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SummaryTwo RPGs full of nostalgia.
The GoodAs anyone who has played the original NES version of FFI knows, it can be a very taxing game to sit down and play through. It didn't have the more common basics of RPGs today: when two characters are assigned to attack one monster, and the first one to attack kills it, your second character is going to strike that blank air where the monster used to be. In the original NES version, this cost me countless rounds of wasted attacks, even if I tried to plan out ahead how much damage each character would deal. Also, inside towns and dungeons the walking speed for your character was quite slow. The NES original was definitely not a game for those who lacked patience. The same can be said for the second Fantasy featured in Origins, FFII.
Enter Final Fantasy Origins, a remake with one purpose in mind: make two old RPG classics updated with the basics of RPGs in the current time. We'll go over each game's specifics individual, since they are two different games.
//Final Fantasy I :
Graphics: The once 8-bit graphics have received an upgrade to about SNES-quality, the character sprites a bit larger and with much more detail and color, and the same can be said with the overworld, towns, and dungeons. Everything is for the most part the same as the original, only enhanced to fit more in line with the SNES-era Final Fantasies, and in the end makes for a very pleasing game on the eyes.
The one main change in the graphical style of the game that seems most important to me, though, is in the battle interface. In the NES version, your characters and the enemies were divided into two separate boxes, along with the commands being put in another box below everything. That was a personal point that bugged me in the NES version that I'm glad was changed. Having your characters in the same plane that what they were fighting with was on makes for a much more believable (and to me, enjoyable) experience.
Now, I love the opening FMV here. One of those unnamed heroes going up against a dragon, with shots of a crystal in between. Seeing that knight cut the dragon's fireball in two was just amazing.
Overall Graphics score: 8/10 - The sprites are nicely detailed and colored, but they only upgraded them to a 16-bit standard. They could have gone further if they had wanted, but they're fine the way they are.
Gameplay: One of the original RPGs would of course be expected to have a very ancient system of play. Attack, Item, Magic, Flee; that's about all you'll be able to do doing your adventure here. No fancy summons or limit breaks here, just the groundwork of what all of those advanced systems came from. And that certainly isn't bad. As mentioned earlier, the previous problem with characters not going to the next monster if one was killed was thankfully fixed. You no longer have to sweat when your Ninja does critical damage to a monster, since your Knight now has enough IQ to at least pick another monster to strike rather than the one which was just killed and vanished.
For the in-depth part of the battles, there's six classes which you'll be able to get up to four of per game: Warrior, Monk, Thief, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage. The Warrior and Monk are basic fighters, one using weapons, the other using bare fists. The Thief starts out with low stats, but once you get to the point of the game when you can upgrade character classes, the Ninja is a great character to have, being able to use Black magic. Warriors upgrade into Knights, allowing them some White magic, and Monks upgrade into Masters, which basically just makes them stronger.
White and Black Mages most people should know: they cast White and Black magics, respectively. Their upgraded forms are White and Black Wizards, allowing them to use a few more advanced spells. Red Mages/Wizards are just a combination of White and Black Mages/Wizards; they can have magic from both sides of the pool, but not all of the advanced ones. Also, MP does not have a maximum amount, at least not how it is done today. There are eight different levels for MP, and on each level you can have three different spells. Each level has it's own MP count, the maximum being 9 (at least in Normal Mode). For example, you use a spell from Level 1, which has 9 MP, you're going to have 8 then. Not exactly a whole lot of MP, especially when you're in the final dungeon trying to get through all of the enemies and bosses with enough left over.
Items, equipment, and magic are going to run you out of money very quickly. And you're going to need a lot of levels for certain parts of the game. That means the majority of FFI is going to be spent wandering around the overworld or dungeons, trying to pick up EXP and money. Even in the remade version, you're going to need patience. At least now you're able to run, instead of having to wander around towns and dungeons slowly.
Overall Gameplay score : 7/10 - It can be a little slow and taxing on your patience, but the basics that made today's RPGs into what they are can still be enough for fun.
