Game Systems

What follows is a description of the inner workings of Final Fantasy (NES). This document does not feature extreme technical detail, but rather takes a practical approach to the game numbers. The idea is to teach you how the game works to the degree that you can plan for it, and not to the degree that you could program it from scratch. If you are interested in specific numbers, there are a number of wonderful FAQs to be found.

The Data

In addition to the walkthrough you are reading, there is a large amount of data available in this guide. Everything you could possibly want to know (and then some) about Monsters, Items, Spells, and Special Attacks is included. A pretty thorough breakdown of the Classes and every Area in the game are available as well. The crown jewel of the collection, though, is the full, easy-to-read Encounter Tables. All of the data is cross-referenced and designed to make it easy to find whatever it is you might be looking for. So, what are you looking for?

How to Use this Guide

This guide includes a walkthrough because I enjoy compiling all the data into a usable form, but its real strength is as an information resource. If you want to know something specific, the guide is pretty straightforward. Need to find a monster with high Evade % and low Absorb to test your crazy critical hit theory on? No problem—but chances are you actually just want to play the game. Well, more than "play" since you can do that without a cross-referenced guide. (Or so they tell me.) So how can you use this information to enhance your experience?

As I see it, there are two uses for this much raw data. You can either crunch the numbers to come up with optimal strategies, or you can let someone else do that, then use their conclusions. I am that someone else. In addition to the walkthrough, every page in the game has a card complete with my personal notes on whatever that card represents. The cards are a nice quick reference, but there are cross-referenced tables of data on the card pages. For instance, the Temple of Fiends card provides a nice overview of that dungeon, but its page contains list of every encounter, monster, and treasure within.

Understanding the Statistics

There are a lot of numbers available in this database. Knowing exactly what Damage, Evade %, Absorb, and so on all do will help you out quite a bit.

Basic Statistics

Each character has a number of statistics you have virtually no control over. These consist of Hit Points, Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Vitality, Luck, base Hit %, Magic Defense, and Magic Points (spell slots). You can maximize most of the numerical stats by saving before you level and reloading until you get the upgrades you want, but the reward is not worth the effort. It's best to consider these background statistics and pay attention to their values, not their specific progression. One major exception to this rule is a statistic you have absolutely no control over: base Hit %.

As you might expect, your Hit % affects your ability to hit monsters. Hitting monsters is important, but Hit % has another purpose that makes it even more vital: it determines how many attacks you can make in a round. Specifically, you get an extra attack for every 32 points of Hit % you have (with the second attack coming at exactly 32). FIGHTERS and Bl.BELTS gain 3 Hit % each level, so they get another attack just about every 11 levels. Wh.MAGES and Bl.MAGES gain only 1 point of Hit % per level, while THIEVES and RedMAGES gain 2. However, it is not just your base Hit % that determines your number of hits: weapon Hit % factors in as well. So the Masmune and its +50 Hit % is giving any character at least one extra attack per round, and possibly two. For the most part, you should mostly worry about your number of hits. If you have 25 base Hit % and you have to choose between weapons that grant +5 and +10 Hit %, the +10 is better (even if it does less damage) simply because it gets you a second chance to hit (and at a higher success rate!).

Combat Statistics

Your combat statistics (Damage, Hit %, Absorb, and Evade %) are the main statistics you have control over. Weapons add directly to your base Damage and Hit %, while armor is your only means of gaining Absorb. Most armor decreases your Evade %, though, meaning that you will often sacrifice the ability to avoid attacks in order to take less damage from them. (This is usually a good tradeoff.) Some armor features resistance to one or more Elements in addition to basic stats, but one thing armor will not do is affect your Magic Defense. That is one stat that is preset and hidden, and cannot be changed except by leveling.

On offense, you're worried about three things: Damage, Hit %, and Critical Hit %. Hit % was covered above. Each hit you do will deal a random number of damage between one and two times your Damage score, minus the target's Absorb, with a minimum of 1. So if you have a Damage score of 30 and hit a target with 15 Absorb, you will do between 15 and 45 damage per hit. Critical hits add your original damage (before factoring in Absorb) in bonus damage, and the extra damage ignores Absorb, so in the aforementioned scenario a Critical Hit would deal between 45 and 105 damage. But even if you were attacking a SCUM with 255 Absorb, a critical hit would deal 31–61 damage instead of the usual 1. Therefore, critical hits are an important factor in dealing damage to monsters with high Absorb. Due to a major bug, most endgame weapons have a very generous critical hit rate. (Instead of being weapon-specific as intended, weapons' critical hit rates increase in the order they appear in the data. Generally this means that the later you find a weapon, the better its critical hit rate, capping with the Masmune's 20%+ rate.)

Defensively, things are a bit simpler. As mentioned earlier, Absorb simply subtracts damage from attacks. If your Absorb is double the monster's Damage (which will be the case for your FIGHTER more often than you'd think), you will take 1 damage from each non-critical hit—and most monsters have an abysmal crit rate. Evade % helps you avoid attacks entirely, to the tune of about 1% avoidance rate per two points of Evade %. A quick look at the monster table shows that +1 Absorb is usually worth the common −1 Evade % tradeoff. Armor that offers a higher bonus to Absorb than its penalty to Evade % is even better.

