boss of the game, Chaos, and I still had enough equipment, magic, and items to make it all the way through, even if it was by the skin of my teeth. There isn’t much strategy to the battle system at all, aside from buying and equipping the best equipment as you can, the magic spells your magic users can wield, and the restorative items for support and recuperation during and after each battle.  

My favorite part of playing the Pixel Remake, and it shouldn’t be surprising for any Final Fantasy fan, is the music. Nobuo Uematsu’s score comes to life again with a full-orchestra reinterpretation of beloved classics, such as The Prelude, the Main Theme, the Victory Theme, and several specific just to this title such as Cornelia Castle, Matoya’s Cave, and the Chaos Shrine theme. Playing the game was never boring, even when it did feel repetitive, because the music just brought the game to life for me. I can’t say if I would have had the same experience if I had played the original NES at this same juncture in time, but I have to imagine that it’s similar to what players back in 1987 had. For old fans of the original title, playing this remaster will be like taking a trip back in time, but with a fresher coat of paint. If you haven’t picked up this first entry of this long-lasting franchise, the Pixel Remaster really is the best way to experience the Final Fantasy game that made its mark in the video game world.

Andrea Racoti

When she isn't travelling to far-off fantasy lands in a book or a video game, Andrea Racoti can be found in Central Texas writing out her latest projects and ideas, and teaching as a dyslexia interventionist. She loves games with rich storytelling, compelling characters, and makes people think. A breathtaking soundtrack and beautiful landscapes are icing on the cake for her.

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