Review: Final Fantasy Origins (FF1)

April 30, 2003 11:59 PM PST


project FF Dog: part one: Final Fantasy I
an insert credit pictures production
directed by tim rogers
starring doug jones, tim rogers, julie schimmoller, and squaresoft's final fantasy i
(with a special appearance by clint rogers)
filmed on 04112003 and 04122003
written commentary by doug jones

~two bad dudes
one hot babe
two guitars
(one good, one evil)
ten final fantasies
no sleep till la charreada
this is project FF Dog~

Throughout the course of history, many men have embarked on noble journeys of discovery in foreign lands. Some, known even today due to their legendary pursuits, might be considered heroes.

Columbus tried to find a westward route to the Indies, and discovered North America. He was widely praised in spite of his error. Lewis and Clark led an expedition westward across the uncharted plains of that same continent. They emerged as legends in not only their own time, but all subsequent generations. Admiral Byrd quested to be the first to reach the South Pole, and…well, he didn’t emerge, but that’s beside the point.

This is a tale of two such men, with no less of a hunger for adventure; a story of determination, and perseverance, full of epic victories, and crushing defeats. Bonded by their shared love for good Mexican food, soda of many varieties, and all things Final Fantasy, they set out on an adventure of their own.

Armed with only four bottles of Jones Soda, a two-liter of Dr. Pepper, and a Dual Shock II controller, they assumed the role of the destined “Light Warriors", and set about the daunting task of ridding the world of evil…without sleeping. Some said it was impossible, but they stood, boldly defiant, and declared to the world that they would see it done.

THIS IS ‘PROJECT: FF DOG’.

At approximately 4pm on Friday, April 11, 2003, I was preparing to leave work. I had a copy of Final Fantasy Origins waiting on me at the only FuncoLand in Castleton, Indiana. I had reserved this copy a few days prior, when I was denied its purchase due to a lack of sufficient funding.

I had just finalized details with Tim about our impending quest. We were to retrieve the game, fill the gas tank on the Saab, and head northward on I-69 to Anderson, Indiana, my current city of residence, and also home to two of the state's twelve La Charreada Mexican restaurants.

At our personal favorite of the two said restaurants, we laid out plans of attack over vegetarian combinations B, and C, respectively.

I had ordered a combination D but this was mistaken by the waiter. What I received was an error heavily in my favor: the best meal ever to be graced by the second letter of the alphabet. It was two bean burritos drowned in the world’s most perfect queso sauce.

*ahem*

This story is not about my adventures in Mexican cuisine; I apologize.

After I was sufficiently full, and Tim sufficiently lactose intolerant, we paid the bill, exited, and made our last stop of the evening at a Red Barn gas station about a block from my house. I picked up a cream soda, berry lemonade, and strawberry lime Jones Soda. Tim grabbed a strawberry lime Jones Soda, and a two-liter of Dr. Pepper for about ten cents less than any one of the aforementioned Jones'. As I fumbled for change to pay, I was dubbed 'chief' by the cashier, to Tim’s delight:

"Dude! He called you chief! Awesome!"

[editor's note: this, I can totally back up.]

With that, we made our way to my place, where the 32" Sony Trinitron, PlayStation2, and the promise of adventure awaited us. The time was approximately 8:30pm.

T-minus: 1 hour.

In that hour, we got settled in, checked our respective e-mails, and welcomed the third -- and shortest-lived -- member of our party, Julie. She had gotten off of work at 9pm, and our plans had piqued her curiosity. She joined us in the basement at about 9:25pm, bearing a way-too-large-for-its-meager-contents pot of Rice-a-Roni.

The time was at hand.

I loaded the disc. The PlayStation gratefully accepted it. In a moment's time, we were watching a suspiciously unfamiliar character in an equally unfamiliar FMV setting engaging an enormous red dragon in mortal combat.

Yoshitaka Amano's concept art had been brought to 32-bit, true-color, Square-trademark effeminate life. I'm still not sure whether I enjoyed it or not.

At this point, we set about choosing our party, which we'd already determined over burritos an hour and a half prior. They were to be: Billy, Red Mage; Doug, Fighter/Warrior; Jules, Thief; and the star of the hour -- FF Dog, Black Belt/Monk.

We took one final check of ourselves and our surroundings, and proceeded to put our lives on hold indefinitely until we put the game away, as Tim would say later, "…dead in a pine box."

. . . And so it began.

Immediately, we found ourselves standing familiarly outside of Cornelia, as Nobuo Uematsu’s remastered overworld theme played in all of its 32-bit glory.

We entered the town, unabashedly.

