Nice graphics, simple design, and a good challenge describe these two games very well.
Gameplay (8.6 out of 10):
Unlike the newer Final Fantasy games which are just too easy, these games are much more like it in terms of difficulty. The games revolve a round a top-down view and solid 2D design. The battles are my favorites. Both games revolve around the same system, but otherwise a little different.
FF1 is frustrating. It is very difficult to figure out what you're supposed to do next or where you need to go after completing a mission. I once got so stumped, I was battling enemies nonstop for 3 or so consecutive days with no bit of progress with the story and it was only until I looked at game guides that I found out what I was supposed to do. This is the most annoying part of the game. The second most annoying, and a close second, is that the enemies tend to flee when on a high level which makes levelling up very difficult. My most disliked part is that you have to walk through lava, spikes, and other dangers just to accomplish a goal, something I find meaningless. Oh, and be sure you have 99 potions before venturing deep into a cavern and learn to optimize the usage of magic as well, of which the spells are awkwardly designed. The case with a very powerful monster in front of a treasure chest, at first, is bad, but later on, is a great way to power up. Defeat "Gnoma" in the earth caverns about 90 times and you level up when into the 20's of levels and it's completely possible to be at level 99 in reasonable time before even beating the boss of the earth caverns. Choosing the party is the first thing but once chosen, you cannot change it and this makes matters more complicated than they need to be, but at least it's a good challenge, of which the modern Final Fantasy games seriously lack. FF1 hurts the game play rating quite a bit.
FF2, however, is much better designed. The only downside is that, when wondering around looking for where to go, you may suddenly encounter enemies way too strong for your characters to handle causing a cheap gameover so using the memo file feature is essential right away but as time goes on, it's not as important. The big upside to this is that, as soon as you get Mindu within the first hour of the game, you can power up your characters to having maxed HP and MP (9999 and 999), nearly max out their stats, buy weapons and armor usually obtained late in the game, and so much more, all before even starting the mission to the first cavern which makes the game so easy from then on. The downside to doing this is that you tend to get extreme weaklings. I once had Firion and Gus with over 3000 HP and when I first got Gordon, having a tiny 64, I had a hard enough time getting his HP up taking a whole day to get him to 1500 HP before continuing the quest. This makes all battles so easy, the enemies can't even scratch the 3 "powerhouses", even bosses and this makes the game so much more fun. Another annoyance in the game is that you can only carry 63 items where special items hog up space. When enemies drop off items, it becomes particularly a concern and you must sell or discard old items and other junk that enemies like the Warlock drop off. By exploiting the action/cancel bug, as soon as you first encounter enemies, you can be doing 16 hits with two characters in just 2 hours' game time. The characters, unlike FF1, take the route of whatever I do in battle. Since I mostly use the attack command and rarely spells, the characters have strong physical strength but a relatively weak magic ability. By dedicating one character to magic, he/she will become a very powerful magic user but a weakling when using physical attacks. FF2 doesn't have anywhere near as much of the annoyances of FF1. I didn't have to consult a guide for FF2 but the case of having to walk through hazards (lava, acid, spikes, etc.) is still present although no where near as much as it is with FF1. FF2 features swimming in water as well, something I haven't seen in Final Fantasy games. The final boss, however, seemed more like a normal enemy since it was way too easy. Either it can't hit due to extreme evasion, or it can't use spells since I drained it all away on the first action. I hardly see any real downsides to FF2's game play.
Graphics (7.9 out of 10):
Both games have nice graphics but in some ways seems a bit monotonic such as the grasslands background in battles and otherwise too static. Although the background scenery, the enemies, and almost everything around is static, there are a few things that change.
FF1 has too many things involving caves and more variety could be welcome. The effects when an enemy is defeated is one of the most decent in the game. The World Map is nicely designed but oceans and rivers could use a little better texture.
FF2 has much more variety ranging from castles, caverns (of which there are still too many of), towns, and some others. The World Map isn't as well-designed as that of FF1 as the ocean water texture is quite dull, but the special effects help some.
Sound (8.3 out of 10):
The music says it all. Both games have very good music but the sound effects are where the games fall behind on, even with the one song factored out.
FF1's World Map music, by far, is the most amazing tune of the two songs, of which I listened to for 42 days straight. Of the two games, FF1 has the better sound effects. FF1 doesn't quite have the best music but is very close.
FF2 has a good song for the battle music, that of caverns, in towns, and the victory music. There is one particularly annoying song, encountered when boarding the empire's massive airship and it causes me to turn the volume down on my TV. The sound effect from defeating an enemy is rather dorky-sounding but would rather listen to it several times than the annoying song.
Value (9.2 out of 10):
With the modern Final Fantasy games lacking any real challenge, these two games certainly make up for it and then some. When I played FF7, I found it to be way too easy with almost no challenge. When I played FF1, I found it to be much more worth it in terms of difficulty. FF2 is rather easy, but still considerably more difficult than FF7. Both games have self-made challenges available, but FF2 has tons of them and I'd rather play FF2 5 times as much as FF1 as a result since I can do much more with it. FF2 has twice the customizability as that of FF1. With FF2, you can equip two weapons or a weapon-shield combination. It's often better to equip two weapons since the damage is more focused (you may do damage with two weapons when having one weapon wouldn't scratch the enemy). This kind of flexibility makes the game much more worthy than FF1 which doesn't have much in the way of customizability.
Tilt (8 out of 10):
FF2's character development system and the fact that, with the right power, you can walk to pretty much anywhere on the World Map, make the tilt rather high. From having to walk through hazards causes the tilt to be rather low. The games seem very original, especially FF2.
If you're looking for a good challenge and/or love fighting enemies, I'd recommend getting this game. If you're curious to know how the Final Fantasy series started out, this game is also for you.