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   Final Fantasy - Reader Re-Retroview  

The Swan Song That Wasn't
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

PLATFORM
GBA
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
4
STORY
2
MUSIC & SOUND
4
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
10-20+ Hours
OVERALL
4.0/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Four Light Warriors, each with a darkened Crystal, arrive at Cornelia, whose princess, Sara, has recently been kidnapped by a knight named Garland. After they save the princess, the warriors set off on a journey to relight their Crystals and save the world from the darkness. The original version of Final Fantasy saw its Japanese release in 1987, saving Square from the brink of bankruptcy, despite intending to be the company's swan song. The game would receive endless remakes and ports over a decade later, including the Gameboy Advance collection Dawn of Souls. The Dawn of Souls version of Final Fantasy proves perhaps to be one of the strongest ports of the game, albeit not without its flaws.

   When the player starts a new game, he or she can create a party of four characters with a variety of different classes, such as warrior, thief, monk, white mage, red mage, and black mage, each having their own unique stats and abilities (and a setup that to some extents adds a little replay value). The player can purchase equipment for all characters, of course, and also needs to purchase spells for magicians, with each mage able to have up to three spells of different levels, although in the Dawn of Soul remakes, the MP-level system present in the original version has been replaced by a traditional cache of MP that increases as a mage levels up. The player also must find a certain item and meet a certain character to increase each character's class level, allowing mages to hold more powerful magic and empowering melee classes.

Garland Over the rainbow

   Battles themselves are randomly-encountered, with the player inputting commands for all characters and letting them and the enemy beat each other up in a round. As with most other turn-based battle systems, turn order is unpredictable and often inconsistent, even when the player faces multiple enemies of the same type. Still, battles generally don't drag on forever as long as the player uses magic (or pieces of equipment that cast magic when used, with the player able to buy plentiful MP-recovering ethers, as well), and while the encounter rate can fluctuate at times, the battle system is still well more than functional.

   The interface is, as well, with clean menus, easy shopping, decent control, and a handy save-anywhere feature absent from previous incarnations. There are also extra dungeons accessed as the player revives the party's Crystals. The only real shortcoming is the general lack of direction on how to advance the game, although the original Final Fantasy is certainly playable without a guide. Overall, interaction is well more than adequate.

   Always difficult it is to judge originally in remakes and ports, although the original Final Fantasy was very much original, introducing many elements that would influence its successors. That aside, the Dawn of Souls port is largely based on the Origins version, although it does have some new features such as a few additional dungeons.

   The story, lamentably, still suffers from the same brevity it did in the Playstation and NES versions, with very little character or story development, twists, or sense of excitement. Still, most gamers didn't play the original version for its story, although the developers could have certainly added more depth to this port to make it at least on par with other better RPG storylines.

Crush those houses! Where it all begins

   The music, however, continues to be a high point, and the Gameboy Advance, despite its typically shoddy aural quality, handles the tracks decently, with most remixes being solid, save perhaps for the Mt. Gulg theme, which gets trapped in a bunch of weird psychedelic crap and doesn't do the original NES version of the track much justice. The sound is okay, yet nothing spectacular, but in the end, the music is one of the high points of the Dawn of Souls port.

   The quality of the visuals, as with before, is somewhere between Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI, being nice and colorful, although the character sprites outside of battle are still a bit on the small side, and monsters in battle are still inanimate. They're certainly not the best graphics on the Gameboy Advance, but are far from the worst.

   Finally, the game is fairly short, taking somewhere from ten to twenty hours to complete depending especially upon whether or not the player decides to try the extra dungeons, with a clear game mode allowing the player to play through again with bestiary data retained from previous playthroughs. Overall, the Dawn of Souls version of Final Fantasy is perhaps the definite version of the game, with decent gameplay and presentation, even if its story isn't the best of the franchise. Still, it's certainly far more playable than the original NES version of the game, and is worth a look from both long-established series fans and those interested in the origins of the revered franchise.

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