Final Fantasy is a console role-playing game created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, developed and published in Japan by Square (now Square Enix) in 1987, and published in North America by Nintendo of America in 1990. It is the first game in Square's Final Fantasy series. Originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Final Fantasy was remade for several video game consoles and is frequently packaged with Final Fantasy II in video game collections. The story follows four youths called the Light Warriors, who each carry one of their world's four elemental orbs which have been darkened by the four Elemental Fiends. Together, they quest to defeat these evil forces, restore light to the orbs, and save their world.
Return to the Game List, the FAQ, or the Home Page.
2:21:48 by Benjamin Lannin, done in 89 segments.
Get Flash to see this player.
Welcome to my first speedrun of Final Fantasy (aka. Final Fantasy 1, or FF1) for the NES, a game which not only is credited with saving its developer Square from impending bankruptcy, but also is regarded as one of the pioneers for modern RPG's.
Before beginning the comments, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the past and present admins of this site (Radix, Nate, Mike, Valajin) as well as the countless individuals who contributed to the run's content in the SDA forum (snorlax, Carcinogen, Enhansa, Siyko, Essentia, iamfanboy, Winkwonle, ShinerCCC, FionordeQuester, Lenophis, Tuff_fish, japanzaman, and many others). You guys rock.
My love of speedrunning began more or less from the crib. As a 5 year old, my father taught me a "min-blowing" way to beat Super Mario Bros 1 in 15 minutes. As a teenager, he challenged me to a race of Final Fantasy 3 (IV) for the SNES, and I thought my time of 11 hours and 45 minutes was boarder-line unbeatable. A short Google search later, I found SpeedDemosArchive and a sub 6-hour run of FF3... and I was instantly hooked. I've watched hundreds of SDA and tool-assisted runs over the years and wanted to give back a run of my own for people to enjoy.
I selected FF1 because at that time, there was no existing run, I loved the game, and I wanted to create my own run from scratch as opposed to improving upon an existing run. A segmented run was particularly appealing to push the game to its limits and overcome significant luck obstacles that I know would be present throughout. Although in the following years a tool-assisted version, a PS1 (Origins) version, and single-segment version of the game would be published, these runs really didn't offer me much of a template because the segmented run was so unique. I designed the route entirely on my own and improved it significantly with the advice and guidance of the SDA community, with a dose of my own perseverance.
The planning began in spring 2006 in my college dorm, and with the exception of an 18-month hiatus, I've worked on the run on and off since then. The final recording session begin in early 2011 and was completed in December 2014. After an estimated 1,500+ hours of planning, testing, analyzing, recording, and submitting, the result is 89 segment, sub-2:20 run of the game.
It's probably also noteworthy that I was an economics major in college, so it goes without saying that my brain works in strange and unusual ways. I spent four years (as so far, most of my working life) basically analyzing how numeric variables relate to each other to produce certain results. There is no question that I saw a speedrun like this as one giant economics problem in "constrained optimization." In other words...how do I optimize an objective function (minimizing the time needed to complete the game using saves) with in the presence of a large number of other constraining variables (characters, enemies, gold, experience, items, treasures, programming glitches...)? Quite a bit to consider!
Yes, I feel like I used my degree more on this speedrun than in getting my job; yes, I see things like this in every facet of my life (ranging from how to beat my friends at Settlers of Catan... to which credit cards I need to maximize my reward points); and yes, it's weird as fuck that this excites me!
FF1 itself is a bit more linear than many of its successors, though still requires an extensive amount of planning. The plot is straight-forward; you must complete certain minor game objectives (Garland, ship, Mystic key, canoe, airship, etc), destroy the 4 Fiends (Lich, Kary, Kraken, Tiamat), and re-enter the Temple of Fiends and defeat the final boss, Chaos. There is some flexibility on the order of these objectives, and there are a number of optional side-quests (Tail, Xcalibur, visiting certain villages) to consider as well. There are many ways to earn experience and gold, many items and spells to purchase, and many treasure to consider.
Unlike most other Final Fantasies where your party is obtained throughout the game or you can modify the job/class of your characters, one of the biggest decisions in the game occurs in the first 30 seconds where you must choose a party four from one of six jobs/classes for those characters. Your party is then set in stone for the rest of the game.
With this in mind, a few logical questions arise:
While I could talk about any of these points for hours, I'll try to summarize the important points quickly before diving into the segments themselves.
The last aspect to consider is that because the game was designed for the NES in 1986 and only contains one save slot, the game is less conducive to speedrunning than other RPG's with multiple save slots or the ability to copy files. When I save the game, that save is permanent. There is no way to retry a segment once it is saved (other than the last one), and an accidental save can quite literally kill the run. Even if I were to start a new game and completely retrace my steps (think Zelda or Metroid), my characters would not have the same amount of HP and not have the same stats as before. As a result, for each of the 89 segments, I needed to make an instant decision on whether or not the run was worth saving, and this fact no doubt adds to the difficulty of the game.
I'm very confident that my party of three Fighters and one Red Mage is the fastest for the overall route I chose.
With two Fighters and one Red Mage being mandatory, the last question came down to whether one more Fighter or Red Mage was the way to go. Certain sections would have undoubtedly been faster with the Red Mage – the 4 Zombull battles, Astos, and Lich, which are no small peas. However, my testing showed that nearly everything other than these battles proved to be slower – Garland, the Kyzokus, the Wizards, the Eye, and many of the segments in between, primarily because (1) the Fighter was cheaper to equip than the Red Mage because I would have needed to purchase another 400G charge of Ice and 1,500G charge of Fire2, (2) the Fighter does more damage using his weapon, and (3) the Fighter has a better luck factor so running from enemies was easier. Future runners of the game could consider a second Red Mage and see if they could make it faster, but my testing showed that for this route, it was not.
Accordingly, I selected the third Fighter but actually deliberately chose to kill him off about half way through the run. The advantages of doing so were numerous.
One could make an argument for killing him off sooner than I did for the same reasons listed above, but I elected to hang onto him for more time because he did make the first 60 or so segments faster, and many of them would have been quite scary if I needed to march through them with one fewer party member.
LEVELING AND ITEMS
The next major decision is how to most efficiently obtain experience, gold, and items.
It is mathematically possible to beat Chaos at Level 9, and there is even an interesting game FAQ on how to do so. There are many reasons why this particular strategy is not idea for a speedrun, mostly related to the economic concept of "marginal returns." Without putting you to sleep, ala the economics professor in Ferris Beuller's Day Off, the idea refers to the additional output you obtain by increasing the use of a certain input, all else equal.
In other words, if I devote one more unit of input (in this case, time) to obtaining XP and gold at a certain point in the game, I can likely obtain more favorable output (in the case, also time) in the form of faster segments down the road.
The most beneficial enemy to farm in the game by far is the Eye, located on a particular square in the Ice Cave guarding the Floater. He gives the most XP and gold of any enemy in the game "per hit point," making each battle with him extremely short, an average of one round or just three hits. Furthermore, because he is programmed on a particular square, I can need to take only two steps in between each battle. Finally, he primarily uses spells that are ineffective against my party, so I spend almost no time healing between each battle. There are no other enemies that offer even close to this level of efficient farming.
The only downside to the Eye is that it requires a considerable "fixed cost" to reach him. Your party must be equipped with Proring to prevent his instant-death attacks, and you cannot obtain Prorings without first getting the Floater in the Ice Cave. Thus, I spend several minutes fighting through the Ice Cave a second time for the sole purpose of reaching the "Eye square" properly equipped.
Regardless, this fixed time cost more than pays for itself because of the efficiency of the battles themselves. I gain over 120,000 experience (seven levels) and gold in just under 17 minutes, and there is no other leveling method that even comes close. Even the Agama farming in the single segment run is only a fraction as efficient as the Eye farming.
I chose to fight just enough Eye's to get my party to level 16, which is the optimal level to stop farming. First, it gives my Red Mage four charges of Fast (critical for defeating Kraken 2, Tiamat, and Chaos quickly) and two charges of Warp (needed to save several minutes of walking in the Submarine and TofR). Also, it allows my Fighters to reach a good damage equilibrium for killing the remaining Fiends and Chaos more quickly. The "marginal cost" of time spent going from level 15 to 16 from the Eye is worth it, but going from 16 to 17 from the Eye is not.
In order to get to the Eye, I need the Floater for the airship, 60,000+ gold for the Prorings, and enough levels to make the Eye battles possible. As a result, I complete a few briefer leveling segments earlier in the game by imploring a presumed glitch known as the Peninsula of Power (PoP). The PoP is a 4-square section of the overworld Northeast of Pravoka which contains enemies that the programmers intended to only be present Lefein, one of the very final villages in the game. These enemies give substantially more XP and gold than any enemy that your party is "supposed to" be fighting at that point by an order of magnitude. I abuse this glitch twice – in Segments 7-11 to kill single Zombulls and again in Segments 33-36 to kill parties of four Zombulls after I've obtained Fire 2, which the Zombulls are weak against. The Zombulls are far and away the most efficient enemies to kill early in the game; I gain as much XP and Gold in just eight battles as a normal person playing through the game would gain in about 50-100 battles.
