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  • Final Fantasy (NES)

    Released on December 1987 in Japan and May 1990 in North America, Final Fantasy was originally going to be creator, Hironbu Sakaguchi’s swan song in the realm of video game design. After a string of non-hits for developer Square, he planned to leave the video game business if this game was a failure too. Instead, Final Fantasy became the first installment of what many people, myself included, consider to be one of, if not the greatest Roleplaying Game franchise in the history of video games.

    The premise is a very familiar one to fans of Japanese RPGs. A player creates a party of four characters from six classes. Those classes include Fighter, Thief, Black Belt, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage. This automatically made the game chock full of replay value, as the combinations of party members were mind-boggling, effectively giving the player a different play experience each time they started the game over. After selecting the party, the game takes on the standard format of JRPGs. The player walks around an over world map until happening upon a random encounter and then the screen switches to a turn-based combat view. The player then fights the bad guys until either the bad guys are the player’s party is defeated. Experience is rewarded along with treasure, rinse repeat.

    Now of course the storyline of the game is a little more complex than just randomly wondering around a map with no goal. But for the few players who have never experienced FF1 before, I don’t want to spoil a single thing pertaining to the story. So suffice to say that the player is thrust right into the middle of an engaging story right from the very beginning.


    Final Fantasy is one of the seminal games for the original NES. It was the game the brought Japanese style RPGs to the North American masses and has spawned countless sequels, spinoffs, ports and remakes as well as plenty of imitators. I’ve always preferred the more American style D&D type RPGs myself but there can be no doubt of the influence and impact of this game.

    To be fair, the differences between JRPGs and “regular” RPGs aren’t always significant. Final Fantasy involves the player’s party traveling around an overworld map and occasionally (or frequently) engaging in turn based combat as part of their quest to do…whatever it is they set out to do. This isn’t so different than the Gold Box D&D games for example. Really the difference has more to do with style and storyline than with basic gameplay mechanics.

    Final Fantasy was released in the U.S. in 1987, preceding Dragon Warrior by about two years. I always found Dragon Warrior to be far more repetitive and Final Fantasy to be the more interesting game. Final Fantasy was a huge critical and commercial success and is one of those NES games that every video game aficionado should try.

    Fortunately, Final Fantasy has been re-released more times than just about any other NES game so you aren’t stuck with playing via an emulator or an original system if you don’t want to be. It was released as part of Final Fantasy Origins for the PlayStation in 2003 with updated graphics, a remixed soundtrack and FMV sequences among other changes. In 2004 it was released for the Game Boy Advance as part of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. This version had additional dungeons, more beasts and some other minor changes. In 2007 it was released for the PSP with improved graphics and other changes from the Dawn of Souls release. In 2009 the original NES version was released on the Wii Virtual Console. In 2010-2012 mobile phone versions were released including a version for iOS that was based on the PSP version. There are probably a few other versions I’ve missed but the most recent released was the 2016 release of the original on the NES Classic Edition.

    One way or the other, you should give this game a shot if only to see how it all started.

  • Sky Shark (NES)


    Sky Shark was originally released as an arcade game by Taito in Japan under the name “Flying Shark”. It made its way to the U.S. (with the name change) under Romstar. There were a number of home ports but none of them were released in Japan. The NES port in particular was a North American only release by Taito America.

    Sky Shark is a top down vertically scrolling shooter in which you control a bi-plane. It’s an above average game with nice graphics but the variety in terms of weaponry is pretty limited. You start off with four lives and three bombs. Additional bombs and lives can be found as well as up to six gun upgrades.

    No doubt because of Nintendo’s restrictive licensing policy, you won’t find this game on other game systems. However, it was available for various home computers including the Commodore 64, Amiga and Atari ST among others. They are all pretty decent versions and shooter fans should give one of them a try. It seems like this one would be a pretty good candidate for a re-release but as far as I know it hasn’t been. You will have to find one of the originals or resort to emulation.

  • LJN Games for the NES


    Source: Nintendo Fun Club News – Issue Number 5 – February/March 1988 

    In 1988, the Nintendo Entertainment System was at the height of its popularity. For all practical purposes, it really had no competition. The following year the Sega Genesis would be released but in 1988 the NES was king of the hill. It’s really amazing how many games were being released for the NES at this time. All despite Nintendo’s relatively restrictive licensing policy.

    This ad shows the games available for the NES by LJN around this time. I’ll be honest, I don’t recall playing any of these and they all look like mediocre licenses to me. First up is Gotcha!, a paintball game that you can play with the Zapper light gun. There weren’t too many Zapper games and most of them weren’t all that special. I don’t see how this one changes that. Apparently, it is loosely based on the movie of the same name. I sense a bad 1980s paintball themed movie I need to watch…

    Next up is Jaws: The Revenge. This games is based on the fourth and final movie in the Jaws series which was released in 1987. This was one of the first games for the NES announced by LJN and I’m not really sure why they chose it. The movie was bad and the game was worse.

    Next up is Major League Baseball. This game had the advantage of being licensed by the MLB so it used the actual team names. However, it didn’t have the Players Associate license so it did not feature real player names. As baseball games of the time went, this one really wasn’t too bad. It didn’t stand out from the competition but it was a decent enough game and there wasn’t much out there that was significantly better.

    T&C Surf Designs is the oddest license of the bunch. The game itself is somewhat of a ripoff of California games, particularly in regards to the surfing portion. This one wasn’t a terrible game either but it was pretty mediocre. In addition to the surf competition, it also offered skateboarding.

    Finally, there was The Karate Kid. The Karate Kid was an excellent movie (go watch it now if you haven’t seen it) but as games go, like most movie licenses, this one was mediocre at best. It was actually based loosely on the first two Karate Kid movies and features both fighting stages and platform stages as well as two player one-on-one fighting.

    The above ad is from the February/March 1988 issue of Nintendo Fun Club News, the predecessor to Nintendo Power.