Final Fantasy is one of the most important RPG franchises in gaming history. From the NES to the PlayStation 4, it has captured our imaginations with its tales of airships, chocobos, and moogles. And though we’re always looking ahead to new installments, like Final Fantasy XVI and whatever the future holds for Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square Enix is releasing Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters to celebrate the franchise’s past — a new series of remasters that will add widescreen support and other improvements to the six original adventures.
Final Fantasy 1, 2 and 3 will be the first three games released in this series, and whether they’re the first time you’re experiencing them, or you’re a longtime fan looking to revisit the classics, here are seven things you (probably) didn’t know about these three classic NES RPGs.
Final Fantasy’s Name Myth
One of the longstanding myths around Final Fantasy’s founding is that the name stemmed from Square being on the verge of bankruptcy — meaning it would have literally been the company’s “Final” Fantasy. The reality is a little more complicated. Yes, creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was considering leaving Square and returning to school if Final Fantasy didn’t work out, but the name itself was not a meta-commentary on the company’s troubles.
During a talk at the University of Kyoto, Sakaguchi said he was mainly interested in picking a name that could be shortened to “FF.” He had initially wanted to name the game “Fighting Fantasy,” but that was already taken by a board game. Sakaguchi wound up settling on the name “Final Fantasy,” and the accompanying legend was officially born.
Have you played Final Fantasy III — Pixel Remaster?
Still, at least some of the original myth was true. According to composer Nobuo Uematsu, Square really was in trouble at the time, and Sakaguchi really was planning on going back to school. But Final Fantasy was a major hit on the Famicom, and the rest was history.
The Final Fantasy Developer Who Inspired John Romero
Over the years, names like Hironobu Sakaguchi and Tetsuya Nomura have become synonymous with Final Fantasy. But one name that’s rarely mentioned is Nasir Gebelli — a developer responsible for programming the first three Final Fantasy games released on the Famicom.
Gebelli was a leading PC developer when he moved to Japan to work on the Famicom in 1986, and he soon found himself working on the original Final Fantasy. Gebelli knew nothing about RPGs, but gamely wrote code with Sakaguchi’s guidance.
, “I worked with Sakaguchi on pretty much everything except Secret of Mana, and he understood me. He knew me better than anybody else, so we worked pretty well together. He knew what I wanted and what I needed.”
Indeed, Gebelli was a crucial enough part of the team that when visa issues forced to return to Sacramento during the making of Final Fantasy II and III, the rest of the development team followed him to California. Gebelli would stay with Square through the development of Secret of Mana, where he would help develop elements such as the famous ring system. Years later, Doom developer John Romero — who grew up admiring Gebelli’s work on games such as Horizon V — would interview Gebelli, tweeting afterward, “I just completed a [three-hour] video interview with Nasir Gebelli. I can die now.”
The Origin Of the Prelude
When booting up the original Final Fantasy on the NES, players are greeted by the famous “Prelude,” also known as the “Crystal Theme.” It’s a simple but beautiful tune consisting of a series of arpeggiated chords that move up and down in what is known as the ‘50s progression (simply because it was so common in pop music of that era). Its simplicity belies the emotion in the notes, setting the tone for the game — and the series — to come.
That it has since become one of the most famous tunes in gaming history is made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was reportedly composed in less than 10 minutes. In the liner notes of the Final Fantasy 10 OST, composer Nobuo Uematsu remembered receiving an urgent last-minute request for music from Hironobu Sakagchi, to which he responded by hastily creating The Prelude.
“Actually it’s quite embarrassing as I never expected that tune to span over 10 sequels,” Uematsu said later.
Prelude would go on to become Final Fantasy’s main theme, and continues to be used to this day.
Final Fantasy’s D&D Connection
Like most RPGs, Final Fantasy has strong roots in the concepts introduced in Dungeons & Dragons — a genre bedrock that helped define western and eastern RPGs alike. Designer Akitoshi Kawazu went so far as to basically lift concepts from D&D for Final Fantasy’s own battle system.
“We were all big fans of Wizardry and Ultima back then,” Kawazu said in a 2012 interview. “Even though Dragon Quest had come out, in our minds, there still wasn’t anything quite comparable to Ultima or Wizardry. That’s the kind of game that Sakaguchi and Hiromichi Tanaka and I were interested in. As far as my role in the game went, I was mainly in charge of the battle system and battle sequences. For that, I tried to make it as close to Dungeons & Dragons as possible. That was my goal.”
That influence extended to the bestiary, which was nearly a one-to-one copy of D&D’s own menagerie. Several of the monsters unique to D&D’s Monster Manual — such as the Mindflayer and the Black Pudding — found their way into Final Fantasy with only minor alterations. Even Bahamut, a long-standing series fixture first introduced in the original Final Fantasy, is closer to how he appears in D&D than in mythology, where he’s a giant whale. Final Fantasy would eventually develop its own personality, but in the early going at least, it was a pretty direct copy of