Finally, in order to get to the Zombulls, I need my party to be at level three and have a few Short Swords to reliably kill the solo Zombull before he kills one of my party members in one or two hits. Accordingly, I fight a few packs of five Kyzokus in Segments 3-5 to obtain the equipment I need to take on the Zombulls. I manipulate luck and get not only a pack of five but also a preemptive strike in each of these fights to avoid the time-consuming (and damaging) attacks of the Kyzokus for at least a round.
GAME MECHANICS AND GLITCHES
The most significant game mechanic I (ab)use in the game is commonly referred to as the "Power Cycle." Basically, the game is programmed in such a way that although it may seem random, the number of steps you take between enemy encounters is not random; it is fixed. Furthermore, the enemy "group" you encounter is also not random, though the number of enemies in the group is somewhat random. In other words, you will always take a known number of steps and encounter a known enemy group by learning the pattern for each section of the overworld terrain, each terrain type, and/or each floor of a dungeon.
Furthermore, this Power Cycle resets itself every time you perform a "hard reset" on your NES console, meaning you physically turn the power off. However, the cycle does not reset when you perform a soft reset, meaning you just hit the reset button.
A great example of the Power Cycle is in the ocean. If I perform a hard reset and take exactly 14 steps (yes, a ship can take steps in my mind), the first enemy group will always be 2-5 Kyzokus. After the battle, if I then take 56 steps, I will always encounter 6 Sahags. Then, I can take 123 steps and always encounter Shark group (I think)... and so on. The number of steps and the enemy groups cycle in varying increments based on what terrain you are on (land, ocean, river, desert) and change based on which of the 16 sections of the overworld map you are on for land battles. The same principles hold for dungeons and palaces based on what floor you are on.
I use this knowledge heavily in every single segment in an effort to begin the segment in the most optimal point in the Power Cycle. In the Kyzoku segments, I make use of the fact that it is the first battle in the Power Cycle; however, if it had not been, I would have simply used a soft reset after each battle until I did get a Kyzoku battle. In dungeons, I start in a point in the Power Cycle where I encounter the easiest enemies to run from and generally obtain much fewer "unrunnable" battles than I would have without Power Cycle consideration. There are even times where I need to manipulate "fractions" the Power Cycle position to the step, an example being the final segment, where I enter on the fourth battle in the Power Cycle "plus 13 steps" in order to avoid a greater number of difficult or unrunnable battles. If I'd entered one step sooner or one step later in the cycle, I would have a longer, more difficult segment.
Although it may look like "he's getting REALLY lucky with the enemy types he encounters," the fact is that I planned for and knew every single encounter before the segment even started and picked the enemy encounters that I thought were optimal. I'm sure I saved 30 minutes compared to the single segment run due to my ability to perfect enemy encounters this way.
If planning out battles wasn't enough, the run contains countless other elements of luck manipulation. Game FAQ's has a great deal more on the specifics of some of these effects.
XP and gold are not random. XP is divided evenly among all party members that are alive at the end of the battle.
While manipulation may not be exactly the right word, the spells in FF1 are programmed to do varying amounts of damage to enemies, and sometimes that variance is significant. For example, Fire2 inflicts between 30 and 120 damage to most enemies, with a multiplier if that enemy is weak vs. fire. This particularly comes into play in the four Zombull battles where one cast of Fire2 could inflict anywhere from 120 to 480 damage – times the multiplier. Ensuring a high damage Fire2 was essential in these segments.
For enemies, the opposite is true, especially against Lich 2, where a Nuke can conceivable wipe out the entire party in a single hit... or Astos, where successful Rub can kill the segment. Also, even enemies that usually cast spells are programmed to sometimes resort to a physical attack. This too is abused, particularly in the last segment.
It not usually possible to land the airship in the desert, but you can land on the oasis where the bottle is purchased. This saves well over a minute.
As mentioned earlier, the characters in the first two positions run more successfully than they should and the bottom two positions less successfully.
Party members are more likely to be attacked by enemies based on how close to the front of the party they are, so the first party member always receives the best armor.
Some spells in the game do not work as intended (Dark, Lock) and other do not work at all (Temper, Xfer). I avoid these in this run.
Houses do not work as intended and only restore magic charges after it saves, meaning that if you plan to turn the game off, you actually must use a Tent/Cabin after the House. Although I was aware of this going into the run, I make a mistake because of this bug which costs me 8-10 seconds – the largest mistake in the run.
Now that I'm almost 5,000 words into my comments, I guess it makes sense to actually start talking about my run.
Segment 1: I enter Coneria and spend most of my 400 starting gold on 4 Rapiers, 3 Chain, and Cure. The NPC's were a huge pain in the ass and were responsible for most of the resets. I didn't have the money for a fourth Chain, so that is purchased in Pravoka, and the Red Mage goes without since he is least likely to be hit. The power cycle is manipulated such that I only get one battle on the way to Garland, which I run from easily. Garland himself went incredibly well; in all my attempts, I've never defeated him in five hits, though in a dream world and some extra crits, I could have killed him in on round. After getting the bridge and the Lute, I save in the Coneria inn.
Segment 2: This segment is a deceptively luck-dependent one. The two encounters on the road to Pravoka did not like to cooperate with my running away, but this time they went well. The pirate battle is easy enough, but the luck manipulation came into play (1) ensuring that I didn't miss my attacks and (2) ensuring that the "attack order" referenced above was in my favor – I tried to kill as many pirates early in the round as possible to minimize the number of times I had to endure their attack animation. I save in the inn after purchasing six Tents and a Chain for my Red Mage.
Segments 3-5: I farm three sets of five Kyzokus to gather the money I'll need for my first trip to the PoP. I also manipulate a preemptive battle to save the animation and damage from their attacks. The first battle was the most difficult, where I was only Level 2, but in my opinion was the strongest relatively speaking. My fighters get nearly optimal stats for Level 3. I realized later on I could have saved about one second per segment by sailing for "13 steps," soft resetting, then only needing to sail for square to get my encounter. Oh well. At the end of Segment 5, I return to Pravoka to purchase Ice. Perfect segments here could have more crits, fewer misses, and fewer Kyzoku animations, but overall I am extremely happy with these segments.
Segment 6: In the famous words of Bill Belicheck, "We're on to the Peninsula of Power." OK, I might be misquoting a bit. I arrange the power cycle to only have one enemy encounter and save a few steps in advance of the PoP.
Segments 7-11: What happens when you fight enemies at Level 3 that you're not supposed to see until Level 20 or so? Well, a lot of resets, that's what. The trick here is to make sure that he doesn't attack the same character twice, since the result would be that the Tent would not heal your party entirely. Cure comes in handy to prevent that as well. Although perfect segments could have had a few more crits and one or two fewer misses, these segments go very well.
Segments 12-17: I make two pit stops on my way to the Marsh Cave, the first at Coneria to buy Pures and Heals, and the second at Elfland to buy a Silver Sword. The reason two stops are necessary is that the item shop in Elfland is in the back of the town, requiring over 15 second to walk to and from, so it's actually faster to purchase the items in Coneria. It also saves a Tent since I can use the Coneria Inn. I save in front of the Marsh Cave.
Segment 18: The Marsh Cave or "Living Hell – Part 1." This is the segment that would make a weaker-willed speedrunner not run to run the game anymore. The possibilities for rage-quits are endless:
I pick up a Short Sword, Iron Armor, and House, and the Wizard battle was the fastest of any of my several hundred attempts. One encounter one the way out was a bit slower than I'd hoped, and I do get poisoned, but all in all, this segment goes extremely well.
Segments 19-20: Astos, while the bane of a single-segmenter's run, proves to be easy enough with a healthy dose of good luck. He has a few nasty offensive attacks, including Rub which can instantly kill one of your characters. My fighters with the short swords only do one or two damage to him, so I need to rely on my Red Mage's two charges of Ice as well as the occasional critical hit. I get JUST enough experience for Level 6. Astos pulls a "Viserys" and realizes that maybe he didn't want a Crown after all... but does give me the Crystal I need for Matoya.
