Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls English Hands-On

The first two Final Fantasy games are arriving on the GBA, complete with updated graphics, and we've got new impressions.


Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls brings the foundation titles from the Final Fantasy series to the Game Boy Advance. Each game recently got a nice revamp when it was released as part of the Final Fantasy Origins package for the PlayStation, and each has received the same graphical and gameplay improvements here, in addition to gaining a few extras aimed specifically at the handheld crowd. We recently got to spend a bit of time with each of these role-playing classics to see how each is faring so far on the small screen. Right now, both games seem right at home there.

Silly, silly Garland. Will you never learn?
Silly, silly Garland. Will you never learn?

The original Final Fantasy hasn't changed too much from the 8-bit NES days, although the character sprites are a good deal nicer, and the towns, dungeons, and overall world map have gotten detail boosts. You'll still start things off by choosing four heroes. Then you'll pick their character classes from the available archetypes (the warrior, monk, black mage, white mage, red mage, or thief), name them, and jump into the adventure. The game's story is a basic one: Four heroes must rise to defeat a great evil by using the power of the light and four crystal shards.

Tweaks to the gameplay that surfaced in the PlayStation version of this game also show up here. For example, if a character targets an enemy and that enemy is defeated before the character's turn, he or she will simply attack another target instead of wasting a turn. You can also save just about anywhere in the world by simply bringing up your menu screen and selecting the save option. As a result, you won't have to worry about finding the perfect stopping point. Additionally, transitions from wandering around to engaging in battle (which is a frequent occurrence) are handled quickly and smoothly, and the game briskly settles into the traditional "level up, beat the boss, and save the world" pattern. An addition to this version of the game is a series of four bonus dungeons that are accessible after you've beaten each of the four minions of Chaos. Each dungeon will feature a random layout and tough foes to face, which should give old fans a whole new reason to fire the game up.

Final Fantasy II also looks to have made the transition to the GBA well. Consequently, the sprites here are more detailed and larger than their Final Fantasy I counterparts in battle, and they also sport character portraits for the main cast. Final Fantasy II is overall more sophisticated than its predecessor, so your characters have distinct personalities and feature in a larger overall storyline, where you guide a group of war orphans against the might of an evil empire. The leveling system is also more sophisticated, letting you earn bonuses to your various stats depending on the actions you take in battle. For instance, a character who repeatedly uses melee attacks will increase his or her strength stat, while a character who takes damage repeatedly will increase his or her stamina and maximum hit points, and so on. Characters will also gain bonuses to specific weapons and armor types simply by using them. Final Fantasy II also features a bonus mode like the first game. However, in this case, you'll be able to guide a party of characters that otherwise succumbs to death during the main storyline so you can bring its otherwordly might to bear against the evil empire in battle.

These games are graphically based on the revamped versions that first showed up on the Wonderswan handheld, and while they don't necessarily showcase the full extent of the GBA's graphical prowess, they seem to hold up pretty well. Overworld sprites are still simple and squat, but the in-battle art fleshes out both characters and enemies to give them life with color and some detail. The game's sound has held up pretty well after all these years, and the synth music pipes out the old tunes with some nice texture to them.

Save the world not once but twice!
Save the world not once but twice!

Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls brings a classic fan favorite and its sequel to handhelds in a package that gives both games a fresh coat of paint for new audiences, in addition to including some nice extras for existing fans. We'll have more details for you, including a more in-depth exploration of each game's bonus content, in our upcoming full review. In the meantime, be sure to check out our new movies and screenshots of the games.

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