Since Square's latest instalment of the ever so famous and beloved Final Fantasy Saga, Final Fantasy X-2, the first direct sequel ever, does a great job in wiping clean the lately rather dusty RPG genre with innovation, it is now a good time to sit down and track down the long story of success of FF games.
The origin of all evil
We do so best by going straight back to the roots, the beginning of all, to the year 1987.
It was then that the first Final Fantasy title has been released on Nintendo’s Famicom or as we like to call it the NES, in Japan only. Next to other cartridge RP games, like f.e. Dragon Warrior FF I stood its ground surprisingly well, by introducing many new aspects, be it the fighting system, the possibility to level up characters or the highly interesting magic system.
Final Fantasy II, released in 1988, featured individual main characters (unlike the previous title they now had names!) as well as a more complex and motivating storyline.
Both titles have several things in common; among those is the fact that neither of them has ever made its appearance on the European market.
It took Square more than a decade to set an end to this episode of grief and tristesse, but after presenting Final Fantasy Anthology (Final Fantasy IV and V) and the solo release of Final Fantasy VI (also known as Final Fantasy III), Final Fantasy Origins, a combo pack including the Final Fantasy I and II, they finally did so - left alone Final Fantasy III the Final Fantasy Saga is now completely available and playable for the patient European audience.
Earlier remakes of SNES games on Psone, such as FF VI have already caused pretty much of a debate – Some claimed that this is just another cheap way to raise quick funds by riding on the current wave of Final Fantasy and Anime mania (FF X, FF the spirits within etc.), others, not as sceptical persons, were satisfied, for they now had the opportunity to play early FF titles other than on a SNES emulator on PC.
Both have their points, and one thing is evident – Square did make some rather unpleasant mistakes, like crappy FMV intro clips and incredibly long loading and saving times (the main reason why I turned down FF VI, you just cannot enjoy a game which takes up to 2 seconds to access the menu screen...)
However this time Square did an overall rather good job in converting those classics to the outdated Psone – improved graphics (FFVI level), newly arranged music and some added bonus features.
I am a cat. As yet I have no name
I will keep it simple and therefore shall commence - surprise! - At the beginning:
It doesn’t take much to explain FF I’s storyline - I couldn’t even do it briefly, for it is already brief in the first place!
Four young heroes, who are by the way “magical-crystal-bearers”, without names and past, step on stage to free the world from the sinister and dark embrace of the evil Caos – just like it says in the legend! Get the point? Ok, so let’s skip that one and move on to FF II, which is way more interesting to write about:
It starts with your hometown being attacked and destroyed by the evil empire (anyone notices any resemblance??).
A party of 4 youngsters tries to escape, but in the end they fail to do so and get beaten up pretty badly by the dark forces.
Luckily our little heroes are found and taken to the headquarters of the rebel army, where they are restored perfect health and decide to join the empire-resistance force in order to avenge their parent’s death (oh I forgot to mention – it was not just their hometown to be crushed by almighty evil, their parents have been killed too!!).
In comparison to Part 1 of the FF series, characters do develop and act more individual; they are no longer just an average conglomerate of pixels – no! – Now you will even get to see different character-portraits on the status screen!
First thing to raise one’s eyebrows in a positive way are the intro movies, which are very good quality (compared to those in FFIV and V) and succeed in providing a motivating, highly dynamic, ergo excellent introduction.
Since Square did a very good job in bringing the old NES looks up to date, the In-game graphics surely will keep you visually satisfied, bright and lively colours, as well as a huge lot of very detailed interiors and various battle-backgrounds make these two games appear in decent shape.
Yet another great improvement is, to my surprise, the newly arranged music, which is best described by the word “splendid”.
Honestly, I cannot think of any other lately released game to have a more memorable score than Final Fantasy Origin, the tracks fit the scenario perfectly and create an enormously dense atmosphere.
Game-play surely is a little outdated, battle animation is minimal, a very high rate of random battles encounters, the general lack of side-quests combined the permanent need of levelling up in order to beat the “not-so-easy-at-all” enemies are some factors that will definitely lower audience’s interest in the game - but frankly speaking, what did you expect of a game that is more than 15 years old?
In comparison to Final Fantasy Anthology the annoyingly long loading times have been cut down to a minimum, yet it is still far from being fast.
It’s all part of the process
Summing it all up FF Origins is probably the best re-released Final Fantasy collection currently available due to the carefully reshaped visual corset and the outstanding musical support.
Yet these collection shares the fate of all re-releases of former classics – they cannot be compared directly to current games of similar kind.
It isn’t essentially necessary to do so, if we start realising that all has been part of a big process, a mere evolution in Rpgaming, that reaches its current climax by the innovative Final Fantasy X-2 and the long expected Final Fantasy XI.
These games are the origin of the huge success of titles like Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy X, and simply because of that they are worth your consideration, apart the fact that each one of them is a great RPG by itself.