Game Review: Final Fantasy (PSP)

Final Fantasy

It’s not very often that I look back over the back catalogue of games that the PS Vita has to offer, let alone the vast range of legacy titles that the console has available to it from the PSOne, Minis and PSP but after receiving the Nintendo Classic Mini console last Christmas as a present from my wife, it prompted me to go back and look at some of the games I have sitting on my Vita… For those of you who haven’t seen Nintendo’s plug and play system, it’s a recreation of the NES with 30 built-in games covering not only some of their own classic games but many from other publishers including Namco, Konami, and Taito. But the one that had me the most excited was a little RPG from Square Enix. The original Final Fantasy…

Despite having a lot of games to choose from on the console, I found myself playing Final Fantasy more than any other game on the Classic Mini. A LOT more. I’ve been playing games in the Final Fantasy series for over 20 years since my first introduction to them with Final Fantasy VII on the original PlayStation but my first encounter with the game that started it all off wasn’t in its original incarnation but rather its remastered form released for the PSP so going back to play it on the NES was like a breath of fresh air to me.

But this isn’t a Nintendo website. I’m here to talk about games playable on the PS Vita and more specifically in this instance the PSP version of Final Fantasy. I won’t go into too much detail about the game and it’s plot as there can’t be many of you out there now who haven’t experienced at least one Final Fantasy game in your life, but I do want to look at what has been done to the remake and whether it has improved or – as in the case of so many remastered versions – spoiled the original.

The story is typical Final Fantasy fare – your party of heroes are tasked to save the world which – according to the game – has been shrouded in darkness. An ancient prophecy foretold of a group of adventurers – the four Warriors of Light – who will save the world, bearing four mysterious crystals. Your group of weary travelers arrive – all four of you carrying strange objects and everyone believes you to be those very saviours they are seeking. Looking to you as their only hope, you set off on your quest to save the world…

Onto the enhanced version for the PSP and the first thing that strikes you when you come to download it is the file size – it’s very small, even for a PSP title, coming in at a little under 120Mb. Even though the original version was written to fit on a small NES cartridge, this is still a tiny release considering the game’s scope. On first loading up, you’re immediately presented with the first “improvement” and to be honest it doesn’t give a particularly good impression – a rather unnecessary rendered CGI intro. While it looks good, it doesn’t fit in with the visual style of either the original game or the remake and it just seems like it was added as an afterthought. As they say, sometimes less is certainly more.

Things do improve quickly from here as you’re faced with the familiar Final Fantasy menu screen and the classic anthem, this time rearranged from the NES and sounding better than ever. Upon starting you get to select your party of four characters as with the original chosing their character classes and names but straight away there’s a tweak… previously you had to create names yourselves, no longer than four characters. Now you can use six (believe me, this is a big change!) or use randomly generated ones. It may seem like a minor thing, but that’s really what the updated version is like to me – it’s gameplay and subtle differences that are important to the update.

Moving on and the graphics have obviously been given a major overhaul from the 8-bit visuals of the NES to the wonderful cartoon graphics presented by the PSP. Every character is immediately given more personality, feels as if they have more life breathed into them and all of the background graphics have been given the same loving care and attention to bring the game world to life. Even the world map itself has a pseudo-3D effect added to it. That and all of the improvements throughout to the sound do enhance the experience and make for a more enjoyable gaming session – at least on the eyes and ears – but the crunch really is how well the gameplay holds up and whether that has been left intact or affected in any way.

Well, while the core game and story remains the same there have been some changes made to the game but thankfully all for the better. Character progression at the start of the game was – I have to admit – quite arduous on the NES. Not because the game was tough but more because combat felt like a chore. Final Fantasy’s ATB (Active Time Battle) system was introduced back then but it was flawed. Each character in your party only had a certain chance of being able to hit your opponents and on the NES characters started with a very low attack chance drawing combat out longer than it needed to. Add to that a logic flaw that beggars belief in the original that made combat frustrating more than anything else… In harder battles logically you’d assign all of your party members to attack the strongest opponent first. Once defeated any of your characters who haven’t taken their turn would – as you’d expect – move onto one of your other adversaries. Not on the NES they didn’t.

For some bizarre reason, if a character is defeated but the rest of your party had been assigned to attack that character they still try to attack the “missing” opponent! Obviously there’s nothing there so they report back that their attack was unsuccessful! It’s absolutely astonishing that this slipped past the testers all those years ago but thankfully it has been corrected for the PSP version. At the same time, your party start off with a higher attacking rate (not attacking strength I hasten to add), and the combat seems to flow a lot faster and as such is much more enjoyable (and with all the grinding you need to do in a typical RPG this is a pretty important point!).

The magic system has had a revamp as well. First time around all magic users could learn a fixed number of spells for each magic level they had attained (three per level out of four available spells). On the NES characters had a fixed amount of magic points to spend on casting spells per level with each spell costing the same. For example, early on in the game a White Mage may only have a couple of level one spells and have 2 or 3 magic points at their disposal to cast them. Once they run out, it’s back to an Inn to rest to restore them. The update uses the system that most will be familiar with these days – each magic user has a set number of magic points and these can be used on any spells but each individual spell has its own “cost” in MP. Weaker spells don’t need much to cast them but more powerful ones are more demanding. It’s a much better system and it’s another great improvement to see this implemented in the remake.

There have been further enhancements to extend the gameplay even more with additional dungeons to explore and fight your way through, and additional game modes vastly extending what already has a huge lifespan bringing something new to those who completed the original when it was first released.

While the aesthetic improvements have really helped to modernise the game without spoiling it, especially the superbly enhanced soundtrack, what really matters is the gameplay. It’s very easy to lose track of time while playing any game in the Final Fantasy series and this is no exception. It’s incredibly addictive, and you’ll find yourself not only drawn into, but lost in the world completely, wrapped up in the narrative and exploration, cheering your party on in combat and delighting in their successes. It’s one of the most engaging retro RPGs I’ve played on the Vita and probably the one I have put more time into that any with the exception of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony.

While this isn’t the best in the Final Fantasy series (I’d still reserve than honour for Final Fantasy VII), it is a fantastic RPG and provides not only hours of rock-solid entertainment but a fascinating insight into the legacy of one of the industry’s most enduring sagas. A superb, engaging game and a must have for any RPG enthusiast.

At A Glance

  • Title: Final Fantasy
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: N/A
  • Cross Save: Yes (Save game data can be copied manually between the PS Vita and PSP)
  • Local Multiplayer: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: No
  • Memory Card Space Required: 117Mb

Vita Player Rating - 08

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