Segments 21-32: These "objective pounding" segments are some of the more dull ones in the run, so feel free to gloss over them if you're more into the strategy and battles. I return Matoya's Crystal for which she gives me the Herb, and I pick up a few Heals and Pures in her cave because it is faster than buying them at the store. I return to Elftown and the Castle, picking up the Mystic Key from the prince as well as a few items and treasures. With the Key, I return to Corneria Castle and pick up the TNT and a few more treasures. I bring the TNT to the Dwarf Cave, where they create a canal that will allow me to venture to the Earth Cave later on, and I pick up some sweet treasures. I then return to the Peninsula of Power.
Segments 33-36: The purpose of the second round of the Peninsula of Power is to obtain the only level-grinding I will need before taking on the Eye's several dozen segments later. I manipulate 4 Zombulls and a preemptive strike in each battle, since the Zombulls still do a massive amount of damage to me. However, having just obtained Level 6 and a single charge of Fire 2 on my Red Mage (which damages all the Zombulls and they are weak against fire), I'm able to wipe out the lot of them in just over a minute, which again. After the first and second encounters, I the House/Tent combination to recharge my Fire 2, and because I reach Level 7 after the second encounter, I have two charges of Fire 2 for the final two battles. A return trip to the inn is never necessary, and I obtain all the XP and Gold (16,000+ of each) needed for the foreseeable future in just over four minutes. Very nice.
Segments 37-42: I return Elftown to sell my extra equipment, spend my Gold, and pick up some more Silver Swords, Cure 2, Fast, Cabins, 2 Softs, and 30 or so Heals. The Cabins basically ensure that I never need to have another overworld encounter for the remainder of the run. I then make my way over to the Earth Cave on my pretty new canal.
I do make two minor mistakes in these segments: one that costs about three seconds, and one that technically costs no time, but makes my future segments a nightmare. The three second mistake is that I enter Elftown to buy the silver swords and save one segment, and when I turn the power back on, I need to reenter Elftown again to begin the remaining shopping. I foolishly didn't plan for this in my test runs, as in those, I just left the inn and began shopping. The other mistake is that I should have bought one or two more Softs, at the cost of about 12-25 of the Heal potions. The Softs prove to be incredibly necessary in later segments, and the Heals simply didn't, because if I ever got attack enough to really need them, I usually just reset. These Heals don't technically go to waste since I do use them eventually, so it's not like I "wasted" the 60 seconds buying them... but I just think I could have allocated my gold a little better at this point in the game.
Segment 43: My first trip to the Earth Cave to obtain the Ruby starts out quite strong – I have good luck with the NPCs, great luck with the encounters, and amazing luck in the Vampire battle. However, I found myself a little disappointed with the second half of the segment. My luck with the NPC's goes downhill, and my very last encounter against the Arachnids was downright bad, costing several seconds. I think my confidence got boosted a little too much in the first half, and I tolerated just a little too much bad luck in the second half. I'm very proud of the run overall, but if I were to redo just one segment, I think it would be this one.
Planning this segment (and the Lich segment) was a bit tricky too. The Earth cave is littered with the games first "unrunnable" battles, including Wizards which now show up as normal enemy encounters. Obviously, these must be avoided at all costs to save time. There are a few very small windows in the Power Cycle where you can get to and from the Ruby with no unrunnable battles, so I was happy to have found one.
Segment 44-50: I give the Ruby to an ogre in exchange for a path the Rod which I'll need to reach Lich in the second round of the Earth Cave. Nothing too exciting here, and no notable mistakes.
Segment 51: The second trip to the Earth Cave goes smoothly, and I kill Lich in a personal-best time. I lose a few seconds with the NPC's, one "meh" Gargoyle fight, and a silly menu hiccup towards the end, but these were more than offset by amazing luck throughout the rest of the segment.
Again, planning a route with no unrunnable battles here was rough, as the fourth and fifth floors contain lots of them.
I also wonder if it would be possible to kill Lich in two rounds if you were persistent for long enough. There is already so much luck needed in this segment that it didn't feel worth it from a sanity perspective, but a future runner could give this a try.
Segments 52-58: After defeating Lich, I move on to Crescent Lake to purchase a few more Cabins and pick up the Canoe from the Sages. With the Canoe, the game opens up in terms of things to do next: The Volcano, the Ice Cave, or Ordeals.
Segment 59: I chose to go to Ordeals, the most significant "optional" side-quest in the game. Ordeals allows me to obtain a number of items: the Ice Sword, the Zeus Gauntlet, some Gold, a few other minor items that are sold Gold, and most importantly, the Tail. The Tail is traded later in the game for the ability to promote my Fighters to Knights and my Red Mage to a Red Wizard. This promotion is technically unnecessary to beat the game; however, Knights are able to use certain weapons (ex. Xcalibur) and armor (ex. Dragon) and the Red Wizard can also equip better weapons and armor and can learn Warp. I am virtually certain that these factors, combined with the items I pick up in Ordeals, save much more time than the 7-8 minutes or so that this quest costs. Warp saves me several minutes of travel time throughout the run, and the Xcalibur makes it such that the Temple of Fiends is feasible at a lower character level. Furthermore, the Ice Sword and Zeus gauntlet make the power leveling segments go faster than they otherwise would have. I truly think the Ordeals quest saves much more time than it costs... by a lot.
It's also worth noting that it's faster to do Ordeals before obtaining the airship than after it. With the airship, you have to land so far away that the time (and Tents) you spend walking ends up being longer than sailing.
The segment itself doesn't have many encounters, but each requires extreme amounts of luck and can kill the run. I manage to run from most of them in very short order, and I pick up the items listed above. The Zombie Dragon battle goes well too. The only mistake was tolerating getting turned to Stone; although it doesn't cost much time to turn my character back, the mistake left me with only one Soft for the power-leveling segment, which was a terrible idea.
Segments 60-65: I sail and canoe my way to the Ice Cave without a glitch and use a House/Tent to restore my spell charges.
Segment 66: The Ice Cave "Living Hell – Part 2." If the Marsh Cave didn't make you want to speedrunner want to quit the run, this one sure would. I got so fed up with this segment that it (combined with other major life changes) drove me to an 18 month hiatus from the run from late 2012 to early 2014.
The planning involved for this segment is substantial. Nearly every floor contains unrunnable battles (ex. Wizards, Frost Giants), high probability of death enemies (ex. Sorcerors), waves of undead that can stun-lock your party, and pretty birds that can turn you to stone. If that weren't enough, there are four "guaranteed battle" squares, frost squares that lower your HP with each step, and plenty of nastiness in between.
I tested the first twenty or so portions of the Power Cycle, as well as several variations of "mid way" points in the Power Cycle (ex. Cycle 3, plus 5 steps) because often times this would help to put certain battles on a different floor which might make that particular battle more favorable. Any more than twenty battles into the cycle were beyond the limits of my patience; the idea of needing to cycle through twenty battles going into a segment that already requires more luck than anything else was unthinkable.
I prioritized the enemy encounter types the following way, lowest to highest:
Unrunnable battles < Sorcerers < Undead or Stun-lockers < Chance of Stone < High Damage Dealers < Normal Battles
The result was that they all sucked, but thankfully, the very first part of the Power Cycle was actually the least crappy. There was not a single way to avoid unrunnable encounters without spending more time doing so than it actually saved (ex. intentionally stalling for two or three encounters on a previous floor just to avoid one unrunnable), so I did need to fight one Frost Giant. I tried to work the cycle such that the battles got progressively easier as I went along.
Overall, the segment is one of the strongest and most well executed in the entire game. I avoid being turned to stone, I never get stun-locked significantly, most of the runnable encounters I run in less than one round. I pick up the Ice Armor (it was worth the extra encounter I faced and is used for the rest of the game), and just barely enough Gold to afford me the Prorings later on with pennies to spare.
I choose to intentionally kill off one of the fighters at this point for the reasons detailed above; after the Ice Cave, the third Fighter is more or less a punching bag and actually costs more time than he saves. In a miracle beyond miracles, I kill the Eye so fast that I actually have all four party members at the end of the battle, which had never happened before. Using a bit of quick thinking, I unequipped the first Fighter so that he would take more damage in all subsequent fights and die off before the end of the segment. If he hadn't... I would have had to reset. The gods were with me and the next battle was the one and only enemy preemptive battle, and they killed off the Fighter just as my party managed to run away. At that point, I knew this segment was going to be great. The rest of the segment goes off without a hitch, and save a few steps outside the cave.
A guide I once read recommended being at Level 16 with 99 Heals and much stronger weapons and armor before even taking on the Ice Cave, so the fact that I was at Level 9 with very few heals and crappy armor yet still completed the cave in seven minutes is no small feat. It took me well over a thousand attempts to get this one, and the probability of getting this kind of luck again is probably even less than that.
Along with the last segment, this segment is perhaps the highlight of the entire game.