Soundtrack: By now, any fan of Final Fantasy knows Uematsu's works. He's the main man behind each Final Fantasy's soundtrack, and he sure knows what he's doing. I still wonder how he can pump out a new soundtrack each game. Must be an endless creativity pool. The Origins version of FFI has all of its themes remixed to a higher quality, causing the themes to only become better.
Anyway, if you're playing FFI for the first time here, and have played many other Final Fantasies, you're going to recognize some of the songs. That's because most of the soundtrack of FFI has been redone or remixed into the next nine games in the series. I still find myself humming tunes from this game, just walking around or whatever. You remember certain parts of the game due to the music, sometimes just because of the music. FFI delivers with memorable tunes, all classic work of Nobuo Uematsu that shaped Final Fantasy music into what it is today.
Overall Soundtrack score : 9/10 - These are the songs that made Final Fantasy music into what it is. The same music has been used again in later games, and the music highlights the game; you'll remember parts much more by the music than the storyline.
Storyline: Here's where FFI doesn't live up with today. Final Fantasy Origins gave everything else a bit of advancement, but the story left unchanged, which is both a good and bad thing. The good is that it's still the same FFI from NES, only prettier and easier to play. However, the bad thing is that the story is down to the basics.
You can name your four Light Warriors anything, in the end it doesn't matter. You're a group of anonymous heroes who set out to rescue a princess from a rebellious soldier, Garland, who later is used in a much bigger scheme. Aside from that, there isn't much depth. The world is out of wack due to the crystals' light being weakened, causing the elements (fire, earth, wind, and water) to go on a rampage. Go and relight those crystals, and you'll find out what exactly is behind the whole thing. Go beat him up, you're done. Sure, back when FFI was new, this story worked wonders. With today's storylines, though, it can't hold up much.
Overall Storyline score: 3.5/10 - The basic outline of a story worked well back when Final Fantasy I was new, but now it makes your quest seemingly unimportant. Like mentioned earlier, you won't remember parts of the game by the story: you'll remember it by the music.
//Final Fantasy II :
Graphics: After having played the FFI side of Origins until I had beaten it, I was used to how the sprites looked there. When I first began FFII, the sprites looked distorted, and even a tad bit ugly. However, my eyes adjusted in a relatively short time, and then the sprites weren't as bad as before. However, I'm still a bit bugged about them. To me, it seems like they were trying to have realistic yet super-deformed sprites at the exact same time. The result isn't exactly to my satisfaction, but it does at least pass.
The environment of the game is sometimes good, and sometimes bad. The towns are all quite well crafted, and the colors used give the feeling a complete effect (not to mention the town music, but that's not for this section). However, it seemed a few of the latter dungeons in the game weren't too memorable or outstanding. Still good, but Pandemonium isn't something I'm going to remember like Kefka's Tower. Also, something I really liked was how the world map was somewhat meant to emulate a globe; at first it seemed odd the way it wrapped around a sphere, but soon enough it seemed to me like a genius idea. As well as all of the backgrounds, the menus also fit in well and don't stick much at all.
The opening FMV was also quite fun to watch, and pretty well done as well. Not much to say about it here, but it was quite the action-packed scene.
Overall Graphics score : 7/10 - The graphics are decent, don't get me wrong. The half realistic/half super-deformed sprites, as well as some of the latter dungeons, just don't appeal to me fully.
Gameplay: We'll save the leveling up system for last. This FF was the first one to use the more common way of Magic management (read: an actual, single MP count). It is somewhat similar to FFVI's system of magic, in the way that any character can learn any type of magic. Some you would buy, some you would find. Also, it was somewhat interesting that Magic grew in level by the amount of usage (even if it was part of the annoying leveling up system) rather than just obtaining a new level. Of course, in turn you'd expect a spell "Ultima 12" to do a buttload of damage, but in the end just attacking outright does more.
