Image courtesy of Square-Enix

Now of course, I know Final Fantasy XI is older than 16 years. The game’s original release date was May 16th, 2002. But it was August 2004 when I first installed it on my parent’s 2001 e-machine, complete with Windows ME. I connected to MSN through dial up and after a long wait, loaded into Vana’diel for my first time.

So why am I talking about a game 16 years later? I could tell you that it’s because the game made me who I am today. And that would be true. I first discovered podcasting in the Final Fantasy XI scene which lead to me hosting my first show. Little did I know then that my career would be born out of those moments. But that’s not why I’m writing about the game today. The reason is because my fiance is experiencing the game for her first time, and I’ve started a fresh character to play alongside her.

I thought it might be fun to do a little retrospective about key moments in the game circa 2004 and circa 2020. And for those who have never had the pleasure, welcome to Final Fantasy XI.


Engaging your first enemy

Ryuma’s log – August 2004

“…I took my first tentative steps outside the city gates into East Ronfaure. Someone in town told me to get Signet, whatever that is. I wasn’t sure where to get it, so I’ll check in on it later. As I descended the slope into the trees, I spotted a forest hare. It seemed like a tough opponent, particularly due to its defensive and evasive nature. I’m not sure why, but I think it had a motor in its mouth due to the way its nose was twitching. The fight was a bloodbath. Within seconds, I was unconscious on the ground. I’m not sure I landed a single hit.”

Ryusa’s log – December 2019

“After completing some of the tasks set before me by the adventurer’s guild, I felt confidant in my first steps into Ronfaure. Alongside Vyrella, as well as Tenzen, Valaineral, and General Mihli, I approached a forest hare. It died in a couple seconds and I grew to level 3.”

A lonely path in Reisenjima forest, a new area added in the Seekers of Adoulin expansion of Final Fantasy XI.
A lonely path in Reisenjima Forest. Image courtesy of Square-Enix.

Unlocking your subjob

Ryuma’s log – October 2004

“…For four weeks, I’ve come to see the dunes of Valkurm as my home. The hours spent attacking crabs and flies have begun to weigh heavily on my sanity. A man in the town of Selbina has offered to teach me a secret technique if I can secure him a Crab Apron, a Damselfly Worm, and a Magicked Skull. This should be a fairly simple task as I’ve already gotten the apron and the worm over the last few weeks.”

“Update: It’s been a week and still the Magicked Skull eludes me. Gusgen Mines is hell. There is no other word for it.”

Ryusa’s log – December 2019

“A few hours in King Ranperre’s tomb have brought us to level 25. It stuns me to think that yesterday we were venturing into Ronfaure for our first time. Feeling confidant, I took us to Valkurm Dunes to secure the items needed to learn the subjob technique. My confidence was rewarded, as we had little difficulty securing any of the items necessary. Vyrella was given a scare when she first encountered the ghosts of Gusgen Mines, but we persevered despite the creepy siren sounding in the morning.”

A wyrm enemy in Reisenjima, a new area in the Seekers of Adoulin expansion of Final Fantasy XI.
A ferocious Wyrm in Reisenjima. Image courtesy of Square-Enix.

Riding the airship for the first time

Ryuma’s log – December 2004

“This is incredible! It took a long time to secure the chest keys for Yughott Grotto, Palborough Mines, and Giddeus, but I managed. After trading them in Jeuno, I was able to get an airship pass to Kazham. I still can’t fly between the major cities, but I’m excited to see what Elshimo looks like! The wait for the airship was only about 7 minutes, and now I’m airborne over Vana’diel. I never fathomed being able to move around this quickly.”

Ryusa’s log – December 2019

“Now level 50, we were able to complete the archduke’s request to investigate the magicite in Monastic Cavern, Qulun Dome, and the Altar Room of Castle Oztroja. For our troubles, we were rewarded with an Airship Pass. It’s an archaic form of transportation, as the instant teleportation between home crystals is much quicker. Nevertheless, Vyrella and I decided it would be fun to take the airship home to San d’Oria. It’s fascinating to see Vana’diel from so far above, but how did anyone spend so much time traveling? It’s maddening.”

Defeating the Shadow Lord

Ryuma’s log – June 2005

“It’s been nearly 10 months since my journey began, since the threat of the beastmen rose again in Vana’diel. A journey that started as running from rabbits in the forests outside San d’Oria, finally saw me climbing to the tallest tower of Castle Zvahl Keep. There, I met the Shadow Lord, the terrible leader of the beastmen. Myself, along with 5 brave adventurers, were able to band together to defeat him and end the threat. This is the proudest moment of my life.”

Aeonic gear in Seekers of Adoulin - Final Fantasy XI
Aeonic Gear from Seekers of Adoulin. Image courtesy of Square-Enix.

Ryusa’s log – December 2019

“We have been frustrated by our first failure since our adventure began. We bravely engaged the Shadow Lord in combat, and while things started off well, the day was not ours. By some magick, he made himself immune to all manner of physical attack. Given that our party was light on mages, this was a major problem. By the grace of the goddess Altana, we escaped and were able to regroup with a friendly Black Mage who joined us. Our second attempt went far better than the first. I sense this is only the beginning of our adventures.”


I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the logs of my characters throughout history. If the mood should strike me, perhaps I’ll do one of these articles for each of the expansions. And if you’re out there thinking I hate what Final Fantasy XI has become, then you’re mistaken. While the game is vastly different, that doesn’t mean it’s worse. Achieving my airship pass certainly didn’t mean to me now what it did then, but experiencing the game again with someone else has brought its own joys and moments of pride.

Vana’diel is no longer an abusive relationship, giving you just enough to keep stringing you along. It’s now a challenge that can be achieved through reasonable planning and goals. I’m enjoying every step of my trip back through Final Fantasy XI, and I hope maybe it inspires some of you to give it a try as well.