Since the birth of Final Fantasy, the game that kicked off the series has appeared on seven different platforms starting with the NES. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Final Fantasy, Square-Enix is releasing it again on the PSP. Depending on how many remakes you played and beat Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition already might not appeal to you and like the Dawn of Souls version, the PSP revision is much easier than the original.
There isn’t much of story to Final Fantasy compared to the later games in the series. You have four light warriors who that carry magic crystals (not orbs like in the NES version) and remain silent throughout the game. Their journey begins by saving Princess Sara of Coneria from Garland, a master swordsman. It’s a cliché start, but Final Fantasy broke the mold of other RPGs during its time because you rescue the princess in the first thirty minutes of the game. The plot unravels into a quest to save the world and battling four elemental fiends to stop a time paradox. The twists in Final Fantasy were remarkable when it first came out, but today they may not impress fans that started out with the emotionally charged stories the Final Fantasy series is known for.
The challenge in Final Fantasy comes from mixing and matching the six character classes to make a party of four at the beginning of the game. Do you pick the monk who is a powerful physical fighter or a black mage who casts elemental spell? Most newcomers opt for the standard warrior, white mage, black mage and thief/monk party. However, if you want a level grinding challenge it’s there. Try beating the game with a party of four white mages or surviving up until the class change with four thieves. Better yet, skip out on the class change entirely. The difficulty in Final Fantasy has been toned down significantly because you can save anywhere and mages have magic points to cast spells instead of the spell-level system. This allows mages can use powerful spells, more often and tilts boss battles in favor of the party.
Purists may object to the difficulty change, but they will appreciate the fresh coat of paint in Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition. Crisp sprites, rich battle backgrounds, lighting effects in towns and widescreen support make this the best looking Final Fantasy re-release. Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition also uses the translation found on Dawn of Souls, in a larger, easy to read font so you don’t have to strain your eyes looking at what it says on the tombstone in Elfheim. Trivia moment, it says “Here lies link” instead of “Here lies Erdrick”, which was a nod to Dragon Quest 1. The tradeoff for better graphics is minor UMD loading times. It takes a second to switch the game from the field to battle and the transition is masked by an explosion of light. It also takes a second to load the menu, world map and the bonus bestiary.
Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition includes nearly all of the bonuses from every remake. When you begin the game you see the full motion video introduction from the PS1 release and you’re treated to the Soul of Chaos dungeon from the GBA remake when you beat the fiends. The Soul of Chaos dungeon pits you against classic Final Fantasy bosses like the Phantom Train from Final Fantasy VI and Gilgamesh from Final Fantasy V, complete with their theme music. Each time you collect a crystal from a fiend fight, a new dungeon opens up. At the tail end of the game you unlock the brand new Labyrinth of Time dungeon. When you step in the Labyrinth of Time you have to give up commands like using items, casting spells or cutting down your attack power to earn time to explore the dungeon. If the time runs out before you complete a level, prepare to survive a wave of difficult encounters with your handicaps. The appeal of the Labyrinth of Time is really for hardcore fans seeking a challenge and its appeal is limited compared to the nostalgic Soul of Chaos dungeon. The other “bonus” in Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition is it has multiple languages. You can choose to play the game in English, full Japanese with kanji (a bonus in the PS1 remake) and kana.
So should you pick it up? Maybe, if you didn’t purchase Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. The price for Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition is hard to swallow; $30 and you only get one game, opposed to two for a bargain bin price if you purchase the Game Boy Advance remake. More bells and whistles or an extra game, you decide.