Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Final Fantasy Origins: Old News in a New Package

These Square-Enix titles have been released in many formats over the years. This latest iteration, being from the PS1 era, remains my favourite version because nearly every single aspect has been modernized and beautified. Final Fantasy Origins comes packaged with updated versions of Final Fantasy I and II. Updated, that is, from their original Nintendo Entertainment System counterparts. If you enjoyed the original games on the NES or Wonderswan all those years ago, you will not be disappointed with these fairly faithful remakes.
Now, when I say this is a fairly faithful remake, I lie. This iteration has updated graphics, sound, and functionality. NES purists might have a hard time with the beautifully rendered cutscenes and Super Nintendo-style in-game sprites and landscapes. The audio has more channels, so the music is much more than it was. Also, while Final Fantasy retains it’s hardcore difficulty, it also introduced a new ‘easy mode’ which reduced the toughness of the enemies you face. Final Fantasy II includes a collectible feature so that you can be even more completist about your playthrough.
My point is that they feel similar to the originals. That feeling of satisfaction in gaining your new, shiny, very expensive armour remains the same. When you level your mage’s stamina in FFII without having her die a million times in the process, that feeling of accomplishment speaks directly to the old school of console RPGs. That’s what makes the most recent distribution of these legacy titles appealing for the older gamers out there who have the experience of playing these games with a rectangular, grey controller.
I’ve got a more comprehensive list of the more important changes from the originals which have been included in this package of games. They are as follows:

Final Fantasy I

  • Updated graphics and audio. Raising the bar for Final Fantasy remakes to include full FMV cutscenes and Super Nintendo quality in-game graphics, user interface, and audio.
  • An optional auto-retargetting ability has been added so that characters do not try to swipe at dead enemies anymore. This can be reverted back to the original mode under settings.
  • Stores sell good in bulk. No more clamping down the A button and walking away for 20 minutes to buy 99 potions!
  • Descriptions of items and equipment are available. Meaning you don’t need to guess if a particular sword is more powerful than your current weapon before buying and equipping it.
  • Items are stored in a common item menu, rather than on individual characters.
  • Some musical scores have been replaced with entirely new original scores.
  • The game can be saved anywhere via a temporary save state. Going to an Inn or using tents and sleeping bags are still the only way to permanently save to the virtual memory card.
  • Optional Easy Mode makes leveling quicker, and enemies easier to beat.
  • The entire text has been re-translated and expanded from the original Japanese. This helped me a lot to clarify some plot points and reminded me more easily about some of the spell effects (ie. Xfer is now Dispel.)
  • Collectible encyclopedia of monsters, geographic locations, and items is available through the title menu.
  • Various bugs breaking certain spells and armour have been fixed.
  • You can run!

Final Fantasy II

  • Updated graphics and audio. While FFII was updated graphically from the original already, this distribution updates the game in a similar way to FFI, seen above.
  • Some scores have been replaced with entirely new original scores. This is especially obvious in combat with bosses. There was, in the original, a standard “boss score,” which has been replaced by unique pieces of music for each boss.
  • The maximum number if items you can hold has been increased.
  • Items are described in menu for ease of use.
  • Collectible encyclopedia of of monsters, concept artwork, enemies, and geographic locations is available.
  • You can run!
In fact, the only problems I can find are very slight. That is, the graphics and sound, while updated from their original 8-bit splendor, are still not up to FFXIII-2 standards. But then again, this particular distribution is nearly ten years old, so that’s like comparing night and day. Also, some of the new added functionality detracts from the toughness of the games, which are part of why I played them in the first place. This last is countered by nearly all of the newer additions being optional, so it’s a non-issue.
In conclusion, both long-time fans of the series and current-gen initiates can find an incredibly cache of value in Final Fantasy Origins. With its classic gameplay and feel, as well as it’s modernized and accessible functionality, there isn’t a whole lot that can be used as fodder against this distribution by the Final Fantasy fanboys and fangirls out there. I had a hard time tearing myself away from the quest of the lightbearers to write this review, but I’m glad I finally got around to it.
On my way to see Bahamut now, wish me luck!
** Originally posted at levelsave.com **

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