Segment 67-70: With the Floater obtained in the Ice Cave, I sail to the desert to pick up the airship, fly to Bahamut's Cave to get promoted, and purchase the Bottle using a glitch that allows me to land on the particular desert square. I then fly to Gaia to sell of a lot of expensive equipment, purchase the Prorings (needed for Eye-farming) and other items, and give the Bottle to the fairy to obtain the Oxyale. I return to the Ice Cave and save.
Segment 71: Eye farming or "Living Hell – Part 3." Your intuition is no doubt telling asking you why this segment would be so difficult. My party is notably stronger and better equipped, I have fewer "random" encounters, and not needing to get any treasures.
Well, this is where the mistake of only purchasing two Softs earlier catches up to me. In short, I need to defeat 36 (or 37?) Eyes to reach Level 16, at which point my Knights are strong enough for Chaos and my Red Wizard has two Warp charges and four Fast charges. As described earlier, the Eyes are by far the most efficient enemy to kill in the game he has 162 HP and gives an astounding 3,225 XP and Gold to my party per fight. Normally, fighting him is dangerous because many his spells (ex. XXXX, Brak, and Rub) can kill a character in one hit, but the Prorings protect me these instant death spells.
The Prorings do not, however, protect me from Glance, which turns a party member to stone. In my test runs, I'd always had at least three Softs going into this segment, but because I only bought two and already used one, I was down to just one. And no, the item shop in Gaia does not sell Softs, so I couldn't have bought them them at any other point in the game; I would have had to make a separate trip, costing me almost two minutes. I found this unacceptable and decided it was worth my mental health to hope for the best.
I found that once I reached the Eye, he had about a 20% chance of using Glance on a character in any given round. When using Glance, it had about a 67% chance of being effective and during my character to stone.
Alright you math wizards – try this one. Given the above figures, what is the probability that I am able to successfully kill 36 Eyes while being turned to stone no more than once (i.e. zero or one "stoning" is acceptable in 36 attempts)? If you want to have more fun, you could add in the probability of my killing the Eye without him getting off a single attack and the probability of him getting two attacks in a single battle, but these roughly washed each other out, I think.
Even if you hate math, it's no secret that my chances were not good. Now, combine those Eye battles with the same problems I had in the first Ice Cave adventure (stun-lockers, bird that turn you to stone, etc), and you can now see why this segment took two or three thousand resets and almost a month of trying nearly every day before getting one that was successful and fast enough.
One I did though, the result was excellent. I power through the first floors to the Eye without a hiccup, and I intentionally fight one extra fight on the floor before the Eye so that I don't encounter Sorcerers on the Eye floor after about two dozen fights (hence the "random" running around, that is not a mistake). The Eye fights were insanely fast, and I miraculously get to the next to last fight before he successfully lands a single glance. If I were thinking on my feet, I could have actually left after the battle he was turned to stone and gotten the party Level 16 in the unrunnable battle against the Frost Giant on the next floor. Alas! Overall, there was one undead fight that could have gone a little better, but I was so thrilled to have beaten the Eyes with only one Soft that it was hardly a deal breaker. I leave the Ice Cave and save over a minute and a half faster than my best test run.
Segments 72-76: With the airship, the job/class promotion, a nearly unlimited supply of money, and enough levels to clear the remainder of the game, I head to Melmond to purchase Warp, Life, and Bane for my Red Mage. Life proved to be a waste of about two seconds since I never end up using it in the recorded version, but it was purchased as a precautionary measure because Kraken 2 so often kills one of the Knights in the Temple of Fiends. I then venture to the Waterfall to obtain the Ribbon, Cube, and Defense sword and use Warp to get out immediately saving several minutes. I save in front of Onrac.
Segments 77: The Submarine is another example of a segment that required quite a bit of planning but ended up not being too hard to execute well. I first obtain the Opal Helm, Opal Bracelet, and Slab in the upper level and use Warp twice to get back to the main floor, again saving several minutes. I then grab the Ribbon, defeat one Water (it was impossible for me to find a route with no unrunnable encounters), and take down Kraken very quickly.
I had one mediocre encounter with Seatrolls in the segment that cost a few seconds, but it's not too bad. Several additional seconds could be saved if someone were able to find a route through the Submarine with no unrunnable encounters and no backtracking or "stalling" to avoid them. However, since the Water is defeated much more quickly than any other encounter would have, I felt very good about this segment overall.
Segments 78-84: Thankfully, this is the last objective-grinding segment in the run. I return to Melmond to give the Slab to the guy who teaches me the language of Leifen. I go to Leifen, get the Chime, and save outside of the Mirage Tower. Warp comes in handy again.
It's important to note that I make the single most costly "human error" mistake in these segments. I use a House followed by a Tent outside of Melmond in an attempt to restore my spell charges, due to the glitch above. However, I forgot to hit the 'A' button a second time after using the House, so although it restored my HP, the House did not "save." Because the House did not save, it did not restore my spell charges. Damn. In an attempt to redeem this mistake, I planned visit the inn in Melmond prior to learning the Leifen language and continue the rest of the segment. However, after visiting the Inn, I get blocked by an NPC and waste over 10 seconds, so I reset, which put me back outside of Melmond having visited the inn. I couldn't have solved the problem by using another House because I did not have one to spare at that time, and again, with no additional save files, there was no way to backtrack this mistake.
The result is that I have an eight or nine second segment where the whole purpose is going into the inn in Melmond to get my spell charges. This segment could have been entirely avoided if I'd used the House properly. It doesn't look great, but having a single ~eight-second "major" humor error mistake due to a programming error that I did not handle properly in a 2+ hour run hopefully does not warrant a reject by the verifiers.
Segments 85: I've always loved the Mirage Tower and the Sky Castle, so I had a lot of fun with this segment. I grab the Dragon Armor and the Sun Sword, defeat the Blue Dragon in no time, pick up the Opal Shield, and get the Adamant. I do get poisoned once and there are a few enemy preemptive battles which cost a few seconds, but these were actually much fewer in number than in most of the attempts. The remaining luck factors is very strong. Although WarMech sadly does not make an appearance, there is a special surprise in the Tiamat battle!
Segments 86-87: I bring the Adamant to the Dwarves in exchange for the Xcalibur, the second strongest weapon in the game which can only be used by Knights. I venture over to the Volcano and use the Power Cycle to get very few battles between the main entrance and Kary. I intentionally walk on the fire tiles because there are no enemy encounters on these tiles, and they do not increase the game's step counter that calculates when the next battle will occur. Kary falls faster than Congress' approval rating.
Segments 88: In this final preparation segment, I head to Crescent Lake because it is close by and the item store is close to the village entrance. I purchase 99 Heals, equip my party members in order of their defensive strength, and fly to the Temple of Friends for the final showdown.
It's very important that I have the correct number of items such that my heal potions are in the lower left-hand corner, because that way when I enter the item screen, I just need to push 'Up' and use the Heals (saves a decent amount of time from needing to push "Up + L" or "Up + R" if the heals were in a different position). For this reason, I intentionally end this segment with a few extra items (ex. cabin/tent/house) to get the items "spaced" this way.
However, even factoring in this piece, I ended the run with a few more Cabins than I needed. Items take about two seconds to purchase, so this mistake costs me about four seconds.
You could also make the case that I ended with too many Heals, but I won't spoil any more than that. I also think you'd be crazy to try the Temple of Fiends without 99 Heals.
Segments 89: The Temple of Fiends Revisited or "Living Hell – Part 4." No going back. If I'm not strong enough to beat Chaos now, then the entire last four years of recording have been a waste.
The planning a route for this segment took weeks because there are a huge number of unrunnable encounters, dangerous enemy groups exist on every floor, and countless options to force fights on specific floors.
There are no known paths through the Temple of Fiends without at least one unrunnable encounter, as described in the low level FAQ guide. Unfortunately, that path, along with the path(s) with only two of these encounters require such a huge amount of "stalling" (forcing extra fights on one floor, back tracking or warping to a previous floor) which costs you more time than simply taking on an unrunnable group.
Furthermore, as was the case in the Ice Cave, I was unwilling to tolerate a route that started me on the 20th+ portion of the Power Cycle between each segment. I knew already this segment was going to take at least a thousand resets, so I couldn't afford five or ten extra minutes between each attempt.
In sum, I needed to pick the ideal place in the Power Cycle to begin such that I minimized the unrunnable encounters and as many of the segment-killing enemy groups as possible. This "sweet spot" occurred the fourth section of the Power Cycle + 13 additional steps in the overworld. This spot allowed me to make it through the segment with just three unrunnable enemy groups – two battles of 2-4 Earths and one battle of 3-4 Worms.
It's also worth mentioning that a huge amount of luck is required between these battles too. The Frost Dragons' frost attack can do significant damage, the Phantom likes to crit my characters for up to 200 damage, I can be poisoned by several enemy groups, and the Sorcerers are the worst non-boss encounters in the game. Every single encounter has been cause for a reset.
