Final Fantasy I is an iconic role-playing game developed by Square that helped shape the RPG genre into what it is today. Originally released in 1987, it was not only a huge success in its own right but paved the way for the entire Final Fantasy franchise, which has since become one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time. It was a lifeline for Square, now merged with Enix, who at the time had a string of failed game releases. This would be the turning point for them though. Instead of a string of failures, Final Fantasy would usher in a string of successes for Square that would build them a gaming empire as it were. As of writing this the Final Fantasy franchise includes 15 main games, Movies, Novels, Comic books, Music and Anime with no signs of running out of steam yet.
The beginning, however, was not quite so impressive as beginnings often go. In fact at times it even seemed uncertain if Final Fantasy would ever become a reality. Square was in a tight spot, the game almost didn't get the go-ahead and, even after it did, the team initially consisted of only four developers with Square constantly underestimating the game, but let us not get ahead of ourselves here. The game and story behind it is both fascinating and entertaining so let us take a look at amazing things you didn't know about Final Fantasy.
15 It Was Originally Called Fighting Fantasy
Final Fantasy was originally intended to be called Fighting Fantasy. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Fighting Fantasy? It just doesn't have the same ring to it. Especially when you say it out loud a few times. Well fortunately (or unfortunately) for Square, there was already a gamebook with the name Fighting Fantasy, so they had to come up with something else. They ended up replacing “Fighting” with “Final” to keep the coolness of a double F abbreviation. Legend has it that “Final” was also used because Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy, was on the verge of quitting the gaming industry. If you really think about it now, even though Fighting Fantasy would have been a lame name, it is actually a better fit since there is nothing final about the series. It is already at number 15 and still going strong. A more appropriate name would be something like Never Ending Story, but oh wait there is already a movie named that.
14 It Wasn't Released In Europe Until 2003
Talk about late to the party. Final Fantasy I was first released back in 1987 in Japan and released in 1990 in North America. Our European friends, however, had to wait until 2003 before they could get their hands on it. The same thing happened with Australia. Now keep in mind the difference in years doesn't quite do the injustice justice. When you take into account how much technology changed from 1987 to 2003, then it becomes painfully clear. To put it into perspective, the movie RoboCop was released in 1987 and The Matrix Reloaded was released in 2003. Big difference! At least there was some upside to it, since the version that was released later was a remastered version with better graphics, audio and video cut scenes. I doubt if this makes up for the long wait though, but it is always better to be an optimist and to look at the bright side.
13 The Creator Dropped Out Of University
We have already mentioned the creator of Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi, but he is so much more than just the creator, he has also played a major role in all of the Final Fantasy releases until he parted ways with Square. He is well respected and received awards for his achievements and influence on the RPG genre. What you probably don’t know about him is that he didn't have a very good start to his career. As a student he dropped out of university without finishing his degree. After dropping out, he got a job working part-time for Square, which at the time was not a very successful company. As mentioned before, legend has it he also had his doubts about Final Fantasy I and chose the word “Final” for the title because he thought it would be his final project. It was ironic, as we know now that it would go on to be a huge success and the first of many releases.
12 It Features Erdrick’s Grave
Erdrick is the leading character in Dragon Warrior, a game which at the time was in competition with Final Fantasy I. Keep in mind this was before Square and Enix merged. We can only assume that they wanted to subtly insult their competition so they included a tombstone in the game that read “Here lies Erdrick, 837-866, R.I.P.” So they figuratively killed off their competitor's hero. Later though, Square and Enix would merge into what we now know as Square Enix. That’s not all of it though, as earlier versions of Final Fantasy I instead had a tombstone that read “Here Lies Link.” Link referring to the hero of another RPG, The Legend of Zelda. This would make more sense since the tombstone can be found in a city called Elfheim and Link is Elf-like. If you find a city of Elves and a tombstone with the name of an Elf, then there is little doubt who you are referring to. It seems that the Final Fantasy I team didn't mind sending strong messages to their rivals.
11 Square Wasn't Convinced It Would Sell
Hironobu Sakaguchi was set on making an RPG game, but Square wasn't convinced that there was a market for these type of games. They were in a bad spot to begin with, since their previous games weren't very successful, so they weren't about to take a risk. Their rivals at the time, however, did take the risk and released Dragon Quest which was a success. This proved that an RPG could be successful and it finally convinced Square to go ahead with Final Fantasy I. Had they listened to Hironobu Sakaguchi, they could have gotten into the market sooner and possibly Final Fantasy I would have been more successful. If they had not decided to go ahead with Final Fantasy I they would probably have gone bankrupt and fallen of the face of the earth.
10 The Battle System Was Inspired By American Football
It seems that Final Fantasy I and American Football have much more in common than you think, as apparently it was one of the inspirations for the battle system in Final Fantasy I. Who would have thought that an RPG game could be influenced by a sport? I know it sounds a bit strange, but you know how in American Football two teams line up in formation opposite each other waiting to make or respond to the play. Later the opposing team gets to make the play and the other team responds. That is supposedly equivalent to a group of protagonists attacking a group of monsters and vice versa. If you still can’t see the similarity between American Football and Final Fantasy, don’t worry since other professional sports were also among the inspiration for the battle system.
9 It “Borrowed” A Lot From Dungeons & Dragons
Final Fantasy has a dark side that you don’t know about. It was hugely based on Dungeons & Dragons. You can call it borrow or call it stealing, but it is true that much of Final Fantasy I was directly or indirectly taken from Dungeons & Dragons. The battle system was intended to match Dungeons & Dragons’ as closely as possible. The enemies in Final Fantasy I were almost all taken from Dungeons & Dragons and the spells system works exactly the same as in Dungeons & Dragons. In Final Fantasy’s defense though, it wasn't the only game to draw inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons. There are many actually. Maybe these were the days before Intellectual Property lawsuits became popular.