The specific attack formula is good to know, but isn't all that important. The base chance to hit is around 84%, adjusted by the attacker's Hit % and the defender's Evade %. Hitting a blinded enemy will increase this rate by about 20%, while being blinded yourself reduces your hit chance by a like amount. Your chance to crit is based on the same roll as your attack, so if you have a 20% chance to hit and a 20% crit rate, every hit will be a crit.

The other important factor to keep in mind during physical combat is status ailments. A lot of monsters can inflict status ailments on your Warriors (usually Poison or Paralysis) with each hit. The base chance of success is around 50%, adjusted by your Magic Defense. Having armor that resists the element of the attack will drop the chance to less than 1%, as will simply being of a high enough level. No monster has any special bonus to the chance of causing status ailments, so they tend to become less of a problem towards the latter half of the game. Some creatures exist primarily to inflict status ailments, and get multiple attacks that only deal 1–2 damage but can inflict some malady on the target.

Another aspect of combat that is important to keep in mind is how party order affects the fight. Your party leader will have 50% of your enemies' single-target attacks directed at him, while your second character takes 25% and the last two take 1/8 each. For this reason, it is wise to keep a heavily-armored FIGHTER in the top slot at almost all times. (That is also why it is wise to have a FIGHTER in the party, to the point that I have assumed you do throughout the guide.)

Important Note: The Hit and Evade values on monster tables and cards reflect actual, calculated percentages. Thus, if a monster has a listed Hit of 85%, all you need to do is subtract half of a Warrior's Evade % (as listed on the menu screen) from that number to determine the chance of the attack actually hitting. Similarly, a monster's listed Evade can be subtracted (without division) from the Warrior's calculated Hit rate.

Magic and Special Attacks

Magic and special attacks work basically the same way, and the term "magic" will be used to describe both. The strange thing about magic is that the caster's stats are irrelevant when using it. Intelligence was probably supposed to do something, but in practice it is completely ignored. Thus, when casting spells you only need to worry about the spell's statistics and your opponent's Magic Defense and elemental affinities.

Mechanically, magic works a lot like a normal attack. Because spells do not rely on your stats, the Hit % listed on spell cards is the actual chance of success, were the spell to be used against a target with 0 Magic Defense. Simply subtract the target's Magic Defense from the spell's Hit % to determine the spell's chance of success. The interesting thing about magic is that "missing" a damaging spell still results in the target taking damage, but that damage is halved. FIRE deals 20–40 damage on a hit, or 10–20 damage on a miss. Non-damaging spells have no effect on a miss.

The hit formula for magic is simple, but resistances and weaknesses play a big role in spell combat. Your spells are about 20% more likely to hit a target with a weakness to the spell's element, and deal 50% extra damage if they're damaging spells. That upgrades FIRE to a 30–60 damage spell to enemies weak against Fire. Spells of a resisted element have a base hit chance of about 0.5%, and the target takes half damage on top of the already likely miss, for an end result of 1/4 damage. FIRE would do 5–10 damage in this case. The moral of the story is, don't waste spells on enemies that resist them.

Magic Defense is something you should also take into account before casting. Just as you wouldn't want to attack a SCUM with 255 Absorb, using spells on a WORM with 100% Magic Defense is usually futile. Even the most accurate level 8 spells have a base success rate of only 37%, and that's if they don't resist the element of the spell. When you can't hit the enemy with a spell, remember that buffs never miss. FAST is always a good spell to cast.

While you can't improve your own Magic Defense with equipment, a number of armor pieces will grant you resistance to various elements. In the mid-game, these are mostly damage types, but the almighty Ribbon grants you resistance to all eight elements. Series veterans may expect protection from status ailments, but in this case it is elemental resistance (which will block status attacks with an elemental affinity). Ribbons make you virtually immune to every non-damaging spell or ability, and reduce the damaging ones to 1/4 of their usual effect. The only problem is, there are only three Ribbons in the game, so someone needs to go without one. It may be safest to leave your KNIGHT Ribbon-free, since the Ribbon offers less absorb than a helmet and a KNIGHT can gain several useful resistances from the Dragon Armor, Aegis Shield, and ProRing.

The Black Belt

The Bl.BELT is interesting in FF1, and by "interesting" I mean "game-breaking," because he doesn't play by the same rules. Without an equipped weapon, the Bl.BELT gets double the number of hits and does a decent amount of damage with his bare fists. By level 8 the Bl.BELT should always be fighting Unarmed. By endgame levels (approaching 30), the Bl.BELT/MASTER is a pure damage machine. If for some reason you decide to keep leveling beyond that point, they only become more ridiculous. A level 50 MASTER is an unstoppable force of nature without any equipment at all.

