Final Fantasy NES Review – An RPG Blast From the Past

by | NES

Final Fantasy NES review

Final Fantasy for NES was the original retro game in the popular Final Fantasy series. Developed by Square, it was released in Japan on December 18, 1987, and in North America on September 2, 1990. The NES version of Final Fantasy is similar to another 8-bit game by Square: Dragon Warrior or Dragon Quest as it is called in Japan. These two video games share similar sprites and over-world navigation although the actual combat screen is different.

Game Story

The Light Warriors are the main characters in the original Final Fantasy game for NES. Each of the party members represents different classes that one would see in a typical fantasy story: 

  • Warrior Class
  • Thief Class
  • Black Mage Class
  • Red Mage Class
  • Monk Class
  • White Mage Class. 

This game follows their journey to save the world from the evil Garland. There isn’t one particular main character the player uses in this story but a group of heroes who push the story forward.


The weapons in the original Final Fantasy game for NES are swords, staves, rods, bows, and daggers. Warrior can equip swords, axes, and assorted heavy weapons. Thief can equip daggers and bows. Black Mage can equip rods, staves, and daggers while the White Mage can equip rods, staves, and hammers. Red Mage is a bit different in that they can equip the same equipment as the Mage class but also weapons the physical attackers use. Monk or Black Belt as it is called in the North American version of the game fights barefisted, while the class can use weapons the Monk does far more damage without a weapon. 

There are weapons that bear iconic names like Excalibur or Masamune that also make appearances in later Final Fantasies. Mage classes use various forms of magic appropriate to their class, Black Mage uses black magic that is destructive for example, the White Mage uses healing magic or white magic. Red Mages use both black and white magic but their spell level never reaches quite as high which balances out their versatility when compared to the other magic users.


Armor in the original Final Fantasy game for NES is shields, helmets, mail, and chain-mail. The Warrior is able to equip shields, helmets, and mail and the Thief is able to equip helmets and chain-mail. The Black Mage and White Mage are only able to equip robes. The Red Mage is able to equip shields, helmets, and chain-mail. The Monk can equip the least amount of armor and wears primarily vests and other light armor options meaning the defense is often low.

Game Levels

Final Fantasy has many different areas that the player could explore like grasslands, deserts, mountain caves, and underwater as well at some point. The player acquires various modes of transportation like a canoe, ship, and even an airship for flying. Within each of the various areas, there are several towns, dungeons, and caves that the player could explore. 

Oftentimes enemies would be encountered on the world map which would lead to a battle screen. The bulk of the player’s exploration will be seen on a world map view controlling a sprite as they navigate the areas. Within dungeons, random battle encounters happen at a higher rate and treasure chests can be found that may contain equipment and money.

Bosses and Enemies


Enemies in the original Final Fantasy game for NES are creatures often seen in fantasy RPG games, imps, demons, various ghosts, and wolves among many others. There is a huge variety of monsters to fight in this world as well as palette-swapped stronger versions of weaker monsters. The minute you leave a safe area like a town you will have random encounters where you face monsters and engage in battle. In Final Fantasy the random encounter rate is fairly high so be prepared to fight quite often when traveling.


Garland is the main antagonist and he is fought at the beginning of the game and seen much later if the player advances the story far enough. There are plenty of boss battles in the game but the main bosses who play critical roles in the story are The Four Fiends who represent the four elements, Lich, Tiamat, Marilith, or Kary in the US, and Kraken. The final boss is a surprise and involves a unique story twist.

Music and Gameplay

Music in the original Final Fantasy game for NES was composed by Nobuo Uematsu. The opening theme “Prelude” has become one of the most recognizable songs in video games. Other memorable tracks include “The Battle”, “The Cave” and “The Castle”. Music in Final Fantasy helps to set the tone for the game and create an immersive experience for the player.

The combat system in the original Final Fantasy for NES was turn-based. Each of your party members would take their turn and then the enemy would take theirs. The player could choose to attack, use magic or items, or run away from the battle. Some commands such as attacking or using an item could be used multiple times in a turn. However, other commands such as magic could only be used once per turn.

Overall Game Length

Final Fantasy 1 is not a lengthy game for an RPG, the game can be completed in under 20 hours depending if you use a guide or you favor grinding experience for leveling. There are many areas to explore, and the player must complete several quests before they can face the final boss. The game can take 17 hours to complete, making it a great investment for RPG fans who want a shorter experience.


The first Final Fantasy game for NES is a great role-playing game with interesting characters, weapons, and armor. The story is engaging and the bosses provide extra challenges. This is a must-play for any fan of the Final Fantasy titles. Square who created this game is now Square Enix and even now they are creating new Final Fantasy games that are single-player and multiplayer as well. 

Playing the first game is a nice nostalgia trip to see where most of the monsters and central gameplay mechanics come from. Those people who might worry about the dated graphics and mechanics but still want to experience the original game can try Final Fantasy Origins, which is a definitive version and HD remaster of the first game and the direct sequel Final Fantasy 2 as well.

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