We begin with the party of Light Warriors outside of the providence of Coneria. All the towns are the same, so no reason to go to each of them (this applies throughout the game). In the original game you did not have to go talk to the king and you could just head out on your adventure, however in subsequent versions guards will block you from leaving town so you have to learn about the plot. After gearing up we head north-northwest, to the Temple of Fiends to save Princess Sara. If you did not know the name Sara is derived from the Hebrew name שָׂרָה (roughly translated to Sarah), meaning a woman of high standard/rank or a princess. Sara was kidnapped by the vicious Garland, a renegade knight whom will dutifully inform you that he will make you fall down, and if you did not equip your weapons and armor at the beginning of the game it will become painfully obvious when Garland starts taking your team out one a round. After you defeat Garland you save the princess and are teleported back to the throne room at Castle Coneria. Here the Princess will give you a family heirloom and the King will get the townsfolk to build a bridge. The Lute, which will sit in your inventory for the rest of the game, has importance much later one. Leaving Corenia, but not for the last time, we head northeast and get to see the opening title. It is a cold opening for a video game, something that is even rarer than a modern point and click adventure game.
From the bridge you have two options, you can head north and find Matoya’s cave, which really is not that important right now, or you can head east for Provoka. Since Matoya comes back into the plot relatively soon, Pravoka it is. After several battles with new enemies, namely Mad Pony’s, Salamanders, and Creeps, you should reach Provoka. But before entering you may notice a stalwart seafaring vessel docked at the port, this is the first time you lay eyes on the ship, a critical mode of transportation for almost any “save the world” rpg. In Pravoka you get the first fight that drives most people mad, the fight for said ship. Bikke the Pirate does not attack you, but he does get his crew of nine pirates to. That’s right nine pirates, to your four adventurers. Sure in modern rpgs that is not a big deal, but in the NES and MSX build of Final Fantasy your characters do not auto target the next enemy, you will get an “ineffective” message if you attack a dead enemy. Read this as, you screw up you die. Planning your attacks and healing can be tricky when dealing with status effects later, but for now it is pretty much blunt attacking. After the battle you receive the ship.
Now a neat thing about the ship is that if you have the time and patience you can play a minigame and win 100 gold each time. The minigame is activated by holding A and pushing B fifty five times, ofcourse this changes per control scheme. You then are greeted with a four by four grid with tiles numbered 1 through fifteen and one open space. It is a simple game of putting the tiles in numerical ascending order. Now if you are good at this kind of puzzles, you never need to worry about money again. However if you are like me and got really bored of the sliding puzzle back when Cracker Jacks use to actually give you toys, well we move on.
With the ship you can now head south to Elfhiem/Elfland and meet the elves. It turns out that the elf prince is sick and only Matoya’s herb/potion, can heal him. Well if you went to Matoya, you find out that she is blind until she gets her eye/crystal ball -arent version changes fun?. Who took her eye, well that devious dark elf prince Astos, thats who. Also around Elfheim we discover our first status affect. The spiders and cobras in this area are venomous and will cause the poison status, which can be a problem since antidotes cost out the nose at this point in the game. After you have leveled enough you head west and have two options, go up and see the king in the destroyed castle, boring, or go to the Marsh Cave, the first quitting point of the game.
A quitting point is an area in a game where the difficultly can wildly spike and in general cause many people to quit playing the game, almost all RPGs have one, see Big Rat in Final Fantasy III for a reference.
