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SummaryNothing ground-breaking, but a decent remake
The GoodFinal Fantasy 1&2 Dawn of Souls is a GBA remake of the first two Final Fantasy games, originally on NES. Those games have already been remade for the Playstation and Wonder Swan Color, and I heard this is a pretty much a 1:1 port of those later version to the GBA, although I've never played the PS version, and the Wonder Swan Color doesn't even exist outside of Japan. I have played (and reviewed) both NES games tough.
A good thing is that they remade completely graphics and sound to more modern standards. This game doesn't make the cut to the graphical level of other GBA-native games, but it looks good enough. The sound is remade completely and usually sounds pretty good, but some tracks were lacking the mood of their NES original, sounding too much "techno like". Just like their NES counterparts, the battle musics get really annoying after a while. They introduced brand new boss themes (there weren't any in the NES versions (except the last boss of FF2)) so this is a good thing.
Most of the gameplay is intact and the games are overall truthful to their respecive originals. The battle systems haven't changed except that when an enemy dies, characters automatically attacks the next enemy instead of hitting the air. Decent cutscenes have been added (there weren't any in the NES originals), in an attempt to make the games more accessible. In FF2 they tried to make the story more appealing and the characters more developed, giving them detailed portraits and default names. You can also carry infinite items, which is nice (I hated the limited inventory of the originals).
Other new features is that you can save anywhere, which is practical since the game is portable, and there is a bestiary, and a music player.
The BadThere is a few issues I have with this remake. The first is that the unique cuteness of the NES sprites (especially the black mages) is completely gone. Character lost their unique "old Final Fantasy" looking, which is the worst flaw of the remake.
Other than that the difficulty has been drastically lowered. This isn't completely a bad thing because the originals were too hard, but there they really lowered it too much, I do only remember loosing once in FF2 and not at all in FF1 ! Exception of the last bosses which are both very hard. I really don't like easy games with incredibly hard last bosses.
One more bad thing is that, while drastically improved, the horrible battle system of FF2 remains there, and horrible memories of the NES version came to me while playing it. In case you didn't know, FF2 has a system that get rids of EXP and levels, and that increase your stats depending on the actions you do. They implemented it horribly in the original FF2, making it very easy to have a unbalanced party that doesn't progress at all no matter how much you fight, and to get your ass badly kicked as soon as you met an enemy of a higher level.
Magic is still less powerful than plain attack, but by a smaller amount. You can level up magic much faster (only about 10 casts per level instead of 100!), but it also consumes more MP as you level it up (which is a stupid system). It is still very rare to see your MP increased no matter how much you waste them, but other than that the horrible battle system of FF2 has been really improved and works pretty well. Your stats don't decrease any more, and you gain regularly HP even if you didn't get hurt very badly, which makes all the difference.
One more annoyance is how frequent battles are (especially in FF1). I know this was already the case on the NES, but in some places you get attacked literally each 3 steps and this is very annoying (even if the monsters are really easy).
The Bottom LineThis is a nice remake, but definitely the average gamer will find it incredibly soulless and boring because the simple NES stories and battle systems remains, and the cute sprites have been make more realistic (not really a good thing). It is quite easy so it's not really a challenge either. It still kill time if you are bored, and if you want to say you beat all Final Fantasies out there, you definitely want to play this instead of the NES version (at least for FF2) because they are easier. Count about 10 hours for FF1, and 20 hours for FF2, about 30 hours in total, which isn't much for Final Fantasy games. Also keep in mind you'll spend that time mostly pressing the A button again and again without thinking, because in both games, typical non-healing magic is weak, wasteful and pointless.
So for short if you're a hardcore FF fan, check this out, else you'd want to pass this game and play another RPG with a better story/battle system. Also, the FF1 original is definitely better than this because of the challenge and nostalgia, but this is much, much better than the original FF2.