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Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition (PSP) artwork

Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition (PSP) review

"Much like complimenting a kindergartner for coloring within the lines, Final Fantasy’s structure can be called sensible. "

Four warriors of light arrive onto a continental map of towns and kingdoms, a world robbed of its crystals of Fire, Earth, Ice and Wind. The champions, each you've epically named with a 4 space character limit, are believed to be the fulfillers of a prophecy, sent to restore the world's fragments from Chaos. Black wizards, Red and White mages, knights, monks and thieves -- their professions can be compiled in any variety before the start of the game. Whatever the combination, the party travels together -- represented as a single character sprite -- stepping onto random battle encounters in dungeons and fields, and interacting with excited NPCs in shops, inns, and courtyards.

Final Fantasy and the one-track-minded NES game that it is can be brought to the realm of playability with the PSP version, from torture to some semblance of toleration. The original bears little attractiveness with its battlefields of black emptiness and hideous side bars of slow acting commands, but remade with the proper splashes of landscape and softly touched sprites, quicksaves, balance fixes, and mechanical necessities (the ability to speed walk, for example), Final Fantasy can at least be played and even appreciated, though in admittedly minute ways.

Your goal is to conquer four multi level dungeons whose bosses hold the elemental crystals, revealing an expansive world that is intelligently proportioned for play. To get off the first continent you must enter a nearby kingdom and talk to its delirious citizens. These sprites may be horribly placed and will block your path at every chance, but often hold the key to progression. "THE PRINCESS HAS BEEN KIDNAPPED" hints that you should probably venture out to look for her. After navigating across a couple goblin infested landscapes you can complete the quest, causing the king to repair the bridge to the next landmass. A new hub is then accessed with better gear and spells to buy, and again, you must look for the next mode of advancement.

Much like complimenting a kindergartener for coloring within the lines, Final Fantasy’s structure can be called sensible. It's a fully functional RPG, and for that it can be hung up on the refrigerator. Healers can learn fat, single target rejuvenations and defensive party buffs, mages can ignite a whole field of enemies but at the expensive cost of their spells, and well armored fighters mitigate tons of damage to themselves, and dish it back in turn. Upgrading to the best selections of gear in each town, grinding enough battle encounters to be able to afford them, and going out of the way for powerful loot in dungeons all make room for intrigue, as do secret rewards hidden around the map.

But it is the faintest of pleasure to play Final Fantasy for these aspects, as nothing can truly overcome the insidious grind of its random battle encounter system. Primitive strategies exist, like using Lightning based spells against the water creatures that board your ship as you take to the seas, but basic party upkeep takes precedence over the meager responsibility of combat. Whether you stare at the ceiling and mush the confirm button, or play each skirmish optimally, the difference in efficiency negligible. Advancing is just a sprinkle of healing magic a way, or consuming a 'Tent' item to restore lost mana and health reserves. Final Fantasy becomes a vicious reward to patience more than any kind of real interactivity.

The battle theme is nerve mangling and the load times, though brief, are just long enough to hang your head in silence before rows of enemies appear. Commands are entered one party member at a time, executing only after all four are administered. The insanity of that design is numbing. One goblin after another, trading blows with wimpy spiders or club wielding giants (who are fixated on targeting only your most well armored characters), back and forth until you hit the last enemy for 249 damage of his 250 hp. That means starting another volley, ordering all four of your characters to once again 'Attack' that 1 hp skeleton so you can move past him. Then take a few steps and encounter some more. Level up and do it again on a different continent and in a different dungeon. Step after step, down forks that lead to dead ends, empty rooms, and hit or miss treasure chests, until meeting a final boss who thinks you don't deserve to beat his game. That you must first pace back and forth between some hundred more battles until you can finally hit him hard enough.

No, on second thought, this one doesn't deserve a spot on the fridge.


bbbmoney's avatar
Community review by bbbmoney (February 06, 2014)

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honestgamer posted February 06, 2014:

Final Fantasy wasn't merely competent at the time of its original release, worthy only of an insulting place on a refrigerator. It was actually one of the most polished RPG experiences available on consoles (look at the "classic" Ultima: Exodus to see how bad things got in the hands of other developers of the era), with depth and accessibility that still afforded a challenging fantasy adventure. The available world at the time felt larger than the hardware should have reasonably allowed, and a great deal more dangerous... which I recognize now was a larger part of the appeal than I once gave it credit for. The game's pacing and structure were reasonably close to exemplary, and many subsequent RPGs that have strayed too far from some of the core design principles featured in the original Final Fantasy have suffered mightily for it. I think we'll have to agree to disagree in this case, but I still enjoyed your review.
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bbbmoney posted February 06, 2014:

I don't think I disagree with you at all. The game is historic, revolutionary, and mind blowing for what it accomplished. I truly am impressed with how functional and expansive it feels for something out of 1987. But this review is geared towards today's gamer, and I think it's a hard game to recommended in the year 2014. It's not a hot item anymore, though it's influence will be forever relevant.

I just really dislike reflectionary Final Fantasy reviews, so maybe I'm being bone headed in how I'm approaching my own, but I'm sticking with that angle for each game, no matter how old.

Thanks for reading.
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jerec posted February 06, 2014:

Yeah, I could see a reflectionary review for the NES version, but the PSP port needs to be reviewed based on the time it was re-released in. Is this one just a straight port of half of the PS1 Final Fantasy Origins?
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overdrive posted February 08, 2014:

And were there any extras, even if they were like the bonus dungeons on the GBA remake of I and II where you had painfully easy treks leading to absolutely brutal legacy bosses?

Or is this just an aesthetically-enhanced remake of I with some gameplay tweaks to make the grinding less tedious? Because if it's that, it deserves to be panned for being nothing more than a cheap way to keep cashing in on the name of a near-30-year-old game.
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bbbmoney posted February 08, 2014:

I only dabbled in the original game before concluding I couldn't tolerate it. The PSP version makes things playable by buttering down the leveling and walking speeds, as well as the battle difficulty. But it also abandons elements that the original was more interesting for, like spell stocks (the remake uses standard MP) and its DnD rooted random number generation.

I'm not sure what they could have kept to make the remake a better game, but I think the goal was simply to give FF fans an opportunity to see the original world and some of the ideas that were in place way back when. In either case, the game is just too old-fashioned. I could play it as a piece to study, but I couldn't honestly recommend it as a piece of entertainment.

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