Strangest Changes To Final Fantasy

Party battles against big red dragon in Dungeons & Dragons

The Final Fantasy franchise is one of, if not the most, influential JRPG franchises of all time. Ever since its debut in 1987, each game has brought something to the table that changed the genre. That said, the earliest games were far from what fans would recognize as contemporary Final Fantasy. In fact, they’re so strange that they often seem like they’re from a different franchise altogether.

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Given that the Final Fantasy franchise is over 30 years old, some major changes were inevitable. However, it’s fascinating to see what elements in Final Fantasy have evolved and what elements the franchise has discarded entirely.



10 Dungeons & Dragons Clone

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By all accounts, the first Final Fantasy was an unlicensed Dungeons and Dragons clone filtered through a Japanese lens. The bestiary of enemies was practically identical, with enemies like Mind Flayers and Beholders gracing the game alongside the more universal enemies like dragons and goblins.

Considering how futuristic and strange the later mainline Final Fantasy games were, seeing Final Fantasy seem so derivative is bizarre. Still, the fact that this D&D clone turned into a huge franchise of its own is a testament to Final Fantasy’s unique strengths. The first FF presented gamers with a decent campaign and some fun spells and mechanics to go along with its fantasy RPG pastiche.

9 Meowing Moogles

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Vivi talking to a Moogle in Final Fantasy

In the original Famicom release of Final Fantasy III, moogles hadn’t developed their signature “kupo” verbal tic but meowed like cats instead. However, the DS remake and fan translations introduced “kupo” to FFIII‘s dialog to maintain consistency with the rest of the series.

Interestingly, moogles were supposed to show up as early as Final Fantasy II, though they were “cryons” in this draft. The cryons were scrapped in the final release, along with many other races. The Final Fantasy sequels featured moogles, of course, sometimes as player characters but more regularly as NPCs in cameo roles. They’ve become one of FF‘s many mascots over time.

8 Final Fantasy’s Weird Magic System

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Final Fantasy I - The party fights the Warmech mech unit boss

The first Final Fantasy game deviated from the typical Magic Points system in digital RPGs. Instead, it categorized spells into levels and let players purchase them in shops. Much like in D&D, characters were able to cast spells until they exhausted themselves and needed to rest, and they effectively gained spell slots as they reached higher levels.

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Interestingly, the Game Boy Advance and PSP remakes of Final Fantasy replaced this D&D-derived system with FF‘s signature Magic Points system. While Final Fantasy II introduced MP to the franchise, the system was unrefined, and Final Fantasy III went back to spell slots before Final Fantasy IV established MP as their gold standard.

7 Missing Final Fantasy Icons

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Chocobo with a saddle looking majestic in Final Fantasy's remake

The first Final Fantasy game featured almost none of the series’ staple creatures. Chocobos, Behemoths, Malboros, and Adamantoises wouldn’t show up until Final Fantasy 2. Other features like Summons and moogles didn’t show up until the third entry.

Even later Final Fantasy spin-offs featured these iconic creatures. Playing the first Final Fantasy feels like it’s part of a different, more generic franchise. Final Fantasy has spent decades cultivating a specific aesthetic, system, and setting but none of that was there at the beginning.

6 FF’s Absent Auto-Retargeting

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>A swordswoman from the original Final Fantasy cover art

In the first two Final Fantasy games, auto-retargeting was completely absent. When an enemy was defeated while other characters in the party were queued up to attack it, they would skip their turns instead of finding something else to do. Auto-retargeting finally made its first appearance in Final Fantasy III.

Even then, auto-retargeting was limited to regular physical attacks, so while characters didn’t just stand there, they also weren’t very effective after their original targets died. Unsurprisingly, remakes of the first two games have included this feature, since it makes gameplay more rewarding and doesn’t punish players for early success.

5 FF Player Characters Weren’t Individuals

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Final Fantasy 1 character classes

The Final Fantasy franchise is famous for its characters. Starting with FF VII, the franchise became famous for characters like Cloud. Instead of mere player inserts, Final Fantasy‘s protagonists had complex backstories and relationships. It’s a huge part of what took the franchise to the next level.

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However, as a much simpler RPG, the original Final Fantasy characters were essentially templates for character classes like the Black Mage and the Thief. Without notable personalities, these characters also didn’t have emotional ties to their own story. As a result, they were just stand-ins in a standard fantasy RPG. The FF franchise outgrew this stage, obviously, but that’s part of what makes it offputting for contemporary players.

4 Unusual Formations

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Final Fantasy Formation menu

The original Final Fantasy game had a unique approach to party formation. In its earliest iterations, FF‘s AI targeted characters based on their order. Whoever took point was always the most likely target for any attack.

Final Fantasy‘s current formation-based system affects the physical damage characters take and how much damage they can inflict with melee weapons. The original order-based system had its own form of strategy associated with it but it wasn’t as nuanced or interesting as FF‘s more recent iterations.

3 Final Fantasy’s Limit Break

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Aerith's Great Gospel limit break from Final Fantasy VII

Although Limit Breaks are closely associated with the Final Fantasy series, they didn’t become part of the franchise’s gameplay until the sixth game. At this point, they were more like a last-resort attack rather than a fully developed system with unique abilities and special effects for each character.

The Limit Breaks system that fans know and love truly emerged in Final Fantasy VII. Even then, most Limit Break abilities were selected from a menu or activated using slot reels. Final Fantasy VIII gave each character a distinct set of mechanics and special moves, and every subsequent game followed this system.

2 Final Fantasy’s Helpful Bahamut

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Bahamut in the original Final Fantasy

In Bahamut’s Final Fantasy debut, he wasn’t a boss fight or a summon. In fact, summoning monsters wasn’t even a thing yet. Instead, this version of Bahamut is more like a quest-giving NPC, who provides the party with the class change to “Warriors of Light.”

Interestingly, Bahamut was canonically one of the Warriors of the Light in the Final Fantasy manga. After this game, Bahamut was placed in the role of a powerful summon or tough boss fight. Bahamut is still a staple of the franchise but he’s never reprised this role or anything like it.

1 Final Fantasy I Didn’t Include Cid

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Various versions of CID from FF

Although characters come and go in the Final Fantasy franchise, Cid always pops up eventually. He’s is a staple of the franchise and is often at the center of the game’s technological advancements. For contemporary fans, this makes his complete absence in the original game jarring.

In the Final Fantasy remakes, Cid is mentioned as an “ancestor,” but it doesn’t change the fact that the first Final Fantasy didn’t feature Cid in the flesh at all. Early on, the franchise was still looking around for its signature features. They found them but not without a lot of experimentation and false starts.

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