Monday, April 11, 2005

Video Games: Final Fantasy 1

After I finished Halo 2 last month, I was in the mood to play something a little less reflex dependant. Since we were going to be leaving for Florida soon, I decided to start Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls on my GameBoy Advance SP.

True to the traditionally complicated Final Fantasy re-release and rename strategy, FF: Dawn of Souls is a re-release of the Playstation game Final Fantasy: Origins, which was a re-release and graphical upgrade of the NES games Final Fantasy 1 and Final Fantasy 2. Now, that is the real Final Fantasy 2, the one formerly only released in Japan, not the Super Nintendo game that was called Final Fantasy 2 in the US but was really Final Fantasy 4. Confused? The bottom line is that FF: Dawn of Souls is a just a copy of two really old Final Fantasy games with slightly upgraded graphics and some bonus dungeons.

I really enjoyed Final Fantasy 1, it was a lot of fun. Partly because this was my first experience with it. By the time FF1 was originally released in the US, I had already sold my NES for a Genesis, and moved on to Altered Beast, the original John Madden Football, and Herzog Zwei. I was still getting Nintendo Power at the time, which came with a whole FF1 strategy guide. I can still remember longingly reading through all the cool write-ups on FF1 and wishing that I could play it.

Anyways, with a significant graphical upgrade into Super Nintendo-era graphics, FF1 (as included with FF: DoS) really stands up to the test of time. The gameplay is flawlessly balanced (until very late in the game), the quests are straight forward and most of the dungeons are long but rarely willfully convoluted. I almost never had to waste time specifically leveling up; for the most part just taking my time in the dungeons was enough to keep my characters leveled up enough to be able to stay ahead of the endless random encounters.

My only complaint about the game was really a complaint about the bonus dungeons. They were stupidly long (5, 10, 20, and 50 floors) and not even remotely challenging. I delayed playing the 4 dungeons until the very end of the game and by the time I got there none of the enemies that populated all four dungeons could stand a chance even against my weakest characters. Not only were the dungeons unchallenging, but it was the same enemies over and over, and for some reason it seemed like the already frequent random encounter rate was increased (I suppose to make it more 'challenging'). Instead it was just frustrating because the each floor was large (some were entire outdoor maps complete with ships and airships) and it took so long to slog through battles you weren't going to have any trouble winning.

The other problem with the bonus dungeons was that the only really interesting things in the dungeons were the boss creatures. But there was frequently more then one boss character per floor, but only one could be fought in a given trip through the dungeon. So if you wanted to try your hand at both Omega and Shinryu at the bottom of the third dungeon you would have to do all 20 floors twice. I think not.

The telling sign that the bonus dungeons were excessive is the fact that they accounted for at least half of my playing time. I beat the whole game in around 20 hours, but at least 10 (and maybe 12) of those hours were spent in the painfully dull bonus dungeons. Plus, after an extra 12 hours effectively spent just leveling up, by the time I got to the real end-boss of the game, I killed him in just a few rounds.

Regardless, I had a lot of fun playing FF1. It was just a blast to play a game where the focus was solely the RPG gameplay, and that gameplay was so polished.


Scooter said...

Is FF (the older ones) one of those games where the players look like little squished children? I've never been able to get into that - I even preferred it when characters were sort of flat, like the old D&D games, or non-existant, like in Bard's Tale, to the squashed child look and feel. Probably says something about my psychology.

Steve Eck said...

Yes, all the Final Fantasy games (up through around FF7) have characters that look like squashed children, or just short people with enormous heads.

The original look was like this.

The look of the new graphics is similar to this, although that is actually a capture from Final Fantasy: Origins.