“Ultima” has always been around in the Final Fantasy series, and it’s almost always the strongest spell in the game. However, it didn’t exactly start out that way, and a programmer recently blogged about a discussion he had with Hironobu Sakaguchi on why Ultima was useless in Final Fantasy II, which is where it was first introduced.
The programmer in question is named Hiromasa Iwasaki, who worked on various games such as Ys I & II, and various others during the Famicom and Game Boy era.
As some of you may know, when Final Fantasy II was originally released on the Famicom, one thing that was quite a popular topic at the time was the Ultima spell, which was very difficult to acquire, but was also practically useless.
Just to give you an idea of how useless it was, in the NES version of the game, Ultima was initially meant to increase its power relative to the level of other spells the caster had, but due to a bug, it caused the spell to do just around 500 damage at the most on a single target.
Baffled by how the series’ most powerful spell ended up being so weak in its debut game, Iwasaki and other fellow developers spoke with Hironobu Sakaguchi, who directed Final Fantasy II, about how that ended up happening.
At the time, when Square tested the game out and saw the Ultima bug, it was definitely a problem, and Sakaguchi said “How did this happen? Fix it.” However, the person that programmed it replied with the following statement:
“All of that legendary stuff, it dates back to an age that didn’t even have proper techniques. If you were to look at such things now in the present’s point-of-view, it would be natural that they look inferior. For this reason, it’s a given that Ultima’s abilities would be bad.”
“As for those who struggled and ultimately acquired it only to find out that it’s useless… well, that’s something that often happens in life. So, I’m not going to fix it!”
Naturally, Sakaguchi was rather irritated by that reply and said “whatever, just give me the source,” so he could fix it himself. As it turned out, the programmer had ciphered the source, so he ended up being the only one who could do anything with it, and it was just left the way it was.
Iwasaki says that he can’t say for sure whether the story from Sakaguchi was the truth, but either way, it makes for a good laugh.