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FFEditor's note: With Final Fantasy 13 out, I thought now would be a good time to revisit Brian's 12 Worlds of Final Fantasy. He kicks off with the game that launched one of the most important and beloved franchises in gaming: the original Final Fantasy. -Jason


Franchises and sequels have been a part of gaming since its very inception. When gamers grow attached to a particular title and put their money behind it, developers often feel the need to create a sequel. We've seen this occur with Pac-Man, Mario, Pokémon, and even more recent games such as Halo.

Despite each of these franchises resonating with millions of gamers, none have spawned as many titles as a certain fantasy franchise. Whether or not that's a good thing is a matter of opinion, but regardless of your take on the series, Final Fantasy has clearly won the hearts of millions of gamers during its 22-year existence.

With 13 core titles in the Final Fantasy series (with today's U.S. debut of Final Fantasy 13), Square Enix has built a juggernaut. What's even more impressive than its longevity, however, is that each title in the series is significantly different from its predecessor. Many RPG franchises are similar (at least from a gameplay standpoint) with each installment, but Final Fantasy is one of the rare exceptions.

Ever since the transition from Final Fantasy to Final Fantasy 2, Square Enix hasn't been afraid to drastically alter the series' gameplay and potentially alienate their fans. For many players, this is part of the charm of the franchise, and they return to each title expecting a wacky, albeit deep, battle system.

Differences in each installment may satisfy certain hardcore gamers' fantasies, but players also return to Final Fantasy because of familiar elements that carry over to each installment. With the name Final Fantasy, players expect to see Cid, airships, and Chocobos. If players didn't enjoy watching Zell eat hot dogs in Final Fantasy 8 or staring at a bare-chested Vaan in Final Fantasy 12, they just might find enough traditional elements to make a particular entry of the series bearable.

If you haven't heard of Final Fantasy by now, your soul will forever remain in purgatory. But those of you who're familiar with this legendary RPG series might like to know how Brian Shirk's "The 12 Worlds of Final Fantasy" will go down. Basically, the only thing you'll need to know is that 12 installments of Final Fantasy history are headed your way, so all your favorite (and detested) titles in the franchise will be equally represented. So if you're ready for this wild Chocobo ride, drop everything else you're doing and delve into the twelve worlds of Final Fantasy. This piece contains numerous spoilers.

 

Stiltzkin

The Wandering, Dumpster Divin' Moogle, Stiltzkin


The Chosen Ones

The creator of Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi, sent young televenturers on their first Final Fantasy journey in 1987. This Famicom adventure involving four light warriors was so successful that it not only managed to keep a struggling company afloat — it also prompted Square to give the game a U.S. release for the Nintendo Entertainment system in 1990.

FF

With Final Fantasy, gamers received a massive quest that dwarfed the tiny world of the first Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior in the U.S.). Final Fantasy had wannabe heroes playing as four light warriors who were out to defeat the forces of darkness wreaking havoc in a once peaceful land.

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A prophecy foretold the coming of these four warriors, but it's up to the player to decide on their names and character classes. Most of the world cried foul at the four-letter limit for names, but Tims, Toms, and Todds (and those who enjoy using four-letter expletives) rejoiced. Once these four mighty warriors received names, they got character classes.

Playing Dress Up Using Six Character Classes

Final Fantasy allowed players to make all four of their characters any combination of six distinct character classes. Characters could be molded into Warriors, Monks, Black Mages, White Mages, Red Mages, and Thieves. For valiant individuals who valued a balance between offensive and defensive capabilities, the Warrior was a sound option, as he could wield mighty blades and the finest armor. Those who preferred a strictly offensive powerhouse would likely choose a Monk who could break more boards than their entire karate class.

Battle

For the intelligent but frail, any of the three Mages was a sound choice. Sporting a pointy hat and blue robes, the seemingly soulless Black Mage could cast devastating offensive spells, so he was a valuable asset to any team. Likewise, the physically wimpy White Mage was useful for his defensive, healing, and zombie roasting magic. However, the Red Mage was an even better option for the wealthy, for he could cast Black Magic, White Magic, and wield swords.

If you were a fool, you could choose a lowly Thief who couldn't even steal. He had a bit higher agility than the other classes, but his pitiful attack power made him a disgrace to outlaws.

