Version Reviewed: 1.0
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It doesn't get much more classic than the original Final Fantasy game. First conceived as Square's last (i.e., "final) game, they planned to make it a great one...but Final Fantasy ended up doing much more than saving them from bankruptcy. Released in Japan for the NES in 1987, Final Fantasy has since spawned a massive series of spin-offs, sequels, and remakes. Some years back, Square Enix created remakes of the original two games for the PSP.
Now, Square Enix has ported those PSP versions of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II to the iPhone. The translation is a mostly smooth one, and the games are chock-full of nostalgia. If you're not a dedicated fan of the series, however, you'll want to think about this purchase—Final Fantasy might have been revolutionary at the time, but it hasn't aged perfectly. That's not to say that it's a bad game—it's not—but this is a decidedly old-fashioned RPG. If that appeals to you, well, read on!
I suspect that many of you already know if you like Final Fantasy or not, and are more concerned with the quality of the port itself. Thankfully, this seems to be pretty solid. First and foremost among the iPhone-sensitive features: auto-save! Get interrupted, close the app at any time...Final Fantasy will save your progress, so long as you're not in battle. It's a godsend, and makes the game great for pick-up-and-play.
When you're travelling, a large, translucent D-pad takes residence in the bottom-left of the screen. It takes some getting used to and obscures the screen a bit too much, but you soon learn to deal with it. The bottom-right contains either a "dash"/action button, or a mini-box with your party's info, depending on if you're in a town or similar environment, or the world map. Tapping the mini-box brings up the menu, allowing you to do things like equip weapons or use items. (In a town-like environment, you let go of the D-pad to summon the mini-box instead of the dash button.)
The interface is a bit clunky, but it's still workable. I do wish the menu text was larger. One minor shift is that in battle, you chose from a series of icons rather than text-based menu options. I suppose that's supposed to compensate for our fat thumbs.
As for the game itself, almost everything is the same, except for the drastically reduced difficulty compared to the original release. The additional "Soul of Chaos" and "Labyrinth of Time" dungeons are also included. So, overall: the port is well done. It's not perfect, but nor does it interfere with the experience, unless you want to suffer through the old version's unforgiving nature. (There's a Wii VC port for that, I believe!) I'd worry about the battery drain if anything...long RPG sessions aren't suited to mobile gaming, though Final Fantasy doesn't seem to be a huge battery hog.
The Game Itself
Final Fantasy is definitely a game of its era. When the game opens, you chose your four party members and assign them classes. You have six to chose from: Black Mage, White Mage, Red Mage, Fighter, Thief, and Monk. The black and white mages are pretty straightforward magic powerhouses, while the fighter, thief, and monk all focus on physical attributes; the red mage is a bit of a hybrid. Once you've created your party, it's time to save the world.
The plot might have been revolutionary when Final Fantasy was released, but its age shows now. Your four Light Warriors must face dungeons and forests, pirates and witches, evil Elemental Fiends and eventually Chaos himself. And guess what? It's all been prophesied. There's no characterization, and while the storyline is epic in the true sense of the word, it's obviously a vehicle for advancing the game.
Battle consists of mostly random encounters, which take place on the (enormous) world map. It's a very simple affair. You never need to do anything more than chose a monster to target and pick between attacking and using magic. Unfortunately, the need to tap once on the Attack icon and once on the target monster slows the otherwise fast battle mechanic down, but it's still the same simple, turn-based affair that old RPGs are known for.
Actually, "old RPG" is really the only way to describe this game. The graphics, though updated, still have a definite retro feel; strategy takes a backseat, and you spend a lot of time in random encounters. The world is wide open, and despite the linear plot, it's easy to get lost in it. (Fancy things like "quest logs" don't have a place here!) If it's old-school you want, here's the game to get. It's worth mentioning that the difficulty is radically different from the original release; the ability to save anywhere is a godsend, and levelling up takes much less time. Random encounters have also been reduced, and it seems to be an easier ride on the whole. That's fine with me: the iPhone is a mobile platform, after all.
The Final Verdict
So, what can you expect from this port? Final Fantasy is a prime example of old-school gaming, so if you're not willing to invest time in grinding and wandering around, you won't enjoy it. But Final Fantasy is still a classic experience that can be enjoyed even by those who have never touched the series before. Despite its lack of modern bells and whistles, it's is a solid port of a piece of history, and it exemplifies what RPGs used to be. If you like classic gaming at all—or if you're simply interested in starting—this Final Fantasy port should satisfy.