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CONSOLE: Wonderswan DEVELOPER: Squaresoft PUBLISHER: Squaresoft
RELEASE DATE (JP): December 9, 2000 GENRE: RPG
// review by SoyBomb

Final Fantasy, now more portable than ever!

I'm amazed by how many times games can be repackaged and re-released. We are currently suffering from an overdose of "HD" upgrades, trilogy collections, reviving long lost arcade games from the dead, and just flat-out re-releases without any substantial changes. While this is a good way for newer gamers to experience some of the classics lost to the perils of time, some games have definitely worn out their welcome. How is that some games are, acceptably, released over and over again? One such game is Final Fantasy, one of the more notable RPGs originally released on the Famicom (and the NES a few years later). While some games have seen the spotlight too many times, such as The Legend of Zelda or Mega Man, nothing seems to compare with the number of times Final Fantasy has seen a re-release. To my surprise, Final Fantasy has been released not one, not two, not three, but twelve times. Square Enix (and Squaresoft before it) has certainly milked this product dry, and it's only a matter of time before another new console trundles along and we see yet another way to snatch up Final Fantasy. But today, we're only going to focus on the WonderSwan Color remake.

The original Final Fantasy on the NES wasn't a terrible-looking game by any means. For the limits of its hardware, Final Fantasy did a decent job of portraying a large-scale world filled with many secrets and nasty creatures alike. In 2000, Final Fantasy received its first "real" upgrade on the WonderSwan Color, with improvements to graphics, sound, and gameplay, all of which were subsequently carried forward to many future ports.

Final Fantasy was a simple game at heart, boasting many of the clichés synonymous with RPGs thereafter. You are the 4 Light Warriors, guardians of four magic orbs, brought together to relinquish the world from the grasp of some ghastly elemental spirits called the Four Fiends. Once you have done so, you discover that those Fiends sent the wicked knight, Garland, to the past. With the Fiends in the future, Garland could live within a Moebius strip of time, consistently looping and thus would live forever. The Light Warriors must also travel through time to defeat Garland once and for all so that his reign of terror on the world, and on time itself, would come to a bitter end.

Pretty heavy stuff.

Journey to a world where each town has a population of around 10 citizens.

As you begin the game, you choose the classes of the Light Warriors, be they knights, thieves, white mages, etc., or (most likely) a combination of them all. They will then set forth from the Kingdom of Corneria to venture on their quest. They'll have to fight countless enemies to level up their skills (grinding plays an integral role in this game, which may explain why battles are almost impressively frequent) and visit towns to upgrade their weaponry and armor, buy items, and even learn magic spells (at an ever-increasing cost, of course). The warriors will also take control of additional vehicles, such as the now infamous airship and a regular ol' floaty boat. These are basic aspects that we now both expect from an RPG and take for granted.

The menu system is much more fluid with effective use of the second set of directional buttons to switch between information for each character. But it's the minute new features in this WonderSwan Color revision that make your journey a little more easier in the new millennium. For example, during battle, you have to select which character is to attack which enemy. In the NES version, if an enemy was already dead before another character was to fight it, you'd hit dead air. Now, a character will automatically switch over to another enemy and fight that one instead. A bit of strategy is lost, but I do prefer this method. It wouldn't make sense for an actual person to see that a foe has been defeated and then try to swipe at it anyway. You can now run quickly by holding the B button down while moving around, a feature absent from the NES version. Lastly, you can save at any moment, not just while sleeping at the local inn. If you don't want these gameplay upgrades, there is an option to turn them off and enjoy the game as it was originally intended.

With the heightened capabilities of the WonderSwan Color over the aged NES, Final Fantasy has been completely reskinned. The map has been overhauled to include much more detail, as have the various caves, towns, and castles. The main characters and enemies jump out with more colour than ever before. It's nothing breathtaking, mind you, but they're far more pleasing to the eye. All of the battles now have full detailed backgrounds, unlike the dull black scenery of yesteryear. Even the spell sequences have been re-animated for a much more entertaining appearance. In addition, when you visit a store, there's actually a shop to visit, rather than just having a shopping menu display for you. And, of course, the audio has significant improvements, despite the still limited capabilities of the WonderSwan speaker system. Everything is now in stereo and the soundtrack now seems much more impressive. These enhancements were carried over as the basis for the PlayStation port, Final Fantasy Origins.

For RPG fans on the go, the WonderSwan Color remake of Final Fantasy is a dream come true. The fact that you can play for a long time to make significant progress or just a few minutes to help yourself level up while riding the bus makes this an ideal portable game. It may seem archaic or downright difficult to those only familiar with RPGs from the past few years, but hopefully even they could find enjoyment in this game.

But seriously, Square Enix, enough with the ports. It's time to move on.

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