The Bl.BELT's damage and number of hits aren't the only class-specific mechanics, though. A Bl.BELT's unarmed critical hit rate is approximately their level as a percentage, which puts them well above the Masmune by the time you get it. And if a Bl.BELT goes unarmored, they gain Absorb equal to their level. From a practical standpoint, this is not usually worth doing at normal levels, since you can get more Absorb with armor, not to mention elemental resistances. However, if you want to give your best armor to someone else, having a buck-naked Bl.BELT is a viable option.

The Many Bugs of Final Fantasy

For whatever reason, this game is positively chock full of bugs. Some, like the critical hit rate bug and the Intelligence bug, didn't even get fixed in the Origins remake of the game. There are many minor bugs in the game that I won't bother to mention, simply because they either don't affect the game substantially or they're exploits. I will list the most relevant bugs here, though.

  • Weapon Property Bugs: Sadly, neither the elemental nor family properties of weapons do anything. Since most of these weapons are sub-par aside from their abilities, this makes a whole lot of weapons obsolete when you find them. At least armor properties work properly.
  • HOUSE Bug: The HOUSE item lets you save, and restores your party's MP, but it does so in the wrong order. In order to save your restored MP, you should immediately use a TENT or CABIN after using a HOUSE to save again.
  • Critical Hit Rate Bug: Any given weapon is supposed to have a unique critical hit rate, but the wrong value is used, so weapon crit rates are simply increased as you proceed down the list. This has the effect of making the Vorpal completely pointless. It should be noted that crit rates in general are much higher than they should be. Except the Bl.BELT's, which is completely broken even compared to the high crit values.
  • Bl.BELT Absorb Bug: The game is supposed to update the Bl.BELT's Absorb whenever he levels, but it checks whether he's using a weapon rather than armor. As a result, if your Bl.BELT is fighting unarmed (and he usually is), his Absorb will be set to his level after each level increase. You can restore his correct Absorb value by visiting the armor screen. At very high levels, you can exploit this bug by not visiting the armor screen in order to give your Bl.BELT very high Absorb while still gaining the effects of a Ribbon.
  • MASTER Magic Defense Bug: It is entirely possible that Magic Defense progression in general is bugged, as the classes that start with high Magic Defense (such as the Wh.MAGE and Bl.MAGE) have the worst Magic Defense growth. The MASTER in particular is bugged, as the only statistical change the Bl.BELT gets upon being upgraded is a reduced Magic Defense growth stat.
  • MUTE Bug: For whatever reason, if you are Silenced in combat, you are not only unable to cast spells, you also can't use items or potions. On the upside, Silenced enemies will occasionally waste their turn trying to cast spells.
  • Status Attack Bug: This is one you'd probably never notice without an emulator, but it's bad news. Monsters that cause status ailments with their attacks are supposed to have one chance to inflict that status for each attack that hits. However, they get a chance even on misses after the first hit. So if a CRAWL hits you one out of eight times, but it's the second hit, it still gets 7 chances to Paralysis you.
  • Status Attack Element Bug: Each monster that causes a status ailment, aside from the SORCERER, has a "status attack element" specified. The purpose of this is to make status attacks subject to elemental resistance. However, due to a bug, it uses a monster's weaknesses (if any) instead of the status attack element. Practically speaking, this makes a large number of status attacks non-elemental, which is why you can be poisoned by some monsters regardless of your resistances. This works to your advantage when it comes to Undead that cause Paralysis, though, since Fire resistance will prevent this (and is much easier to come by than resistance to the intended element of these attacks, Status).
  • Sleep Bug: Enemies always wake up from Sleep on their turn. Apparently enemies with more than 80 HP are supposed to do this anyway, so SLEP was always kind of a lame spell.
  • Intelligence Bug: The Intelligence stat doesn't actually do anything in the game. It probably ought to affect magic accuracy in some way, since the majority of enemies have nearly unbeatable Magic Defense toward the end of the game.
  • Spell Bugs: There are a variety of spell-related bugs in the game. The TMPR, SABR, LOCK, and XFER spells don't work when you cast them. LOK2 works, but increases enemy evasion instead of decreasing it. HEL2 is bugged in your favor, as it heals double the intended amount (the same as HEL3) when cast in combat.
  • Enemy Spell Bugs: A few spells enemies use don't actually work. The WzVAMP's AFIR is subject to two bugs—the spell misses the caster, and has no effect anyway. The FIGHTER's HEL2 spell is enhanced just like your own, while its FOG2 spell doesn't work at all, and the NAGA's LOCK spell doesn't work any better than yours does. Unlike your enemies, your party members are actually affected by the XFER spell.
  • Running Bugs: The Run command checks the wrong values against your Luck. The specifics are quite bizarre. The short version is that the chance of your first two characters successfully running is based on the status of your last two characters: if they have no status ailments, 15 Luck will basically guarantee a successful run. The character in your fourth slot basically can't run at all. Slot 3 wavers more or less randomly between making running easy and impossible. The moral of the story is, if you have a THIEF, keep them in slot 2.