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CONSOLE: PlayStation DEVELOPER: Square Enix PUBLISHER: Square Enix
RELEASE DATE (NA): April 8, 2003 GENRE: RPG
// review by SoyBomb

Two oldies in one -- it's just like a wacky retirement home!

In an attempt to rehash ideas from the past for the newer generation, Square decided to revamp the first two games of the series that brought them to commercial victory -- Final Fantasy I and II. After all, those kids who are thinking Final Fantasy X-2 is hot just because of some scantily-clad bombshells need to get a dose of reality and see the origins of this series! (I suppose that's precisely why they called it "Final Fantasy Origins", eh?) Anyway, for the first time, it looks like I'll be examining two games in one review! I suppose it would be best to go one at a time, eh? Hmmm... I may have to reference this review if I ever decide to take a look at the original NES/Famicom versions of the first two Final Fantasy games.
FINAL FANTASY I

This was the game that commenced all the crazy Final Fantasy hype. Here in this updated PlayStation collection, it more-or-less remains in the same quality condition as the original. With the assistance of one and ONLY one CG-animated sequence (that, in fact, really doesn't have a great impact on the game or its storyline), a new player will be quick to discover that this game has a sub-par storyline. 'Save the world by collecting the four crystals and defeating the evil tyrant!' However, considering that the original game was released in 1987, it was likely a bit more original at the time.

At times, you might find this game to be rather tedious, especially if you are travelling by foot. The fact that you can only use the 'run' function in dungeons makes your trek even more mind-nullifying. However, this game may have been the first popular RPG to feature vehicles to aid you in your travels, including every FF fan's favourite, the Airship (although that thing is well hidden...), as well as a sturdy ship and a quaint canoe for river adventure. Pedestrianism in video games is only acceptable for so long...

Yet although you'll spend a fair amount of time wandering around the various sceneries of the overworld and underworld, you'll be spending even more time in battle. And within this game lies only the most basic of RPG commands -- attacking, casting magic spells, using items, equipping weaponry, or trying to escape the battle. This game helps remind us of a simpler time when there was no need for excessive options like summoning Aeons or using alchemy to create new and wonderous items. Nope, just the swing of a sword or the fling of a flame is all one needs to survive in a monster-infested cave!

Speaking of flinging a flame, this game marks the beginning of a trend that has yet to really catch on -- having to purchase your spells! At first, you'll think the prices are relatively fair, but then you realize that the cost of spells increase greatly the higher the level they are (that is, Level 1, Level 2, etc.). You may be spending upwards of 60,000 Gil (currency) on a single spell by the end. Granted, by that time, your wallet may be so full, you'll have the maximum amount of Gil possible (I believe that's 999999 Gil!) and it will only put a minor dent in your ledger. Also absent from this game is Magic Points (MP); instead, you only get so many "uses" of each different level of magic, which increases with your experience level. Of course, if you run out of magic uses when you're deep within a dungeon, you're sunk. Surviving to the end (where you will likely meet up with a boss and then a warp pad to the surface), returning to the entrance, or perishing at the hands of a nasty Ogre are your only options.

The graphics in this game won't shock anybody -- the original game was 2-dimensional, and 2-dimensional the game shall remain. The game has certainly been visually updated, of course. Something that sticks out is the varied battle backgrounds which have been nicely drawn and fit the many terrains you will be required to traverse. However, everything else seems to have a 16-bit feel to it -- this game could have easily been pulled off successfully in the SNES era (with much commercial success; this one probably hasn't fared as well as it could have, since it was released at the end of the original PlayStation's lifespan). Additionally, there is only one CG-animated movie as a prelude to this game; those expecting amazing concluding cinematics will be very disappointed -- expect slow-scrolling text instead. I know I was. They did, however, add some "enhanced event scenes" to more vibrantly illustrate particular points in the game (such as the construction of a bridge to connect to the rest of a continent) with new and sometimes pre-rendered graphics, so it's not all bad.

The music has been completely remixed in this game (it would have to be... a PS1 game sporting old square wave music? Yuk!) and it certainly sounds as though intricate attention was paid to this aspect of the game. Nobuo Uematsu was called back to rework the tunes from Final Fantasy I and he has given them a more orchestrated and boisterous feel. As for the sound effects... well, they fit. They're nothing spectacular (how many swipes of a sword have I heard in my lifetime?), but they fit.

Overall, this is a good game and certainly there is a reason why this series took off with the popularity that it did. I enjoyed this title, even if I did have to suffer a few unpleasant deaths here and there, and even though I occasionally found myself very lost upon the vast plains of the overworld.


