There is a legacy, a long history surrounding the Final Fantasy Universe, but that is all inconsequential for the moment as Square Enix is taking us on a journey all the way back to where it began; right back in time to when a small Japanese developer took a major gamble, one last throw of the die. The game was to be an homage to the Dragon Quest series and was to be the developer's 'Final Fantasy'. We all know what happened, but there are many that have yet to experience the fledgling RPG title. Now is your chance...
Unfortunately, the game's premise was and still is rather rudimentary in nature. Apparently the world is shrouded in darkness, with the winds dying down, the seas raging and the earth generally decaying all around. However, there is a wonderful prophecy that the people of this world believe in; that when a veil of gloom is cast over all life, four Warriors of Light will come to rectify the whole situation. Then lo and behold, along come a group of four random travellers each clutching a magical crystal in their hands and so they become the 'Chosen Ones' who must rejuvenate the world to what it once was, bringing peace and prosperity to all for ever more...
One thing that would strike you straight away if you had seen the game on the NES in its original format, or any of the titles from the Nintendo 8-bit era in fact, is how utterly atrocious they appear compared to today's wonderfully luscious graphics and flowing Full Motion Video sequences. Now, whilst this is obviously a ridiculous comparison, it is still a valid one as it is the prime factor why many will not touch certain retro games. Therefore, thankfully Square Enix has done us the gracious favour of sprucing everything up so that the appearance is far more palatable to those who cringe at the site of two-dimensions.
What will hit RPG aficionados is that although the level has been upped by a great degree, with lovely little animations for the characters, massive amounts of detail on the landscapes around you, elaborate enemy creatures and absolutely no slowdown, Final Fantasy I in Dawn of Souls does not quite manage to topple the King of Kings, Final Fantasy VI from the Super Nintendo. It is a fine attempt by Square Enix, but it just it fails to get close enough to claim that infamous cigar. Luckily, many will probably not notice too much difference thanks to the tiny resolution of the GBA.
Aurally, too much of the 'bippy' and 'boppy' era would either make you deaf or send you into a foaming Pac-Man-style craze and the same is true with the original Final Fantasy on the NES, which whilst not awful in terms of compositions, struggled to be anything more than average on the limited sound chip within Nintendo's first home console. Again, however, Square Enix's musical maestri have sent each and every tune through the 'Revamperator
Take the fighting theme, for instance. This is, just like the menu tune, one of those staple Squaresoft tunes that re-appears in every Final Fantasy outing, albeit in a slightly different mould. Yet here it is barely distinguishable, in a positive way, as is the victory ditty
At the very start you are given the chance to select what type of characters you would prefer to have in your line-up; Warrior (weapon-wielder), Thief (extremely fast), Monk (prevails in fisticuffs circumstances), Red Mage (uses both black and white magic), White Mage (protective magic user) or Black Mage (devastates with offensive spells. Once chosen, you are then placed in a story that is more rounded that its NES ancestor in terms of the story's translation quality and plot development, with several very well implemented in-game sequences that explain more than you would imagine. Square Enix might not have been able to squeeze the flair of the PSone Final Fantasy Origins release into a tiny GBA cartridge, but the lack of FMV has been more than compensated for by far more important update features, making this entry the best of the Final Fantasy I remakes, far ahead of the WonderSwan version and marginally above Sony's exclusive iteration.
One major complaint aimed at the entirety of the Final Fantasy series is that Squaresoft, and more recently the newly formed Square Enix, ramped-up the difficulty levels by throwing in some incredibly awkward boss fights that could only be defeated upon hours and hours of level-building prior to the encounter. Some have banded comments of 'cheap' around when discussing the attempts to lengthen certain FF experiences. Now, guess which of the series the finger gets pointed at the most? Yes, the very first one. Opposite to the norm in Japan, Final Fantasy was extremely difficult right from your very first footsteps. Now this is not quite the case here, as the boundaries for levelling your team up have been reduced and the strength of certain enemy encounters has been toned down a few notches.
If you think that you are going to be in for an easy ride because of this, then you are completely underestimating the information I just gave you. This is hard
Clever additions have refined what was a sturdy original base for the Final Fantasy universe to build up from. Everything has been tinkered with to make this as user-friendly as possible and all for the better.
What it lacks in the detail on character models it more than makes up for in intricate building, dungeon, village, enemy and everything else's design. The standard to aim for, definitely.
Magical in every sense of the word, with or without headphones. In fact, the reworkings of the original game and the new compositions are so awe-inspiring that you should make others listen to it!
The extra dungeon is a very welcome addition, as are the other hidden things around the world. However, with the difficulty toned down like it is, reaching the final stages of Final Fantasy may be too simple for traditional RPG'ers.
What we have here is Squaresoft's ageing heritage in all its glory, transformed before our very eyes to become what could easily be a brand new RPG. The work done to improve this part of the Dawn of Souls package is breath-taking, with Square Enix deserve the utmost of praise from the world over, which means British gamers included. Rush out and prevent this from remaining the sales disaster over here that it currently is...
Hell Yeah! :-D
I'm sure gonna get this game!
I hope it doesn't just stop at FF III I want ALL the FF's on Ninty machines right up to FF XII! :
Me too...a nice collection of FFs back on Nintendo...Sorry, I need to give FF2 more play time before reviewing it. Next week with any luck... :
I'm playing it now and loving ever minute!!
I see FF IV and V making it to the DS with FF VI and VII on Game Boy Enhanced!!
Wecome back SQUARE ENIX!! :-D
I admire your confidence Galv, and pray it comes true...I'd love Square Enix to raid its back catalogue of Japan-only SNES RPGs as well, though...