Title  : Final Fantasy Origins
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : Square Enix USA Inc.
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 7.7
Review by  : Ken Gagne

In sequel after sequel, many companies pay homage to their origins. But sometimes their memories don't mesh with the consumers', as evidenced with Final Fantasy Origins, a Square-Enix game for the Sony PlayStation. 

This single disc compilation contains Final Fantasy, originally published by Nintendo for the 8-bit NES, and Final Fantasy II, which has never before been released in the States. (The Super Nintendo game known to most Americans as Final Fantasy II was a translation of the Japanese game Final Fantasy IV.) FFI was one of the first role-playing games (RPGs) many Americans experienced, and is fondly remembered for starting a franchise that exists to this day. 

The graphic and sound components of both games have undergone facelifts, but remain firmly rooted in their 8-bit heritage and not on par with their 16-bit descendants. New features, such as artwork, bestiaries, and other collectable data, become unlocked as gamers progress through the adventures. 

Both games invite players participate in quests to save the world. As they explore dungeons and castles from a top-down perspective, random encounters with monsters will occur, initiating a turn-based battle system where orders are given to fight, cast magic, or flee, after which the consequences of each round are presented. 

Nostalgia is a strong selling point for this disc. If you give the first Final Fantasy to someone to whom Garland is a tree trimming, he isn't going to be impressed; those of us who spent the lazy summer of 1990 with Final Fantasy will be the ones plunking down cash to relive our childhood. 

Since Final Fantasy allowed gamers to create their own party of mute adventurers, it's hard to reminisce about these heroes; the most personification they've ever received is in the online comic strip 8-bit Theater. If you identify with those characters, then you'll be stunned by the name changes that have occurred in this restoration: Fighter is now Warrior, Black Belt's a Monk, even the land of Coneria is now Cornelia. Though these titles may be more precise and true to the original game, they will strike veterans as more blasphemous than anything. 

Many publishers package classic titles alongside modern remixes. Why the Final Fantasy we all know and love could not have been preserved, I don't know. Most of the updates are just superficial enough to be glaring instead of appreciated, much as "Transformers Generation 2" added many unnecessary, computer-generated sequences to an already fine cartoon. 

One fine addition is FFI's "Easy Mode" which, as a hardcore gamer, I prefer to call "Fast Mode". This option does away with hours of "levelling up", a tactic that, in the early age of role-playing games, filled the void of story and gameplay that then was not possible. In "Fast Mode", less experience is necessary to progress in strength, and equipment costs less money. Though some pacing is still required to preclude obliteration, this new mode makes an old game more playable. 

Final Fantasy II is more story-driven than its predecessor, with predefined characters and a plot that thrusts players right into the action. Each hero raises his or her individual attributes based on specific actions in combat. This method is a precursor to the progression method used in Final Fantasy X, which also isn't level-based. Although it grants players the freedom to customize their characters' strengths, it is also difficult to reference without a single number indicating their level. 

With the opportunity to stroll down pseudo-memory lane, and to experience new yet familiar adventure, Final Fantasy Origins is one last opportunity for what was once old to be new again on the Sony PlayStation. Gamers with access to the original versions of these games may find as much to like as to dislike in these revamped editions. Sometimes it's best to go straight to the source. 


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This article is copyright (c) 2003, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Tech News, 22-Apr-03