This game is the first in the line of Fantasies which allows a weapon in either hand. And you can mix and match to your liking; you characters can use whatever weapon. One blade, and a spear? Sure, go ahead. And, just like the Magic, weapons increase in proficiency the more you use them, 16 being the maximum level I believe. But all of this leveling up goes in to the very annoying (to me) leveling system. Every now and then I'd just have to take an hour or so and beat up my characters, attacking and canceling over and over, and every other trick in the game to get my levels decent enough for the next dungeon. You lose enough HP in a battle, you'll get an HP upgrade. Do a set amount of attacks, you'll get Strength. Use magic, Intelligence; et cetera, et cetera. The thing is, normal random battles usually don't deal enough damage to you, and/or don't give you enough chances to attack to level you up properly with the game's progression.
Overall Gameplay score : 6/10 - Aside from the leveling up system, the rest of the gameplay is the usual FF way of doing things. And, even then, the leveling up system won't take away so many points if it had actually worked as it was meant to.
Soundtrack : Another Final Fantasy soundtrack to talk about. This game didn't have as many memorable songs as other Final Fantasies, but one in particular stands out for me: the town theme was simply a beautiful composition. Simple, and it easily gives off a feeling of being in a town in the world of Final Fantasy II. As with any Final Fantasy soundtrack, the Crystal theme is present as well as a variation of the battle music. One song seemed a bit odd, however: the music played for a majority of the boss battles. It just didn't seem to fit with the rest of the soundtrack. However, later on (namely Mysidia Tower, with all of the Gigas bosses) the majority of the remaining boss themes is something more like usual boss music. Aside from this, there isn't much remaining music; many dungeons all feature the same music, which isn't too outstanding or great.
Overall Music score : 8/10 - A few themes so seem out-of-place with the rest, but as per usual in a Final Fantasy game, the musical portion is one of the greatest aspects of the game.
Storyline: A strong departure from the previous Fantasy, FFII actual features set characters and a bit of character development. Also, the simple number of characters it greatly increased from the previous installment. Firion, Gus, Maria, and her brother Leon are found fleeing from their hometown in the intro FMV, which has been set on fire by work of the Emperor. The Emperor, as all major villains, is set on controlling all of the world. A usual theme now, but back then this was a relatively new idea. Leon is lost early on to an unknown fate, and Firion, Gus, and Maria are all enlisted in a rebel cause against the Emperor. Along the way, many people join and depart from the main group, a few of them even dying. I'm not going to give off the finer points of the story here, but a few things are to mention: this is the first Fantasy to feature Cid and Chocobos, and the Emperor does a lot of damage to the world map. Not as much as good old Kefka, though.
Overall Storyline score: 7/10 - A dramatic improvement over FFI, with much deeper characters (though still not amazingly deep), an actual developing plot as the game progresses, and widespread death and destruction. Well, maybe not widespread death, but widespread destruction alright.
The Bad//Final Fantasy I :
As said in the individual breakdown, the storyline is very basic, with either very little character depth or none at all. Also, in Normal Mode, leveling up can take more time than is usual for an RPG, at least compared to recent games, but then again, leveling up isn't as bad as in the original Dragon Warrior. Aside from that, not too much else is really bad.
//Final Fantasy II :
Now, personally, the leveling up system in the game I just can't like. At first it was very bothersome, having to hit myself a lot to gain decent amounts of HP. Of course, after a certain point I really didn't need to do it anymore, and for awhile it was actually kind of fun. But in the end, the system in FFII to level up is just too awkward and sometimes annoying to be any fun.
The Bottom LineThe Final Fantasy Origins version of FFI is a very worthy upgrade, allowing the game to stand up even in the RPGs of today. The upgrades the game received make the game overly a more enjoyable experience than the original, even if the story is going to lack either way. The gameplay still holds true, as does the soundtrack. The graphically upgrade is welcome, making the entire world of FFI much more pleasing to the eyes.
FFII received the same upgrades to the basics of its game system, graphics, and what-not, but the leveling up system will certainly make some people think less of the game, as it was left as it has always been. For a certain time, though, the system can actually be a little fun to play around with.. then it'll just get tedious and boring.
If you have patience and are looking for a couple old-school RPGs to dig your teeth in, Final Fantasy Origins is a worthwhile purchase.