If you did decide to go see the king he will tell you he cannot do anything without his crown and it is hidden away in the Marsh Cave, so head south and enter the hole in the ground. Now the fight with Bikkes pirates was tough, and those random fights with two Giants or a Giant and three creeps were also pretty bad, but the Marsh Cave ups the ante. Now you have a quite high chance of running into nine enemies, and there is a pretty good probability that atleast two of them will be blobs or wights, if you run into nine cockatrices atleast one of your characters will be turned to stone. Blobs are nasty because they take very little damage from physical attacks, wights are just powerhouses at this point of the game. All that aside, you will end up fighting a set of three Sorcerers/PicoDemons to retrieve the crown from the chest in the bowels of this cave. Then you have to fight your way back out, followed by the truck up to the destroyed castle. Suddenly the dejected king is happy and it turns out that he to is a badguy, that devlish Astos is a crafty fella. The difficulty of this fight depends on your version, in the NES/MSX version he is a pretty standard boss, think Garland Mark 2. However in the other version he likes to kill off one of your party members right at the beginning and use time magic effects, ee haste and slow, which are not present in the first game at all. No matter what version you are playing, after you defeat Astos you have to trek back to Matoya, get the healing item, and travel back to the elves. The prince is revived and you get the magic key. This key unlocks all of the store rooms in the castles and major locations you have been to thus far – Elfhiem, Corneia, Astos Castle, Garlands Temple of Fiends, the Marsh Cave, and the Dwarf Village – which we have not yet gotten to. You get some neat toys here, again depending on the version. However in Castle Corneia there is a chest that contains TNT/Nitro Powder which, when given to the dwarven engineer in the dwarf city far west of Corneia/North of Astos’s Castle, will allow you to leave this sea and travel into the ocean. All that and we still have not lit a single of the light warriors crystals, but we are close.
Providing dwarves with high explosives is always a good idea, and it is no different in this case. Once you have allowed them to blow a sizable hole in the land mass south of their town, and after you have stolen everything you can from their locked room – which if you are playing the GBA version the Wyrm Killer is the most powerful sword for a decent bit of time. And now we area finally out of the small sea that was your world for too long.
Immediately outside of the sea we run into a town destroyed by something that looks like an earthquake. Yes Melmond is in a mess, but the earthquake is the life of the earth being drained by the earth fiend, who happens to be around the corner. There really is no reason to gear up here, but stock up since the closest place to bring dead party members back to life is Corneia, so be careful.
Head west then after about a screen and a half head south to the triangle peninsula. At the heart of the triangle there is a cave in the middle of some marshes. (I always thought this area should be atleast midly a desert, since Melmond was hit pretty hard and is a good distance away, but I guess this is why I dont create games). Inside this cave, that is not unlike the Labyrinth of Minos in layout on a couple floors. After three floors of random battles and the occasional chest you reach a room with a sole man standing between two statues (well it may be a bat but he turns into a man). The Vampire is the first miniboss of the game, and can actually be a bit of a pain if you are low leveled. After the vampire is dead, no steak required, the chest contains a precious gem, or ruby, and a dead end. Now you get to have the fun trek of leaving the dungeon, no easy teleport this time. Once out of the cave, head north off of the peninsula, and then to the west to the Titans Tunnel. Inside the cave there is the titan who happens to like the taste of gems. So your gem will be your payment to use his cave for travel. Incidentally, you can also steal all of his treasures if you head south, but there is nothing there that is crucial, just money and some items. Outside of the Titans Tunnel you head south and enter the Sardas Cave. Sarda the sage will give you a rod to break the seal in the Earth Fiends Cave. So as you have dreaded, now you get to head back to the cave and down to the slab behind where the Vampire use to be.
The slab reveals a staircase and the staircase reveals even more labyrinth like floors, but this time you can suffer from what Heroscape fans like to call “Hot Lava Death” so watch your hit points. After your fun romp with lava you end up face to face with a glowing yellow orb. Here is the first of the fiends, the Lich, and depending on your version he can be a doosy. In the original version he is not the worse of them, but in the later versions he is a bit of a pain. No matter the version, once defeated your first light crystal has been lit. This time however, the designers were nice and gave you a teleporter to the entrance. Head back to Melmond and stock up, we are off to meet the sages.
Head to the furthest east port on the map, well east on the game map, not the world map since it kinda goes on forever. If directly north of you is a small desert you are in the wrong place, you will have to travel west from the port through a maze of rivers and mountains until you reach the Crescent Lake. In this town there is a circle of sages that will give you the ever important canoe. With said canoe you can finally transverse the rivers, and now you can reach your next destinations – the Ice Cave and Gurgu Volcano. They are both reached by canoe and they both can be trying. However I find the Ice Cave to be easier of the two so I do it first. The Volcano contains the next fiend, but the Ice Cave will give you some powerful weapons and armor, not to mention the floater which is needed to get your airship. Also I just plain don’t like the Volcano, stupid “Hot Lava Death” and I am a Heroscape fan.
