Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame Nomination: Final Fantasy

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Final Fantasy
Developer: SquareSoft
Publisher: Nintendo (US)
Release Date: July 12, 1990 (US)
System Released On: NES, MSX2, WonderSwan Color, PlayStation, GameBoy Advance, Mobile Phones, PlayStation Portable, Virtual Console, PlayStation Network, iPhone/iPod Touch
Genre: RPG

Who Nominated The Game: Sean Madson, resident FF fanboy and player of Square-Enix titles.

Why Was It Nominated: Without Final Fantasy, there would be no SquareSoft and thus, no Square-Enix. That’s how important the success of this title was to the future of the company. Some may think their failure may have been a good thing considering the direction some of their franchises have taken in recent years. However, you can’t deny the impact that they have had on the industry and it’s not just the Final Fantasy franchise either. Other games, such as Kingdom Hearts and Chrono Trigger would simply not exist and the mainstream appeal of the modern RPG may not be where it is today.

Of course, this is all speculation to say whether or not Square’s existence would have hindered future RPG’s being released outside of Japan or not. But one has to consider that despite Enix and Nintendo’s efforts to promote titles such as Dragon Warrior and Earthbound to minimal success, there is that strong possibility. And then there’s the simple fact that the original Final Fantasy is an awesome game. For its time, anyway.

All in Favour:

Sean Madson – Awhile back, I wrote a piece regarding my feelings for each entry in the main Final Fantasy franchise and I talked extensively about the original in Part 1. If you haven’t read it, my personal feelings on the game are that had I not played it and got hooked on it, my future as a gamer and fan of RPG’s would be a huge question mark. Perhaps I would have picked up a different game down the line and would be interested in the genre that way. Who knows? But as it stands now, the original Final Fantasy was my vice for much of my youth and is a title that almost two decades later is still fun for me to play.

Christopher Bowen – This is the hardest thing I’ve had to think on so far. On the one hand, this game singlehandedly got me into gaming. On the other, in Japan, Final Fantasy has – and really, always will be – second to Dragon Quest. But on yet another hand, this was the first RPG to really break into an American console market (sorry, Ultima doesn’t count), but on another hand after that, other Final Fantasy games did more to advance both JRPGs and the Final Fantasy name… I tossed this back and forth for a long time.

Looking at the gameplay of the original (I’m not considering the remakes), I figured that the gameplay had aged too much. You can’t switch off of someone who’s dead, the difficulty curve is very steep, it requires a tonne of grinding, all of these things were fixed by the remakes, but that didn’t make the NES game stand out any more.

But then I figured… didn’t I just say both Shining Force games are Hall of Fame worthy?

The interface for the original Shining Force games sucked. The gameplay was good enough, but the menus and everything else were so unwieldy that it often helped me make mistakes if I went too fast at anything. Playing them nowadays is an exercise in annoyance, and I can’t even really say that about Final Fantasy, though that might be because I grew up playing Final Fantasy more.

Ultimately, it was a hard decision, but I feel Final Fantasy‘s effect on the JRPG market makes it worthy of being in the Hall of Fame.

Alex Lucard – Look, it’s no secret that I think the FF series, as a whole, is the most overrated gaming franchise ever and that many of the games in the series, if stripped of the brand name, would have sold far less copies and recieved far more critical reviews. The first Final Fantasy however, is a different story altogether.

Not only did it contain a truly epic story for an 8-Bit game, but it was one of the few games at the time that wasn’t entirely linear. before FFI and Phantasy Star, I was pretty much of the opinion that the PC was the only real way to get a quality RPG fix. Wizardry. The Bard’s Tale. Ultima. THOSE were RPGs. Final Fantasy actually let me make my own character. I could customize four different ones and assemble a team of whatever I wanted. My original team was a Fighter, a Red Mage, a Black Mage and a Black Belt (Defense was for sissies!), but I could have had four thieves if I wanted to! I could class change if I wanted to, or I could beat the whole game without. I could pick what spells my Mages knew. All of thise made FF actually feel like a REAL role playing game, and by real I mean tabletop for back then. Customization and story has always been the two big things I looked for in a RPG from my childhood and FFI had it in spades. or in spades for an 8-bit game anyway.

I still enjoy the game for what it is and I happily own the PSP version of that and II. For all the rancor I have spit out at the Final Fantasy series over the past decade and a half, Final Fantasy I still brings a smile to my face.

Aileen Coe – This is the game that singlehandedly pulled Square from the brink and spawned a series that continues on to this day – for better or worse, depending on which game you’re talking about. It was also the precursor to the job system found (and expanded on) in some later Final Fantasy games, like V and Tactics. You had complete control over the composition of your party, and you could have four white mages if you were feeling up to a challenge (or had some masochistic tendencies to fulfill). Sure, the NES version is archaic by today’s standards, and it’s received oodles of remakes since, but its impact can’t be denied.

AJ Hess – The cartridge that launched a thousand strategy guides. More like several hundred thousand, but who’s counting? Final Fantasy was the first game-that I can remember, at any rate-that allowed you to party up and fight against the forces of evil together. Anyone that played this game can recall their first party, and the four-character names you gave them. HCKS was my fighter, RPLY my White Mage, DRKE my black mage, and HDSN was my Black Belt. I was going through an Aliens phase. Final Fantasy is the progenitor of the most popular J-RPG series of all time. This title gave players a familiar world with elves, dwarves, and a vague steampunk-magic feel, but filtered through the eight-bit world of the Nintendo Entertainment System. It also gave many of us our first taste of an experience and gold grind-Hall of Giants, anyone? Final Fantasy defined the console role-playing game for generations to come, and still is a fun way to spend several hours on modern portable systems. Dock the airship in the Hall of Fame.