What's this? The king is looking for us? Something about the 'Light Warriors,' you say? We'd better look into this!

In a span of time one could only describe as slightly less than instantaneous, we stood in the king's chamber. It was there that he explained to us our objective. We were to seek out the rogue Garland, who had stolen away with his daughter. We were to retrieve the captive princess, and punish Garland for his treachery.

[editor's note (tim): why the hell does garland kidnap the princess, anyway? i mean, isn't it his goal to, like, disrupt the flow of time or something? Why does he need some pixel-princess?]

Tim and I knew the story well. The four warriors we controlled, however, were partaking in an entirely virgin quest. In the beginning, we were excited for them, and even a little envious.

Julie commented that watching us play made her eager to start a new game of Final Fantasy VI. She was the first one of us to have this sentiment, but she was assuredly not the last.

Tim led our little band in laps around the city until they were sufficiently wealthy and experienced enough to confront our would-be nemesis. We approached him nearly unopposed, and challenged him without fear. Garland was knocked down swiftly, and mercilessly.

Our first mission complete, we returned to the castle, and the king, who, in our honor, ordered a bridge be built to the northern shore of a nameless river running through the plains nearby.

We were treated to an all-new scene, depicting the hard work and dedication of the bridge builders. It made me yearn for a game in which the cutscenes actually served a purpose. This particular one was devoid of any sort of relativity to the plot, and was entirely unnecessary.

For more on the topic of things unnecessary, please read Tim's review. It’s not a bad piece.

As anyone who has played any version of Final Fantasy I, remastered or not, knows: this is the point where the game lets go of your hand and gives you a nice hard shove on the back. It thrusts you into a world filled with angry two-dimensional sprites that hunger for your children’s blood, and come at you nine at a time.

Somewhere in the next hour, a few notable things would happen: I would take the reins for the first time, Tim would remember why he hadn't picked this game up in nearly a decade, Julie would fall asleep, the "Light Warriors" would learn of, and begin to seek out, the dark elf Astos, and a brilliant idea would be born.

“Dude, we should totally make videos to record our progress...!"

Gaming journalism would never be the same.

**

On our quest to nobly slay the bane of elvinkind, we received a helpful tip from a suspicious king in a very suspicious castle, whose throne room was filled with . . . bats? Hmm. He told us that an item crucial to our mission’s success lay at the bottom of the Marsh Cave. It was the…

The . . .

Umm . . .

Well, wouldn’t you know, it’s so memorable that I’ve forgotten what it was!

[01:18:59] me: what's the item you seek in the marsh cave?
[01:20:18] tim: ahh
[01:20:20] tim: the crown
[01:20:26] me: right, right
[01:21:52] tim: which you give to the dark elf astos, who gives you the crystal ball, which you give to the witch matoya, who gives you the herb to wake the sleeping elf prince, who gives you the key that unlocks the door at cornelia castle, inside of which is the TNT ("nitro powder" in the new edition) which you give to the dwarf, who blows open (REMASTERED! [05]) the channel

. . . It appears that Project: FF Dog is just destined to be littered with spoilers. Well, if you haven’t played a game that’s been accessible to U.S. audiences for the last 14 years, it’s your own fault. I’ll be a little more lenient when speaking of Final Fantasy II.

Regardless of what the item was that we sought, or whether or not I knew its name, the fact remains that we were poisoned (01) about a half a dozen million times in our trek to the bottom of the Marsh Cave.

Once the crown was retrieved, we returned it to said suspicious king, thus completing Fetch Quest Fantasy I: Phase I. Upon receiving his requested item, he thanks us by...revealing his true identity as the sinister dark elf Astos (02)!

A battle ensued! Tim and I bet on how many rounds it would take to defeat him. I recorded it in my LiveJournal, for posterity’s sake. We discovered in the Elvin rear-kicking process that we had not yet acquired the spell Fire 2 (03). I believe that had we had Fire 2, Tim might not have won (04) the bet, as it may have been over in one round.

After our triumph over the dark elf prince, we continued bartering items until we came across the one thing that would open our world to new exploration, and perhaps a semi-coherent plot: TNT, or its "remastered" name, "nitro powder." We would have taken videos during this time, had there been anything exciting to see. Tim sleepwalked the party through this part of the game.

At least we expanded the world map.

Upon landing our ship on the new continent, we discovered that foul play was already afoot. We landed in a town that had been ravaged by severe elemental destructive forces. I suspected that it was El Nino; the townspeople with whom we spoke suspected Lich, the Fiend of the Earth.

It turns out they were right.

