Final Fantasy 1 & 2: Dawn of Souls

On December 18 1987 a desperate Japanese game publisher made a final stand on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was do or die time for Square Co LTD and everyone knew it. This latest title would make or break the bankrupt company that had until this point scraped by with limited success. Fortunately, Final Fantasy not only sold, it was a HIT. With its deeply rooted Dragon Quest play style and redefining RPG elements, FF would propel Square to success and sequels that were once but a Fantasy. And now the Fantasy has been reimagined for the Game Boy Advance.

By the title alone you know you’re getting some serious buck-banging nostalgic value, this is the original Final Fantasy and the series follow up Final Fantasy II on one shiny history-packed cart. The RPG duo, re-released twice before on the defunct WonderSwan handheld and the PlayStation 1, has now come home to Game Boy owners. Similar in presentation to the PlayStation version, Dawn of Souls features tweaked graphics and extra dungeons. But for RPG lovers the question still stands whether this will be enough to make two 20-year old fossils playable again.

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The differences in story between FF1 and FF2 are soon made abundantly clear a few minutes into either game. FF1’s story is extremely simplistic, especially by today’s standards. In fact, from start up you must give each of the four faceless avatars in your party both a name and a class (thief, black belt, warrior, black mage, white mage). Together these young untalkative characters form the mystical ‘Light Warriors’, the prophesised saviours of the world, and it is your mission, regardless of whether you choose to accept it, to revive the decaying Earth and defeat the onslaught of evil.

Its interesting to see the advancement in plotline in FF2, which charts the trend for the increasingly story heavy future sequels. Unlike FF1, this time we have characters pre-assigned with their own names, classes and now personality. Once again we join the quest of four resolute youngsters, their parents killed at the hands of the evil Empire Baramekia, our four strays find solace within the ranks of the rebel forces. It is through their alliance with the beleaguered rebels that our heroes grow and unravel the true malevolent force threatening the world.

By today’s standards, both FF 1 & 2 are very traditional turn-based RPG fare. GBA owners accustomed to modern fight systems akin to Golden Sun may not feel quite ‘in Kansas’ anymore by the seemingly backwards battle format. For the most part however it is still solid and slightly endearing, and admittedly works well within the context of the game worlds. In fact, FF2 actually features a brilliant levelling up system that dishes out experience points to the skills you use the most, which feels very rewarding. Other than that Dawn of Souls will feel pretty traditional to most hardened RPG enthusiasts; big world map, plenty of random battles (the frequency of random encounters has actually been dropped down slightly from the originals) and a hundred miles of dungeon crawling.

For the few FF veterans who have already quested through the monster soaked maps of FF1 and FF2, the main and perhaps only attraction in this latest repackaging will be the GBA exclusive extras. In FF1 a set of four new dungeons have been strewn across the map, dubbed the ‘Soul of Chaos’. The dungeons are accessible at different points as you progress through your quest, and while they don’t further the ‘story’ in anyway they do provide a terrific chance for you to unoriginally ‘level up’ some more. FF2 carries a much more intriguing special feature, after completing the main adventure you will unlock a second quest, the ‘Soul of Rebirth’. An exclusive second plot that tells the journey of your fallen allies who -- without giving too much away -- died in battle during the events of FF2. Your ‘deceased’ comrades now lie trapped in limbo within the pandemonium dimension, a crazy world chock-a-block full of crystals and shiny blue floors. Together the characters must band and defeat the evil emperor of Pandemonium to free themselves from their warped prison. Also included is the Beastiary, a monster gallery for both FF 1 & 2 that includes images and stats for each individual monster you’ve seen during your quest. Ultimately, the ‘Soul of Chaos’, the ‘Soul of Rebirth’ and the Beastiary make great, seamless additions to both games and although these probably won’t do much to increase the attraction or value for FF1 & 2 virgins, FF aficionados, veterans and collectors shall be content with the inclusion.

The old school FF 1 & 2 NES graphics and sound have been updated somewhat. Graphics don’t advance much on what was there in the PlayStation rerelease (Final Fantasy Origins) but they’re clear, bright and do the job with SNES-like quality. The sprite detail and battle animation are acceptable, just don’t expect anything to supersede other modern RPGs like Golden Sun. The sound enhancements made for the PlayStation Origins rerelease have naturally been ported here as well. Music is traditional RPG overworldly fare and sound effects deliver all your typical battle beep and bangs. It won’t blow your socks off, but it should be easy on the ears.

Final Fantasy 1 & 2: Dawn of Souls is undeniably a solid, well executed throw-back to the origins of Role Playing Games. The enhancements are good, the extras are nice and for two games in one the price is right. What will clinch your purchase is whether or not you can stand the traditional nature of the gameplay, Dawn of Souls is far from ground breaking and if you’re hooked on modern RPGs or are allergic to copious amounts of random battles then you should steer clear. Otherwise, as one of the most well crafted RPG combinations of all time with a total of 80+ hours of gameplay, Dawn of Souls will stand as great value and a resounding must-have for classic-RPG lovers.

"An old school treat for Final Fantasy fans."
- Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn Of Souls
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 45 Min


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