All Opposed:

Aaron Sirois – This game does have a great legacy. Final Fantasy saved Squaresoft. It spawned one of the most successful franchises of all a time: a franchise that brought RPGs to the mainstream. it started it all, even if it wasn’t the first, or best RPG.

However, the game itself is nothing to write home about. Perhaps I played it too late in my life, but I can’t in good graces vote for this game to make it in, not while games like VI and Chrono Trigger haven’t made it in. Heck, I’d even put VII in, despite the fact that is a hated game among most of my fellow staff members.

After a few more deserving RPGs get in, then bring this back up and I might vote for it. Until then, it’ll just have to wait.

Mark B. – In the same way that I missed the boat on Super Mario Brothers, I missed the boat on this, having spent my formative years playing Phantasy Star instead of making fighters and thieves and whatnot. That said, I completely acknowledge that Final Fantasy is a significant, and generally pretty good, RPG in the grand scheme of things, and as such, can see why it would deserve a place in the Hall of Fame based on those merits alone. That said, two things prevent me from voting for the game:

1.) Given the choice, I find Final Fantasy VI a better game, and while I’m well aware that I’m in the minority on this site for harboring this opinion, I would easily say it’s the greatest JRPG ever made, period. As such, I would sooner vote for that game over this one, and don’t entirely feel the need to cast my vote here.

2.) You can pretty much say that were there no Final Fantasy, there would also not be a Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XIII, or Final Fantasy XI, which would mean that I would never have to see Sephiroth ever again, never have to hear anyone tell me why I’m wrong for thinking Final Fantasy X is everything that is wrong with JRPG’s ever, never have to hear someone explain why it’s impossible to make towns in a next-gen RPG, and never lose a week of my life leveling my Paladin in Kazham, respectively, and I find it hard to cast a positive vote with that sort of perspective in mind.

There would also be no Advent Children or Dirge of Cerberus, which, to be honest, is enough to make me consider inventing a ridiculous time traveling car of some sort or another (a Pinto, maybe?) to prevent Final Fantasy from being made. Just saying.

Ashe Collins – As much as I like Final Fantasy as a series, for the most part, I really really never liked the first Final Fantasy. I’ve played the remakes and it took a sheer force of will to get me through that one and into the next. I can see the appeal, but I didn’t like the generic story, the generic monsters, and a complete lack of any kind of direction when you go to explore. For me there are much better RPGs from this generation, and they weren’t on the console, they were on the PC from SSI.

While this one is the title that pulled Square’s bacon out of the fryer, I think there are much better titles in the series than the first, and no, Seven isn’t one of them either. Sorry, but FF gets a Nay from me.

William Kaye – I never really had fun with this game, and that is because of the Marsh Cave. Grinding might have been more tolerable when I was younger, but even then I did not have the patience needed to grind and grind and grind just to make it through that cave. Nintendo Hard does not even describe this game. That doesn’t even get into the fact that the enemies were all basically cribbed from D&D, the fact that the game does not re-direct attacks when the original target is killed, and that there are so many broken stats and spells it is just sad. I can appreciate Final Fantasy II, from a certain viewpoint, but the original Final Fantasy really feels like more of a chore than a fun game.

Result: 5 In Favour, 4 Opposed, 55.5% Approval = REJECTED

Conclusion: Well, it was closer than I expected any Final Fantasy title to be. I was quite surprised by the overall positive reception of the game (though not half as surprised as I was to see Alex Lucard vote in favor of it). Regardless, I think due to the aging mechanics of the game, it truly is a title that you had to have grown up with to really appreciate. Regardless of whatever impact it may have had on JRPG’s or the RPG market as a whole, it won’t hold much value to you if you don’t find it fun to play.

Next Week: Join us next week as we look at a Bond title that brought the thrill of fragging your buddies to consoles in all its split-screen glory. Stay tuned!



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29 responses to “Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame Nomination: Final Fantasy”

  1. Justin Holmes Avatar
    Justin Holmes

    Wow, so, to all the defenders of the “this isn’t even the best game in its series” or “I don’t vote for a game based on what it did for the industry” I ask — how in the hell do you vote for this? It’d be hard to argue this is in the top three or five of the series’ own history and it plays like a damn fossil.

  2. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    I don’t think that came out quite right. Say again?

  3. Phil J Avatar
    Phil J

    I didn’t play the original Final Fantasy until after playing most of the SMS JRPG’s (Phantasy Star, Miracle Warriors, Y’s) and FFIV for SNES. The fact that this game does not hold up well in comparison to some of those games is one thing; but Final Fantasy I does not even hold up particularly well to earlier Nintendo adventure/RPG’s like The Legend of Zelda.

    The mechanics are too rough around the edges, as are the dialog and story. Your characters still attacking an already terminated adversary during a turn instead of moving to another target automatically is one example.

    The game was fair at best and pretty good for its’ time and platform. That being said it doesn’t hold a candle to Phantasy Star for SMS, and nostalgia aside, wouldn’t even be in the upper half of games in the marginally overrated Final Fantasy series.

    If you are going to include this game in the Hall of Fame you might as well nominate half of the JRPG’s ever released. Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI are the first two games that should be considered for HOF status in my view.

  4. Justin Holmes Avatar
    Justin Holmes

    Mark — Sorry, allow me to illustrate.

