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Final Fantasy (PSP) artwork

Final Fantasy (PSP) review

"Like many older gamers, Final Fantasy on the NES was what initially got me into RPGs. It wowed gamers with its awesome graphics and playability, just as the series continues to do today. Itís no surprise that the franchise has grown to dominate the RPG genre. My taste for the Final Fantasy series has mellowed out since then (with a brief spike for VII), but the PSP remake really took me back and renewed my appreciation, having not played the previous PS1 and GBA remakes. What we have here is the..."

Like many older gamers, Final Fantasy on the NES was what initially got me into RPGs. It wowed gamers with its awesome graphics and playability, just as the series continues to do today. Itís no surprise that the franchise has grown to dominate the RPG genre. My taste for the Final Fantasy series has mellowed out since then (with a brief spike for VII), but the PSP remake really took me back and renewed my appreciation, having not played the previous PS1 and GBA remakes. What we have here is the ultimate version of a game that is practically the root of all console J-RPGs. The main quest, while undeniably outdated, is still very enjoyable. Unfortunately, I canít say the same for the extra dungeons. Despite its default handicap of being old, this remake is worth one more spin for fans of the original game. It certainly won't win over many new gamers, however.

From the moment I set foot in the first town, I was knee-deep in nostalgia. Iím happy to say the new coat of paint only enhanced this feeling. The game was rebuilt from the ground up with a redone translation, updated place and item names (no more ďfir2, fir3Ē etc.) and most importantly, the amazing graphical and musical overhaul. The difficulty of the original has been toned down (rather, transferred to the extra dungeons) and thankfully, you can now save anywhere at any time. The game has been retrofitted with modern touches, while fully retaining the feeling of the original.

In a way, this is a dreamy re-imagining of the first one--the music is perfect, the graphics are perfect, the difficulty is not too high, and you can properly float through the game without much effort while noticing the details and remembering how much you enjoyed playing it on the NES. The redrawn graphics in particular show off just how sharp high resolution 2D sprites can look. The overworld and dungeons have some extra details, but the quality is most apparent in battle. Enemies, and bosses in particular, are highly detailed and colorful. Spells have all new animations, with more intricate detail and devastating designs as you obtain stronger spells throughout the game. The game presents a strong case for high resolution 2D games on modern gaming consoles. The PSP screen pushes the sprites to levels of brilliance and clarity unattainable on anything else but a nice, high quality widescreen HDTV, which makes it worth passing up the GBA and PS1 remakes. While the graphics (and newly orchestrated music) are brought up to date, the gameplay remains firmly in the past.

Final Fantasy Anniversary is a great way to relive history, but there is no denying that its story and gameplay are ancient. As in the first game, you begin by picking four characters from six different classes. They remain silent throughout the game and are just there to fight and be told what to do by NPCs. The story is a bare bones save-the-world affair in which you revive four elements and then destroy the great evil at the end. Without much inertia created by the story, you go from point A to point B, dungeon to town to dungeon, to take care of business. The story and dialog are so sparse that you may have trouble finding out what to do next, even after speaking with entire towns. However, you are thrown a few bones when you obtain an airship and undergo a transformation that turns your young looking characters into masters of their classes, with an upgraded look to reflect this. The rewards are small, though before I played this game, all I could think of was how cool it will be when I go through the character transformation again. It was very cool, but to someone who hasn't played this yet, it will be a pretty benign moment.

In battle, you fight, cast magic, run, or defend (though defend is just there for show, you wonít need it.) Thatís all. There is no active battle system or anything else to spice up the turn-based battles. The only strategy you need to know is that opposite elements do more damage to each other. While the rest of the game is simply old but sufficient, the random encounters were a big annoyance to me. They are very frequent by todayís standards. They may lead to a few smashed PSPs, since they punish the player completely for going out of their way in the slightest. You face a slightly annoying encounter rate on the way to a dungeon or town, but when finding your way through a dungeon, the effect is multiplied because you will need to backtrack a lot to find your way around. Every time you go to and fro, you'll hit that many battles. As rough as it sounds, I feel this is all perfectly fine for the main quest and I wouldnít have it any other way. Since the game isnít very long, working towards goals like obtaining the airship and character transformation, as well as the ultimate weapons, is simple fun. Most fans will be pleased to see that nothing was really tinkered with in the original formula, except that the main quest is much easier than the original (which was quite unforgiving in battle.) The optional dungeons, however, will alienate all but the most hardcore J-RPG fans. Itís in these that Final Fantasy Anniversary starts to feel like its overstaying itís welcome.

The optional dungeons, as well as the brand new PSP-exclusive dungeon, are random encounter hell. For some reason, the encounter rate actually skyrockets in these dungeons. Youíll be lucky to go more than a few seconds without a battle, sometimes every step in some particular spots (though these spots are distinguished by a different rock pattern or something like that.) Unfortunately, by the time you take these dungeons on, you will most likely be way too strong to be threatened by any of the monsters that pop up. If you arenít strong enough, then itís too early. Youíll be depleted of resources and killed quickly. Simple as that--thereís no balance.

Conversely, if random battles werenít so frequent, then what else is there to do? Well, these dungeons are several floors deep, maze-like, and entice you to hunt for treasure to make it all worthwhile. This is a traditional staple of the genre, but as you may have guessed, the fun is completely siphoned from it since the game throws a battle at you every few steps. I found myself merely holding the confirm button to attack and get it all over with. When that got old, I took off all the armor from all my characters and got them killed so I could return to the surface.
So, these dungeons took me out of the dreamy Final Fantasy remake I was playing and threw me into an antiquated J-RPG nightmare. Thereís no way I will ever play through them in their entirety or set foot in them again. This especially goes for the new one, which is randomly generated and doesnít allow saves. Iíd rather spray Raid in my eyes. On the plus side, every few floors contain a boss fight (or many boss fights) with some huge, beautifully drawn, and seriously challenging monsters. If they donít wipe you out immediately, you will get some nice eye candy throughout the fight. I should say that if you are a hardcore, dungeon crawling, random battle-grinding RPG fan, then you should be heavily salivating by the time you get to this sentence. Everyone else: stay away from these extras.

Final Fantasy Anniversary certainly does not lack old school appeal. If you just want to play the main quest or relive the old days of crawling through dungeons with ridiculously high encounter rates, this remake is worth your time. The production values and extra content make this the ultimate version of Final Fantasy I. Despite its archaic gameplay, I highly recommend this to people who enjoyed the NES version but havenít been through it in a while. Final Fantasy enthusiasts and gamers in general will be delighted with the beautifully overhauled music and graphics, which is truly some of Sqaure-Enixís best 2D work to date--but I can't wholly recommend it, as I suspect everyone but the nostalgic and a handful of die-hards will be filtered out by the old gameplay. Younger gamers or non-RPG fans need not apply--this will not be fun for you or change your mind about the genre. That is, unless you really want to see the roots of one of the longest running and most influential series of all time. To sum it up in a sentence, this remake made Final Fantasy I as good as it can possibly be, but the upgrade doesnít hide its age at all.

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Community review by apossum (June 09, 2007)

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