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Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls

Square Enix
Traditional RPG
Final Fantasy
  • November 29, 2004
  • July 29, 2004
  • December 03, 2004
A- 16 total ratings
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Dawn of Souls Review

A Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls review Author: Jeriaska Published: May 02, 2006
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The port of Final Fantasy I for the Game Boy Advance is terrible. The graphics have been cutesified and the Sekito remixes are unbearably juvenile. This is a terrible shame, requiring us to focus solely on Final Fantasy II, which is merely so-so.

Originally released on Nintendo's 8-bit Famicom system back in 1988, two years before its predecessor arrived in the US, Final fantasy II bears the dubious distinction of being the first Final Fantasy game to be passed up for stateside release. FFII's story is threadbare, containing elements that have been recycled numerous times over the series' decade-long history. The story begins with four young knights fleeing from their hometown, which has been transformed into an inferno of burning houses and falling columns. They are pursued by ten-foot soldiers, the minions of the Baramekian Emperor. All seems lost when the heroes are cornered, attacked and ruthlessly killed; or so we are led to believe, until they awake in Althea Castle. Queen Hilda and turbaned Prince Minu greet the youths and inform them that their parents have been killed in the siege. The warriors then set off to seek vengeance against the Baramekian empire at large.
The remake’s kiddified graphics and remixes clash with the original Amano artwork

Final Fantasy II diverges from the simplistic plotline of its predecessor (the checklist formula of four orbs, four fiends and a final boss) to offer a more involving story. Unlike FFI, the four protagonists have distinct identities, at least so far as they have names. Frionell is your classic, ruggedly handsome knight. Guy, his faithful companion, is either a scrawny lad with an ashen complexion or, judging by the Amano sketches, a morbidly obese ogre. The third character, Maria, appears rather skittish in the character art, while generously displaying cleavage. Her moody brother Lionheart disappears early in the game, creating a convenient gap for supporting characters to fill, most often to their peril.

The principle characters in the game are paper-thin two-dimensional archetypes when compared to the standards of today (we've reached about 2 and two-thirds.) Adding insult to injury, they only speak a few lines of dialog in the entirety of the game. Mostly, it is the supporting players that steal the scenes. You will enlist five part-time heroes to round out the cadre, all of whom are more intriguing personalities than the main protagonists. Square really should have added a few scenes to flesh out their main cast, employing the devices that have become hallmarks in RPG character development over the years. Throw in a campfire scene, or a lurid childhood memory, or a flashback in sepia tones, and you have the makings for an updated classic. But as it stands, the heroes of FFII have the personality of cardboard cutouts.

Square has thrown in a handful of impressive 2-D cutscenes to introduce the airship and your other mode of transport, a dragon. The character and enemy sprites have been restored as well and could hold their own with those of Final Fantasy IV. There is quite a bit of palette-swapping of enemies, but still nothing more than you would find in FFX. Also, spells are visually rather impressive, surpassing anything a 16-bit system could generate. Fire spells explode into waves of flames, ice spells crystallize icicles around enemies, and bolt spells light up the screen with electricity. Pity there are no summons available.

Final Fantasy II plays similar to FFIV, including random encounters with enemies and turn-based battles. All characters can equip two weapons at a time, or a weapon and a shield, and will strike harder with their dominant hand. Magic books are bought in stores and can be learned by any character. In battles, you are not allowed to choose items in your stockpile, and may only equip two at a time for use in battles. An auto-target function has been added to the game, meaning simply that if your character targeted an enemy that has been defeated, he or she will randomly attack a different enemy. Purists can choose to turn this function off.
Final Fantasy Normal
Final Fantasy CUTE!

The most unique element of FFII is definitely its system of level-gaining. That is, there is none to speak of. Instead of conventional leveling up by amassing experience points, your characters' attributes develop based on how much they are used. For instance, if you incur major damages in battle, your HP will gain points after the fight. If you use the fire spell many times, it will become more powerful and cost more MP. There are also a bevy of assorted weapons that can be equipped by any character and have their own levels, much like the weapon system in Secret of Mana. If you choose, you can make heroic Frionel a specialist of daggers and dainty Maria a master of the battleaxe. It is tempting to rely on weapons instead of magic, since the latter demands constant use in order to improve its levels. Furthermore, only a handful of the many magic spells available in the game are of much use. You can make due with the three elemental spells, Cure, Heal, Life and Teleport.

While this battle system is unique and intuitive, it does lead to some rather unorthodox methods of leveling up. For instance, frequenting areas rife with high-level monsters is simply a waste of time--they do not provide much apart from gil. A more efficient way to level-up is to enter into battles with easy enemies and continually attack and heal your own characters. By the end of the game, you may have inflicted more damage upon your own party than on the Baramekian empire.

Also of note is the historical significance of FFII. This is the first game to feature Cid, who has been reincarnated in some form for every subsequent FF game. You also come into contact with a village of big beavers, a kind of prototype of the moogles, that gives some indication of the series' awkward adolescence. Many of the enemies that have become a staple of the Square bestiary make appearances in the game, including bombs, behemoths, goblins, sandworms and chimeras. It is a pleasure to see them again in their 2-D forms.
New boss battles

Nothing spiteful enough can be said of Tsuyoshi Sekito's saccharine update of Final Fantasy I. It just plain blows. While the quality of FFII's music is a noticeable improvement, some might find it lacks in quantity. The game contains only 29 tracks, as compared to FFX's 67. The result is that most towns, battles and caves share the same theme. Even more noticeable is the short play length of each track. The main theme plays for just over a minute before repeating, and the worst offender, the chocobo track, plays for a single bar and then repeats ad nauseum (On the OST the track repeats four times before shamefully fading into oblivion.) The soundtrack would have benefited greatly if more of Sekito's original works were included or if Sekito appended new variations on the existing themes. Even the most ardent Square music fans will wish to spare themselves the monotony of hearing the same one-minute pieces for the umpteenth time.

Play as the guest characters in FFII
Square has done its best to add new features to FFII, and the result is a game chockablock with extras. You can view a bestiary with all the monsters you have encountered, along with artwork by the legendary Yoshitaka Amano, who served as character designer on the series through FFVI. Other extras introduced on the Wonderswan and Playstation ports have been implemented as well, such as the ability to carry twice as many items in your inventory, to run by holding down the X-button, and change the browser color.

In conclusion, with Final Fantasy I & II on the Game Boy Advance Square somehwat corrupts the classics. The cutesy artwork is a total bastardization of the Yoshitaka Amano artwork that gave the series its charm, while the Tsuyoshi Sekito remixes douse Nobuo's genius with syruppy sound samples fit for a Saturday morning cartoon. Veterans of the series are likely to find the modified Final Fantasy I to be an affront to their nostalgic memories of the 8-bit classic. While the update of the sequel is more successful, even this NES masterpiece plays like a dinosaur today. All in all, Dawn of Souls downright lacks soul. Check out FF IV Advance instead.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "A portable version of the original Final Fantasy titles catering to younger audiences than the Famicom classics"
A- dotted line Average Reader Score (Based on 16 ratings) | Rate it Now
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