Pros: New dungeons and a slight gameplay tweaks for two classic RPGs.
Cons: After their third re-release both games feel a little worn out.
When the Final Fantasy remakes
came out for Bandai's ill fated Wonderswan it looked that the GBA's main
competitor had a chance. Every gamer wanted to pick up the 16 bit
remakes of the classic Final Fantasies. Eventually both games were
prepackaged and released in the US under the title Final Fantasy
Origins. The package left a mixed taste in people's mouth. Gamers who
started playing Final Fantasy games on the Playstation were left in
dismay by the simplicity of the two titles, while gamers who loved the
original game were pleased with the two games. In commutation of the
Final Fantasy 1+2 package on the Famicom Disc System Square Enix
released Final Fantasy 1+2 Advance. Which is essential a package of the
two classic titles, with a few tweaks here and there.
Final Fantasy 1,
the game that pulled Squaresoft from going bankrupt to one of the most
well known companies around the world. In Final Fantasy you can choose
between six types of familiar classes: Fighter, Monk, Thief, Red Mage,
Black Mage and White Mage to form a party of four light warriors
destined to save the Earth. The plot of the game starts with a villain
known as Garland who captured the princess of Coneria. As previous of
doing good deeds the team of four warriors stands up to the challenge of
rescuing the princess. Little do they know, that saving the princess is
the easy task. They soon encounter the journey of finding four elemental
crystals to save the world. Like the story in Final Fantasy the game is
pretty bare bones. You have your basic RPG walking from place to place
and from dungeon to dungeon. Square has added a nice dash feature to
make running less of a chore. The amount of battles in the game are
plentiful, but are necessary so you can level up your characters.
Speaking of the battle system its as simple as an RPG can get. You can
choose from fight, item, equip, run and if you can cast magic, magic.
After awhile the seemingly myriad number of battles can get frustrating
and the lack of battle options / tactics makes battling enemies
Final Fantasy 1 does have a couple of tweaks to the battle system to
make it more accessible. The first one, which makes the game much easier
is your characters will auto target the next enemy if an enemy is
dead. In the original FF you had to have a general idea about how much
HP enemies had left because if your characters attacked the already dead
enemy the would just miss. Another major tweak to the battle system, new
to the other upgraded Final Fantasy versions, is that mages use MP.
Instead of having the awkward level magic system, each spell is assigned
MP like in other Final Fantasy games. Mages become a lot more powerful
with MP, by level four a black mage will have over 40 MP, which will
allow them cast fire up to eight times! White mages at level four can
cast Cure about ten times, instead of just four times. The balance
speeds up battles and lowers the gameplay difficulty just a tad. One
other feature that does make the game easier is the fact that you can
save anywhere at anytime. The original game only let players save their
game at the Inn, or if they had a Tent they could save on the overworld.
To make the game more portable the save anywhere feature was added,
which does drop the challenge of the game a little bit.
The major feature added to Final Fantasy 1 are the randomly generated
dungeons in the Soul of Chaos mode. You can first access Soul of Chaos
after you beat Lich, the earth fiend. By then your characters should be
around level 20 and have a chance of surviving in Soul of Chaos. The
Soul of Chaos dungeons have new enemies, most notably monsters from
other Final Fantasy titles. You can battle against classic fiends like
the Phantom Train from Final Fantasy VI, Gilgamesh from FFV and Rubicant
from Final Fantasy IV. These new monsters drop occasionally drop all new
ultra powerful weapons. Playing through Soul of Chaos is a new challenge
and reason to power up your characters to level 99. Completing Soul of
Chaos is important to unlock all of the pictures in the monster gallery.
Final Fantasy II has a little more story than the original game. You
start off by playing four orphans Firon, Maria, Guy and Lionheart who
are attacked by a group of knights. After they are badly beaten they
awake in Phin, minus Lionheart. They quickly take the opportunity to
join a small rebel group started by Phin to fight the ever growing power
of a dark empress. Final Fantasy II added a number of features to the
series like chocobos, a rotating NPC that joins the party and an
innovative level system. The level system whether you love it or hate it
was ahead of its time. When you used weapons your characters would
randomly gain strength and they would increase skill in what ever weapon
they were using. If your characters used magic they would increase the
level of the spell they used and occasionally get an intelligence boost.
Getting hit would increase your characters HP and defense. Many players
realized that this system could be abused by attacking your own
characters. Doing this would allow for faster character increases than
having to fight random monsters. Players that were accustomed to doing
that will be in dismay when they find out Square Enix removed that
feature. In replacement of "cheating" leveling up your characters from
fighting enemies is much easier. You gain weapon and magic skills almost
twice as fast as before and random upgrades are much more profuse.
That still doesn't make the number of random encounters easier on the
player. You'll be fighting enemies almost non stop in this version of
the game. The rebalancing seems almost necessary though since you can't
do the "cheat" anymore. Fighting random enemies is also important for
players to do so they can level up their NPC characters. After you beat
the game you will be able to play a new dungeon with four of the NPC
characters: MingWu, Josef, Richard and Gordon. The new dungeon is a nice
addition. It ties up some loose ends on what the four other characters
do with their lives. Although playing with the four NPCs isn't anything
special. They don't have any unique abilities that differentiate them
from the other characters you already have in your party.
On the Game Boy Advance both games play just how you would expect a
16 bit RPG to play. You have the same graphics that the PSX version has,
sans the FMV movies. The graphics are quite an upgrade from the original
games. All of the characters have a lot more detail, a lot more colors
and a lot more style. The graphics also improve upon the look of the
dungeons and towns giving them actual background objects and areas you
can walk into. Some of the upgrade in spell effects don't look as great
as they did in the PSX version. For some reason they look more pixelated
and at times just less impressive than its PSX cousin. The best
translation in this version is the perfect transition of the rearranged
MIDI music. The catchy battle themes and overworld fanfare sound great.
The two game package isn't going to attract players who didn't like the old
school feel of the Origins package. For gamers who enjoyed playing the
classic titles will enjoy the two extra dungeons. If you didn't already
pick up the Playstation versions of the games or the Wonderswan versions
this is a sure addition to your collection.
Menus, story and important text are all in Japanese. This can make the
game a challenge if you don't know the games inside and out or if you
don't have a complete FAQ.
Nintendo did announce it at E3 and displayed an English version of
the game, so even though its unannounced, it seems inevitable.
The two new dungeons are a nice addition for fans, but they may not be
enough to warrant another purchase of the same games.