Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls - Reader Retroview  

Porting the Old but Good
by JuMeSyn

~20 hours each


Rating definitions 

   Hear ye, hear ye, the time hath come to journey whence our RPG roots did spring. Yea, but the gardeners of ye old Square Enix did decree it too unpleasant to see the aged plants ‘twere the early RPGs the Square of old hath once foisted upon the public. And so it is that Square Enix did make the old seem new once more, for their bean-counters hath expressed concern on behalf o’ their bottom line. An’ so the Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy II one doth see in this compilation bear nary more’n a superficial resemblance to their antecedents.

   Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy II are, in the world of console RPGs, very old titles. Square Enix made the decision, based on their comparative ages to so many potential players, to modernize them. This work had already been begun thanks to these two titles being remade for the Wonder Swan Color and the PS1 a few years earlier. The battle systems of the two titles are rather different, but share the modernization’s effect of making most battles blaze by in a twinkling of speed. Battles are turn-based, with both titles using magic and items exactly as RPG tradition would have it. There are further notes to make on FFII, but FFI is unusual for a FF player only in that spells are bought rather than learned as levels increase.

The Passion of the Lich The Passion of the Lich

   Final Fantasy II features one of the more unusual systems for character improvement to be found in an RPG. Rather than experience, the characters will be given status increases in the attributes the game perceives as being most needing them. If one wants HP to increase, the most effective means of making it happen is to decrease a character’s HP by over 50% in one battle. MP increases are most likely with over 50% of MP expended in a single encounter, similarly. Spells increase in effectiveness the more they are used, also. Weapon effectiveness increases in another variant of the same system, and keeping characters with the same weapon will have a better effect than switching between types. Just like the original FFII, however, this system allows one with plenty of time to devote (such as a transcontinental flight…) the option of making incredibly powerful characters while the game has barely begun just by having the characters beat each other near senseless over and over.

   Aesthetically the two titles have been given a significant visual makeover, as befits the GBA’s technical prowess. They both look like upper-tier SNES titles now, though not the pinnacle of what that system could achive. Aurally not much has changed, save for the audio being a bit higher-quality than what the NES could achieve. Nobuo Uematsu’s compositions are quite good here, though what he would achieve on later Final Fantasies somewhat outshines his earliest efforts (to this reviewer).

   Challenging these two titles are not. In tweaking the battle systems Square Enix seems to have removed all the potential challenge save for a player wishing to try self-invented play techniques. Random enemies demand just enough attention to press the ‘A’ button repeatedly, and many bosses are not a true threat. Healing items are plentiful, MP is plentiful should healing items not be used. They do possess challenges in their new content, but the main quests will not require much attention.

Let’s hear it for the feudal system!  Equality of wealth distribution is for fools! Let’s hear it for the feudal system! Equality of wealth distribution is for fools!

   Story in Final Fantasy I is distinctly of the minimalist school. The player selects four heroes out of six character classes and these four go out to save the world. Really, that’s about it. Final Fantasy I was inspired by mid-80’s PC RPGs so its paucity of storytelling is unsurprising. Final Fantasy II actually has protagonists who speak, with names! By current standards its tale of an evil empire attacking for seemingly no reason other nations is hardly innovative, but even so it is reasonably translated and moves at a pretty good pace.

   Thanks to the updates of a newer age, controlling events in these two titles is easy and fast. No bumbling through endless menus, no confusion over what a shop’s offerings do, no attacking empty spaces where an enemy just died, no fighting 100 battles before getting a level, no meandering at pathetic speeds in dungeons just because the walking speed is so sloth-like. These games were optimized for GBA playing by granting a quick save system that makes resuming play after being forced to stop a breeze.

   Replaying the main quest of FFII in particular offers no additional content. FFI however has been granted four additional areas that open with the defeat of each elemental lord and are quite large, with many battles against past/future villains of Final Fantasy titles as fan service. FFII has no additional content within the game itself, but once the main quest is completed a new one is unlocked that features all the party members who died during the main quest as the first group to fight. These new areas are rather lengthy and can be testing, although with enough experience players can still push through them quickly and easily save for the bosses.

   Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls fulfills the very useful purpose of allowing RPGamers who have never experienced these games to play them in a very user-friendly format. The games themselves have aged, but not nearly as badly as many other NES titles. Square Enix’s alterations of the titles may be read as boon or curse, according to just how nostalgic the prospective player wishes to be. Barring a release on some newer system, however, this is probably the best way to play FF I and II.

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