This route was ideal; the few unrunnable encounters I did have were easy and fast, I don't waste too much time stalling in between floors, and I only needed to spend a minute or two between each reset manipulating the power cycle. There might technically be a route that is faster, but I sincerely doubt that it wouldn't come at the cost of more stalling or the runner's sanity.
All four of the Fiend battles and Chaos are scary as heck.
Lich's Nuke kills the Red Wizard about two thirds of the time ending the run and costs 30-40 Heals when it doesn't. Kary and Kraken can one-hit kill any of the characters. Tiamat's spells often hit the entire party at a time when I'm usually out of Heals and his hits hurt a lot too.
I implore a few strategies to mitigate these risks.
The segment itself truly gives some new perspective on the limits to which luck can be manipulated without an emulator; it makes the Marsh Cave, Ice Cave, and Eye farming segments look like child's play.
The run starts off on a good foot. While its technically possible to kill the Phantom in one round, killing him in the second round is fine, especially since he does do any significant damage. Though I take a few blasts of Frost and one of the Earth encounters takes three rounds to complete rather than two, the journey to Lich was definitely acceptable.
The gods touch upon me the first time during the Lich 2 battle. Lich generally uses Nuke about 90% of the time in the first round, and if he doesn't , there's another 90% chance of his using it in the second round. In rare cases, I can kill him in one round before he uses Nuke, but that is extremely rare. The fact that he chooses not to use Nuke not once, but twice... and my Knight who was stunned gets cured and kills him at the start of the third round... is nothing short of a miracle. I'm not sure I'd ever killed Lich in the third round without his using Nuke in my hundreds of attempts against him. This was just the start of this miracle segment.
I intentionally stall for a few encounters in front of Kary to avoid an unrunnable Water group on the next floor. Kary himself was probably the poorest of the Fiend fights; it usually takes me four rounds to kill him, but this time it takes five because one of the Knights wimps on the damage. Not reset-worthy in any case.
The Kraken floor was smooth enough. My Knight with the Xcalibur must have been pissed after being such a baby during the Kary fight, so despite almost being one-hit killed by Kraken, the Knight obliterates Kraken in just three rounds – the fewest ever. I have the Red Wizard and the other Knight heal him after the first round, because if Kraken had used Lit 2, the hurt Knight almost definitely would have died.
If things weren't looking up for me already, the Tiamat floor was beyond amazing. I encounter a terrifying group of five Sorcerers, and the first one stuns two of the three party members. In another blessing from the gods, the non-stunned Knight manages to not get slain from their basic attack (often, this hits one-hit kill the character), and he successfully runs before anyone dies. My couch still has a stain from that battle. I'm lucky and get three Worms rather than four, and they fall in a personal-best three rounds. I warp back a level after grabbing the Masamune and stall for one battle to avoid another Sorcerer fight. This one was the only enemy preemptive battle in the entire segment, and it was against the easiest encounter in the entire Temple. Tiamat himself gets embarrassed. I get a little nervous and tell my Red Wizard to attack twice rather than run away, but my Knights get critical hits on five out of give attacks. The end result was Tiamat's dying in just three rounds, once again tied for a personal best.
[Final Boss Spoilers Ahead]
The overall probability of reaching Chaos on a particular attempt is less than 1%; I only reached him eight times in the thousands of attempts of this segment. Twice, one of my characters was dead (so those attempts at him were doomed before they began). Three times, I had all three characters, but one or more were missing HP because I'd run out of Heals. Once, I had all three characters at full HP after using my very last Heal. Once, I had just two or three Heals left over.
Hopefully the above gives you some perspective then on the fact that in this attempt, I began the Chaos battle with all characters alive and at full HP, my charge of Life unused, nearly all charges of Cure 2 in tact, and an astounding 30 Heal potions. I don't want the viewers or verifiers to take this lightly; I could probably try 10,000 times more and not have this much healing available to me. You might be tempted to say that buying 99 Heals was a "mistake" that "cost almost a minute," but I can assure you it was not.
The Chaos battle itself is, without question, the highlight of the entire run. The Knight with the Xcalibur uses the Defense sword at the beginning because he does no damage without Fast. The Red Wizard unfortunately used his Fast after the Knight with the Masamune's first hit in the first round, but got it off before the Knight with the Xcalibur's attack in the second round. [NOTE: The Red Wizard also got his Fast off before the attacks in the Kraken and Tiamat fights too, so my overall luck here was good].
Although the Knight with the Xcalibur only attacks twice, both attacks are extremely strong critical hits. He then eats a strong attack from Chaos and becomes paralyzed. After Fast, the Red Wizard cures the Knights, and dies on a last-ditch attempt to kill Chaos with Bane (a 1/256 chance of success... but why not?).
With his Knight partner stunned and the Red Wizard dead, the Knight with the Masamune absolutely takes over the fight with the single most impressive sting of attacks I've ever seen in my 20+ years of playing the game. He gets six out of six critical hits (the other Knight was two for two) and lands a crushing 450 damage blow to Chaos... what was very likely the last single attack my party would have pulled off before Chaos fully healing himself with Cure 4 and ending the segment.
If you've been keeping track, the segment was made possible by:
As is the case with any speedrun and particularly RPG's, there is room for improvement. I've broken these up into "human error" improvements which are entirely my fault, "luck-based" improvements which are based on achieving better luck with enemy encounters, and "route" improvements which are theoretical things that could be done to improve the route... though many of these may actually be slower.
I estimate that approximately 60-80 seconds could be improved by fixing some of the mistakes I made in the run.
1) I lose 20 seconds due to minor menu hiccups and miscues throughout the run. These include things like equipping weapons and armor faster, using Heals and Pures faster, etc. The worst of these is in the Lich segment where I got nervous and stumble through the menu. This averages out to less than a second per segment, but there is room for improvement.
2) I lose 10+ seconds by not taking steps before the Kyzoku and Zombull battles, soft resetting, then getting these encounters on my first step.
3) I lose 3 seconds due to the "inn" mistake that I discuss in Segment 39, where I need to re-enter Elfland unnecessarily.
4) I should have bought another Soft or two before the Eye battles in Elfland. No time cost here, but it would have made my life easier.
5) I might have lost 13 seconds due to fighting one too many Eyes. I forgot that because the third Fighter turned to stone in one battle, Red Mage gained Level 16 one battle sooner. The extra XP probably helped getting to Lich 2 and Kary 2 at Level 17, so it might not actually be a mistake.
6) I never ended up needing Life and wasted about two seconds.
7) I lose 9 seconds in the House/Tent glitch in Segments 78-79. I'm still pissed at myself (and the programmers) for this.
8) I lose maybe 5 seconds in attack animations where it would have been faster just to unsuccessfully run with a character. Best example here is the Tiamat 2 battle where the Red Wizard's attack animation is costly.
9) I lose maybe 10-15 seconds due to ending the game with too many items, particularly Cabins, Pures, and Softs. If you really want to be critical, you can argue that I ended with too many Heal potions, but again, you'd be insane not to enter the Temple of Fiends with less than 99.
One could easily argue that I could have improved luck on every segment, so it's hard to estimate the amount of time to be improved here. I'll guess and say 3-5 minutes, but again, most of this would require thousands of resets per segment and probably 5-10x the total recording time, so you have to understand the human limitations here; we can't expect the kind of luck you see in an emulator. Here are some thoughts:
1) Given enough attempts, I could kill Garland in one round.
2) By manipulating my party's attack order, the Pirates and Kyzoku's could have had fewer attacks.
3) One of the single Zombull battles was improvable due to my characters' missing.
4) I lose a few seconds due to the a bad Arachnid battle, getting poisoned, and some minor NPC luck in the Marsh Cave.
5) The Wizard and Astos battle could have been one or two hits faster with more critical hits.
6) In first two of the four Zombull battles, I maybe could have defeated them in two rounds.
7) I had one crappy battle at the very end of the Ruby segment. I would love a do-over on that, even though the Vampire fight went so well.
8) There were a few slow-ish fights in the Lich segment. I'd also love to see if he could be defeated in two rounds.
9) I should not have tolerated being turned to stone in Ordeals. The segment isn't that difficult.
10) The Eye not killing my Fighter was actually a problem, so I had to make some changes to perfect the Ice Cave segment. Good luck improving this one though!
11) There was a slow undead encounter and a preemptive Mage encounter in the power-leveling segment. I could have gotten better luck if I had more Softs to work with!
12) I could have saved a second or two in the Waterfall by getting four perfect battles and having no NPC issues.
13) One of the Troll fights was slow in the submarine and I'd love to see Kraken fall in one fewer round.
14) In the Mirage tower, I got poisoned and there were a few enemy preemptive battles.
