Review: Graduating from Old School one last time...
You thought the Nintendo Entertainment System was dead and buried with all of its classic line of games, didn't you! You're probably sitting there, twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the next brand spanking new top of the line Halo release to come along and whet your whistle, aren't you! Well, I've got news for you Mr. or Ms. "I think I'm so cool because I'm experiencing games now that look, play, and sound a million times better than how they used to back in their earlier years"...you're right! To an extent anyway...
While it has been possible for years now to relive the magic of old killer titles like The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Super Mario Bros., or even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles through the process of PC emulation evolution, Squaresoft's been doing the same exact thing...only with a safer and better (sometimes even easier) method. By upgrading and porting their old Super Nintendo Entertainment System Final Fantasy titles (those you might know packaged together as Final Fantasy V and VI in Final Fantasy Anthology, and Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger in Final Fantasy Chronicles) onto the PlayStation hardware, Squaresoft's been able to share with fans their most popular game series yet again in an age where new gamers are leaking in by the droves day after day. It wasn't until recently though that Square wanted to dive even deeper into their history's roots -- the time where their fame commenced...with a series bearing a Final name for them: in the upgraded PlayStation port of Final Fantasy's true start up releases, dubbed Final Fantasy Origins.
Final Fantasy I
In a land where peace and harmony resonate throughout, darkness has crept into the cracks of this now dismal world. Legend has foretold that when evil stirs amongst the people, that a band of four warriors bearing the power of four mysterious crystals would appear as if from nowhere. And it just so happens that time has finally come to pass. Final Fantasy I is your story. You select your warrior classes and their names. Monk, Mage, Thief, or Fighter...your destiny awaits.
The first Final Fantasy game ever invented, as you may or may not know (but probably do know already) is (or was) originally an RPG released on the NES in 1987. Back then RPGs were much different. The battle systems were designed with the basics in mind: with Attack, Magic, Equip, Items, and Flee being the game's only battle system options. Final Fantasy I for the PlayStation is not so much apart from its first appearance over a decade ago, aside from the fact that it comes equipped with a few extras and game tweaks to optimize the PlayStation hardware in mind (even an option that lets you select an Easy or Normal mode of play). Like before in the NES classic, beginning a game is as easy as 1-2-3. Your options are to choose from a class of four different heroes -- or if you want, you can make them all similar. By picking from a Warrior -- masters weaponry tactics, but lacks magic ability; a Thief -- quick, able to handle weapons well, but also cannot chant wizardry; a Monk -- one of mind and body, can attack best without excessive weaponry attachments; a Red Mage -- the all around equal in skills, with the ability to cast white and black magic, as well as charge forth with weaponry tactics; a White Mage -- is limited to white magic, but the best choice when you want a healer type; and finally a Black Mage -- with the force of black magic capabilities, this wizard of sorts offers best offensive blows in the form of sorcery...there's plenty of party flavor to choose from when you can take with you all but two of any kind.
As before and as is now, the battle mechanics are nothing far beyond the limits with your four fighters. While in attack mode, the party each has almost the same method of dealing blows open to them, whether they're drawing out their sword or summoning different and deadly elements to foes. Obtaining magic though is no easy task. Unlike in recent RPGs of today, the magical attributes of the past have to be purchased from their respectful shops in town. With any item in this particular Final Fantasy world priced at impossibly high sums, one of the hardest parts in playing the game is having to level up and level up as often as you can...because without Gil (or money) to buy all of the expensive items (weapons, armors, magic, and even healing items for cases of death or status ailments...some of which amount up to 5,000 in Gil) you're as good as dead.
