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15 Years and Still Going Strong!
By: Kami of Gaming
Final Fantasy Origins has been one of the most highly anticipated PS1 games in a long time, and for good reason - quite simply, it rules! Not only does this third installment in Square's collection series (Anthology, Chronicles, Origins) offer the original Final Fantasy in its new-and-improved incarnation, but it also offers FF2, which was previously unavailable to Americans who couldn't get their hands on the Japanese cart.
Where to start with the improvements? First of all, this is the first FF collection to enjoy any actual graphical improvements. Anthology and Chronicles got by with a few seconds-long CGI, while leaving the original game graphics untouched. Fortunately, Origins doesn't rely on the old 'carrot-on-a-stick' CGI trick, and actually proves to be a worthwhile remake. While there are some nice CGI clips, the real treat is the games themselves, which have been improved from the bottom up.
Gameplay can be as simple or as frustrating as you want it to be, thanks to the wonderful custom menu settings. Are you a lazy, modern-age gamer with a short attention span? No problem. You can enjoy an insanely hard classic RPG on FF1's 'Easy Mode', and avoid the temptation previous gamers had to hurl their controllers at the screen thanks to the miracle of auto-targetting and auto-dash. But suppose you're a hardcore, fanatical purist gamer. Don't worry, you're covered too. You can play FF1 on 'Normal Mode', deactivate auto-targeting and auto-dash, and waste your attacks on dead enemies just like in the real FF1!
Perhaps the most outstanding improvement in Origins is the music. While the sound effects are merely effective, the music is of CD quality, and some originality was shown by the introduction of all-new boss themes for FF1 as well as FF2! The Fiends even have their own unique boss themes, as does Chaos. It's delicious. Translation is passable; it's nothing to drool over, but neither is it so horrible that your eyes would bleed.
Obviously originality won't get high marks for a remake, although the advancement system in FF2 is incredibly original. It was the first Square RPG to offer a completely customizeable character advancement system as an alternative to the tired old '320 experience points to the next level' cliche in the genre. FF2 does not offer an 'Easy Mode', but the overall difficulty of the game has been softened a bit, so that it should not be necessary to pummel your own characters to death in order to improve them. The replay value of this package is probably the best of almost any RPG I've seen since Chrono Trigger, thanks to the bonus features you can unlock each time you complete the game! Unlockable features include a bestiary, original Yoshitaka Amano artwork, CGI movies and pictures, among other things. You need to play FF1 on both Easy and Normal mode at least once if you hope to unlock everything, and the better your bestiary and treasure list completion, the better the prizes you get. This should encourage you to replay your way through the game at least a few times. FF1's overall difficulty is pretty consistent with the original, whereas FF2 remains steadily easier than its original incarnation (especially the final boss, who is a bit disappointing).
Plot is pretty much an afterthought in FF1, just as it was in the original. It's standard dungeon-delving RPG fare, for its own sake. FF2's intriguing and captivating plot keeps this category from getting an abysmal rating, however, with its constant clever plot twists never before seen in an 8-bit RPG.
Overall, I would say that Final Fantasy Origins is a MUST have for diehard FF fanatics, and is still well worth checking out even if you're a casual gamer. If you hate old school, though, this one may not be for you - for all its pretty, shiny gloss, it's still a little rough around the edges, and its antiquated battle mechanics would send many a youngster screaming madly into the night.
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