A Night on the Town

Once the character received classes, the adventure truly began. The player's band of heroes began their journey in a quaint village called Corneria. There, the player could talk to nonplayer characters who spoke of a prophecy, the renegade knight Garland, and the existence of other villages. Once the band of heroes cordially greeted the slow-moving townsfolk, they were then free to purchase equipment, magic, and items for the journey ahead.

Town

When purchasing equipment in Final Fantasy, characters would enter village stores, but they weren't free to walk around inside the buildings; stores only had a menu that allowed players to buy and sell. Buying was a risky (and expensive) process, because the game gave no indication of what weapons and armor certain classes could equip, and players had no way of discerning if the weapon was more powerful than what they already possessed. This made saving before making purchases essential.

Players acquired Black and White Magic in a similar manner, but each character could hold a limited number of spells. Mage classes featured eight different levels of magic, and each level had slots for three spells. Each shop, however, contained four spells of a particular level, so a player would have to decide which spells were the most useful.

The magic system was unique to Final Fantasy. Unlike Dragon Quest, which used magic points, Final Fantasy gave you a certain number of spell uses for each spell level, like Dungeons & Dragons. Say your first-level spells were Fire, Thunder, and Drain, and you had eight points. You could then cast first-level spells eight times, and each of those spells used a single point. Other spell levels made use of different stocks of points, and that number usually decreased the higher the spell level. This made higher-level spells a valuable commodity, and as a result, players typically conserved their more powerful magics.

Once the party was properly equipped, they'd journey to the castle and receive their first mission from the king.

Kidnapping: A Crime That Wouldn't Go Unpunished

The king told the brave warriors of a traitorous knight named Garland, who was holding the princess hostage in exchange for the kingdom of Cornelia. Knowing that the Light Warriors wanted to journey to the upper lands that were unreachable due to a collapsed bridge, he coerced them into saving his beloved daughter.

Garland

Being resolute warriors, the four heroes journeyed to Garland's shrine to take down the heavily armored knight. When the heroes arrived, the cocky, traitorous swine threatened to knock the heroes down, but the Light Warriors prevailed.

Once they returned to the king with his most precious daughter, his majesty ordered the construction of a bridge to the northern lands, and Princess Sarah awarded the heroes with a mysterious lute. She also offered to let the heroes "stay," but the game gave no indication of whom the lucky man was.

And So the Journey Began

The building of the bridge was the journey's true beginning. While crossing, the player's reward for his earlier accomplishments was a prologue piece (a prologue would feature in nearly every subsequent Final Fantasy), simultaneously revealing a lengthy prophecy. The warriors clearly had a mission to fulfill, and that was to defeat the fiends wreaking havoc on the world and restore light to the crystals.

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In this Final Fantasy, however, nothing was spoon-fed to the player, so it was up to her to discover what waited in various corners of the world. The first destination would be a village to the east that was being held hostage by a band of pirates. Once the player rearranged the moustaches of the fearsome nine, her characters received with a ship. Monsters could now be fought on land and the high seas.

The Life of a Warrior: Monotonous Battles

In Final Fantasy, battles took place in an interesting fashion; fights were random, so you couldn't see enemies on the world map before you encountered them. Once in battle, you'd find your characters going toe-to-toe with up to nine monsters — facing monsters such as ogres and goblins. Static images representing enemies sat on the left side of the screen, while your characters lined up vertically on the screen's far right. While attacking, your characters' arms would move and you'd see minor spell effects, but your characters remained in place. The enemies remained motionless as well, so visually, these battles weren't too impressive.

FF

The amount of damage your characters dealt and received wasn't represented by numbers over their heads in this Final Fantasy. Instead, text boxes detailed whom performed attacks and how much damage the blows dealt. If a particular character defeated an enemy and another attacked the same foe afterward, it would count as a miss, unlike in later titles in the series, which would switch attacks to other enemies once an opponent was defeated.

In battle, players could select from the following choices: Fight, Magic, Drink, Item, and Run. Most of these are self-explanatory, but they formed the basis of the combat options that would appear in later Final Fantasy titles. The only menu option Square discarded is Drink, and its function basically became what is now Item.

