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With all the pandemonium surrounding recent AAA releases—whether Bioshock 2, Heavy Rain, or Battlefield Bad Company 2—people seem to have forgotten that there's a little indie title coming out tomorrow called... Ah, gee, what was it again? Oh, yes: FINAL FUCKING FANTASY XIII. Which isn't the legal title, but is surely how it's thought of by its global legion of hardcore fans and housebound otakus who have happily been sinking months of their life into each title for the past...23 years?! Yes, hard to believe, but the very original Final Fantasy came out in 1987. And if this is your first time considering a FF title, you may want to take a moment to peruse the game's previous iterations—after all, this has historically been one of the most sprawling and addictive franchises in gaming history (no shots, Elder Scrolls!), not to mention having more titles than the Sweet Valley High universe. So read on, because you can't know your future if you don't know your oddly compelling quasi-elfin past...

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Final Fantasy I (1987)
Nintendo Entertainment System
THE PLOT: If you've played any of the later games, then you know Final Fantasy plots are the stuff quality novels are made of: shitloads of character development, political backstabbing, and sex. Well, maybe not sex, but flirtation—which is what happens when you leave the game developing to repressed Japanese dudes who don't get out much. But back in 1987, the game franchise was just getting started, so the story was relatively basic. With the four elements out of whack—earth, wind, water, and fire—players controlled the warriors of light on their quest to make things right in the world.
THE CHARACTERS: What characters? The four people in your party don't even come with stock names—all you could specify was what kind of soldiers you wanted them to be: Warrior, Black Mage, Thief, Red Mage, White Mage, or Monk.
BEST WEAPON/SPELL: The Xcalber. Give the blacksmith in the Dwarf Cave a special item and you get the second best sword in the game for free. (And no, that special item is not a hummer.)
OVERALL GRADE: B-. Not a bad start, but any fan that got into the series during the 3-D era might not have the patience to deal with the barebones story and blocky 8-bit graphics. Only the most hardcore of fans need apply.

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