The information on this page is mostly based on the 1990 North American release of Final Fantasy, though any references to things such as specific button presses have been avoided.
To start the game, you must choose a name for each of four characters, and their character class. The available character classes are Fighter, Thief, Black Belt, and Red, White or Black Mage. These classes will determine the way the rest of the game goes, and you can't change the basic makeup of your party afterwards, so you are advised to choose carefully. Popular parties include Fighter/Black Belt/White Mage/Black Mage, and Fighter/Black Belt/Thief/Red Mage.
Moving your character around the world map is fairly self-explanatory. The Final Fantasy landscape consists of plains, grasslands, forests, swamps, deserts, oceans, ports, rivers, and mountains. Oceans can only be traversed by ship, and ships may only be "parked" at ports, which are usually located near towns. So, make sure you remember where you "park" your ship when you get one. Rivers may only be traversed by canoe; however, the Light Warriors are apparently able to carry the canoe with them, so it is automatically activated when you reach a river. (Rivers are shown as being the stagnant-looking narrow waterways cutting through land.) Mountains may not be traversed at all. With an airship, you can fly over anything, but can only land on plains and grasslands.
Occasionally you will reach points of interest such as towns, castles, and caves. When you step onto one of these, the game "zooms in" and you control the Light Warriors inside the point of interest. Here, you will often find people that will yield some information when you "talk" to them. Sometimes the information is useless, other times vitally important to the story. You will also occasionally find treasure chests. In towns, you will find several different kinds of shops that will exchange goods and services for money. These include item stores (sell curative and utilitarian items), White Magic stores (sell magic usable by White Mages, Knights, and Red Mages), Black Magic stores (sell magic usable by Black Mages, Ninjas, and Red Mages), weapon stores, armor stores, clinics (can revive slain allies), and inns (restores living Light Warriors to full status, and saves the game).
When wandering throughout the world map, you will occasionally fight in "random encounters". The enemies you face in these encounters depend on the area of the world you are currently travelling in and the terrain. Oceans have their own set of enemies and rivers have their own set. There are no random encounters while riding on the airship. Random encounters also occur while exploring hostile points of interest such as caves. However, sometimes in these points of interest battles are preprogrammed (usually directly in front of key items). The combat system that you must negotiate when dealing with random encounters is explained below.
On the subscreen you can view data relating to the Light Warriors and perform miscellaneous actions. These actions are:
- Item: Use items such as cure potions, tents, or story-related items.
- Weapon: Equip each Light Warrior with one (or no) weapon. Not all warriors can use all weapons; this depends on the class of the warrior. Weapons include daggers, swords, hammers, nunchuks, and staves.
- Armor: Equip each Light Warrior with armor. A Light Warrior may be equipped with one armor, bracelet, or shirt, one shield, one helmet, and one pair of gauntlets/gloves. Again, this depends on the character class.
- Status: View the attributes of each Light Warrior in greater detail. These attributes are explained in greater detail elsewhere. Also shows the number of experience points needed to advance to the next level. Light Warriors gain experience points from winning battles; upon reaching certain milestones (levels), they are granted higher attributes, more HP, and (possibly) more MP.
- Magic: If your characters have magic-using capabilities, you can use them here assuming you have the requisite level of spell charges. Outside of battle, this includes mostly curative spells.
Displayed for each Light Warrior are HP and MP, compared with their maximum. HP (Hit Points) is the amount of damage a warrior can withstand before dying. It can be restored by using Heal Potions or curative spells and items, and can be restored completely by visiting an Inn.
MP (Magic Points) is a little more complicated. There are eight levels of spells, Level 1 being the weakest spells and Level 8 being the strongest. A Light Warrior, assuming he has the capacity to do so by his character class, can learn spells by buying them from a magic store. A Light Warrior may learn no more than three spells for each level; a total of 24 spells, and spells cannot be removed or sold. A Light Warrior also has a certain number of MPs for each spell level. These MPs are not interchangable between spell levels, and they are not rechargable except by staying at an Inn. For example, if a Light Warrior has 3 spell charges for Level 1 and 1 spell charge for Level 2, he may cast three Level 1 spells and one level 2 spell. He may not cast two Level 2 spells before staying at an Inn under any circumstances, until his experience level increases.
You may change the marching order of your party. The character at the front of the line will tend to take more damage from non-magical attacks. Therefore, your leader should be the warrior with the strongest armor and highest HP value.
In combat, you are presented with your party on one side and your enemies on the other. One by one, each Light Warrior steps forth and awaits your orders. (Sometimes, the Light Warriors may be surprised by an enemy, in which case the enemy gets a free round of attacks.) Your choices are:
- Fight: Attack a specific enemy using the equipped weapon
- Magic: Use magic spells, either to attack an enemy or enemies, cure party members, increase the attributes of party members, or decrease the attributes of opponents.
- Drink: Use Cure, Pure, or Soft potions on any party member.
- Item: Some weapons and armor have special effects when used in battle.
- Run: Attempt to flee the battle. Based on an individual warrior's Luck attribute; however, if one warrior successfully flees, all warriors flee.
After the warriors receive their orders, they carry them out one by one while the enemy also attacks using its own set of orders. If one side is incapacitated, the other side gets free rounds of attacks until this is no longer true; if one side is killed or turned to stone, the battle is over. If that one side happens to be the Light Warriors, the game is over.