Final Fantasy I and II: Dawn of Souls

Several years ago, Square, for some reason, decided to remake the first two installments of their Final Fantasy franchise on Bandai’s ill-fated Japan-only handheld system, the Wonderswan Color, and thus, neither would see foreign release. However, Square eventually decided to port the remakes to the Playstation in the collection Final Fantasy Origins in 2003. The next year, surprisingly, Square Enix decided to port the games yet again, this time as the collection Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. While both games aren’t perfect, they do bear some minor improvements over the Playstation versions, making the collection worth at least a look from those interested in the Final Fantasy franchise’s origins.

In the original Final Fantasy, the player chooses a party of four characters of various classes that participate in traditional turn-based combat, with the typical flaws of variable character and enemy turn order and maybe a slightly-high encounter rate, although battles typically don’t take a long time. A traditional pooled MP system replaces the MP-level system from previous incarnations, with MP-recovering ethers being available for purchase for long dungeon treks, if any. Final Fantasy II’s battle system, however, largely remains the same as in previous incarnations, with a system where actions, damage, and so forth taken during battle affect stat gains after battle, replacing the experience system from the original installment. The battle system from the second installment doesn’t work as well as that from the first game, although neither combat engine is a detriment from either game.

The interfaces in both games are largely efficient, with easy menus, shopping, controls, and so forth. The first installment, moreover, has several extra dungeons accessed sporadically throughout the game, and the second has an extra mode accessed upon beating the game, with both installments also having handy save-anywhere features, and the second also dumping the limit on inventory space from its previous incarnations. Both games, however, somewhat suffer from a general lack of direction on how to advance at times, with the second game, specifically, having a few annoying points of no return, and maybe a few instances where advancing the game can be nearly impossible without a guide. Still, interaction is more than adequate in both games.

Both games were fairly inventive for their time, with the original Final Fantasy, of course, being the one to start the whole franchise, and the second game having its unique system of character development that would somewhat influence the SaGa series. Granted, both games are largely based on their Origins counterparts, and the story of the second game is fairly derivative, but both installments are still original.

The first and second Final Fantasies, however, are fairly light on story, with the first having its simplistic “four light warriors will come to save the day” story, and the second having its better, though still derivative and scant on character development, plot of rebels battling an evil empire. Of course, RPGs typically weren’t heavy on story in the time of the original versions of both games, but Square Enix could’ve certainly added more to the ports of these games.

The music of both games is one of their high points, with the typically-mediocre sound quality of the Gameboy Advance, luckily, actually doing most tracks justice, although there are certainly a few weak tracks, such as the Mt. Gulg theme in the first Final Fantasy and the normal boss battle theme in the second game. Sound doesn’t leave a whole lot to desire, either, and overall, both games are fairly easy on the ears.
The visuals of both games largely mimic those of the Origins ports, with decent colors and environments, though the character sprite art is somewhat variable, being alright in battle but somewhat miniature elsewhere, with inanimate monsters in combat, as well. Ultimately, the visuals of both games don’t push the system to its limits, although they’re far from ugly.

Finally, the whole collection takes somewhere from twenty-five to forty hours to complete, with the first game’s replay mode and the second installment’s extra mode adding to playing time. Overall, Dawn of Souls is a strong collection, with decent gameplay and presentation, although their stories leave a little to desire. Nonetheless, the collection provides a nice look at the first two Final Fantasies, even if both games, chiefly the second, aren’t perfect.

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