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Final Fantasy I (Dawn of Souls) (GBA)

Ah, the game that started the entire Final Fantasy franchise, way, way back. This game was given a reboot in the form of a GBA release in 2004, and I must say it worked rather well on the handheld.

Note, this review focusses solely on Final Fantasy I from the pair included on this cartridge.

Story 6/10

I would say this game used a cliché for the storyline, with you playing as the Four Warriors of Light, having to hunt down the four elemental crystals and defeating the elemental beings which guard each crystal, in order to prevent the destructive force of Chaos from entering the world, in the form of the lackey Garland, who engineered it so that he would be gifted with the power of darkness, in order to take power.

I say I would say this game uses a fairly clichéd premise for the story, but as this was one of the first games to start off with the idea of you playing as “the chosen ones” in order to save the world, I can’t condemn it too much, it was considered pioneering back in the day.

However, there isn’t much in the way of story past the having to defeat the elemental monsters and darkness, although the designers tried to flesh it out a bit with having backstory given in the form of NPCs speaking to you. Unfortunately, you play as four mute heroes, so you don’t get much story out of them.

Sound 8/10 The music used for this game is good, and certainly not bad for a handheld. I personally think the re-mastered versions are better than the original versions for this game.

Some of the standout music from this game in particular is that from the Chaos Temple, the generic dungeon theme and the generic map theme. Oh, and I can’t forget the airship music, that’s a proper ear worm!

However, I think this game also has pretty good stuff for the main battle theme – something which is quite the advantage considering how much of your time will be spent in a battle over the course of this game.

Graphics 8/10 I have to admit, the graphics haven’t really changed much from the PSX release of this game. However, that’s no bad thing, considering for the GBA, they’re pretty good graphics. Everything is vibrant and colourful, and you can clearly see where you’re going on the over world screen.

In battle, graphics are okay – you can easily identify different enemies, and visuals for things like the spells are quite bright and cheerful. A bit more detail would have been appreciated, but considering the age of the game, and the fact it’s a port, I can’t complain too much. It did very well for its time back in 1994, and it still looks good when ported today.

Multiplayer Options N/A No multiplayer in this game that I’m aware of.

Challenge 6/10 On the face of it, there isn’t much in the way of challenge to this game. As long as you pick a well-rounded group of four types of classes for your characters (something like Warrior/Black Mage/White Mage/Red Mage) you’ll find there’s very little in the way of enemies and bosses which cannot be overcome by a simple bit of level grinding.

The game does try to make things a bit harder near the end when you open up the dungeons which allow you to fight against bosses from the more recent games, but even then, Haste and Temper spells used on your strongest fighter make those fights pretty easy as well.

In fact, the hardest thing in this game really is figuring out what to do next, as per older RPG tradition, this game gives very little away in the form of hints when it comes to working out what to do next. Then again I personally quite like that, though I know others would find it frustrating.

Really the only thing you can do to make this game harder is to impose limitations on yourself – for example, no level grinding, or have a party of White Mages only – or if you really want a challenge, do a single White Mage only challenge.

Gameplay 9/10

This game follows the early form of turn-based fighting, and set up the premise for which most Final Fantasy followed at least up until the release of FFX, where things changed a bit.

As it was turn based, when in battles you select all the moves for your four characters and each move is executed in order of speed, with enemy turns also taking place. I personally adore this system of fighting, so no complaints from me.

You get the choice of six different character classes at the beginning of the game, and you can choose any combination of them for your group of four characters. About mid-way through the game, you also get the option of under taking a trial in order to upgrade your jobs into a higher class – this mainly increases things like improve stats, allow you to use higher-level magic, and use better equipment. However, you also have the option of not doing these trials, meaning if you want a bit more of a challenge, you can finish the end game with weaker characters. It’s nice that you get the choice of upgrading or not, rather than having the choice forced upon you.

As already mentioned, most of the time you spend playing this game will be spent travelling around the world map, trying to figure out where to go to next. In true old-style RPG form, you encounter enemies in random battles as you travel around, and when you’re exploring dungeons. However, there are times when it seems the encounter rate is too high – I’m sure there’s one point where it feels like you’re in a battle every other step, which can get quite wearing on your nerves, especially if you want to get on with the game.

Later in the game in order to speed travel around the world map up, you get access to a ship for travelling over water, and an airship to travel over land. These are much welcome forms of transport, and make areas of the game far more accessible. Ah, and the music that plays when you’re using the airship is awesome.

As it is, there’s at least 20 hours of this game to play through, if you insist on levelling up your characters completely and completing the additional dungeons which open up near the end game, you can easily get 30-40 hours out of this game. Not bad for an early RPG.

Replay Value 7/10

Most of the reply value for this game comes from challenging yourself by mixing up the type of class you use for your four characters, or by playing through with a wildly different class to the one you used the previous time. It’s also a nice length, which I think helps the replayability.


Story: 6 Sound: 8 Graphics: 8 Multiplayer: N/A Challenge: 6 Gameplay: 9

Replay Value: 7

Overall: 7/10

Any fan of the Final Fantasy series or traditional RPGs should have a go at playing one of the games which started it all off. It’s a game which has stood up to the test of time fairly well.

Written by Karen

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