We used our finely honed detective skills to track the first of the four fiends deep within the earth. We used Dr. Pepper (06) to keep us awake, for the plot alone just wasn’t cutting it.

When we finally caught up with the deviant, we surmised that we could end him in just one round of attack. Tim even suggested that it might be possible to take him down in just one blow. He turned out to be a little trickier (07) than that.

(Side Note: Julie happened to wake up for just a few minutes, due to my excessive noise-making. If you listen closely, you’ll get to hear her laugh. It’s the only time you’ll get the opportunity to hear from her until the Final Fantasy II review, in which she takes more of a central role.)

Once the Fiend of the Earth was finally put to rest, we set out to find the Fiend of Fire, formerly known as Kary, presently known as Marililith. In order to find her, we plunged deep into Gulg volcano. Tim was a little overwhelmed.

"Dude!" (08)

I took control for a while. Our red mage, Billy, ended up being thrashed all-the-way to death by a fearsome monster deep within the cavern. Tim resumed control.

We met up with the Fiend of Fire at nearly 5:30am. Marililith proved to be a worthy adversary. Worthy enough to last three combat rounds, anyway.

"Oh, dude, oh dude!" (09)

At this point, we returned to the village of Sages. Tim pointed out some of the flaws of the game. He had gone from simply not wanting to play to wishing for his own demise (10).

Thanks to deductive reasoning, it was glaringly obvious what was to come next: the imminent destruction of the Water Fiend, Kraken. Before sufficiently wandering around Kraken’s dungeon aimlessly, we exited to make a few more pit stops before facing the Water Fiend himself: We picked up the airship (14), and donned some new character classes (15).

I explored Kraken's dungeon, on what would be our "dry run." We would complete the dungeon later. Tim waxed philosophical about La Charreada Mexican Restaurant (11), the wonders of heal potion (12), and the new and improved sound effects (13) in the "remastered" Final Fantasy I.

We then went after the fiend himself (16). . .

. . . and then, as a matter of due course, we took down Tiamat (17), Fiend of the Wind.

Tim wasn’t a big fan of the new and improved crystal activation sequences (18).

At last, there was only one dungeon remaining. There was no desire left within either of us to defeat this game for any other reason than our honor. It certainly wasn’t because we were dying to find out what plot twist lay around the next corner. We’d pledged that we'd beat it without sleeping, and that’s what we intended to do. . . somewhere else (19).

All the fiends had encore appearances in the Temple of Chaos. Lich, you've witnessed. Marililith (20), Kraken (23), and Tiamat's (24) subsequent recurrences made it a party to remember.

Of course, it’s all fun and games until somebody loses their life. The tension mounted as FF Dog struggled to survive (22), and was eventually overcome (25) by an unending barrage of enemy attacks. I was in control, and I was the one to commit such a costly error. Tim wanted answers (26), though nothing I said could bring him back.

My moment of shame was quickly overshadowed by the wretched and utterly ridiculous disgrace of an explanation (27) that is Chaos’ (see: Garland) dialogue.

After shortening our lifespans with his mindless drivel, Chaos thrust us into an epic battle (28) spanning all space and time…that is, until the memory stick in the camera ran out. We continued (29) with the battle just a moment later.

Billy and Doug were the only two of the "Light Warriors" standing when we entered Chaos' chamber. They were the only two left standing when the battle for the world's fate had been decided.

As our reward, they gave us an ending that was surely written by Chaos’ scriptwriter(s). I think Tim put it best by saying:

"This ending sucks." (30)

He managed to make it a little more enjoyable with his soon-to-be-famous guitar antics (21).

For those that are interested, we took the liberty of remastering (31) the remastery. Note the special music in this new edition (32). . . . And you only thought that 'otherworld' from Final Fantasy X was a rockin’ song . . . !

[editor's note (tim): i totally whipped that mule's ass. we totally whipped that game's ass. And then we went to la charreada, and that was that. it was real glory. for $2.50, we got a fat ladle-full of the best guacamole you can get in indiana. my stomach was, as it were, eating itself. we were done for the day -- until the next friday, when we kicked final fantasy ii in the nads. and used the word 'nad' a lot. You’ve got to see it and hear it to believe it. Though, uh, i think the segue out is doug's bit. i really don't know what I'm doing here at this very moment. . . . *cough*. . . . *COUGH*. Damn this dry, persistent cough. Woman on the plane from hong kong just wouldn't quit coughing in my face.]

This concludes this episode of video adventures of two bad dudes, one hot babe, two guitars (one good, one evil), and ten Final Fantasies. No sleep 'til La Charreada.

This was Project: FF Dog, part one. Stay tuned to insert credit for part two.


 








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