Written by  :  WWWWolf (422)
Written on  :  May 27, 2005
Platform  :  Game Boy Advance

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Fundamentals of Monster-Mashing

The Good

First of all, it's absolutely great to see the cardinal Final Fantasy series come back to Nintendo, and great to see Square working on GBA and DS versions in future too. We've missed these things.

The re-glitterification process has benefited the game a lot. I know some might grumble about the difficulty level getting dropped from "masochistic" to "balanced", and combat system actually working in a sane way ("I just want the monsters dead, not dead-dead - quit hitting them!"), but I think these things have actually been for the better. A long way from NES to a lot of obscure and weird platforms like WonderSwan Color and Playstation has given a lot of new stuff to this thing - and the final additions to the game really make it worthwhile.

I also like the fact that while the games remain quite "old-fashioned", I haven't so far got really, really stuck ("Can't find the entrance to the last labyrinth hidden in one of the 65536 map squares? Call our hot line!") - that is, I'm on a long train trip, grab my DS to pass some time, and a few minutes into play I'm completely stuck in some god-forsaken monster-filled hellhole with *no* idea how to proceed, and I curse myself for not printing out the walkthrough before I left. *Not* so in these games! Maybe it's in the old-fashioned style of the games, but these things are really linear and there's *plenty* of hints on what to do next - and even if there isn't, I can always go wandering around and drop a few trains on the wandering monsters until it all makes sense.

Speaking of which, I don't usually like the "wandering monsters" in JRPGs - always seemed to me that in the long-gone hazy mists of time, some crazy Japanese guy read a badly translated D&D rule book and got some weird ideas from it - but monster-mashing really *is* pretty fun in this game. I don't know why. Maybe it's just because unlike FF6, the monsters aren't ugly and annoying, and unlike FF7, there isn't hell of a lot of camera zooming and "cool" effects. The combat is simple, effective, and non-annoying. I can do this for hours before getting bored.

And the collection also has FF2, which is a completely new game to me - again, the only European release was for some weird backwards platform no one had, I can't remember which. Why oh why they didn't utilize all of these ideas on other FF games? As an Ultima fan, I have always ridiculed JRPGs for not having proper dialogue trees, but they *almost* used them here! The skill system is pretty cool too. And there's an actual story this time. Whee.

And I can save everywhere. That freaking *rules*. I have probably said this before often, but I hate save points.

The Bad

Okay, these are re-re-re-re-repolishings of old NES games, which means, they aren't *really* that complex. However, all this polishing manages to hide this stuff pretty well. Just don't expect gigantic thrills from storytelling or game structure.

The Bottom Line

Once upon a time, Square had a desperate idea to publish a CRPG that might very well be their last. They read a worn D&D rule book and made a rather working mishmash from those ideas. For some obscure reason, it sold like ice cream on a hot day. However, If you play the NES game *now*, you'll probably note that it isn't great deal of fun. I was definitely suspicious of how they might remake a game that wasn't fun at all.

But it turns out that after a lot of polishing and tweaking and shining, two of the most ancient parts of the series turn into rather likable games. There's a lot of monster-mashing and such. Simple plots along the lines of "kill the bad guys". These are definitely games that work really well as portable games and are great for passing time. And since these are just monster-mashing, you can do this for short periods of time and long periods of time and save when you're out of time.

They aren't really *complex* like most of the modern CRPGs. You need to appreciate their simplicity to really get these games. I'm a fan of complex games, but these things *still* got my heart. No hint of religio-socio-political backstabbing of Ultima VII or zillion-layered drama of Final Fantasy VI, but hey, sometimes, it's just fun to kill some monsters and monsters and... really big monsters to the tune of "Random Uematsu Melody".

Highly recommended!