    1) The mark against the two Mario games up for review and Twilight Princess, and in your case Shining Force, was that it’s not the most deserving game in its own series to make it in. This point will certainly come up again (and I think that’s fair) and was typified in this case when you said, “I find Final Fantasy VI a better game … I would sooner vote for that game over this one.” (To his credit, Mr. Sirois more or less said the same.) Now unlike, say, Super Mario Bros., our most recent Hall nominee, which one could debate is the best in the series, I don’t think anyone is saying Final Fantasy, the original, is the best in the series. I would be hard pressed to say how FFI is a better game than any other in the series, and I’m not sure how to argue it’s worthy of a sort of Hall of Fame status more than IV, V, VI, VII, Tactics, or most of the rest. I find it interesting that Alex and Chris have fallen on this excuse before on some pretty competent games but gave this one a nod. (Don’t misunderstand me here, I call you out because you can take it!)

    2) Unlike every other rejected nominee, I don’t think I’d want to pick this up and play it tonight, and I wouldn’t recommend it to a new gamer. Despite what you and Alex think about Super Mario Bros., that is an example of a game of the era that has aged like a fine wine. (I was going to bring up Final Fantasy as a specific example of a game that has aged very poorly during last week’s “civil discourse” and now I really wish I had.) Alex doesn’t seem to buy the history-of-the-industry angle so I’m curious as to why this met his standards.

    But hey, it’s not a pack-in so that’s halfway to an induction right there, eh Alex? I’m hilarious!

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      Justin – historical importance as well as game quality are the two things I personally vote on. With SMB – I don’t find the game fun and the historical value of the game is one of the most overblown things in the history of gaming, to the point where little of the actual influence and value of the game is remembered. it’s in urban legend status akin to ET and landfills, Night Trap and being horribly offensive and/or containing nudity and playing records backwards to hear satanic messages. With FFI, It really is the best of the series in terms of innovation for what was possible in its day. Compare that to the rest of the series where every other game is pretty much a cookie cutter engine up until XI and XIII and only graphics or an odd attachment to a storyline (which is more because of graphics) have saved the series.

      Also, I don’t think anyone on staff considers FFT (which is my favorite game with a FF branding) an actual Final Fantasy game but rather an Ogre spin-off since Quest made it rather than Square.

      1. Alex Lucard Avatar

        Justin – Also I should point out something that I assume most readers know by now, but just to help clarify for new readers…the usual sphiel. Until March 2011, I’m actually a higher up with a branch of Nintendo of Japan. My job is specifically folklore for the company. That entails urban legends, seperating truth from fiction, getting facts back down to reality instead of overblowing things, but primarily in comes into play with character design involving Pokemon. I throw at them pieces of folklore that can be turned into toyetic cock fighting seizure monsters and then the rest of Game Freak picks up the ball and rolls with it in terms of art design, powers and the like. I also specifically write articles on Nintendo folklore for Nintendo at their behest, be it for a newspaper, journal or every something silly like the monthly Pokemon Magazine Beckett publishing puts out. So I’m coming at things from a very different viewpoint from most gamers or even my staff here. Generally if you see me vote down something from a historical perspective it’s because I spent a lot of time with the franchise from an actual historian basis rather than a gamer basis. This is where a lot of my giving thumb’s down to SMB comes from. When you actually talk to the creators face to face and hear their take on their own creation coupled with actual records and clippings NoJ/NoA has saved from that era rather that fourth or fifth hand accounts that have been reguritated in the gaming press, I developed a very different outlook on that product.

        It’s also while you’ll see my comments about the history of a game take more of a Japanese perspective than a North American one. And why you won’t see me nominate any of the games I’ve worked on such as the Pokemon series for Nintendo, certain Castlevania games for Konami and a certain MMORPG for Activision Blizzard where I do the same thing for them that I do for NoJ, just with RPG tropes instead of generalized myths.

  5. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    Phil – Well, it’s a matter of historical value as much as it the value of the product in this case, I think, though I’m inclined to agree with you, at least.

    Justin – Okay, there we go.

    1.) I will start out by noting that in Alex’s case, it is very likely he IS, in fact, saying that FF I is the best in the series. From discussions with the man he has little love for the games outside of the first two, so this is an entirely probable possibility.

    I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I can say that, from my perspective, I don’t care much about historical perspective and only care about whether the game was/is good. I’m fine with the idea of nominating RE4, for instance, but opposed to ever nominating RE1 (original or remake) because they simply aren’t as good. To me, I want to nominate the game I think is the best in the series. For some of us, I imagine that SMB1 and FF1 meet that criteria, or at least, come close enough to be worth voting for.

    2.) Well, the re-releases were certainly fun, but I can see why the original might merit that response. And while I wouldn’t disagree about SMB aging like wine, I don’t like wine, so I would say that we are right back where we started, no?

  6. Justin Holmes Avatar
    Justin Holmes

    Mark — Well, what can I say? I agree with you on this one. I’m also more of a beer man but then, what ages like fine beer?

    Alex — I don’t think much of anyone considers Tactics a Final Fantasy game per se, although I think most anyone would say it’s a much, much better game than Final Fantasy.

    Final Fantasy as a series has been one of diminishing returns since… well, I’ll be charitable and say VII. But I couldn’t disagree more about innovation — Final Fantasy II did things for better or worse haven’t been seen in the series since, Final Fantasy IV brought in the modern standard of storytelling in an RPG, Final Fantasy V introduced the job system, Final Fantasy VI brought in magicite, which served as a template for the magic development system for the rest of the series (not to mention being a hell of a game in its own right) and Final Fantasy VII was the beginning of true minigames and FMV cutscenes to the series.

