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Kotaku intends to play through every "mainline" title in the Final Fantasy franchise leading up to Final Fantasy XV for a multi-part retrospective video series, and the first part is now available for consumption. In it, they focus on Square's original title, why there was a possibility that it could have been their last game, how well it has aged and holds up even today, and more.
Here's a bit from the article itself:
The gimmick: Fetch quests! One early quest-line in the game asks you to go find a CROWN to bring to an evil king who stole a CRYSTAL from a witch who has an HERB that will wake up an elvish prince who gives you a KEY that lets you unlock a chest full of TNT that will let you open up a canal and sail to the next region. Today's RPGs tend to be better at masking fetch quests, usually by sprinkling them with cutscenes or making them feel unusual. The first Final Fantasy, on the other hand, is unabashed in its love of the mundane.
What makes it '˜feel' like Final Fantasy: Everything, really. You can see the building blocks all throughout the game: the musical motifs, the character classes, the airship, the four elemental ORBs that each of your homeboys has to restore. Later Final Fantasys, unshackled from character restrictions, would call these Crystals. If to (feel) like a Final Fantasy game is to feel like you're exploring a surreal new world full of surprises and incredible music, this one plays the part. (We'll get into what (feeling) like Final Fantasy really means as this series goes on.)
What's unusual: One odd thing about the original Final Fantasy is that it doesn't actually feel much like a JRPG. Most Japanese role-playing games are user-friendly, offering save points before every boss battle and distributing a constant stream of helpful items and equipment. Who among us hasn't found themselves on the final boss of an RPG with a surplus of Megalixirs because we never needed to use them? The challenge in most JRPGs, if there is any, is customising and levelling your characters so they're prepared for every battle. Final Fantasy is different. It's more of a dungeon-crawler, forcing the player to make difficult decisions at every step. Do you use your cure magic on level two of the Ice Cave or wait until you're closer to the boss? Do you risk walking through those lava tiles so you can see what's in that chest? Should you go back to town and heal up or risk getting killed by a boss and losing hours of progress? Final Fantasy, unlike most of its successors, is often brutal and unforgiving.