Review

Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls

Reviewed by Martin Henely, Posted on 2006-03-20

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Developer: Square-Enix Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 29, 2004 Also On: None

If you were to ask me, I'd be among the first to admit that I am a fan of old-school turn-based RPGs. Newer ones that convey the old-school feel and relative simplicity of the older ones, such as the Golden Sun series, I also enjoy, but sometimes it is nice to be able to go back and to play actual RPGs from the period when they were just beginning to come into their own. Despite a lengthy period of hesitation, I finally talked myself into buying and playing the Dawn of Souls remake of the first two entries of the Final Fantasy series.

I must admit that, despite having already played the first game in its original version on the NES, and beating it, and despite having already tried Final Fantasy II through a method which shall not be named and being turned off by the unconventional attribute enhancement system, I found the remade versions of both games to be well worth my time. I should make a note here before I commence with the actual review. The Final Fantasy II in this game is not Final Fantasy II for the SNES, but is rather an entry in the series on the NES that never saw North American release on that system.

Graphically, it is obvious that a lot of work went into these graphics at some point. Having never played the Origins version of these two games on PS1, I do not know whether this work went into them for that version and got ported to the GBA, or whether they were specifically done for the GBA, but, either way, the point is that the graphics in this version are very detailed and look very nice. My main concern graphically is that the spell animations are not as impressive as those in other turn-based RPGs on the system, such as the aforementioned Golden Sun, but that is probably just as much to maintain the old-school feel as it was a time-saving measure, and is therefore very forgivable.

And what can I say about the sound? The sound effects are pretty much typical fare for GBA RPGs, but the music comes across as particularly impressive when compared to the music of the original versions of the games. Don't get me wrong; it is the same music, but it has been redone to sound far better than it did in the original versions of the games, a fact which only adds to the addictiveness it holds. All told, the music is some of the best I've heard on the GBA, but then again, most gamers know that the music of the "classic period" of video games was better than most of what is used for newer games.

So far as gameplay is concerned, these two games use a bare-bones turn-based system of "fight-magic-items-flee". This system is functional, although, compared to many more modern RPGs, it is a bit on the basic side. Still, a reasonable diverseness of spell capabilities is available to be used, particularly in the second game, and in both games you get your choice of how you want each character to develop, in the first by choosing their classes before you begin, and in the second by manipulating the attribute enhancement system to make each character turn out as you want him or her to.

Although I doubt the need to explain the traditional leveling system of the original game, the attribute enhancement system of Final Fantasy II is enough to make some people give up in frustration, as I did the first time I tried the game. Essentially, instead of leveling, you gain attributes based upon your actions in battle. For example, a character who loses a significant quantity of hit points will see an increase in his HP max after the battle.

This system affects everything. Characters increase in proficiency with each weapon type individually, which, unless you are patient, will mean that each character will use the same type of weapon for the duration of the game. At the same time, spells can be leveled up if you cast them enough times. This means that, unlike in most RPGs where you can have a few spells that you reserve for boss battles, you will need to actually cast those spells a few times in regular battles if you want them to be useful at all when you get to the bosses that you intend to use them on.

This system is all well and good once you get used to it, except for one thing: it is too easy to manipulate. For the example that I used earlier of gaining hit points by losing a significant quantity of them in a battle, it doesn't matter whether you lose them by getting hit by enemies or allies, and you can attack yourself and even launch spells at yourself. This makes certain stats too easy to increase as you can just encounter weak enemies and beat up on yourself physically or through spells to increase whatever attributes you feel the need to increase. Still, this is a minor gripe, and the game remains quite fun in spite of it.

For those of you who have played the original versions, there will be little that will be foreign to you other than the added material, which I will discuss shortly. Everything from the original games is in the exact same place it was in the original versions. The enemies, at least in Final Fantasy I, have been renamed, which can create some confusion when an enemy is renamed to the name which was held by a different enemy in the original version of the game. Still, the enemies look enough like their original versions that, between the new name and the appearance, you'll generally know which enemy it is that you're up against.

But there is reason even for those of you who have played the original versions to play this version as well. Final Fantasy I has four additional dungeons that have been added to it, which contain different enemies from the rest of the game and also give you the opportunity to find items not otherwise available and to fight bosses more challenging than in the actual game itself. Final Fantasy II has an added mini-game starring four of the lesser characters of the main game that is unlocked by gaining a clear data on the main game. These additions are significant, but it will vary by the person whether they are significant enough to warrant purchasing this version having already played the originals, or even Origins.

All of this does come with a few negative changes, however. The system of charges for the eight levels of spells in Final Fantasy I has been swapped for a more traditional magic point system, which is fine, but it seems that you have more magic points than would have been the equivalent for what magic charges you'd have in the original version. You also level up faster in this version of Final Fantasy I and you have more levels available to you than were available in the original version. This serves to make an already easy game easier. The programmers must have known this, judging by the difficulty of the bosses in the added dungeons and the fact that they did increase the hit point quantities of the bosses in the actual game itself, but it often still comes across as too easy.

Also, I noticed that the attribute enhancement system seemed a bit easier to use in Final Fantasy II. No matter what you do, every few battles each character will receive a hit point increase automatically. Also, unlike in the original version, I never lost attribute points. That was the factor of the original version that drove me insane, but still, it made the game a more strategic affair, whereas in this game you can, if you are patient enough, develop a foursome of characters who are both magic-heavy and pack a punch with weapons. This serves to make this game easier than I remember what of it I played before to be.

These gripes are relatively minor, however. If you are a fan of turn-based RPGs, and you haven't played these games yet, you should get this version of them and give them a try. Their combined length will make the price of them more than worth it. If you've played Origins or the original versions, you might pass if the added stuff isn't enough to tempt you, but whatever you do, if you are a fan of turn-based RPGs, you owe it to yourself to play these games in some form.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 7.9
Written by Martin Review Guide

Reviewed by Martin Henely

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