    What did Final Fantasy, the original, do that was innovative at the time? Comparing it to its contemporary, Dragon Warrior II, it had the character class system, certainly better graphics, probably a better plot and … uhh … the sliding tile mini-game? It had a frustrating battle system where player characters will swing at thin air and early in the game miss far too much, dragging long battles out even longer. I don’t want to jump to conclusions but I predict you’re overrating the story (while underrating the story of the games that followed it).

    William Kaye said it best — this game is a damn chore to play. Really Alex, you’re a damn riddle. I don’t have any clue what makes you like a video game, or at least like it enough to put it in a Hall of Fame.

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      Justin – you also have to recall the actual importance of the game. SMB is another example. Platformers has mainstream acceptance in both the US and Japan before and after it. It also wouldn’t have sunk Nintendo if that one game did horribly. Whereas with Final Fantasy it literally saved Squaresoft from going under while also making console RPGs accepted and profitable on both sides of the Pacific. Before hand RPG success had only occured on the PC. Now there were RPGs for the NES before hand, and even far superior games like my beloved Phantasy Star, but they all sold poorly and were considered very niche games. As much as I hate the franchise, Final Fantasy actually changed the landscape of the business side of the industry as well as making a genre into one other developers realized could be profitable. That’s not something a lot of games can make claim to. FFOne is one of those games, and this is coming from someone that hates the franchise.

      I too think FFT is a much better game than FF, but as you’ll see down the road, it’s also Quest’s worst game. Which is telling of how good their games are.

      In terms of innovation, FFI was the first JRPG that wasn’t completely linear and it offered you some pretty intense (for its time) customization such as the party and even what spells your mages had. It also had class changes and you could even get through the game without it. This was unheard of for a console RPG unless it was a third rate port of a PC game like Wizardry and Bard’s Tale (both of which are awesome games in their original state BTW). I’m also a big fan of FFII as well, but every game past that was just Squaresoft making a new FF game, but they stopped innovating. All of those things you named were done in some fashion by a previous game. FFI and II was Square really trying to do things outside of the box. III-X was just resting on the brand name and doing things other gamer did before them…and generally better. (This is gameplay and engine design BTW). For me, as a person that played primarily PC RPGs, FF was the first console game to actually come out as close to right as anything had at that point. It was also the game that converted many a PC RPGer to console games. Again, I prefer Phantasy Star a million times over, but PS also didn’t have the impact of FF. Which both Mark and I are bitter about to this day. ;-)

      So yeah, the engine + the game’s understated historical influence give it the nod for me where SMB’s overstated makes it a nay. It also helps that I’ve had to write a few papers on the game and its relationship with Dungeons & Dragons in the past year for publication so FF’s importance is fresh on my mind.

  7. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    Considering the last time I had an “aged” beer, I’d say that Final Fantasy VII has certainly aged about that well.

    Naaaaaaiiiiled it.

  8. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    I’m not bitter about the fact that Phantasy Star didn’t have the impact of Final Fantasy per say. No one in the US was buying console RPG’s unless they were fairly hardcore gamers. Final Fantasy VI didn’t even sell all that much, honestly. I’m bitter that Final Fantasy VII basically changed the entire goddamn genre overnight into something I don’t want to play anymore.

    That said, as noted, I still maintain that Final Fantasy VI is pretty much the best J-RPG ever made, whether it’s innovative or not.

  9. Justin Holmes Avatar
    Justin Holmes

    Man, I’m not even sure what else I can say here. That Super Mario Bros. is much more fun to play today than Final Fantasy I should think would just be accepted as fact, and I shouldn’t even think there’d be an argument that Super Mario Bros. did more for the popularity and trajectory of platformers as a genre than Final Fantasy did for RPGs, which it can’t be overstated enough were a niche genre with no mainstream recognition until the 32-bit era at least — many years after the first Final Fantasy.

    I just don’t know what else to say, man.

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      Platformers were popular long before SMB1 dude. Console RPGs? They had absolutely no traction (especially in the US) until FFI. Again, it’s about knowing the actual history of the industry instead of relying on opinion and clouded judgement or fourth hand information. Again, FFI saved an entire company AND a genre. SMB was merely in the right place at the right time.

      Anyone who thinks RPGs were a niche genre until the 32 bit era doesn’t know their history or their sales figures. Remember that RPGs were actually HUGE sellers in the 1980s and 90s – it’s just RPG gamers stuck to the PC. Compare the sales figures for something like Eye of the Beholder, Wizardry or The Bard’s Tale to any of the best selling titles of the 8 and 16 bit console generation and you’ll see those games hold up not only in terms of quality but money making and copies sold as well.

  10. Phil J Avatar
    Phil J

    Phantasy Star had little realistic chance of making a commercial impact; the game was released at seventy bucks–sky high for the time–and most people did not own an SMS in the first place; we were mostly little kiddies back then; most did not have the finances to give one-hundred seventy and tax just to try out Phantasy Star.

    On the other hand, the fact that JRPG’s were such a niche market back then is precisely why I valued each individual release, having a very high anticipation for each imminent JRPG, particularly during the 16-bit era. When the market became saturated with the mass distribution on the PS1 the genre became less than exciting with an occasional diamond in the rough.

    I’m not saying that it is a reflection of a quality dropoff of the genre, but for the reason stated above I treasured and anticipated JRPG’s much more before they became mainstream; the entire role-playing genre became tired and redundant over the course of time. The extra customization, tasks, busywork, and overall filler length added to modern role-playing games played a part also. I have trouble finishing one now.

    Back on topic, Final Fantasy is not a great example of an outstanding role-playing game from the time-period; (1986-1995) but to it’s credit it is a pioneer of the genre, which does hold some merit.

