The first Final Fantasy I ever played was FFVII on the PS. It was the good old 1997 and PS was the most cutting-edge console at that time. Not surprisingly, Cloud and gang left a lasting impression on my mind (warranting 4 replays using all characters) and opened my eye to the world of FF. Since then, I’ve been working myself both forward and backward in the series. And finally, I’m back at Final Fantasy I – the glorious original RPG that started it all!
When FF arrived at the PSP, I reminded myself to keep an open mind. After all, we are talking about a 20-year-old game, in an era where moving 16-color images were considered “cutting-edge” and the meaning of “plot twist” hasn’t even been invented yet in the gaming world. Square Enix claimed the title has been reworked, which to me, literally translated to making the characters look human enough so they don’t give you a headache. Still, I was game enough to give this a try because gamers everywhere seem to agree it’s one of the better RPGs out there. So here goes, PSPHyper’s take on the legendary title that is Final Fnatasy.
The Great-great-grandfather of all Kingdom Type Story
For many years, I’ve been complaining about the exhaustive “warrior save kingdom” type story that has pervaded the RPG genre. Presumably, all those RPGs got their ideas from either Dragon Quest or the title under review. Imagine the most generic kingdom type plot you can think of, then tone down the complex background stories and remove all possibly plot twist; this, essentially, is what you get in FF.
In FF, you control four nameless Warriors of Light who are out to save the world fallen into an age of darkness. Under the command of the king, your mission is to seek out the four crystals scattered throughout the world, which will ultimately reverse the disastrous phenomena that has plagued the nations. This, in a nutshell, is what FF is all about. It wouldn’t do your health any good if you were to expect more, trust me.
Not only is the plot of FF direct and simplistic, the conversations you have with people are straightforward to a fault; and back stories are almost non-existential. Civilians everywhere else in the world seem to be telepathic. For example: when you help a town, half the population will end up thanking you using the exact same words. Also, most of the things that happen in FF “just happen”. In the beginning, the king is convinced you are the Warrior of Light simply because you carry (duh…) a piece of crystal. Later on, he gets you to save his precious daughter just because you are the Warrior of Light and are supposed to do this sort of thing. There is no speaking of rewards, or perhaps getting his royal servants to scrutinize your crystals. People are generally trusting and do what they must.
Now, I suppose for a beginner, you won’t have much of a problem with the generally straightforward story but for an advanced RPG gamer, the mundane plot and conversation may cause you to hold your head in pain. Truth to be told, I wouldn’t be caught 10 miles near such stories nowadays if it wasn’t for the “Final Fantasy” brand seared onto the front-cover of this UMD. Regardless of how great FF was when it was released, the simplistic approach to RPG story just doesn’t cut it any more in the modern age. Obviously the developer can’t just transform the whole story or else it wouldn’t be FF any more. So a word of warning: if you are looking for a complex storyline, you almost certainly won’t find it here.
Uncomplicated Turned Based Battle
As you can imagine, FF utilizes the most basic of turned-based battle system. Basically, you walk around the world map until you meet a random encounter, of which you are then transported into a battle screen with the enemies on your left and your characters on the right. Battles are separated into “rounds”. In the beginning of each round, you will be given a choice to choose various commands such as “attack”, “defend”, “magic”, among others. When you are done with all 4 characters, they will act according to the commands you have set while the enemies too will carry out their actions. The battle is ended with either the death of your party or more usually, with your enemies being wiped out. Encounter is on the high side and you will engage a battle between 2 to 10 steps. It’s pretty frustrating but necessary as you will be needing the gils you collect from the battles to purchase the outrageously expensive equipments, spells and items from the local stores.
The thing beginners will like about FF is its simplicity. Your characters become stronger as they level up. There are no sphere grids (FFX), magic-assigned stats (FFVIII), or chessboard-type leveling (FFXII). If you want to be stronger, you just have to walk around fighting more enemies. For stronger and better magic, you simply purchase the relevant spells from the stores. It’s RPG in its purest form.
For the characters you can use during the game, you do have a certain say because you get to choose the name and class of the 4 Warriors of Light right from the beginning. By default, your party consists of one warrior, one thief, one white mage and one black mage. But you can easily change this to suit your liking from the 6 basic classes of characters available. Eventually, your characters will evolve into higher classes with better skills and all around stats. My advice is that the default party seems to be the best combination and for first-timer, tweaking it isn’t really recommended, especially if you plan to take out your healer.
From a gaming perspective, the system utilized by FF is surprisingly fun and addictive. When you really get into the game, you’ll want to do more battles just to see your characters become the badass warriors they are supposed to be. The stats of the classes are also logically arranged so your characters won’t be the “everyman” that latter FF characters seem to have all become. For example: in the beginning, my warrior has a defense of, like 36, while the black mage was stuck at a miserable 3. On the other hand, the mage can do ultra damage with his spells, which the warrior could not because he had an MP of zero. The stats differ greatly but it’s done in a way that make sense. After all, why would a frail wizard possess the same defense as a burly monk? Think about it.
Graphically, it’s not really fair to compare FF with contemporary PSP titles. But if you want to know anyway, playing FF was like playing a SNES game with some PS effects thrown in for good measure. Backgrounds are regularly regurgitated to the extent you might get lost in the world map or sometimes even in the dungeons. The townships look exactly alike and if you’re bad at names like me, you’ll find it hard to remember where you are on the world map given everything look the same. I know this sounds like a game from hell but once again, do remember this is a title made some 20 years ago, albeit with a so-called remake. That’s why I’m going to stop describing this aspect before it throws you off altogether.
As for sound, I believe it’s been reworked to a greater extent because the game music doesn’t sound like it’s from an older console. Still, the compositions have a somewhat dated feel to them, and obviously, there isn’t any voice either. If you dive into this title hoping for bearable music and not some sort of Aries-theme, you’ll be fine in this respect.
From a Fan’s Point of View
As a fan, my feeling is that FF is a game that will attract hardcore enthusiasts of the franchise. After all, who wouldn’t want to have a taste of the game that started it all? If you’re a fan like me, you would thank Square Enix for coming up with this one because you won’t get a chance to experience it otherwise on the PSP. Though whether or not you have the stomach to complete it is another story altogether.
For non-fan, or people who haven’t even heard of Final Fantasy, this title may leave a slightly bad taste in your mouths because it contains outrageously dated graphics, a (now considered) lame story, generic characters and unbelievably mundane conversations. I can almost picture you playing this game and wondering whether youâ€™ve bought a SNES cartridge by mistake, and somehow manages to slot it into your PSP. But if you are a beginner, this might be a great introduction into the genre for you because the battle system is pretty addictive in a purist-type manner… if you can look past the outdated aspects of this title.
Taking all this into consideration and at risk of offending FF fans all over the world, PSPHyper gives Final Fantasy a swallow-able 2 and a half out of 5 stars.