User Rating: 8.1 | Final Fantasy Origins PS
(Disclaimer: This review pertains to FF1 only, as I have not yet played FF2) Back in the wee old days of gaming, when I was toting around my brand-new NES looking for games to play, my friend Greg introduced me to Final Fantasy. The undoubtedly cool manual, and promises of open-ended gameplay certainly whetted my appetite, and when I was able to, I purchased the game with much anticipation. It did not disappoint. My friend Dave and I actually spent the better part of a whole summer playing for hours on each day, infuriating our parents and atrophing our limbs. At the end of the day, we would massage our sore thumbs, imprinted with the cross of the NES directional pad, and proclaim that yes, Final Fantasy was the Greatest Game Ever. Flash forward, 2003. I hear rumors that they are remaking Final Fantasy Origins, and I rejoice. It suddenly appears at my local game store, and I rejoice. I purchase the game, take it home, and watch the opening movie, and I rejoice. Then it starts. And I rejoice a tiny bit less. For all the purported difficulty and rigor that many reviewers have claimed Final Fantasy 1 contained, to me it was hardly much to ask if you're going to "save the world". The slightly-askew English of the translation was amusing and endearing, and the simple interface, once learned, became second-nature. Final Fantasy Origins takes a different tack on FF1, streamlining and simplfying many things. To any veteran of the original, the first thing you will undoubtedly take notice of is the language. Everything from the names of the characters and monsters to the text they speak has been retranslated. It's questionable whether or not it's an improvement in my mind. Is "Goblin" somehow more understandable than "Imp"? And why does the ruler of your starting city have to make it painfully obvious what your mission should be, when it was quite obvious even in the original? To me, this change was fairly unnecessary, and removes a bit of the nostalgia one would have seeing the old commands from the King again. Other improvements are far more agreeable. The inventory management, while never a chore to myself, was nontheless simplified with easier menu commands, and an "optimize" option to auto-equip your characters. The graphics have been polished to the look of a late NES / early SNES game. The CG cutscenes are nice, and the intro has a new visual addition to the original's simple text. And the sound, commented on by the Gamespot reviewer and others, is indeed very nice. In making this game, I'm assuming Square wished to capitalize on the nostalgia exhibited by people like me, who yearned for the Final Fantasy experiences of their childhood. But in revising so many aspects of the game, I think they risk shaking that nostalgia with all the pretty graphics, sounds, and dramatic cutscenes. Indeed, Final Fantasy developed into something of an 800-pound gorilla in later years, with huge worlds, fancy graphics, and complex mechanics, but I never played those games. To me, Final Fantasy doesn't need a number after it, and it only needs an original NES, some time, and a good friend for support. Final Fantasy Origins is a nice update of a very good game, but it's a bittersweet experience for me, with less reflection on the beauty of the changes than on the fact that you can't ever go back.