  11. Phil J Avatar
    Phil J

    Alex-JRPG’s had a very loyal following among the enthusiasts, however if they were all that mainstream then a lot more titles would have been released over here.

    Obviously the publishers did not feel that there was enough demand to translate and localize so many JRPG’s for American consumption.

    Where were FFII, FFIII, Dragon Quest V and VI, Tales of Phantasia, Secret of Mana 2, (What I assume they would have called it) Mystic Ark, Creation of Heaven and Earth, Bahamut Lagoon, Y’s IV, Cosmic Fantasy 3? All of them (and many more) disregarded as not profitable enough to market in the USA.

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      Phil – We’re not talking just JRPGs though. We’re talking RPGs as a whole. Remember in the early days of RPGs, there wasn’t really a distinction. What we now call JRPGs are basically early western RPGs in terms of flow and story telling.

      Again, JRPGs weren’t localized because RPG gamers in North America were almost all on the PC. But Ultima was as mainstream as it go in the 80s. As was Wizardry. As was The Bard’s tale. SSI raked in insane amounts of cash with their D&D video games. Why would a publisher localize and translate a console JRPG which would take more time and money than it would for a US developed game to be released on the PC? Especially when the NES ports of those mainstream ultra popular RPGs were third rate at best?

      There wasn’t a bigger game in 1980 than Ultima in terms of sales or popularity. In 1985, what won game of the year from nearly every publication on the market? Not Super Mario bros, but Electronic Arts’ The Bard’s Tale. That’s pretty mainstream. Throughout the 1980s the Wizardry series dominated the sales charts.

      Seriously, go look at the old sales charts from that time period. RPGs dominated sales figures. But if you only look at consoles, you won’t see that. Publishers had already learned that most console RPGs weren’t very good and that they weren’t being purchased. However, hindsight teaches us that both fed off each other. Why would someone purchase a console version of a game that had come out on the PC 2 years earlier, especially when it didn’t perfom or look half as good as the original? So PC RPG ports failed. Companies looked at that and said, “If these don’t do good, why would we put the money into translation and localization (especially since there weren’t a lot of people who could translate and code equally well, thus requiring two people to be hired and twice the money to be spent) for a franchise that doesn’t sell like hotcakes already.” It never occured to them that those console exclusives would be the hot sellers if they had taken the time and effort. Which we saw with something like Shining Force (Which I only list as an example since Sega, the leader in the 16 bit war at that point took the time and care to bring it stateside in a quality fashion) or Ys Books 1 & II.

      Again, FF was the game that first pushed PC gamers towards consoles in terms of saying, “Hey, you can have a quality (for its time) RPG experience on a console.” it was a massive paradigm shift for a lot of gamers and planted the seed for console publishers as well. Were there better console RPGs out there? I think so in terms of PS1, but Sega didn’t have the marketing or market share to push it.

  12. Phil J Avatar
    Phil J

    I don’t want to incorrectly interpret what Justin was saying a few posts prior, but what I got out of it was he was alluding to the console market specifically when discussing the prominence of the role-playing genre in the eight and sixteen-bit era.

    I do not dispute the popularity of role-playing games on the PC for the time-period, but from my personal past experiences there was a large disconnect between the PC and console worlds. In your case you appear to have held an active interest in both formats, but the majority were either focused on one or the other. I knew about Ultima, Wizardry, Kings Quest, Might and Magic; but even with my infatuation with adventure games I did not even give those games a second look. They were clunky, choppy, and sometimes a bit vague about what you needed to accomplish, and I hated the idea of playing games with a keyboard and mouse.

    Many PC enthusiasts of that time would in contrast look at NES and SMS games (and subsequently SNES and Genesis games) as mindless twitch-action games that were designed for less refined players, and would view the control-pad as being too limited. We often had a to each his own disposition and focused on our entertainment medium of choice. So there is not concrete evidence that an exact port of Ultima or Wizardry would have found success on the Genesis or SNES. Console gamers were more fixated on growing franchises that were designed specifically for those gaming systems.

    The console role-playing games were a little more fluid in execution and game-progression from my recollections, and I never felt that the PC RPG’s and console RPG’s really blended together very well or had all that much common ground.

    I can only go by the PC gamers that I have interacted with in the past; but my overwhelming impressions were that the majority of them did not begin to take console gaming very seriously until the 32-bit era and the PSOne. Nintendo/Sega and the PC market were definitely not in heated competition with each other in the eighties/early-nineties; there wasn’t a lot of crossover.

    So in that context, I still view Final Fantasy as being part of a very niche market with a highly loyal following at the time.

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      Phil – Hey, it could be myself that misintepreted what Justin meant. He just said RPGs and I took that as the entire genre at the time. However, that could be because I’m equally split between PC and console gaming. You are right that there definitely was a disconnect between PC and console RPGs. hell, I’d say there still is. just look at Fallout for an example of that. Remember how pissed PC gamers were when we finally got a Fallout for consoles in Brotherhood of Steel and how they then crapped on it because it was an action RPG using the ultra popular (and crticially acclaimed) Dark Alliance engine? Fallout 3 also got shat on at first for not being Van Buren. Most gamers tend to be one or another, which I’ve never understood personally. I mean I’ll play Planscape or Neverwinter Nights as happily as I’ll play Eternal Punishment or Shadowrun.

      I’d agree with nearly everything you said. Most RPG gamers didn’t really give console RPGs a look see save for things like FFI and the Shining Force series. FFI because it came off like a wanna-be Wizardry (Which is honestly was meant to be) and Shining Force, which removed a lot of the control complaints PC gamers had towards console RPGs. You’re also right that it was the 32 bit era that truly brought RPGs into full acceptance on consoles by a lot of people that were PC only up to that point (Although oddly enough the Sega CD can take some credit as the precursor system for that thanks to the sheer amount of high quality RPGs on that system like Lunar, Vay, et Al).

