Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: June 26, 2007
Remakes or re-releases are always a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you are getting a known quantity, or in the case of software, a known quality, but do you get any enhancements that truly justify the new price of the package? Probably not, but we are still drawn to these enticing packages and always seem to scoop them up. I can't count how many times I've purchased another copy of Cossacks, but judging by the fact that my wife is aware I have several copies tells you I have done this more than a few times. Even if I don't break the shrink-wrap on some of my re-release purchases, you know the games are still valuable to me and others, perhaps not for quantity or quality, but for nostalgic reasons alone.
Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition for the PSP is yet another remake of the classic role-playing game which was released 20 years ago and now has seen distribution on just about every computer and gaming system created. In Final Fantasy , you lead a party of four adventurers who must solve a series of quests to restore a world plagued by evil. Most quests involve recovering items and using them in other areas of the map, otherwise known as fetch quests. The single-player title sports a fairly sophisticated inventory system for its age and includes some upgrades to the magic and battle systems as compared to the original release to help improve some rough edges. Final Fantasy's main improvement is with its visuals; it's been re-designed to fit the PSP's widescreen display and has had a complete graphics makeover. There is no organized tutorial, but you can talk to four wise men in the first inn you visit, who will help explain some of the more important systems in the game.
The PSP controls work intuitively to control all aspects of gameplay. You use your direction keys for movement, the X button is used to talk and select items, the Triangle key is used to access the character and group menus, and the Circle button backs out of most menus and commands. A fairly detailed map is available while playing, and you can access it by pressing the Circle and "select" buttons simultaneously. The map is critical to helping you with orientation during gameplay, so it seems a bit strange that it was assigned to this awkward key combination. Menus and information screens in Final Fantasy are well designed and detailed, so just about every statistic is listed for easy review. The one feature you will notice missing is a quest log, so you may find it necessary to keep a pad of paper handy to take some notes on information you hear from characters so you can keep on top of important details.
So what is new with Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition for the PSP? Besides the upgraded widescreen graphics, you get a bestiary encyclopedia, art gallery, upgraded music, new cut scenes and a new intense dungeon called the Labyrinth of Time. These are all nice additions, but alone, they hardly justify the purchase price of this particular iteration.
This review won't provide any spoilers to the multiple quests, but I will explain how some of the game systems work and what you can expect to deal with while playing.
Your adventure will primarily consist of fighting random battles, traveling, fighting random battles, visiting cities, fighting random battles, visiting dungeons, fighting random battles, sailing, fighting random battles, fetching quest items, fighting random battles, and unless you get lucky, fighting random battles. Needless to say, the one element which could use some adjustment is the number of random battles you will encounter. On average, I would enter the battle system against random monsters at least every six moves. For most people, this will quickly wear on your nerves, as you are trying to accomplish the game's quest objectives. Without sounding too negative about this aspect, I will say that there is a slight improvement (fewer encounters) to the number of random battles when you are at sea, but they are still quite noticeable and feel excessive. The best way for me to summarize this situation would be to state that about two hours' worth of quest-related tasks ended up taking me over 12 hours of time to complete, due to all of the random battles!
The battle system is very elementary but still feels functional, especially when you keep in mind the age of the game. You will basically warp to the battle system, where your party of four adventurers will randomly attack or be attacked until knocked out (adventurers) or destroyed (monsters). At the end of each character's attack, you have the option of attacking again, casting magic spells, using an inventory item or fleeing. Although you are given a running tally of your adventurer's health, both physically and magically, you do not know the current health of monsters your party is fighting. In addition to being knocked out while battling, it is possible to be affected by additional ailments, which can come in the form of battle ailments, lasting for the duration of the battle, or all other ailments, which stay with you until you address them. The temporary ailments include: sleep, darkness, silence and paralysis. The ongoing ailments require potions or magic spells to remove their effects and include: poison, stone, and knock-out. In the event that all of your adventurers are KOd, the game ends. (Did you remember to save periodically?)
Magic is divided into two classes: white and black. White magic focuses on healing and support, while black magic is directed primarily toward offensive attacks. In both classes, there are a total of eight levels of magic. If allowed by their class, characters in your party can learn and use up to three different spells per magic level. Spells can be exchanged as desired. Most magic spells are purchased in towns, but not all characters are able to use all spells; class and magic level determine usability.
Health and magic can be regenerated using inns (in towns), sleeping bags, tents, cottages, and magic spells, and if a character dies (KOd), he or she can be revived in special buildings available in most towns. Magic points are regenerated using potions or magic, and they are also completely renewed by staying at an inn.
Even though Final Fantasy is over 20 years old, the apparently simplistic gameplay will still keep you coming back for more, especially if you have not played the game before. The ability to buy/sell items, cast spells, fight over 200 different enemies (both dead and undead) and talk to the inhabitants of cities will keep up your interest in playing this classic game.
Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition is an excellent visual upgrade to the original version with support for the PSP's widescreen enhanced graphics, but it only slightly improves on gameplay and offers just a small amount of new additional content. Final Fantasy is by no means a small game; you can spend well over 60 hours to complete it, thanks to the often ridiculous number of random battles you will be required to fight to slowly advance. Because of its age, Final Fantasy will appeal more to the nostalgic old-school gamers than to new modern RPG fans. Collectors will certainly want to add this bit of gaming history to their libraries, while those wanting the most value for their gaming dollar will be better off looking elsewhere.