Available on: GBA
Developer(s): Square Enix, TOSE
In 1997, Square's flagship RPG series Final Fantasy finally rose to international fame with the release of the dystopian cyberpunk masterpiece Final Fantasy VII. Casual European gamers who ignored all gaming press wondered what exactly happened to the first six games, or if the "VII" was just some sort of weird promotional stunt. As the truth about the existence and utter brilliance of some of the previous titles in the series unfolded, and all the confusion of the past with them, people began to demand reissues of the previous six games. After two compilations and one stand-alone reissue for the Sony PlayStation, which were intended to be once again released only in Japan and North America for some odd reason, but finally shipped to Europe as well, Square - now merged with Enix - inked a deal with Nintendo concerning the enhanced re-releases of every pre-VII Final Fantasy game, with the exception of the still obscure Final Fantasy III, for the Game Boy Advance. The first release in this series of handheld remakes was Dawn of Souls, the first two games of this magnificent series in one essential role-playing package. Both games are influenced by earlier remakes, but include enough exclusive features to be called the ultimate forms of their source materials. Ever wondered what the first Final Fantasy game would be with decent gameplay worthy of its name? Or what Final Fantasy II's even like? Welcome to the dawn of souls!
Reborn to rock
|Yep, that's us. Where's our fancy tour bus?|
The elemental powers of the world have failed. An old sage's prophecy tells of four Warriors of Light, who will emerge to save the world in a time of darkness. 400 years after the first elemental orb went dark, these four Warriors with different talents arrive to the Kingdom of Cornelia, to begin their mission of restoring the world.
There are two things I'd like to mention right off the bat. Even though I decided to split this review into two, there's one personal statement that rings true to both games: they're the exact same games as all of you purists so love. Only the execution of good ideas is a lot better in the case of the first game, and its few concrete alterations to the gameplay experience are only for the better. The second thing is that I've never played Final Fantasy Origins, the only previous I+II remake available in my region, even though a friend of mine has it, so don't bug me about everything that I'll personally point out as new stuff.
|The battles are arranged a "little" better.|
The reason this review is split into two is, of course, since the first game and Final Fantasy II are so different games from each other, and I gave both the original games kind of a vague touch, knowing that I'd return to them with this remade bundle. In this review, I am more willing to go deeper into the gameplay of both games instead of just saying if it sucks or not; Dawn of Souls gives people the chance to see the games as they really are. Like I said, they're the exact same games. The graphics are better, a small sum of old peeves (like the "Nothing here." dialogue box whenever you search any empty space) are removed, but for the most part, the first Final Fantasy game suffers from the same gameplay problems as ever before - the difference is that in this version, one is willing to learn how to cope with those problems and the ways to come out as a winner, and finally be able to say "I beat the hardest Final Fantasy game ever". Well, or an admittedly very easy version of it... but it offers up challenge in certain areas.
|We are those who feed on punks like you|
|The still sealed entrance to one of the new|
dungeons, Lifespring Grotto.
You start off by selecting your four characters, your very own Warriors of Light, who you can classify and name as you please, this time with six letters instead of the original's four. The class names are changed a bit, and some slight changes have been made to each class' attributes: Monk (formerly Black Belt) and Thief are way more useful in combat than they were before, while Red Mage is now literally a tweener between a Black and White Mage: his spells, be they white or black, don't do as much damage as they would when used by the two primary mages. It takes forever to teach Red Mage the best spells around, and he can't learn them all anyway, not even after he gets promoted to the Master class of Red Wizard. He's actually quite efficient in physical combat instead, as well. The mana system's severely changed, for the better at that. You are still able to teach your mage three different spells according to a certain spell level - which increases along each fifth EXP level - but the Spell Charges, which limit your use of a certain spell to a set number of times, are now replaced with the more common and by all means, more comfortable MP system.
The battles have indeed gone through the most bit of renovation. In look, they're nearly identical to the interface in Final Fantasy VI. In practice, it's the same as in the original game, only a lot faster and way more forgiving; the "Ineffective" attacks have been eliminated completely. Instead of trying to hit an already downed enemy, the attacker switches his target automatically to the nearest live one, like he should. Also, like I already said, missing a target is relatively rare. Battles that took you a tedious 20 minutes to win in the original game, now take about ten times less. That also reflects on the amount of random encounters, which is near-ridiculous, your bankroll and the amount of EXP you're able to gather, and ultimately through all this, the difficulty level of the game. Expensive items and exceptionally dangerous handicaps like Stone still have an unwanted effect on the game's difficulty level during the first half of the game, but by the end of the game you're so rich and buffed up you're practically unstoppable. Deadly enemies from the original, like the Elemental guardians and the four Fiends are done in with just a few standard attacks, and you don't even have to intentionally work on your experience, random encounters occur that often and I'm sure all of you who have played the original game still remember what kind of ridiculous mazes await you in the dungeons. Just trying to struggle through them and perhaps find a few treasures along the way pretty much guarantees victory as an enemy or nine of them appear on your every third step.