      I tend to view FFI as the first JRPG to gain acceptance on North American soil as well as the first console RPG to prove that genre could be profitable (and popular) off the PC. Those are two big historical footnotes for me.

  13. Justin Holmes Avatar
    Justin Holmes

    Hey, everyone’s talking about me.

    Yes, you both largely assume correctly. I was largely referring to console RPGs because what was successful on consoles did not often translate to PCs at the time and vice versa.

    But again, where Alex loses me is where he says stuff like Computer Gaming World’s 1985 game of the year pick is “mainstream.” Assuming I’m an archeologist and I want to dig through the ruins of 1985 and find out what fanzine gave what arbitrary award to what game, I’m still not going to find anything mainstream. We’re talking years before magazines like Nintendo Power or EGM were even founded. How on Earth does a mention in Computer and Video Games in the mid-80s qualify something as being in the mainstream? I didn’t say RPGs weren’t profitable, although in the case of translations they obviously weren’t. I said they were a niche genre. Critical acclaim from newsletters printed out of the basement of a D&D fanatic doesn’t disprove that.

    But hey, I’m also arguing with a guy who references games like Shadowrun and Vay (Vay!) as if they have some sort of currency.

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      Justin – I think you’re making an erroneous assumption or two about a few things. CGW was as mainstream as gaming got in the 1980s. Hell, it ran until 2006 when Ziff Davies began shutting down all of its video game magazine, including EGM. When it was shut down, it had a subscription of “only” 300,000 games, which was one of its lowest rates ever. So again, considering something like CGW had a subscription rate far higher than that in the 1980s and PC game purchases regularly outsold console titles back then, you can’t get much more mainstream than that for its era. Remember until 1987 and Nintendo Power, PC gaming mags were the most popular gaming titles out there. Even after NP, PC mags dominated the market save for NP and Gamepro, neither of which were really known for objectivity or quality (but were both fun to read as a kid).

      Remember, ALL console video game genres were niche until the PSX/PS2 era when the general populace stopping looking at gaming with a negative stigma. So when you talk about older generations, you have to grade things on a scale. Even then things like Ultima and Wizardry sold on a level that is still considered a huge success by today’s standard, which again makes them pretty mainstream for their time period. We’re talking about games that moved literally millions of copies world wide in the early 1980s. That’s mainstream even by today’s standards.

      Also, considering all those PC RPG games I named were the biggest money makers in video gaming when they came out, that’s as mainstream as it got in that era of gaming. You can’t really call an entire genre niche when it’s the best selling genre on a system, in this case PC gaming in the 1980s. Now consoles, yeah they were niche. No one can deny that. But you can’t write off an entire genre as a niche product if they were the most popular genre on a specific system. It simply means there was an audience for it on one platform but not another. If you follow that same pattern of thinking with RPGs, then Fighting games would have been considered niche in the 1990s because they were really only played on consoles or point and click Adventure games, which are actually the most popular genre worldwide in terms of sales, nice for the same reason. That was my point with my last few comments. That if you look at the entire industry as a whole, we see RPGs weren’t niche at all…just that most RPG gamers poo-poo’d consoles for silly reasons.

      Again, in my opnion, one has to know the history of not just a product, but a genre or the entire industry as a whole to really understand what was going on, especially in the 1980-1990 time frame. If you ignore the PC market, you’re missing an majority of what was going on with gaming as a whole in that time period. Because I spend so much time in the historical aspect of the industry, I always tend to look at things in a very different manner from the average gamer. I have a large amount of old sales figures, documents microfiche and the like on various historical periods in the industry on hand due to what I do for the living and sometimes what is relevant or historicaly important to a publisher isn’t the same as what is to the average gamer…which is probably where your disconnect with me is coming into play.

      You also seem to have a strange classification as to what is niche and what isn’t. Phantom Brave on the PS2 moved more copies than most Wii titles, so are you going by genre, copies moved, or what? I guess I’m getting a disconnect here.

  14. Justin Holmes Avatar
    Justin Holmes

    Oh and Alex, I’m putting Vay in the pile of niche references to go with Phantom Brave and Radiant Silvergun. I couldn’t have made that one up if I tried.

  15. Justin Holmes Avatar
    Justin Holmes

    A lot of talk, but you managed to make my point for me here —

    “If you follow that same pattern of thinking with RPGs, then Fighting games would have been considered niche in the 1990s because they were really only played on consoles or point and click Adventure games, which are actually the most popular genre worldwide in terms of sales, nice for the same reason.”

    Neither fighting games nor adventure games were niche genres at the heights of their popularities. Point-and-click adventure games were as mainstream as it got for a (very short) time when Myst came out and really redefined who played video games.

    Fighters, on the other hand, were as mainstream as it got. Ask someone off the street in the mid-90s if they knew what Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat were. They would know. Why? They were culturally important, they spawned bad movies, they made news — and not the kind you only read about in dusty back-issues of Computer Gaming World. If RPGs ever had that mom-and-dad-know-about-it kind of mainstream recognition — and they haven’t — it was certainly post-FFVII. I’d say they hit it with Pokemon, but I get the firm idea that most people (not gamers, Alex, people, regular people) don’t really know what Pokemon is, except that it involves Pikachu and cockfighting or something.

