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By: Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland
Even after the Playstation 2 era had gotten well under way, Squaresoft, in 2003, decided to bring the Playstation ports of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II to America as a single collection, Final Fantasy Origins, which came out just as Square’s merger with Enix was happening. It had been well over a decade since Americans experienced the original Final Fantasy, although Final Fantasy II was something new. While the games are classics in their own right, the collection, admittedly, pales in comparison to much of the company’s other endeavors at the time of its release, and serves largely for nostalgic purposes (at least with the first game).
The first two Final Fantasies, instead of having active time battles like the fourth through ninth installments, have traditional turn-based battle systems with slight twists. The first installment, for one, features six selectable classes for four characters before starting a new game, not to mention several levels of MP for magic-users, with a higher MP cap with Easy difficulty. Lamentably, FF1 suffers from a high encounter rate, as does its sequel, though to a slightly lesser extent. As for FF2, it dumps traditional experience levels for something different, where losing HP and MP will typically equal higher HP/MP maximums after a battle, using weapons and spells often will gradually bolster their power levels, and so forth. While better than a generic experience system, character development in FF2 can be tedious and time-consuming unless players take advantage of the input/cancel loophole that donned the original version and remains in the remake, which can, however, really upset the game’s balance. Unpredictable turn order and the escape option not always working still persist in both games, as well. Overall, both installments’ battle systems could’ve definitely used a lot more polish and balance.
Interaction in both games isn’t perfect, either. For one, FF1 retains its “rest at an inn to perform a permanent save” system, although FF2 still lets players permanently save on the world map, despite the absence of save points in long dungeons. However, both games do have life-saving Memo File features, and load times, as I saw, hardly plagued them. Unfortunately, while inventory space is generous in FF1, it remains limited in FF2, although in my experience, I could manage my space well and rarely used consumables on my characters. As for the translations of both games, errors are very small, though overall, interaction is average.
The whole collection isn’t revolutionary or inventive, moving on. The Playstation ports, at heart, imitate the Wonderswan Color remakes except for remixed music, FMVs, and the art and bestiary collections, and for Japanese gamers, at least, it was more or less the same experience except for the mentioned changes.
The stories for both games remain largely unchanged, at that. FF1 retains its “four light warriors will come to save the world” plot, except for a more graphically poignant introduction, and FF2 keeps its “overthrow the evil empire” story, which was, for its time, more than adequate. Overall, FF1’s simplistic 8-bit era story and FF2’s more mature plot largely cancel out one another.
The high point of the collection, without a doubt, is Nobuo Uematsu’s remixed soundtracks. From the world map themes to many dungeon tracks, most tunes are solid and very much on par with Uematsu’s other works. He did add a bit of diversity to FF1’s boss battle music and a normal boss theme to FF2, although normal battle music remains repetitive, as is, of course, the case with all his other Final Fantasy soundtracks. Other than that, though, the music is the main draw of the collection.
The quality of the graphics for both games, going on, is in between FF5 and FF6. The field graphics seem to use FF5’s sprites, although the gorgeous environments are a clear step up from the fifth installment. The battle graphics, however, are very much on par with FF6, with enlarged, animate character sprites, and well designed, though inanimate, monsters. Opening FMVs grace both games, at that, with FF2’s slightly adding to the game’s storyline. Overall, though, the collection’s graphics don’t really push the Playstation’s visual capabilities to their limits, yet still hold out on their own.
Finally, both Final Fantasies vary in difficulty, with FF1’s two selectable modes and FF2’s grossly unbalanced combat mechanisms. The whole collection, moreover, can take anywhere from twenty-five to fifty hours to complete, ten to twenty for FF1, and fifteen to thirty for FF2.
Overall, the origins of the Final Fantasy series are well short of perfect, with both Final Fantasy and its sequel respectively suffering from a high encounter rate and unbalanced character development, among other flaws. Personally, I would consider the second game to be the better of the two, though both pale in comparison to modern installments of the series, but if you really want to explore the origins of the legendary franchise, it wouldn’t hurt to find the collection at a discount price, just as long as you don’t mind fighting a lot.
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