15) In the final segment, if you have the sanity to improve it, the Phantom can be killed in one round, both Earth battles can be won in one or two rounds, Lich can be killed in one round, Kary can be killed in one fewer round, and maybe if you're feeling particularly crazy, you could kill Chaos in one fewer round if the second Knight did not get stunned.
Again, I am confident the route I have is the fastest of any of the possibilities I tested, but here are a few ideas that a future runner would be welcome to try:
1) Use a Red, White, or Black Mage as your final party member rather than a third fighter.
2) Kill off the last party member sooner, or don't kill him off at all.
3) Try to get to the PoP sooner, fewer Kyzoku battles.
4) Shorten the Kyzoku or PoP segments, and do some leveling "en route" to Elfland or the Marsh Cave. Similarly, shorten the Eye segment and do some leveling elsewhere.
5) Skip Ordeals and the Tail.
6) Find a more efficient area to power-level than the Eye. Adjust the route around that.
7) Try to kill Chaos with Bane. This one actually intrigues me a bit. Doing so would mean:
Let me know if you're adventurous enough to try this, and I will help you plan (ex. maybe a two Red or a Black would be an advantage here). Be prepared for 10,000+ attempts at the final segment just to save a few minutes, since Chaos dying from Bane has only a 1/256 chance.
I again would like to thank the site admins, the verifiers, the forum members, the authors of the FAQ's and reference websites, and those of you interested enough to read all 23 pages and 12,500+ words of this commentary. I truly hope you enjoy watching this run.
If you're curious to see a segment by segment recap of the segment objective, where I am in the Power Cycle, how much XP I obtain, how much Gold I obtain/spend, and my estimated time, please click here (Full link, if the hyperlink doesn't work http://www.filedropper.com/finalfantasy1speedrunfinal2014).
My name is Benjamin Lannin or "WarMech," and I'd be happy to discuss this run, Final Fantasy 1, or speedrunning in general at any time. I can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, the SDA Forum ["WarMech"], Valve ["BigBin"... I enjoy playing Dota 2, so hit me up], and a soon-to-be created YouTube ["WarMech"] and Twich channel ["WarMech"]. You're also welcome to contact me at benjaminlannin (at) hotmail (dot) com, though please do not spam me.
Best wishes, and thank you for watching my run!
Single-segment 3:50 by Benoit Alain.
Get Flash to see this player.
The original Final Fantasy has been my favorite game for a long time. Like some other Final Fantasy games that followed, each character can have a "job" chosen amongst warriors and mages. Unlike any other Final Fantasy, you only get to pick your four characters' job When you start a new game and there is no way to change it after. Depending on the party you pick, some difficult parts of the game become easy, and some easier parts become harder.
--- Thanks ---
I would like to thank the people on the speeddemosarchive.com forum for commenting, suggesting new ideas, being enthusiastic about this project, and being supportive in general over the last year. In particular, FionordeQuester, Lenophis, and Tuff_fish.
I want to mention the support provided by MAS8705 and Essentia as well, in the form of a bounty. It reminded me that this run was anticipated for some time and would generate a lot of interest. This contributed to my overall motivation, and it goes without saying that the prize money is meaningful.
A just share of the merit for the existence of this run goes to these older players too, who kept the expectations high and whose analyses of the game inspired me: Siyko, GooberGrape, Red_Scarlet, Enhasa, ShinerCCC, Carcinogen, snorlax, and of course, WarMech.
There have been a lot more contributors on SDA over the years whose importance I don't forget. I hope that they will all take pleasure in watching this run.
Outside of SDA, I'm greatly appreciative of Pat Buns ("sqpat") from GameFAQs for assembling an outstanding guide, the so-called Character Lists FAQ. I cannot over-emphasize how useful this guide was. On the same note, I would like to recognize AstralEsper's very precise guide on game mechanics equally, which unfortunately I only discovered near the end but that, looking back, I would recommend over the former.
It should be added that Disch, anomie, and Paulygon, probably among others, are responsible indirectly for most of the low-level information available about this game.
Furthermore, I'd like to say a few words about Brian Carper and his website ffclassic.net (planetnintendo.com/ff1 at the time). There was a point in my life when I had played the game by myself enough for my own satisfaction. This site showed me that I still had many things to discover about the game, that I should explore it again, and most of all, that it would be interesting to know what the fastest team is. This is what eventually led me to try a speedrun.
Finally, I wish to express my sincere gratitude for the help that both my roommates offered me with battle counting for this run, sitting with me through most of my attempts and reading the encounter tables aloud while I could keep my eyes on the game. I could never have achieved such a demanding run without their help.
--- Highlights ---
The party I picked was Fighter, Fighter, Red mage, White mage.
I went straight from Coneria to Pravoka, then Pravoka to Elfland, then Elfland to the Marsh cave. No extra trips for delayed equipment. I bought a Short sword, an Iron shield, ICE and MUTE, plus stuff from Coneria. I went straight from the Marsh cave to Astos and House'd.
I planned on making both trips to the Earth cave without any interruptions, but an unbelievable bad luck stopped me. I went directly from Melmond to Crescentlake, then Crescentlake to Ordeals. I planned on going from Ordeals to the Ice cave without interruption, navigating to the south-east, but the poor early game that I got forced me to leave some stuff behind in Elfland, which I had to revisit here. I bought WARP immediately after class change.
I bought the BOTTLE right after, then 4 ProRings on the way and I never went back to Gaia. I did the Waterfall, WARPed, House'd, then the Sea shrine. I WARPed twice after grabbing the SLAB. I skipped everything except Opal bracelet and helmet, and the Ribbon. I did the Gurgu after that, with a House. I then went directly to Lefein, WARPed out and House'd. In the Mirage tower, I grabbed the Heal helmet and Aegis shield, WARPed, House'd, then the chests on Mirage tower 2F, then some chests on Sky palace 2F. Then I picked up Xcalber, House'd, and immediately entered the Temple of fiends.
I farmed exp at four points in the game: first, I acquired level 5 against a variety of Geists, Kyzokus and Ogres on the way to Elfland. Astos gave me level 6. Second, I made it from level 6 to level 7 from farming Mummies in Astos's castle. I got level 8 in my first trip to the Earth cave. I got level 9 from Lich. Third, I farmed Zombie D's from level 9 to level 13. I farmed Eyes from level 13 to level 16. I acquired level 18 from only no-run encounters thereafter.
In the next sections, I will give a thorough description of the decisions that I made for this run, of the route that I used, and the contributions of luck to this specific attempt. The reader should feel free to not carry on further, as I didn't restrain myself from going into some lengths.
--- Choice of a party ---
There have been a lot of discussions on GameFAQs and SDA forums about what the best party is for this game. A lot of people say that a party of four Fighters is best, or three Fighters and a Red mage, or two Fighters and two Red mages. I have tried all of those and many many more, dozens of times. There is no such thing as a "best party". There is a "best suited party" for a particular task. My task was to complete this game in a single segment, that is I can't use Reset, I can't save, and I can never die.
I eliminated the four Fighters group among the first ones because it lacks the ability to cast LIFE. Since that game has no Fenix Downs or equivalent, that means losing characters in the final dungeon is permanent. Also, as I am doing the game with very limited resources and very low levels, my fourth Fighter is stuck with a weapon that doesn't allow him to contribute significant damage. (In technical terms, that is my level-18 fighter equipped with Sun sword does not reach the 4-hit threshold.) It can be very easily seen that replacing one Fighter with a Red mage constitutes a total improvement.
I also eliminated all teams that include Black belts or Thieves, since these can both be advantageously replaced by Fighters and Red mages respectively. The Black mage equally proved unusable. I can't assign him any role in boss battles since he invariably dies at so many places.
Additionally, there are a couple of parties that do very well through the whole game but that lose to the final boss more than half of the time. That is an unacceptable risk since it can take around 50 hours worth of attempts to reach that point. Among these parties are Fighter/Fighter/Fighter/White mage, Fighter/Fighter/White mage/White mage, Fighter/Red mage/White mage/White mage. Also a little poor is the performance of Fighter/Red mage/Red mage/White mage for that fight. As a general consideration, the use of White mages should be kept to a minimum just because of the fight against Chaos.
There remain four good parties that I considered. One Fighter and three Red mages is a good team for all difficult parts of this game. It performs very well against the Wizard group guarding the CROWN, against Astos, against Lich, against Chaos, it can get rid of undead groups very well, and it can LIFE it's way through the final dungeon pretty well. The reason why I didn't go with it is that it's not significantly stronger than the other three parties but it lacks the two Fighters duo. At the point of the game where it is best to stop and acquire exp, these two fighters make the process much easier and much faster.