    RPGs were niche because people who weren’t serious about video games didn’t know or care about them, no matter what we who love video games and love the genre feel about them. Maybe you want to argue RPGs were significant on the PC for a long stretch where they meant nothing on the grand scale of console gaming, but then we aren’t talking about PC gaming whatsoever. Defend it as mainstream when someone nominates Wizardry. In the meantime, this is a red herring in the debate — Final Fantasy wasn’t riding the mainstream, it didn’t launch RPGs into the mainstream and it didn’t bring millions of gamers from the PCs to buy every FF title — that’s why Square chose not to lose money porting the games over half of the time.

    Or to put it another way, by your argument that Final Fantasy brought the mainstream audience from PCs, therefore Wolfenstein for SNES should be in the hall of fame because it came out, there was a big audience for the FPS genre on PC in that decade, and then afterwards Goldeneye and Halo hit the big time on consoles. Clearly that’s Wolfenstein’s doing.

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      1. With Pokemon, it’s mainstream because of the cartoon and trading card game, not the video games. Sure the video games outsell everything else worldwide when they come out, but for the average joe, Pokemon’s an anime and some card game their kid gets in trouble for playing at school. The TCG and anime also outperforms the video games, which is scary when you remember that Pokemon outsells basically everything. So as much as I love the Pikachu and pals, Pokemon is such a different beast from any other game that has come before or after it (especially in terms of ancillaries) that it’s hard to do a true compare and contrast for it with any other title save for, “Franchise XYZ wishes it printed money like Pokemon.”

      2. Wolfenstein was on the PC before the SNES and it was no different than the ports of other PC games to consoles in terms of getting PC gamers to try, like and respect a console game. Final Fantasy was a console exclusive and it was the first console RPG to truly succeed, especially in terms of the like and respect bits. Phantasy Star was on an obscure system, while being a fundamentaly better better and Dragon Quest was given away for free. Nintendo also saw how successful FFI was in terms of copies moved and money being made, hence the reason they gave it the honor of getting the first official Nintendo Power strategy guide. No matter how you want to spin it, FFI was the first console game that made the average PC gamer put down their mouse, pick up a NES pad and say, “console gaming has potential” as well as, “Japan can make a decent RPG.” That is one of the biggest paradigm shifts in that era of gaming. Now is it as big as say The 7th Guest and how it single handedly killed the floppy disc and ushered in the CD-ROM? No. That’s arguably the biggest. But FFI is still a big one. Again, because it was that seed that allowed FFVII to exist (As much as I HATE that game, I can’t deny what it did), was the point in history where we can first see PC gamers (which were primarily RPG gamers at that point. We were a ways away from DOOM and FPS’) shift over to accepting and even liking console games, saving Squaresoft from bankruptcy and was the first successful JRPG in North America (and Europe), that’s a lot of historical reason alone to make a case for FFI -even if it’s not enough to get it entry into the hall.

      Now Halo is an apt comparison to FFI with the only difference being the the massive increasing in the size of gaming audiences that developed over time. Goldeneye? Not really. Go back and see the sheer amount of bitching about split screen gaming. I think PC gamers tend to be the grumpiest of all gamers. :-P

      3. I’d definitely disagree with you about RPGs never hitting mainsteam. Ultima was really well known in the 80s by the average person, especially around 86 when the recoding got some serious airtime on TV news and in newspapers. Same with Dungeons and Dragons. Everyone knew what that was and that was the big PC gaming series in the late 80s/early 1990s. Now that was strongly helped by the far more popular pen and paper tabletop game, so that’s more a footnote, but in 1990-1991 you definitely see mainstream press outlets covering Pool of Radiance and Eye of the Beholder. Wizardry too recieved a lot of mainstream press in its day. Just because there wasn’t a movie doesn’t mean people who weren’t gamers didn’t know about them back then. Fantasy fiction was at its peak in the 80s in both film and novel form and the PC game industry piggybacked on it. Remember this is the era of everything from Dragonlance to the Beastmaster. Go back to old mags and you’ll see full colour glossy ads for a lot of these games in mainstream publications.

      The difference is that with RPGs that there were so few being made and the length of time that it took to make one caused short but extremely intense bursts of popularity instead of anything sustained for a long time. You’d get something by “Lord British” or “Sir-Tech” that would hit mainstream awareness for a bit and then because there was nothing to follow it up, the genre wouldn’t stay in the public conciousness for very long (outside of actual gamers that is). Meanwhile it was far easier to churn out five or six games of a different genre in the same amount of time. Couple that with far more developers working on the genres and it’s no wonder people sometimes forget how, yes, mainstream several PC RPGs were in that time frame. Basically when RPGs were big they were crazy big, but only for a “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” moment.

      4. I also wouldn’t say Adventure games were mainstream for a “very short” period of time. There was roughly 5-10 years of the genre being mainstream in the US and it’s still crazy huge throughout Europe. Even today the Mystery Case File games are insanely popular with the common schmoe in the US and especially what we now call casual gamers. Again, that’s only for PCs though (although Oddly enough I have MYST for the Saturn still). I can’t think of too many console only Adventure games that were well known to the public except for Night Trap and that was more for infamy than “Holy shit, this game is awesonme. Come play it” so I don’t think I’d count that.

      5. You making a small mistake on why FFII wasn’t brought stateside. Unlike a lot of JRPGs, FFII was already translated and was always planned to be localized. it’s just by the time it was nearly done, the SNES was in full effect. Dark Shadow Over Palakia was more an issue of the fact there weren’t people that could code and translate quickly back in the early 1990s than a sales issue. It’s the one exception to the cost prohibitative rule, but it’s still an exception. Any other JRPG for the 8bit era I’d be 100% with you.

