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Final Fantasy
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.

 

Run (Single Segment): 3:50:xx by Benoit Alain

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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.

Enjoy!

--- 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.

- Astos

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.

- Lich

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.

- Lich2

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.

- Kary2

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.

- Kraken2

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.

- Tiamat2

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.

- Chaos

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.

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