That’s right, for a third time the original Final Fantasy hits American shelves, and it’s as good as it was back then! But, that was then and this is now, and classics from the NES should stay on the NES. Anyway, while both still offer decent gameplay, with just a little bit of tweaking and a graphical facelift, Square-Enix could’ve put out one of the best GBA games to date?but they got lazy. There isn’t much difference between this one and Final Fantasy: Origins (PS1). Aside from being compacted into a single cartridge, the only noteworthy change is FF2’s plot has been slightly expanded upon, with new dungeons and some new events; however, for somebody who already owns Origins, there isn’t enough to warrant another purchase.
The plot is somewhat disappointing, both have the standard, most clich?d plots an RPG can have?though it isn’t really a clich? for them since they were the first to do it. Anyway, the FFI plot revolves around a group of four prophesized warriors carrying crystals, who are still simply silent protagonists, lacking any development or personality. After knowledge of your crystal-wielding status reaches the king of Cornelia (known only as “The King”) he summons you and assigns you the task of fighting the evil Garland, a renegade swordsman wanted for kidnapping Princess Sarah, who remains your nemesis until you let Kuja kill him in FF9 (well, not really). As for FF2, they have the other clich?, an evil empire seeking global domination. You play as Firion, an incredibly ugly boy recently orphaned by the evil Imperial Army. After nearly dying at the hands of Imperial forces, Firion and his friends, who are also orphaned, attempt to join the Rebel Army, under the command of Queen Hilda and her guard, Minwu. Now I’ve got to say this; the cast of characters in these two games is absolutely terrible. FFI is at a disadvantage because of their silent protagonists, but Serge (Chrono Cross) and Link (Legend of Zelda) are both good characters that are nicely developed while FFII is the worst. While each character is surprisingly uglier than the last, their personalities are all just lame; each one is just a stock character, complete with token timid girl, token big-and-dumb guy and token hero. Lucky for them there are people like Minwu to make up for their shortcomings. While the games from the 80s aren’t known for their compelling storylines, this is a game from 2004, and if Square-Enix did improve the plot to an extensive level, it would’ve been able to drive almost any gamer through it (like in the other FF ports).
The plot isn’t always what makes up the game though, the gameplay does. Both games have pretty much identical battle systems, using the patented turn-based system synonymous with the Final Fantasy series (except FFXI). Obtaining magic, however, isn’t of great interest, since all you do is simply buy it over-the-counter like so much Aspirin, but combined with FFI’s job class setup, it works very nicely. Now, you must all be thinking, “if the battles are solid and the magic system works nicely, then why such a mediocre gameplay rating?” Well, that’s because both these games require you to do constant level-up marathons, necessitating dozens upon dozens of excess battles that quickly becomes tedious beyond articulation. This problem is one of the biggest in both games, and bunch that up with things like overpriced Phoenix Downs slowing you down, it just doesn’t go well.
The graphics and sound are no prizes either. While the in-battle sprites and monsters look pretty good, the out-of-battle graphics are probably some of the worst GBA eyesores out there. People walking in place, bulging limbs and catastrophically bad portraits combine like Power Rangers to create one bad-looking game. On the other hand, the sound isn’t bad. While they may not end up peddling a million soundtracks to legions of fanboys, this one sounds all right for a GBA game.
FF1 & 2 had potential with its classical turn-based fighting, but Square-Enix just left it a mediocre “enhanced” port. Had they just made a few changes, particularly in graphics and level-up curves, these two games would’ve probably ended up being some of the best Final Fantasy games. If you are a fan of the series, you might not be as disappointed as me, and since it does have two games built in, beating them both will give you a lot of playtime, but unless you are a diehard Final Fantasy fan, there are other, better RPGs that you could buy for your GBA like Golden Sun or even Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.