      Again, I’d say you’re going more from memory/opinion basis of what we recall looking back at the time period while I’m coming from having my nose in old publications from that era to write columns for several current periodicals about that time period’s RPGs, so there’s a disconnect there. That doesn’t necessarily mean either of us is wrong. In fact, I’d say they’re both completely correct. They’re just two different viewpoints looking back at the same era. One is viewing the date through a modern era filter and the other is taking the same data and viewing it in a vaccum. It’s a great example of how diverse and divisive the 80s were for gaming as well as how differently people can view the same series of events based on how their are seeing them unfold.

  16. Phil J Avatar
    Phil J

    In the case of fighting games; I do not think that you can really consider them to be niche during the early nineties; besides the consoles and the extensive coverage from game pubilcations they also had great presence and distribution in the arcades, (Back when there were many more such establishments and they were actually sufficiently populated) which was a melting pot of both casual and dedicated players. Most everybody had some familiarity with Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat (In part because of the controversy) and to a lesser degree Killer Instinct. You would have packs of people around these games during their heyday; experts, intermediates, (Myself) beginners, and people just watching what all the fuss was about.

    Final Fantasy and the role-playing genre never got this level of widespread public notoriety until after FFVII was released and quickly embraced by a much larger pool of consumers than before. (I personally never even bothered to play through the game; I had a Saturn at the time and then an N64)

    I was in my early twenties around 1996-97, and was working for Best Buy, primarily managing the games department. The role-playing releases were sparse on the PS1 the two years prior to FFVII being released (Suikoden, Vandalhearts, Persona) and they were not exactly flying off of the shelves; or even ignored entirely as Japanese only releases. (Arc the Lad) It was even worse on the Saturn, however that had to do as much with the poor sales of the Saturn as the lack of interest in JRPG’s. At the time I had concluded that the new wave of casual consumer buying the PS1 had no interest in the genre (Sports, anything 3D, and over-the-top arcade style games appeared to be the order of the day) and that it might go the way of the Schmup. (I was feeling very dejected about this)

    It was following FFVII that the interest in the genre exploded and role-playing games were coming out of the woodwork. FFVII’s success had little to do with FF1; the game brought JRPG’s into the consciousness of the masses, (Including the female demographic) and opened up the floodgates for JRPG localization in America, as well as a higher quantity for PS1 being created; this in spite of the game alienating many of the existing FF purists and RPG gamers in general.

    So what you are crediting FFI for, I have to actually give that impact to FFVII, even though I don’t have any special liking for the game personally.

    FFI is kind of like Street Fighter to FFVII being Street Fighter 2, to draw some sort of parallel, although to be fair, I would say that FFI had more of a following (Or at least a critical acclaim) than SF1 did, so it is not an exact comparison, more along the lines as far as widespread public recognition among the mainstream is concerned.

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      Phil, no one has said fighting games were niche in the 90s. All I said was that calling RPGs as an entire genre “niche” in the 80s ignores how successful PC RPGs did and how things like Wizardry and Ultima got mainstream attention. Then I pointed out Justin’s logical fallacy with his assumption that “if genre X was not successful of system Y, it is niche” with the impossibility of that via fighting games. Fighting games have never been successful (to say the least) on the PC, thus by Justin’s statement about the RPG genre, he would also have to find fighting games to be niche in the 90s, thus proving the fallacy in his arguement.

      I would agree with your analogy between FFI and SFI though. Again though, my point isn’t that FFI was the game that made everyone make the switch, but rather that it was the first game to cause some PC gamers to make the switch, the first successful JRPG (financially and critically), the first non PC RPG to get notice outside gaming publications, the first non PC RPG to gain acceptance from RPG gamers, the game that single handedly saves Squaresoft from shuttering its doors and the like. Nowhere am I say, “FFI saved the RPG genre.”I’m saying it was that first seed. it’s the push that started the ball rolling. FFVII would be when said ball hits critical momentum. Again, history shows all of those statements I’ve made to be true and I think people are somehow twisting these basic historical facts and having me say “There is no more important game ever.” which makes no sense.

      Basically it boils down to this. It’s a fact that RPGs were the most popular gaming genre for the PC. It’s a fact PC gaming was the most successful type of gaming in the 80s. It’s a fact that a niche genre is never the most popular or successful genre in an industry. Thus, RPGs can not be considered a niche genre when they were the best selling, most financially successful and most popular genre for the most popular “system” in the era we are speaking of…unless you only want to look at consoles or are willing to say that all genres were niche in the 80s. And with the latter, it still leaves RPGs as the highest selling gaming genre for the highest selling system of the time period. That’s pretty cut and dry.

  17. kade Avatar

    Wow. It saved Square and gets no recognition. I didn’t grow up with it (my first game system was the N64) but I still love playing through the game. I want to vote William Kaye into the hall of shame for saying that a game doesn’t belong because its too hard. Too much grinding? Have you played any MMO’s lately?

  18. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    It saved Square, a company that gave us FF VII: Dirge of Cerberus, The Bouncer, Driving Emotion Type S and Final Fantasy XIII. Do we want to recognize that?

  19. kade Avatar

    Haha but it also made it so we could play Final fantasy 4 7 and 10, so yes I would love to recognize that. I’ll take all their goodness with thier crap.
    Final Fantasy 13… the series died to me the moment I learned 11 would be a MMO.

  20. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    Well, I find FF VII to be underwhelming and FF X to be an abomination against God and man, so different strokes and all that, I guess.

    And FF XI was fine enough for what it was. I mean, I played it for like two years, and I hate MMO’s, so I guess it did something right.

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