Final Fantasy 1: Let’s Get Meta

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Story time: This blog is entirely new, and I have no particular training or ability in writing critiques (I don’t even like blogs that much, because…who am I that you care about my opinion?).  Nevertheless, I’d like to train myself to discuss my own views better, apply it to my research, and also just share in some nostalgia.  I realize that a part of my problem in doing this writing is because I critique texts as part of my job, so I usually prefer to not engage that side of my brain in my leisure time.  And this is leisure time, but maybe this will also make work more fulfilling.  So there’s a mix of personal development, and also some professional development–I’m becoming more interested in using reception in teaching and scholarship, but I don’t have the facility and terminology to do that.  But I will try to improve with this, and this blog will be a blend of my responses to things and thoughts on blogging in general.

The content will be geared towards nostalgic items (old video games, books, and TV shows) and reveling in the enjoyment of them and what are some take-away responses.  But it’s my blog, so I’m not going to make too firm of rules on what I can write about.  For now, my thought on a schedule is that I will post MWF for my Highlander rewatch and whenever the spirit moves me for one-off posts or other series.  Highlander should take me the better part of a year with that schedule.  Please bear with me as I figure out how to write posts and who my audience really is.  Right now, I’m gearing it to myself, really, and anyone who wants to share in some nostalgia.

So today was that explanation and a few thoughts on the first game in a series I love very much: Final Fantasy 1.  Spoilers and nostalgia within.

Hello, friends!

First released in 1987, Final Fantasy I was birthed on the verge of bankruptcy (hence the ‘final,’ although also they apparently just wanted it to be FF?) but managed to save Squaresoft (now Square Enix).  I am a big Final Fantasy fan, but I’ve actually never played the first one.  I did recently download the Wii Ware original version, so I do intend to challenge myself there, but I was spared the work by my friend Lissa, who recently started an LP channel on YouTube and used FF1 as her experiment game.  So this post is going to be very meta in that I’m going to write a review of FF1 based on her LP.

You should watch it.  It’s here.

The “Dawn of Souls” edition lines it up very well with the later FFs visually.  Thematically, it is also very similar.  In a time of world-wide ruin, four travelers obtain crystals and are the Warriors of Light.  They must engage in a series of adventures to prove themselves (like rescuing Princess Sarah) and then save the world.  All the things that I love about Final Fantasy are here: crystals, talking to all the NPCs, stealing all the treasure, and so many random battles.  Okay, that last one is not the best of things, but at least the battle music is good, and you get a real sense of accomplishment when you gain levels?  That might just be me being trained by FF.

Lissa used the Fighter, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage in her party.  There is not much personality beyond that, so I know I often get tempted to choose less common classes (in this case, Thief or Black Belt/Monk) and infuse them with motivation, but I would not recommend playing in the way that I do ;D.  I have no sense of strategy, and this is not a game where you can mess around with strategy.  Ultimately, I prefer the games with characters with set classes than the ones where you can switch classes constantly (like in FFIII or V).  I would like, however, to focus on the value of the games with characters without personality.

In her LP, Lissa mentioned the lack of sexual/gendered distinction in this version, and they also have no personal motivations or characteristics.  Now…if you WANT your character to have a personality and they don’t, that’s a big problem.  And today, some games have very rich stories starring people with totally flat personalities, and I’m not sure this is something where you can have your cake and eat it, too.  If there’s a main character we’re really supposed to care about and sympathize with, they need to have a personality for us to care about.  But if the game is story-driven and we don’t have to care about the characters as individuals, then having no personality is fine!  FF1 is not the story of ~the daring Red Mage~ (although in my mental version of the game, it is.  Come, join my headcanon, we have magic), it’s the story of the Warriors of Light saving the world.  I do not care about their personal lives as much as whether I beat the game.  Both types of games are great in their own way, but I can see two big benefits with this model: 1) emphasis on accomplishments and 2) expressing your own imagination instead of idealizing some other character.  I think it can be empowering to let the audience imagine themselves as the hero instead of forcing them to identify with a hero who may or may not be particularly relateable.  I know in many fandoms I prefer minor characters because I can identify with them more than with the protagonists who interact with the world in very different ways that I do.  In FF1, you have to be willing to think about saving the world, but otherwise, you do you.  You feel good when it’s over because you won, not because you helped some unlikable main character confront his rival for motivations that still aren’t totally clear.

Final Fantasy VI will always be my favorite FF, and that is very strong on story, but more power to games where you get to be center.

And that’s it from me for now!  Be well!

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