Another good party is the three Fighters and one Red mage party. This party browses through the game very quickly, as it has a very high damage output. Also, it requires a very low effort of healing. Finally, it makes good use of most pieces of armor through the game, whereas all other teams result in some significant waste. It also happens to be the most successful team against Chaos. However, it is much much more subject to bad lucks and weak performances against specific bosses than the three Red mages and one Fighter party. Against Astos, the three fighters contribute almost nothing, while the Red mages do marvels. In the Earth cave, there are a lot of undead enemies which the Fighters can only pick out one at a time and often end up losing to, while the Red mages burn them easily with a FIR2. Lich is also a boss that becomes much harder with a limited number of mages in the team. All-in-all, that team is great but it is not the best for a single-segment run.
The third party to consider is the well-balanced two Fighters and two Red mages party. Now this is a good party. It is powerful, it has a high damage output, a large spell inventory, and it is right on the edge of not suffering any difficulties against any boss or dungeon throughout the game. It's perfect. Well, almost perfect. The fact is that it can actually be improved.
The fourth party is my party of choice. Two fighters, one Red mage, and one White mage. In theory, the White mage could be though of as less powerful than the red mage, as having a lower global damage output, lower defense at the beginning of the game, and a more limited spell inventory. In practice, when one considers each specific boss battle and dungeon floor that the game presents, it turns out that the White mage can be made to have higher global damage output, higher defense at the beginning of the game, and a more vast spell inventory than the replaced Red mage. Additionally, the fact that the White mage has access to LIFE before class change offers an interesting advantage.
In the next section, it will be made clear how the party I chose was exploited to attain all the advantages that I claim it has.
--- Choice of a strategy ---
Final Fantasy is a really tough game to complete in a single segment. It contains many dangerous random encounters and bosses. There are a lot of good spots for earning exp very fast, that are also very risky. The choice of a reliable strategy for each difficult part of the game is key to a sharp run.
I will give a quick overview of the hard parts of the game that require strong planning. I will also add comments about how these events turned out in this present, particular run.
- The CROWN
To get that special item, you need to confront a 2-4 Wizard group. These enemies are deadly and can't be run from. In preparation for that fight, I planned using FOG on a full-armored Fighter in front row and placing a RUSE'd White mage in second row. When characters from the back rows get hit, I heal them promptly. That strategy is less powerful than the use of LIT2, but it is still very solid and does not require prior levelling of any sort. This is the only place at the beginning of the game where physical resistance is important, and my White mage effectively has a better capability to fill that role than even my Fighters on that occasion.
I used battle counting to force my first dozen of battles to be as productive as possible. I will discuss the specifics of battle counting later on. In the run, I got rather poor battles in preparation for the Marsh cave, so I had to skip a certain amount of expenditures. The items that I skipped were two Gloves, one Wooden helmet and one Scimitar in Pravoka, and one Wooden helmet and two Caps in Elfland. I ended up facing 4 Wizards, but all went very well.
My strategy is two-fold. On the one hand, use MUTE to make Astos inoffensive. On the other hand, use ICE and then FIRE to afflict damage surely and quickly. If either one of these two plans is disrupted for any reason, the other one is still sufficient for a win.
In the run, I was much more lucky than I required to be. Astos kept using physical attacks on me, which is rare, and my MUTE spell hit him before he could do anything. Also, my Fighters placed a couple of strong hits.
- Undead in the Earth cave
It is almost impossible to go through the Earth cave without encountering multiple groups of undead monsters. These can be very annoying. Most of the time, they manage to stun the first-row and second-row characters before they get the chance to act. Because of a bug in the game, the back-row chacaracters have a very low chance of running away successfully. Whenever I encounter undead monsters, I confront them. I have found over time that this is more reliable than attempting to run away all-in-all. When confronting them, I use either FIR2, HRM2, or HARM. Although HARM is rarely sufficient to secure a one-turn win, it is generally enough to make the survivors few and harmless.
At this point of the run, I spent some extra time to go back to the Northwest castle and grab the Power staff. I also used the occasion to earn some exp on Mummy encounters there, since each Mummy is worth one and a half Ogre, and I can kill packs of 5 Mummies in a single round. The extra spell slots of the White mage was very useful for that. In my present attempt, I was unlucky enough to have a couple of Tigers hit my White mage with critical hits repeatedly. I was very careful keeping my mages at full health to make sure that this would not happen, but it still did. I had to make an extra trip to Coneria to revive my White mage, as going to Lich with just one Red mage would have been suicide. It did not cost me a lot of time, but it threw me completely out of my battle counting schedule. I was very lucky to be able to improvise a new safe path through Ordeals and the Ice cave later on in spite of that.
The first fiend battle and the only one that takes place before you get the chance to level-up properly. Lich doesn't have a lot of HP but he is very resistant to physical damage and he uses powerful elemental spells that make the fight last at most four or five rounds. On the first round, I use AICE. That gives me around a 50% chance of preventing the first ICE2 spell that does the most damage and that can kill one of my mages immediately. After that, I rely on the use of FIR2 and HRM2, and then FIRE and HARM. Aside from that, I buy a Silver sword to one of my fighters so that he can add a little extra damage here and there. I have almost never lost to Lich with that strategy.
In the run, Lich used ICE2 before I could use AICE. Yet, both my mages survived, so I was able to take him out easily.
- Levelling up
Upon leaving Melmond, I buy LIFE for my White mage. When I get the Canoe at Crescentlake, a number of possibilities open up. I can either do the Castle of Ordeals, the Ice cave, or the Gurgu volcano. Each offer good opportunities for earning quick exp in order to attain a comfortable level for the rest of the game. I chose to do Ordeals first and the Ice cave after. In Ordeals, I fight Zombie D's until I reach level 13. This gives my Fighters over 300 HP and my White mage 2 charges of LIFE. In the Ice cave, I then fight Eye's until I reach level 16. If my Red mage gets targetted with XXXX, I use LIFE on him, up to twice. If my White mage gets targetted, that's too bad. The objective is to obtain 2 charges of WARP for my soon-to-be Red wizard. If my Red mage dies before attaining level 16 and can't be revived, I do the Gurgu volcano right after and I earn that level from Agama encounters. Otherwise, I leave the Gurgu volcano for a little later.
In the run, I had to skip 7 battles before I could enter the Castle of Ordeals without danger. I was planning on taking three battles on floor 2F, the last of which would be right in front of the stairs, and then squeeze my way through floor 3F with just one battle. Had I taken one more battle on floor 3F, it would have been a group of ManCat, which would have likely wiped me in one round. I was excessively lucky. Not only did I manage to do the floor with just one encounter, but the second I left the Castle of Ordeals, I got a random encounter. If I had decided to take just 1-2 more battles against Zombie D's, I would most likely have died.
In the Ice cave, I was also able to find a battle counting path that was clear of danger. That is, no Sorcerer and no Mage groups. Also no FrWolves, although it was less critical. Moreover, I killed almost all the Eyes without accident. As it happened, I could have gone there without buying LIFE in the first place, and I would have been fine. Still, I was prepared for bad lucks.
- The Fire, Water, and Air ORB's
That part of the game is easy, but it offers a lot of occasions for saving time. Here's how I proceed. First, buy the BOTTLE. Then go to Gaia and buy 4 ProRings on the way to picking up OXYALE. Continuing on the northern part of the map, go to the Cardia archipelago and talk to Bahamut. Then on the same vertical line, go to Melmond and buy the spell WARP. Then land on the Onrac continent and travel to the Waterfall. Once you got the Wizard staff, the Ribbon, Defense, and the CUBE, use WARP to get out. Proceed through Onrac to the Sea shrine. Pick up the Opal bracelet and helmet, then the SLAB, and use WARP twice. Pick up the second Ribbon on the way to Kraken. Once out, go to Melmond, buy all the Level-5 spells that you can and talk to Unne (then WARP out). Do the Gurgu volcano. Go to Lefein to get the CHIME (then WARP out). Go to the Mirage tower. Pick up the Heal helmet and the Aegis shield on floor 1F, WARP out and proceed to floor 2F. Pick up the Thor hammer, the Dragon armor and the Sun sword there. Transfer to the Sky palace. Pick up the third Ribbon, an Opal shield, the White and Black shirts and the ADAMANT on floor 2F. Take out Tiamat. I do not use BANE against Tiamat because I do not find that it works very often, while I can still manage to kill him very quickly with physical damage. Once out of the Sky Palace, fly to the Dwarf cave and receive Xcalber (then WARP out). If below 80 Heal potions, make an extra trip to Coneria to fill up. Otherwise, go directly to the Temple of Fiends (use a HOUSE in front).