Either way the Ice Cave is fairly straight forward and only has a handful of sticky parts, Ice drakes can be a problem along with the party of the undead that gets you everytime you fall down the wrong hole. And yes you do have to walk across the spikes atleast twice to finish the cave, take it like a man… The volcano is the easiest design of all of the fiends lairs. Only one floor is tricky at all and even that is comparably easy. Well after a good bit of adventuring you end up having to fight Kary the Fire Fiend, and lighting your second crystal. So if it so easy why do I not like the Volcano? Well that is exactly why. Almost every other part of the game is pants on head difficult, especially if you are underleveled, and then we have a cake walk that shows up. Sure it is needed to keep people interested, or to reward them for the difficult Earth cave that we just finished, but it is really the down part of the entire game.
Once you have the second crystal lit, or have the floater and don’t feel like volcano diving just yet. You can either canoe there, or just take your boat and dock it at the river inlet beside the desert. In the desert area use the floater from the Ice Cave and tada, Airship. The Airship does not have the minigame, but it does allow for speedy transport, and over mountains. Plus you get snazzy music – even though I am fond of the generic boating music. Now we can head several places, but I suggest the islands of the dragons. The archipelago is home to the dragons and their king Bahamut. The same Bahamut who is an awesome summon in later games. The Dragon King will send you on a quest of skill, to retrieve the rat tail from the nearby Castle of Ordeals. A couple screens east of Bahamut you will see the castle, but the closest place you can park your airship is a decent distance north. So park the ship and hike your way toward the castle. Here you first meet the odd Wyvern’s that cause poison, and you can possibly run into Tyro, the dread Tyrannosaur. Why does Square add in random dinosaurs? That is something I never figured out. Technically you could drive your boat up to the river and have a nice leisurely walk to the castle, but then you would have to sail back to the airship, its your call. I for one like killing catpeople and dinosaurs, it is one of the reasons I play Titans Quest.
Inside the Castle of Ordeals you will run into a magical man who will warn you about the castle, good advice I guess, but trek on anyway. The second floor is kinda like walking into a Escher painting, teleporters and random encounters make for an interesting floor. The pattern is not terribly difficult, and if you mess up you just go back to the beginning. Ascending to the next floor greats you with forced random encounters and a fair amount of treasure. Finally you will arrive at a throne and a sole chest. There is a forced encounter with some Zombie Dragons here, which will only be a pain if you are severely under leveled. After you have triumphed over the dragons, the rat tail is yours. With the tail in hand Bahamut will provide you with a suitable reward. Instantly your characters will go through the first class change in all of Final Fantasy. Your fighter is now a knight, meaning he is a fighter that can use low level white magic. The thief becomes a ninja, so still pretty worthless but can now use low level black magic. Blackbelt/Monk becomes the Master, while the Mages all become Wizards. This all means very little to you right now, but will become handy very soon – fighters being able to heal is a very good thing.
Now we have done one of the sidequest, we have two others that need to be done fairly soon. Well one that has to be done now, oxyale, and one that could wait but is worth while to do now. Open up your map and head to the small desert to the west of Dragon Islands. It will be a very wooded area, with one small patch you can actually land between the river and desert, making your life a decent bit easier. For this next part you need 50,000 gold/gil/gp, whatever we are calling it these days. In the northwest corner of the small desert there is a small part that barely touches it. In the middle of this desert is a caravan selling a bottled fairy. Now if you dont have enough money, head back to the neck of the woods of the Castle of Ordeals and route around. Others prefer places like the area around Elfhiem but I like this area, not just because of the catpeople and dinosaurs. Well maybe that is the reason. Anywho once you have enough money, get the bottle and we need to head to the city in the mountains. Fly around the world until you end up in the city inside the mountain – North East corner of the map it is only accessible by airship, you will know it when you see it. In the city of Gaia contains some useful things; decent armor and weapons, some high level magic from its four magic shops, and the life spring. The spring is in the back of the town, past the potion shop and clinic/church. With the bottle in hand you will release a fairy that a nearby pirate captured and sold to the caravan. Being thankful the fairy will fill your bottle with oxyale, an amazing substance that will let your party breathe underwater – its also a smashing drink you make with a pale ale, tonic water, and a fruit of choice.