8 It Contains A Secret Mini-game
Most Final Fantasy players probably now about the mini-games in all of the Final Fantasy games, but they are also easy to miss if you don’t know about them. If you have missed them, then this is for you. The mini-games are small sub-games inside the Final Fantasy games. Final Fantasy I has a mini-game called 15 Puzzle. The aim of the game is to arrange 15 tiles in numerical order. To play the mini-game, you will need to find the ship and, once inside, press a combination of buttons to access the game. The combination of buttons depends on the version you have, but almost all versions contain the mini-game. If you are able to complete the mini-game, you will be well rewarded with gil or items. Take note, the quicker you complete the puzzle, the higher your rank will be.
7 Square Wasn't Doing So Well Before Final Fantasy I
Square’s earliest games were mostly failures and it is possible they were on the edge of bankruptcy. They didn't want to take a risk on what, to them, was an unproven genre. It is only once their rivals were successful that they were convinced there was a market for RPGs. Even Hironobu Sakaguchi had decided that the next project would be his last attempt before retiring from the gaming industry. This is part of the reason that the title includes “Final.” So it didn't look so good for Square at the time, but what they didn't know yet was that Final Fantasy I would turn it all around for them.
6 It Has Been Novelized
In 2012, a novel was released based on the Final Fantasy storyline. The book contains three stories which are shortened versions of Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III respectively. The stories in the book are similar to the game, but also have major differences. The storyline is that four warriors, a fighter, a thief, a white mage and a black mage, wake up in a field without any memories of who they are or why they were there. The group heads for the nearest town to finds out who they are. Does is sound familiar? It should. The book was only released in Japanese though and it is unclear if it will be translated to English, so you would have to brush up on your Japanese a bit before reading it.
5 Square Expected Only 200,000 In Sales
We have already covered how Square didn't believe that there was a market for RPGs and how they waited for their competition to test the waters. Even after they had given the go ahead for the project, they were still trying to play it safe since it seems that Hironobu Sakaguchi had a hard time convincing them of the potential sales. Initially, they forecast only 200,000 in sales and this number is important since it would be used to determine the number of copies made of the game. Sakaguchi was upset by the low forecast and requested it to be increased, however Square didn't budge and so initially only 200,000 copies of the game were made. Sakaguchi was set on making it a success though and even marketed the game himself. After the distribution deal for North America, things started to look up though.
4 Final Fantasy I Contains Many Bugs
Final Fantasy I contains many bugs, which you may or may not have noticed. Bugs don’t necessarily always break the game, though they could, but it could also just result in unintended behavior. Let’s look at some of the most notable bugs in Final Fantasy. The Critical Hit has a bug where the wrong value is used to determine critical hit probability, resulting in either a greater-than-intended or less-than-intended chance of a critical hit. Some weapons’ special abilities will have no effect at all and there is nothing "special" about that at all. Intelligence is never factored in to determine the amount of damage caused. Not very intelligent if you ask me. Some sprites don’t load correctly, resulting in invisible characters such as the invisible woman of Cornelia. Many spells don’t work the way they were intended to work. In some places on the map, you can have encounters with enemies which were only supposed to be available later in the story. Some players have used this bug as way to gain more experience earlier on.
3 The Developers Had No Experience with RPG’s
Given the success of Final Fantasy I and the franchise, you would be surprised to know just how inexperienced the team was, especially with RPGs. We have already mentioned the fact that Hironobu Sakaguchi dropped out of university without completing his degree. Surprisingly Hiroyuki Itō had never even played any RPG game before designing the turn-based battle system for Final Fantasy I. Also, the programmer Nasir Gebelli had never coded anything even closely related to an RPG and had a difficult time grasping the game concept. Apart from experience, the team initially had only four members. Four members? Today's games probably take a team of 400 members to complete. Granted modern games are much more complex but still, this seems to be an exceedingly small team. Square as a whole was in a bad spot too in the time. This begs the question just how did they manage to pull it off?
2 It Inspired Comic Books
Back in the day, movies were based on novels and then adapted for the big screen. These days, movies are based on just about anything you can think of. Some movies are now based on comic books or on games, games like Final Fantasy of course. Sometimes the opposite happens, where games are made based off of movies, but they rarely end up being any good. However, not many comic books are based on games. Your probably didn't know this, but Final Fantasy has a Manga series after the game. It was released in 1989 and features the characters Puffy, Fritz, Matoya, Bahamut, DB-6, Sarah, Bikke and Graland. It is uncertain if it has been translated to English though, so you might need to brush up on your Japanese, again.
1 The Chocobos Were Left Out
If you have ever played Final Fantasy, then you will have encountered Chocobos in one form or another. That is, unless of course, you have only ever played Final Fantasy I and it would mean you have missed out on the most iconic Final Fantasy animal. Chocobos are those useful bird-like animals which make mighty fine off-road vehicles. They are used to explore the vast Final Fantasy universe, since running around can be time consuming and, well, boring. Rumor has it they have the IQ of a parrot, can run as fast as an ostrich and can fly as well as a chicken. What is interesting though, is that Chocobos feature in every single Final Fantasy game except for Final Fantasy I. This is sad. Especially since the Chocobo is the most famous Final Fantasy critter. It is so famous, in fact, that it has been declared the official mascot of the Final Fantasy series. Go Chocobos, go!