Finding monsters to obtain experience in the game won't be a problem though, because almost every few steps another random battle will occur. This being one of the biggest annoyances the game has in store. It's not that battling baddies isn't hard, because it isn't. Just select your option on the list, if it's to attack or to make use of a magic spell, and the computer makes all the decisions in whether or not you've landed a hit or a miss. The problem with killing so many enemies though is that it'll happen too much, too often. Luckily Squaresoft has added a run function, making it easier to speed up dungeon or town excavating. Unfortunately, the run feature doesn't appear on the world map, and tracking across it can lead to many repetitive brawls. And sure there's a Flee option listed on the battle screen, but choose it, and you'll have to let the computer wager if it wants to let you run away or not while at the same time the enemy can force itself upon your party from behind.
This is no super fancy schmancy game with hi-tech this and superior that. So, guessing that the controls are any different from its previous offering...you'd be off by at least some. Facing the fact that Final Fantasy I is no longer just an NES RPG anymore, the controls have changed to adapt to the style of how you might normally play the game if it were meant to be used with the PlayStation's controller in mind, even though the play mechanics are relatively unchanged from their first appearance over a decade ago. Through town, outside or dungeon exploring, the single bite sized character is easily enabled to move in only straight forward directions -- up, down, left, or right. Again, it's a shame to see that the player is limited to its running capabilities while marked inside towns or dungeons, where outside he or she is not. In battle sequences, controlling each character is even a breeze. Every action in the game is operated with the X button -- except for running, which comes with a press of the circle button, and opening the character menu screen with triangle. What it all boils down to is that you'll learn to adjust to the game quickly, however retrogressive the play pattern may be.
Fresh gamer minds of today are always looking forward to the new and improved in visual technology. Here, you get both. Having an upgraded makeover to give this classic a little more of a 16-bit edge to it, you'll be glad to know your eyes won't crumble in horror when you take a gander at the adventure now. Now the game looks somewhat more 16-bit rather than a lesser 8 (being a port of the Wonder Swan Color version and all), with its exterior refined for the better. Character sprites are reasonably sharper looking than in the NES first, owning a set of more definable pixels that allows you to interpret each subject more clearly. Looking down upon the world map and its traceable sectors though, it's almost as if nothing has changed. Within the boundaries of dungeons for example, a massive black surrounds what reachable rudimentary rocky looking areas you have. Towns are a little different, with primitively structured pine trees, or houses, or stone walkway to cover its demeanor. But, you can't expect a game this old to look its best in everything.
There was once a point in time when video game characters could only do so much with their body language. This game hails from that time. When your character strolls along inside towns or dungeon floors, the tiny limbs move back and forth expressing motions. Animations in battles are still pretty stiff, except for the fact that friendly or enemy arms can make chopping arm motions when they slice with a weapon while moving left and right to show their turn is up. The great thing about bouts now is that you'll no longer be staring into a pitch black screen with almost no decoration, as a bevy of background portraits like colorful forest or field scenery have been fitted to aid the pretty factor of the many fights you will encounter. Add to that a remix of magic spells (fire, ice, lightning, etc. -- the flashes of light and newly animated effects do good to be brought up to speed in a 16-bit fashion), and you've got yourself one presentation that may not be too pleasing on the eyes, but is sufficient enough to compete with its peers.
Who would have thought that one day Nobuo Uematsu would hail as a legendary composer from his collection of songs that all began in Squaresoft's Final Fantasy template? Initially recognizable from the very start, Final Fantasy veterans will be happy to learn that Final Fantasy Origins includes each of the tracks found in the original Fantasy that gave Nobuo his name into fame. While there aren't actually that many different songs in the game, the ones that are there are still pleasing on the ears from the harmonious town themes, to the up tempo battle music, even to the classic and unforgettable melody that's the icing on the cake injected into the game's loading screen. There aren't really a whole lot of noises to hear either, as the game is quite ancient. The only time you'll ever get to actually listen to anything besides the music is within battles, where there's a whole lot of slashes for sword swings, pounds for mallet hits, or variable effects for the diverse supply of magical arts. What's there is there, not being significantly fantastic...but something so fighting as many fights as you will won't get as boring to the ears as it will to the hands.