FINAL FANTASY II

Pretty much every video game series has that one game that tries to be different, but ends up being ostracized for its rebellious nature. In the case of the Final Fantasy series, that game is Final Fantasy II. The game's storyline is sort of a variation of the previous game: there are no crystals to be revived, but instead four youths whose town was burned down must defeat the evil Emperor of the land in order to restore peace! That's all well and good on the surface, but there will be enough plot twists to keep people awake. It ends up being one of those plots where you think "Yes, I've finally won!" and then something else pops up that makes you think twice.

The character development system here has been...oh, let's say 'tweaked' from the previous iteration of the series. This is the only Final Fantasy game to date that does NOT use experience points as its leveling-up system. Instead, how your character develops his attributes is dependent upon what the character does in battle. If he uses physical attacks aplenty, his (or her) Strength will increase accordingly. If magic is your forte, your Intelligence will increase. Beware, however, that as some attributes increase, others will decrease somewhat. Therefore, a good balance between physical fighting and the art of necromancy may be necessary in order to build a well-rounded character. Furthermore, your HP and MP only increase if they are somewhat rapidly reduced during battle. So, for example, if an enemy really pummels you in battle, taking off a serious chunk of health, you will likely be rewarded with extra HP at the end and/or an increase in your Endurance attribute. Also, using magic frequently will earn you MP boosts. Finally, there is also the ability to increase your proficiency at a variety of different weapons -- the more you use, let's say an axe, the more proficient you will become at using axes, and you will be able to deliver more damage with axes. Nifty, eh? Admittedly, because this system of development is a far cry from standard RPG fare, it takes some getting used to. Eventually it all sinks in and you can enjoy yourself.

The magic system, by the way, is a little different this time around. Final Fantasy II uses the MP system this time around, which it sticks with for the rest of the series. Spells can be purchased in this game as well (and they can be costly at the beginning of the game, since collecting Gil is a tireless and often fruitless process at this time) but besides the fact that many spells will not be of particular importance to the majority of gamers in their quest, enemies often drop scrolls that you can use to learn spells instead of having to pay for them. Magic spells, too, need to be leveled up (by using them over and over) in order for them to be a boon to their possessors.

Just as in Final Fantasy I, the graphics have been given a glossy touch. Again, there's only one CG-animated movie available at the start, but at least there's less philosophical babble to read during the ending. Everything looks 16-bit still (at least it's a consistent collection) and the best things you'll see in the game are the little event scenes. And again, the music has been revamped in this game, and while many people find the music of the first game to be superior to the second, I found the soundtrack slightly more pleasant in this game. The overworld theme with its summery guitar plucks are just delightful! But why is the battle music so damn loud? Turn it down -- you'll wake up the cat! The sound effects seem carried over from the first game, so again, nothing special. The occasional roar from a boss doesn't redeem this either - I demand wicked bloody slicing sounds, not whispy sword swishes!

All in all, even though I tend to enjoy the classic experience-based RPGs to those who try to experiment more, I did enjoy this game, perhaps even a bit more than I did with Final Fantasy I. It IS a bit more difficult though, especially to those not used to such an amazingly different battle system. Still, if you're looking for a RPG with that classic feel, and without all the complex new features of modern games, look no further than this gem!


Final Fantasy Origins adds a few new features to these classic games. First off is the ability to create a Memo Save ANYWHERE in the game, so if you die somewhere, you don't have to lose any experience, money, etc. and you can restart at the exact point where you saved. It's a very nice feature (which I often abused in tough situations) but it is important to note that when you turn off your PlayStation console or perform a hard reset (actually pressing the reset button), the Memo Save file is erased. Soft resetting (pressing L1 + L2 + R1 + R2 + Start + Select at the same time) is one way to reset the game safely so you can load your Memo Save file.

Another new feature (which some may deem useless while others will call it a nostalgic and interesting trip) is the addition of Collections. These Collections (which exist separately for both games) consist of a Bestiary, which will allow players to look at all the vital information of enemies and boss characters, provided they have defeated them at least once. There is also a listing of all the items you have collected in the game (from treasure chests; purchased items do not apply) and only when you open every chest in the game(s) will you achieve a perfect collection. There is also an Art Gallery, where you can see various pieces of hand-drawn artwork for the games; more artwork is unlocked as you progress through the game. There is also apparently a Photo Gallery (featuring still photos from the CG movies) but I don't recall this existing.

So there it is, the Final Fantasy Origins collection (although I don't consider 2 games quite a collection). Is it worth picking up? Well, you have to consider that this is a game for the PS1, NOT the PS2. Of course, if you played it once, you'd immediately realize that. Also, if you're really into the more modern Final Fantasy titles, you'll probably be turned off by its antiquity. The collection was meant to showcase how the series began, and was not intended to stun the world with anything new. True RPG fans (and Final Fantasy fans as well) will want to pick this up, but they ought not to spend too much on this title. Also, Final Fantasy I & II have also been released together on the Game Boy Advance with even more "improvements". Trust me, there are plenty of ways to test your classic Final Fantasy skills, and this is just one nifty option.


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