Although this bundle features a fresh coat of paint and some appealing enhancements, Final Fantasy Origins still has its fair share of problems.
The Final Fantasy series has come a long way since the original game came out in 1987. The series has seen the inclusion of voice acting, three-dimensional graphics, pompous full-motion video sequences and epic orchestral pieces. But what about the games that started it all? Do they still hold up? Final Fantasy Origins compiles both the original Final Fantasy and its direct sequel Final Fantasy II and while this bundle features a fresh coat of paint and some appealing enhancements, Origins still has its fair share of problems.
In Final Fantasy, you play as the Four Warriors of Light (also known as the Crystal Bearers) soon after they set out on a larger-than-life journey to defeat their nemesis Chaos. Most quests involve rescuing princesses, exploring large dungeons and defeating legendary creatures that dwell at the bottom of caves or on the top of gargantuan towers. The Crystal Bearers’ main objective is to defeat evil forces, restore light to the orbs that were darkened by the four Elemental Fiends and save the world.
As soon as you start the game, you need to select the name and class of the four warriors you control. Classes include warrior, fighter, black belt, thief, red mage, white mage and black mage, but later in the game, each character has the possibility of undergoing a class change. When your party is ready, you can level up your warriors, explore the overworld map and prepare for some of the epic encounters that punctuate your journey.
The structure is fairly simplistic, you fight enemies so that you can level up your characters and as you make progress, you have access to more cities and dungeons. Cities have important locations where you can buy better equipment, save your progress and talk to non-playable characters that give you more quests. Dungeons, on the other hand, have treasure chests with rare items that aren’t available in most stores.
But despite having enhanced graphics, Final Fantasy has all the frustrations proper of an RPG of the NES era. By today’s standards, most design decisions seem archaic and old-fashioned. For instance, the random encounters quickly become one of the most frustrating aspects of the game. So exploring dungeons is almost impossible, since encountering a powerful party of enemies usually translates into a game over screen. On top of that, saving is only possible in towns and since fighting weaker enemies takes too much time and the money you get in return isn’t worth it, you’ll find yourself fleeing battles more often than not.
Final Fantasy II is remarkably different to the original Final Fantasy. The story centers around a group of rebels from the kingdom of Fynn whose parents have been killed during an army invasion. This time around, the adventurers have their own names and personalities: Firion is the main hero, Maria is the group’s archer, Gus is a monk who communicates with animals and Leon is a conflicted dark knight. Unlike the original Final Fantasy, this sequel puts much more emphasis on story and characterization. So instead of controlling a generic party of characters whose only motivation is defeating a powerful boss, Final Fantasy II deals with more mature topics, such as death and deceit.
In terms of gameplay, Final Fantasy II is surprisingly different to its predecessor. The random encounters are still here, but a couple of fresh systems make Final Fantasy II feel like a completely different game. While the original Final Fantasy forced you to choose a class for each character, in Final Fantasy II, characters develop according to their actions in battle. Attack enemies and your character’s strength will increase, receive a lot of damage and you character’s defense will rise, use spells and your character’s magic capabilities will improve and so on. This makes your characters more unique than ever and no matter what happens, no two characters will be the same.
It’s worth pointing out that while this system represents a great idea that defied the conventions of the genre soon after it was conceived, balancing characters takes lot of time and the game doesn’t explain a lot of the features of the system, so the only way to discover them is through trial-and-error.
But unconventional character development isn’t the only innovation. As its name suggests, the word memory system let’s you memorize keywords which you can then use to ask questions and make progress with the story. Another welcome addition is the possibility of saving anywhere in the overworld (the save system from Final Fantasy was overly restrictive, since it only allowed you to save at local inns.)
Final Fantasy Origins features a handful of changes that are new to both titles. The most apparent change is the graphical overhaul, since both titles have received a 16-bit visual treatment. Additionally, each game also has CGI introductory sequences that, albeit a few seconds long, look absolutely stunning. There are also a few difficulty levels to choose from and newcomers will probably appreciate the new “easy mode.” Finally, both titles have a bestiary, item collection and an art gallery, as well as remixed soundtracks.
In conclusion, Final Fantasy Origins is a solid bundle that compiles the two titles that started the series. Sadly, some aspects of the games seem quite antiquated by today’s standards. Purists who would like to go back to Final Fantasy’s beginnings in an unadulterated way will probably appreciate Origins. But the rest will find Final Fantasy Origins frustrating, tedious and overly old-fashioned.