Return to Onrac and to the far east of the town. On the farside of town there is a lady standing infront of a barrel submarine. After she sees you are properly equipped she will bray and jump into the water. Turns out she was a mermaid, who would have guessed? The barrel will take you down to the Sunken Shrine and your next fiend. The Sunken Shrine is best taken in two parts, upstairs and downstairs. Some people like to go stock up and heal in the town after the first part, I prefer the brash gungho style. So head to the upper right corner of the first floor and take the stairs up a floor. Continue up until you reach a floor with a lot of small rooms. Inside most of the rooms you will find captive mermaids but some have treasure chest. One chest will contain the Slab/Rosetta Stone, I find it is best to grab this now because if I do not I forget about it then have a bugger of a time later. Head back to the main floor and either stock up or head to the upper left and go downstairs. Wander around going upstairs and downstairs until you reach the trademark pillars and orb of a fiend. Kraken the water fiend is much less destructive than his Dynamite Cop/Dynamite Deka 2 or Pirates of the Caribbean counterparts, but will put up a good fight. Once the fiend is deceased and the crystal is lit, it is time to head back to the lands terrorized by the Earth fiend.
Thats right boys and girls we are heading back to Melmond. Why Melmond you ask, well Dr Unne is there inspecting the cemetery. Dr Unne is the most well known and respect scientist in the world and is the only one who can teach you the language of Lefienish with that hunk of rock. And even faster than jacking into the matrix, Dr Unne will give you a full understanding of the language. Which is good since now you have to head to the city of Lefien – which lies beside the giant desert in a large forest. The closest place you can land the airship is beside the desert and a little lake, then it is a bit of a trek to reach the city. Like religious monks, the inhabitants of Lefien are solitary people who just happen to have some amazing device in their hands. In the town they will say very little of merit but one of the citizens will give you the bell which allows you to enter the Mirage Tower – aka the tower in the desert, making all of this worthwhile. Head back to the airship, obviously.
Now you can park in the desert where they expect you to or head just alittle north of where we are and just inside the desert is a small spot of land beside the wall, a square big enough for the airship. Either way head to the Mirage Tower. Once inside you can either loot it, which takes time, or just walk through it, which is what I usually do. Either is fine it is just a matter of how obsessive you are in your treasure hunting or if you are going for a 100% run. However on the third floor you have a mandatory fight against some Blue Dragons and then you have to have the Cube to progress any further – now you know why we went to see our robot friend earlier. The device and cube will teleport you to the second to last dungeon the Floating Castle, home of Tiamat the Air fiend. The Floating Castle is also home to both Adamant and Warmech, but more on those two later. The first few floors are fairly straight forward, chest and monsters until you reach a teleporter. However one chest is worth seeking out overall others if you have a Knight in the party. One chest contains Adamant, which if taken to the dwarves can be turned into the second most powerful sword in the game. But if you do not have a Knight then that doesnt really matter. Once the easy floors are out of the way you will spawn into a floor of hallways that look exactly the same. If you did not move it is an easy two up and two down. But if you did move well it can be a doosy finding your way back. On this floor you can run into the infamous Warmech which is one of the hardest fights in the games. He has an insanely low probability of a run in, but if you do hit him he packs one hell of a punch. He has as much HP as any of the fiends and it is not uncommon for him to get first strike and cast Nuke, usually killing off a party member. If you do run into him, good luck.
After your fun on the confusing floor, you have a straight shot to Tiamat. The hardest of the four fiends and there is a good reason he is the last. Even with the best equipment and a decent leveled party Tiamat can still be a pain. Occasionally he will hit the party with poison and that is if he doesnt kill you all off with blizzard or lit3. However if you have haste/fast and a well equipped fighter or two, the fight is a lot easier. No matter how it works out, you now have all four crystals lit.
