Once upon a time there was a company called Squaresoft and they made a very well known game called Final Fantasy. That game became so popular all over the world that it spawned many sequels. Many of them were then ported to other systems, both home consoles as well as portables, but one of those games was to stay on the Nintendo Entertainment System forever. That is, until today!
With the success of Nintendo’s DS, SquareEnix decided it was time to finally give gamers worldwide a chance to experience the only Final Fantasy game that never made it out of Japan. Being a huge Final Fantasy fan myself, I just couldn’t resist and had to get my hands on the game as soon as I could. I went a step further and even got the limited edition Nintendo DS system! But it was all worth it, as you’ll read in my hands-on with one of the most anticipated games of the year.
I haven’t finished the game yet, but I think I’ve seen enough to give you a good idea of what to expect. The game doesn’t really compare in size to it’s successors and very early on you get the possibility to go almost everywhere on the map, which was kind of surprising.
The game’s difficulty level though is a lot more intense than what we are used to with current RPGs. I remember games like FF4 being toned down for US release, and I think I understand a little now. The game makes it impossible for gamers to advance if they do not level up considerably, which means you will spent a good amount of time around town fighting an undetermined amount of enemies until you think you are strong enough to go further. There are some RPGs that managed to balance this so that you didn’t need to “waste” time leveling up, but it seems like SquareEnix wanted to stay true to the original and also to old school RPGs and so you are playing the game the same way people were playing it back in the early 90s.
I had already played a little bit with the original version of the game but didn’t actually remember everything. After doing a little bit of research, I’ve found that the game’s world itself looks pretty much identical to the one on the NES, except it is now in full 3D. A few new story elements have been added, but for the most part people who have already played the original will feel right at home. Guides for the NES version can even be used to play through the DS version, since they offer the same explanations.
The game’s difficulty can definitely be seen in the battles, but when it comes to puzzles, it usually doesn’t take much time to figure out what to do. Everything seems to be told to you all the time so all you need to do is talk to the numerous characters in the game and do what they tell you to do. I haven’t finished the game so I don’t know if it gets more complicated later, but I’ve yet to get stuck anywhere.
This is the Final Fantasy game that introduced the jobs system. That means that during the game, you earn new jobs and each one of your characters can get unique abilities, or they can all have the same abilities. I thought I could only use one very strong job and play through the entire game like that, but I quickly found out that you will need to make use of all the jobs in order to go through the game, unless you’d like an even bigger challenge. There is a story event in the game where an NPC comes to you and tells you of a group of enemies that have attacked a village and that you need to find the bosses weaknesses by using a scholar. The scholar of course has the ability to find each enemy’s weaknesses, and although you can definitely kill the boss without using a scholar, it makes it a lot easier and less frustrating. Also, all the classes have been made so that there is a certain “balance” in that you will almost need to use different classes in a party. For example, mages are really vulnerable and can die quickly if they are attacked a lot so you will need Vikings in order to provoke enemies so that they attack him instead of the mages. And while later in the game you get to use very powerful mages like the Summoner, Magus, Devout and Sage, you will still need other classed like the Ninja to perform quick attacks, which can make a huge difference between life or death in a battle! And did I mention that using a Dragoon’s jump ability can be extremely useful? Believe me, that ability has saved my life tons of times!
Many of you have probably seen pictures of the game, but in motion it is totally gorgeous! You can see some pixelization as the game makes it possible to zoom in and out on your character, but nothing worse than other DS games. The animation here is top notch and the 3D camera angles used in battles makes everything seem a lot more dramatic. The spells and summons are also well done and while it doesn’t come close to what we’ve seen in Final Fantasy 7, for example, it looks a lot more detailed than what I was expecting.
The game also sounds great thanks to the amazing soundtrack. The now famous battle victory theme is still back and of course you will hear it a bazillion times before you reach the end of the game, but you’ll never get tired of it. The battle music, which is one of the most important songs in the game, is also very good, and so are most of the songs in the game. Of course, I’ve yet to hear some other important songs to come, but for now I am definitely satisfied with what I’ve heard.
So while I would definitely suggest everyone to go ahead and import the game, I know that the story is one of the most important aspects of the game and that it would be preferable to wait until the game’s November 14 release date. But from what I have played, this is definitely on the top of my list of best DS games to date and I would highly recommend you pre-order a copy right now. This is an old school RPG brought back to life and it makes for an entirely new experience, 16 years after its original release!