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Developer:
Square Enix
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: GBA
Release Date: November 29, 2004

by Tony Ames




To quote the old song, itís beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. With release dates firing off so fast itíd make anyone dizzy, itís easy to get lost. If youíre looking for a good handheld to bolster the collection though, you can do a lot worse than Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls.


Like your favorite coat, thereís a comfortable familiarity to Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls graphics. Aside from being comparable to any given Game Boy Advance game, both games look quite a bit like their Final Fantasy successors and should be instantly recognizable to anyone whoís played them.


The music meanwhile is like coming home after a trip; nothing exciting, but enjoyable and familiar. What surprised me though was not the quality of the scores (as Final Fantasy games are known for having good music), but instead how well the tracks worked on the Game Boy Advance. Rather than trying to force an orchestral sound out of the equipment, something that always ends up sounding awkward, the soundtrack uses the limitations to its advantage, thus sounding electronic yet still grand.


While neither storyline is particularly grand, they manage to still be pretty enjoyable. As might be expected of one of the grandfathers of modern RPGs, Final Fantasy uses a very old story. A world in turmoil cries out for heroes, who appear in the form of four young adventurers. They then set out to restore order to the Crystals which govern nature and ensure peace. Nothing special, really, but it generally lets you know how to proceed, which is all it needed to do.


Final Fantasy II fares better. The brutal Empire of Palamecia has just invaded the Kingdom of Fynn, crushing the core of opposition against them, while orphaning a small band of youths. These youths then set out to restore their kingdom and end the oppressive reign of the Empire. While not a new story, Final Fantasy II impressed me with the logical way the story progressed. That is, every action had a good reason behind it and also leads to some tangible benefit, something many, many games since have failed at.


Little, though, do the two stories have in common. The gameplay of each half of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls is functionally identical. Each game makes use of a basic turn-based system, random encounters, multi-layer dungeons, and the ability to save anywhere. Functional, though hardly exciting, which might prompt one to ask what the draw of the games is. The answer would lie in the respective ability systems. Final Fantasy allows the player to assemble their party of four young adventurers freely from 6 basic classes, which all have different advantages and ultimately make any playthrough of the game very different depending on how the party is assembled. Final Fantasy II, meanwhile, uses an unusual system in which your characters must use an ability, or weapon, or basic stat in order to improve it. For example, if one takes damage, thereís a good chance they will improve their HP at the end of the battle. If you cast a spell repeatedly, the spell will get stronger, or if a character uses a weapon continually, they will hit harder and more accurately with that type of weapon. Itís honestly the most unusual method Iíve ever seen, but it gives the player a lot of options, which is always a plus.


The games also have a rather large common flaw, however. While both are generally good about letting the player know their destination, it is often rather difficult to actually find that location, causing a great deal of time to be spent wandering about lost. This also tends to cause a player to accidentally enter areas that their party has no hope of being prepared for, leading to a great deal of untimely death. Annoying, to say the least, though less of a problem as you progress.


Of course, you can progress straight to the ends of each game and still have plenty to do. Freshly added to Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls are new extras, the Soul of Chaos dungeons to Final Fantasy and Soul of Rebirth, an added storyline, to Final Fantasy II. These really add to the already respectable playing time of each (a combined total approaching 40 hours), though you should be warned that the difficulty of these add-ons is pretty high, which makes the whole package an even better way to spend all that holiday free time.


Final Grade: 78%




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