Legend tells that when the land falls into ruin, four Warriors of Light will come forth, each bearing an Elemental Orb. Now, in the Kingdom of Cornelia, the ancient prophecy has finally been fulfilled, as four youthful warriors prepare to rescue their princess from the grips of the evil knight Garland. What they don’t realise is that this is just the start of a journey that will take them across the world and into confrontation with the dark god Chaos.
Given Square-Enix’s propensity for making remakes, and then remaking those remakes, it is no wonder that the original entry in their flagship series would travel from NES to PSOne to GBA and now to PSP. And along the way it has been given a complete graphical overhaul, making the idea of returning to the simplicity of nameless generics fighting enemies and restoring elemental crystals far more attractive than it might otherwise be.
Legend of the Crystals
In an age of increasing complex battle systems and new takes on the genre, Final Fantasy takes us back to what things were like in the good old days when petrol was cheap and a pound coin could get you a portion of chips, an ice cream, a cinema ticket and still leave you enough change for the bus ride home. Back in these days of heady simplicity, all an RPG had do in order to become legendary was give you four generic heroes to name, and have you traipse across a world of villages and dungeons, buying the weapons, armour and magic you need to grind your way through wave upon wave of randomly generated enemies.
At the start of the game, you get to name and customise your characters, which basically consists of picking a class for each of them out of six classes- Warrior, Thief, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage and Red Mage. Unlike later Final Fantasy games, you can’t change jobs midway through the game (although all of these jobs will upgrade to more powerful versions), so it’s important to start off with a balanced group. From this point onwards, your characters will assume the roles of the four Warriors of Light, and it will be your job to travel across the monster-infested world restoring the magical crystals and thus righting the balance of nature.
Everything about the game is pretty straightforward; at any given point, you’ll either be fighting random enemies in dungeons, stocking up on items and equipment in town, or just wandering around the world map trying to find your next destination. There are a handful of tricky enemies, but no real curveballs in terms of difficulty, so the overall experience (sans optional dungeons) will only run to around 8-10 hours, meaning you’ll be done before the nostalgia wears off and tedium starts setting in.
If that isn’t enough for you, however, there are also four bonus elemental dungeons, best attempted once your characters reach a high level. Unfortunately, there is a sting in the tail for anyone attempting to complete all of these dungeons; at the bottom of each one, there are several bosses, but each time you defeat one of the bosses, you get automatically teleported out and have to work your way back down again. Maybe this will satisfy hardcore games, but even my masochistic streak doesn’t run deep enough to make me want to grind through the same 30 level dungeon multiple times.
As you might expect, Final Fantasy isn’t going to win any awards for its story, which is generic in pretty much every respect. Still, if you ever want a template for making your own RPG, I guess you could use this as a starting point.
FFI PSP’s greatest appeal quite possibly stems from the fact that the game has been completely graphically overhauled for its latest rerelease. Whilst it must always be argued that looks aren’t everything, the fact that the old 8-bit graphics have been replaced with attractive sprites, monsters and background helps to revitalise what would otherwise just be a poor-looking, generic throwback to a past era. The character sprites are particularly pleasing, but effort has been put into giving every aspect of the game a fresh look which improves even on the efforts of previous remakes. Similarly, the in game music has been remixed, ensuring that it doesn’t sound aged and tinny.
Although it might have been considered an epic title in its time, even a classic game like Final Fantasy needs a bit of repackaging to sell it to a sophisticated modern audience, and luckily this shiny new remake achieves just that. It may be a far cry from the breadth of RPGs available to us today, but it still makes for a worthy burst of nostalgic fun that wraps up well before it outstays its welcome.