In the run, all went well except in one encounter against FrWolves near Lefein, where I almost lost both my Knights. I had to use a House a little bit earlier than scheduled, but it had no consequence. Aside from luck, I also made an error in Onrac. I used a House right outside town to avoid losing 17 seconds going to the Inn. I somehow forgot that I had done so and I still went for the Inn. It looks really ugly.
- Temple of Fiends, revisited (ToFR)
The ToFR is the third most dangerous dungeon of the game (after Ordeals and the Ice cave), and it is also the one that requires the most preparation. I will describe my general strategy here without refering too strongly to the specifics of my particular choice of team, whenever possible, before I give the details about what happened in the present attempt. Note that I rely on battle counting (see explanations later) for that run, but at no point is it really necessary. On the first three floors of the ToFR, I use it to avoid encounters with Gas D's.
As I proceed through the Temple of Fiends to the Earth floor, I arrange for my team to get petrified, except one Knight, by a GrMedusa group. Battle counting helps a great deal for that purpose, but this can be done without it also. With battle counting, I know in advance exactly when I'll get the GrMedusa group. Right before the battle, I unequip ProRing and Ribbon from all characters and give one to the Knight that was chosen to survive. I make sure that that Knight has Xcalber, the Defense sword, and some massive destruction item like the Wizard staff or the Thor hammer. I put the Knight in back row. When confronting the GrMedusa group, I use protective items with everyone and Defense sword with the chosen Knight until everyone is petrified. Then I neutralize the enemies, heal up and confront Lich2. The Ribbon and Xcalber are really just needed for the Lich2 battle, in which they play a crucial role. Ribbon prevents STOP and ZAP!, which the Dragon armor + Aegis shield + ProRing combo doesn't prevent. Xcalber ensures that you can knock him down by repeated attacks before he has the chance to use NUKE a second time (four rounds or so later).
I was a little stessed and tired at this point of the run. This is where I started doing many small mistakes. Fortunately, that didn't end up causing me any trouble. When confronting the GrMedusa group, I didn't get the chance to use White shirt at all, nor did I get the chance to use Defense more than once before my chosen Knight had to face all the enemies alone. I found myself in a rather risky situation, where I could have been stunned. I accidentally used Xcalber (with no effect) instead of the Wizard staff, at a time where the enemies were still quite menacing. But I was OK. The Lich fight went very well, but it always does.
At beginning of the Fire floor, I unpetrify all but one character capable of using LIFE, making sure to re-equip the Ribbon and ProRing to everyone and to give Xcalber and Ribbon back to their original owner. The strategy for Kary2 is simple since she's not very dangerous. I just go all-out with two characters while the third one uses the White shirt. I do not waste any charge of FAST yet (if applicable).
My preferred plan was to unpetrify just my other Knight, but I accidentally selected my White wizard, so I had to fall off to the plan just described, which is alright also. Anyway, Kary2 went without accident.
This floor is dangerous because of Water elementals. I prepare against that by making the Black shirt available to a non-Knight active character. Upon arrival to Kraken2, the Knight who has Defense must also be the one who has the weakest armors. I place that Knight in front row. During combat, I use Defense once and White shirt every round. If the second-row character happens to have access to RUSE, I use it once also. Unless the front-row Knight dies, I do not spend any charge of FAST (if applicable). Other than that, it's just going all-out again. Thor hammer is a good source of damage, as well as Black shirt, for the non-Knight characters.
In the run, I had to use my White wizard as my support character, although I prefer to use the Red wizard. It didn't make any difference and the fight against Kraken2 went very well.
The last character is unpetrify here. On the Air floor, I pick up Masmune, then WARP back and confront Tiamat2. If very low on Heal potions, I use one charge of FAST here. Otherwise, I refrain from doing it. HEL2 can also be used once during that battle to compensate a couple of unlucky rounds. The exact strategy here depends on the actions of Tiamat2. Before serious damage is taken, Black + White shirts should be used by the characters without Masmune or Xcalber. When the weakest character's HP is starting to get low, the Heal staff or helmet should be used instead of the Black shirt. When the White shirt has been used four times already, the Heal staff or helmet should also be used instead, or the Thor hammer if HP is full.
In the run, I was even more stessed than previously, and I made a couple of bad decisions in some battles. Again, it didn't have any consequence. The battle against Tiamat2 lasted a lot longer than it usually does, for some reason. I should have healed less damage during combat since I had so many Heal potions left. Also, I hesitated on a number of occasions, out of stress again.
Different teams may have significantly different strategies here. What is important is that all Knights plus one black magic user all have a Ribbon. One character still has to be left without one. My choice was to have my White wizard not use the Ribbon. White shirt provides protection against fire elemental, and I use AICE on the first round of the fight to protect the White wizard against ice elemental as well. Normally, I am able to survive to the LIT3 spell that Chaos uses once, and that allows me to use my unprotected White wizard during a few rounds.
In the run, I mistakenly assumed that my White wizard was in the fourth row, and I took the Ribbon off my Red wizard instead of off my White wizard, without noticing. That was the only significant error that I did in this run. It could have cost me the game, though. I was very surprised when I saw that INFERNO did close to 300 damage to my Red wizard, and I had to wait until my recording was over and my DVD was finalized to go back at that part of the run and check what went wrong. I'm very relieved that CRACK didn't kill my Red wizard. In my last 10 practice runs of the ToFR, I never died once against Chaos with my planned strategy.
--- Battle counting ---
In Final Fantasy, battle counting is the act of exploiting the game's RNG by keeping track of the number of battles that have taken place since the last time the NES was turned on (by use of the Power button). That number can be reported to a huge table of encounters that tells you what your next fights would be on any possible dungeon floor or world map region.
I have found that the best sequence in the encounter table for acquiring easy experience and money at the beginning of a new game is located right before the 117th battle mark. Before all my attempts, I arrange for my battle count to reach 117, then I reset and begin. This takes around half an hour on average because my NES sometimes randomly gives me a head start.
I can't say exactly how much this strategy helps on my overall time, however. On the one hand, using this special battle offset allows me to attain a very productive early game. Note how I get almost only Ogres, Kyzokus and Geists. On the other hand, it costs me significant time each time that I start a new game over, which means that I can't force special lucky shots during the first few minutes of play like I normally could.
--- Further improvement ---
This run doesn't contain a lot of obvious errors or bad lucks. In fact, it was completed two minutes faster than my best test run on emulator. Also, my objective was to complete the game under four hours, which I achieved comfortably.
I can only think of two things that could have gone significantly better. First, I could have not lost my White mage on my way to the ROD. I estimate that that cost me about 5 minutes, that is 2:30 for the trip and 2:30 to resynchronize to the next good encounter schedule for Ordeals later on.
Second, I could have avoided the trip to Elfland when leaving the Castle of Ordeals. That second "accident" was caused by my poor early game. In other test runs, I've managed to buy FAST and AICE in my return trip from the Mummies, as well as 4 Soft potions, which suffice for my later Ice cave trip. I would really have liked to avoid these two extra trips for the sake of presenting a run closer to perfection, but it really didn't cost me much time in the end.
As for errors, I did a couple of minor ones throughout the game, but I believe that they amount to a total of less than a couple of minutes of wasted time. I don't reckon that I can do a lot better than that, bearing in mind that I was always absorbed by my battle counting process. My main source of time loss was minor bad lucks rather than minor mistakes I think.
A possible alteration to my current strategy would be to simply skip the Mummy farming. It is very feasible. I have done it in test runs over and over. It saves around 5 minutes all-in-all but it augments the risks of dying in both the Earth cave and the Castle of Ordeals by a sensible margin. I chose to not take that extra risk, mainly because the trip to the Mummies led to a better encounter layout anyway.
In terms of strategies, there's something that I have to admit to future generations of runners: I'm convinced that I haven't coined the single quickest realistic strategy yet. I sincerely believe that there is a way to complete the Ice cave before Ordeals and still farm level 16 on Eyes on the way. However, to my knowledge, this accomplishment is extremely unlikely to succeed without either sacrificing significant time to earn some exp ahead of time or being abundantly lucky. Unless someone finds a creative way to make it feasible that I wasn't able to figure yet, I don't see how a successful run can be produced using that route in less than a few dozen attempts, and that goes beyond my current patience. I hope that a reliable way to do the Ice cave before Ordeals is eventually established; I haven't abandonned the project of finding it myself. In that case, I would very seriously reconsider the three Fighters and one Red mage party, or the two Fighters and two Red mages party.
--- Comments and Questions ---
I could go on about this run for hours. Please PM me, 'Winkwonle', if you have any question or comment. I can recognize the value of a seasoned player's critics, and I'll always be glad to hear that someone enjoyed what I worked hard for.
--- Conclusion ---
To make it short: a lot of preparation, some room for improvement, I hope that someone beats my time and I'm really looking forward to a multi-segment run.
Return to the Game List, the FAQ, or the Home Page.