Now you go off and spend all of your money, seriously. Buy as many potions, antidotes/pures, softs/goldenneedles, you can. Max out all the spells your characters can take, and if you really have to go mindlessly fight things for experience and sleep in the inns. No matter how you cut it, money is kinda worthless now. If you really want an advance of the story, head to the town of Crescent Lake and talk to the Circle of Sages. When you are done goofing off, head back to the temple of fiends. Right where you saved princess Sara and did not fall down, there is a black orb that resembles your crystals. Go talk to it and you are teleported 2000 years into the past.
It should be noted that once you go into the past unless you have the white magic spell EXIT, you cannot return – hence why I told you to go spend all of your money. However if you have a good idea of why you would receive money from here on out I would like to hear it. Granted I am also looking for a reason of why you are fighting sharks in a castle in space in the past, but I think some questions are just never answered.
The first floor is a simple game of follow the wall until you reach a staircase. On the second floor head as far left as possible and once the staircase is within view there will be a mandatory fight, a guardian fight if you have to be canon. The Phantom, which looks an awful lot like the Evil Eye from the Ice Cave only has 360 hit points, so it is possible for it to be over in one attack, but usually it takes one round of physical attacks. After the guardian the two chest are worthless – both are mondo money, but it goes back to my money question from moments ago. But now you are at a bit of an impasse. There is a plate blocking the staircase and the rod does nothing to it. Well what is the item you have carried for most of the game that has done nothing so far? Thats right the Lute will break the plate and you are ready to continue on your way.
If you are playing the NES/MSX version and did not grab the Lute and do not have the Exit spell, well sorry but you have just wasted your time.
On this next floor head south until you can head west, then west until you have to move north. In the northwest corner there is a staircase that will lead you to the Earth floor. On the Earth floor you need to head both north and east, the staircase is in the far southeast corner. When you are near the staircase you will run into another forced encounter a familiar friend, Lich. And while his spell set has been upgraded, Nuke and XXXX instead of Ice2 and Sleep, he is still a pretty easy fight his paltry 400 hp doesnt change. Following the fight with Lich, you enter the Fire floor. To reach Kary and the Water floor you need to follow a meandering path of both traveling long distances of west and east. Eventually Kary will pop up and disappear, while he can stun and rub your party he is still a pushover. Remember that part about how I think the volcano is easy, this only solidifies it. Behind Kary lies the Water floor.
A meandering floor filled with little rooms, just like the Sunken Temple, the Water floor gives us those sharks in space. With very little going for the floor any way you look at it, Kraken is the only part of any substance. Kraken still will waste a turn casting Ink/dark on one of your party members and he can still cause massive physical damage with his 8 hit attacks, but with your new armor and weapons he should go down in a few rounds. If you haven’t noticed yet, the second time through all of these monsters have been pretty easy, but that ends very soon. Begin the Air floor by heading southeast for the Masamune – the strongest weapon in the game, equippable by anyone to boot. It is a little bit of a walk but it is very much worth it. Head back to the beginning and make a hard right to head east and in one of the single block walkways where the walls move together the game just got hard again. As you can guess the forced fight is Tiamat and he no longer has any weaknesses. He still can cast poison on the party and his defense is a bit tougher. Personally I would rather fight two Warmechs than Tiamat, but that is because I can actually kill Warmechs, Tiamat just seems to keep living whenever I fight it. After Tiamat there is the final staircase.
The last floor only has one enemy on it and he is waiting for you in the throne room. Healup and enter to see the final boss. Yep, that fella that tried to make you fall down, well he really will now. Garland will tell you his story, and then you will fight Chaos, the ultimate evil. Chaos has 2000 hit points and can cast Cure4 on himself. He also has all six of the full party attacks (the three level 3 element attacks, Tiamat’s Tornado, Kary’s Inferno, and Kraken’s Swirl) and a dirty little move called Crack which will kill off a party member no questions asked. There is no easy way about this, unless you are playing a later version and can level up your characters to have 999 health, then it is a pretty easy fight.
After your fight congratulations you have completed one of the best crafted games of all time.