|Look, babe. You're hot and all, but those|
arms have gotta go.
|Yay, a promotion! And all I needed was the|
rotting tail of a dead rat.
|The "first" airship ride of the series.|
|Sorry. We don't speak French.|
Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 9.0
Playability : 8.4
Challenge : 7.0
Overall : 8.3
FINAL FANTASY II
After a failed attack resulting in the disappearance of their friend, three reckless teens grow desperate to prove their worth to a rebel princess to join her insurrection against the Dark Emperor.
|The final trial of our rebel wannabes.|
The original Final Fantasy II was, in my opinion, an amazing step forward from the first, critically acclaimed Final Fantasy game. I've always thought that Final Fantasy II was ignored by most fans just because it took Square such a long time to finally reveal the game to the international gaming community, and when that happened, the game was nearly 15 years old. How could a bulk of modern non-Japanese players already taken by such masterpieces as Final Fantasy VII, IX and X possibly be interested in an experimental 8-bit role-playing game, especially when some of them couldn't even sink in the existence of a real Final Fantasy II? Someone mentioned Final Fantasy IV, these people thought of that game as Final Fantasy II. Well, the record has been set straight since - better late than never - and some people took a true liking to Final Fantasy II after the release of Final Fantasy Origins and finally, this Dawn of Souls version. I took somewhat of a liking to the original game, especially in comparison to the very first game, but ironically, I enjoyed the first game more than Final Fantasy II in the case of Dawn of Souls.
|What a dork!|
The worst parts of the original game. Let me think. Well, I can't criticize the English translation, since the prototype swirling 'round in the sea of emulation was never meant to be made public in any way. Its countless errors have become somewhat of a joke in the gaming community, and I criticized them quite harshly myself in the review of the original game, but never let that affect the rating, of course not. The main things about the original game which I find the most difficult to stand are the fact you can't afford all the decent stuff you need - and I can't emphasize your actual NEED for the stuff enough - before hacking your eyes and thumbs to pieces on the vast battlefields of the world map, and constant backtracking brought on by strict linearity, which I intentionally left to be mentioned here.
The prices for items, equipment and mana are ridiculous, especially regular items which you'd normally have to rely on at some point, because as you probably well know by this time, "leveling up" isn't based on experience, but usage instead. In other words, you have to USE magic to be able to eventually raise your maximum MP. Max MP is one of the hardest numbers to raise in the whole game. Unlike in the quite simple remake of the first game, you absolutely need mana to advance. Well, let's say you're in a lengthy dungeon - thankfully, the dungeons are not nearly as long or maze-like the ones in Final Fantasy were, but there are just as many battles, on just about your every step a random encounter awaits - and you run out of MP. Normally, you would use an Ether, but Ethers cost 1,000-2,000 gil a piece, and they are very scarcely found on the field. Imagine getting stuck in the middle of a dungeon with two of your guys dead - no Phoenix Downs, no Ethers... you have the Teleport spell to get out of the dungeon immediately, you learned of its importance during the last game, but remember, you have no damn MP to be able to use it. My point is, in this game you have to be absolutely prepared, always. That means you have to fight practically all the time - not just against any enemies, but lucrative ones, wherever the hell they're to be found - watch what you buy, and... yes, one more thing. You shouldn't always go where you're told to travel.
|One of the coolest renovations is that you|
can wield two swords at once. Double that
with dashing swordmanship and you will
be a sure winner. Die, Icicle. Die.
|One of the worst lines in any game. Ever.|
|Look, guys! Joe & Mac!|
Final Fantasy II returns, and I want to make it clear to everyone one more time, that I don't hate the game. Absolutely not. In the reviews of the original games, I brought out the worst in Final Fantasy and the best in Final Fantasy II. Since the first Dawn of Souls game turned out so much better than its source title, I was kind of disappointed in this version of Final Fantasy II and thought it would actually make sense if I turned the tables here, completely, since I never really got to the bottom of things in the original game's review, I was so impressed by the game's better aspects in comparison to its predecessor. I like to consider this following conclusion my final verdict on Final Fantasy II, versions past and present. It's not a perfect game, but it's an unique experience every Final Fantasy fan should have once in their lives.
Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 9.7
Playability : 7.2
Challenge : 7.5
Overall : 7.3
Nintendo Power ranks Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls #76 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.