Battles were frequent in Final Fantasy, and they were important to engage in to earn experience for gaining levels and gil (called GP in the NES original), which could be used to purchase items and equipment. Monsters were often quite challenging and could easily overwhelm you, so it was important to heal using inns and tents. You couldn't use either of these while in dungeons, so it was also important to carry a sizeable supply of healing potions and other restorative items.

You could save your game only at inns, so it was important that players didn't venture too far — especially if they lacked XP.

With Experience Gained, A World Needed Saving

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After defeating pirates and battling other enemies on the high seas, the four warriors of light would seek out various kingdoms, caves, and dungeons. One of the first places they'd journey to was a kingdom of the elves.

Fantasy 101: Lots and Lots of Elves

When the Light Warriors arrived at the village of the elves, they found its prince in slumber. Apparently, this wise ruler had been out cold for a number of years, perhaps due to the malicious intent of the Dark Elf who was in hiding. It would be up to the Light Warriors to set things straight.

They would then journey to a crumbling palace, a cave that was home to a blind witch known as Matoya, and an underground cavern found in a marsh to the southwest of the elven kingdom. Once the heroes stumbled upon Matoya's stolen crystal ball in the remote marsh and returned it, she provided them with an item desired by an individual in the ruined palace. This individual turned out to be the Dark Elf, Astos.

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The warriors had been tricked into providing Astos with an item that'd grant him immense powers, but due to the heroes' fighting prowess, he instead received an eternal slumber. With the Dark Elf gone and a new item in hand, the Light Warriors revived the elf prince and restored his kingdom. As a reward, he provided the warriors with a Mystic Key, which would enable them to unlock random rooms scattered throughout the world.

Smyth the Smith Experiments with Dynamite

With some explosive powder found in one of the locked doors, the heroes journeyed to a dwarven cave in search of a new destination. There, they met the cleverly named Smyth the Smith (who would later forge them a sword of great power), and they convinced a pyromaniac dwarf to create a new tunnel that'd allowed them to journey to new lands. Once a continent-altering explosion formed this tunnel, the heroes sailed to faraway parts of the world.

In Search of the Fiends

After their brief dwarven pit stop, the Light Warriors journeyed to new villages that warned of four elemental fiends wreaking havoc in the world. The first wicked being they would slay was the Fiend of Earth, Lich, but it'd take awhile to reach him. First, the warriors would enter a new village, and then they'd journey to the dangerous Cave of Earth, where they'd encounter a vampire.

Once they ended the creature of the night's bloodsucking ways, the warriors took the jewel they'd earned and gave it to a giant blocking their path. This enabled them to reach the cave exit and enter a new cave that was home to a sage. Fortunately, this tedious task wasn't so pointless, as this sage awarded the heroes with a staff that'd allow them to access deeper parts of the Cave of Earth — once they hiked all the way back to the vampire's coffin.

Lich

After using the staff and journeying through a few more floors, the warriors encountered the Fiend of Earth. This foe was more difficult than any they'd previously encountered, but defeating him stopped the earth from rotting and gave them of one of the four crystals. The world was on its way to being saved!

The Fire Fiend, Maralith, would be the heroes' next victim, but first, they journeyed to Crescent Lake to meet the prophet Lukahn and obtain a canoe. With their prize in hand, the heroes set off to Mount Gulg in their canoe and slew the multiarmed serpent, Maralith, in an uneventful fashion.

Boats Are for Suckers. Real Men Use Airships

Their next quest would be a bit more random. The heroes would next journey to an ice cave that'd provide them with a levitation device with an unknown use. With a little drunken wandering, the heroes encountered a small desert that surprisingly had an airship buried beneath its sands. The airship magically responded to the heroes' newfound levitation device and immediately became a possession of the four intrepid warriors. Now, they could reach new continents that were inaccessible even by the sea.

Airship

With the airship in hand, the heroes first traveled to the Citadel of Trials. There, they found an abandoned castle that was home to a maze and numerous enemies. Once this labyrinth had been fully explored, the heroes walked away with a…Rat's Tail.

