Monday, July 6, 2020

Final Fantasy 1 Review

Back in the late 90s, my lifelong love of Square Enix's iconic Final Fantasy series began when I got hooked on Final Fantasy 7. It quickly became a long term goal of mine to play every mainline entry in the franchise and I've been working my way outward through the series ever since. Having nearly completed that goal now, I find myself at the extreme ends of the franchise: FF1 and FF15. This week I'll be reviewing Final Fantasy's origin point; my next post will cover its most recent entry.

Final Fantasy is a turn-based fantasy RPG that was originally released on the NES. It tells the story of four warriors on a quest to restore balance to their world by reactivating four magic elemental crystals. Final Fantasy has been ported and remade on a variety of platforms over the past several decades.  This review is specifically based on the Android version of the game, which I received for free by using Google Play promotional credits.

  • All the core elements of Final Fantasy gameplay and themes are here. It was an interesting experience to see the genesis of concepts that Square Enix has iterated upon over 15 times now.
  • Considering this was originally an 8-bit game, it features surprisingly rich music with nice arrangements on mobile.
  • The remastered graphics look pretty good and display nicely on a cellphone or tablet screen. The style is a little different from the original 8-bit game, but the designs are still all easily recognizable. 
  • With the exception of landing the airship on small pieces of land, I found that I had no difficulties with FF1's touchscreen controls.
  • Some of the NPCs say bizarre or amusing things. This injected some humor into an otherwise pretty dry fantasy story.
  • Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that the conclusion of the story was far more interesting than I expected it to be. 

  • While there is some interesting lore at the very beginning and ending of the game, FF1's story is pretty sparse.
  • The dungeons in this game are quite long and feature very high encounter rates; at times your character can only walk about 5 steps between battles. This can make completing dungeons a test of patience.
  • FF1 could have benefitted from an auto-attack feature like the mobile version of FF4 had. A feature like this makes playing a mobile turn-based game more comfortable and convenient.
  • There is little depth to the strategy of FF1 combat; I mostly breezed through it mindlessly with the exception of the final boss difficulty spike.
  • On Android, FF1 requires a DRM check (anti-piracy measure) every single time you launch the game. This makes this version poorly suited to playing while traveling since you can't get past the DRM check if you don't have a signal (such as when on a plane). Measures like this make a worse experience for paying customers just to potentially prevent a few people from stealing an $8 game.
  • At the time I began my playthrough of this game earlier this year, the FF1 app wasn't capable of multi-tasking, meaning there was no ability to open a guide or anything else on your phone without resetting the game (and thus initiating the DRM check again). Apparently, this was fixed in a patch very recently, but the fact that this issue went unaddressed for many years doesn't reflect well on Square Enix's mobile support. In fact, even now the listing for the game in the Google Play Store includes a warning that there may be compatibility issues with the more recent versions of Android.
FF1 on Android suffers from some limitations that can make playing the game inconvenient. However, once you're actually in the game, the gameplay has been adapted well to the mobile format. As to FF1's content more generally, I think this game is worth playing for people interested in Final Fantasy or JRPG history but the gameplay and story are so basic that I would primarily only recommend it to players who are already invested in the FF series or are avid retro gamers.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 16 hours and 30 minutes

Note: This post is part of the Chic-Pixel community's #JRPGJuly event. For more info and their full list of events, check out this page: Community Game-Along Master List 2020

In context, this dialog eventually makes sense.

The battle artwork looks pretty cool and the menus work well with a touch screen.

Based on how often you're greeted by this screen, you would think the financial stability of the entire Square Enix corporation rests on the sales of this one cheap app.

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