Apparently, rodent tails were a prized possession in the Dragon Caves, so the heroes journeyed through this city of peaceful winged beasts and revealed their prize to Lord Bahamut, King of the Dragons. For their effort, the Dragon King awarded them with a one-time job class upgrade. Warriors would become Knights, White Mages would become White Wizards, Black Mages would become Black Wizards, Red Mages would become Red Wizards, Monks would become Masters, and Thieves would become Ninjas. Maybe that Rat's Tail was worth it after all.

Bahamut

Once the heroes changed professions, they were ready to visit some new towns in the northern lands that were only accessible by airship. In these towns, the Light Warriors heard of a mysterious caravan in a remote desert, a kidnapped fairy, and a device that would allow them to breathe under water. After several hours of traveling, the heroes eventually discovered that the fairy was being sold at the caravan, so they purchased it, freed the bottled fairy, and received an item that'd allow them to breathe underwater. But first, they headed to a random waterfall to obtain a Warp Cube.

Once that seemingly insignificant task was complete, they headed back to a village to use a submarine to travel to a temple beneath the seas. On the ocean floor, the heroes would discover a village of mermaids, a Rosetta Stone that would later be important, and the third fiend, Kraken. Once they tamed this sea beast, the heroes returned to former villages in search of someone who could read an ancient language by making use of the Rosetta Stone.

A brilliant man who went by the name of Dr. Unne deciphered the ancient language of the Lufenian people with the help of the Rosetta Stone. This people were descendants of the ancients who'd created floating fortresses and even the world's only airship, which was now in the heroes' possession. The maker of the airship was none other than Cid, but he'd been dead for several hundred years.

With the information of the Lufenians, the heroes were now able to enter Mirage Tower, which would take them to the ancient sky fortress of the Lufenians that was now inhabited by the most powerful of the fiends: Tiamat.

Tiamat
PSP version of Final Fantasy (from IGN.com).

Ascending this tower and the fortress beyond would be no easy task, but the Warp Cube discovered in the Waterfall enabled the heroes to reach their destination and dewing this beast of the sky. Of course, the world would now be in balance from slaying Tiamat, right? Wrong. A certain treacherous knight the heroes battled earlier had been summoned to the past by the Four Fiends.

Traveling 2,000 Years to the Past to Defeat Chaos

In the sky palace, the heroes had learned that their true enemy waited at the center of the four elemental shrines. It turns out that this location was the shrine in which the heroes first encountered Garland. Using Princess Sarah's lute, the heroes traveled 2,000 years into the past to defeat Garland, who had become the dark god known as Chaos.

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While traversing the massive Chaos Shrine, the heroes once again encountered each of the Four Fiends. Lich, Maralith, Kraken, and Tiamat were significantly stronger than their previous incarnations, but the Light Warriors prevailed. After travelling through endless layers of this labyrinth, the heroes finally encountered the mighty Chaos. He fell to the blades and spells of the heroes, but he warned that this cycle of destruction would continue.

Fortunately, the heroes bested this pompous fiend, and peace returned to the world. The game then treated the player to a bland ending that only involved text and credits; it's not a good way to reward someone, but at least the player would be at ease knowing the world had been saved.


Versions of Final Fantasy

Famicom: December 18, 1987 (Japan)

NES: July 12, 1990 (U.S.)

MSX 2: June 1, 1989 (Japan)

WonderSwan Color: December 9, 2000 (Japan)

PlayStation: April 8, 2003 (U.S.)

Game Boy Advance: November 29, 2004 (U.S.)

Mobile Phones: March 1, 2004 (Japan)

PSP: June 26, 2007 (U.S.)

Virtual Console: October 5, 2009 (U.S.)

IPhone: Feb. 25, 2010 (U.S.)

Interesting Facts about Final Fantasy

  • It has only one battle theme and no boss theme.
  • You must use a combination of buttons to access the world map.
  • You won't find a single Chocobo or Moogle in the first Final Fantasy.
  • Final Fantasy has three vehicles you can use: a boat, canoe, and airship.
  • Cid receives a mention, but you never meet him.
  • This is the first Final Fantasy that includes the Four Fiends.
  • Final Fantasy for the NES marks the introduction of the series' beloved prologue and prelude themes.
  • Final Fantasy is the only FF to include an elf village.
  • Black Mages, White Mages, and Red Mages make their first appearance.

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