Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls is a turn-based fantasy JRPG and is a remake of an NES game with the same name. Though the cart also has a remake of the 2nd, this review will focus on the 1st. Another point I bring up is that I have little to no nostalgia to the series so as such I will review it with as little comparison to the original as possible. Right off the bat as you start the game you are greeted with four unnamed sprites, this is your team. You can name them & can change their class between 6 of them being: Warrior, Thief, Black/White/Red Mage or Monk, but choose carefully as you cannot change their name or class once you start the game properly. Later in the game, you can get the option to upgrade them to better versions but only after doing a certain sidequest.
The story is pretty basic by today’s standards, you are fabled warriors & must restore X elemental items of power, the end. Don’t get me wrong, there is a decent plot twist at a certain point even if you can see if from a mile away just don’t expect anything major. Once you do the initial quest that sets up the game, you are free to roam & explore. Where to go to continue your quest is given in vague hints by NPCs, so best talk to all of them. There is an NPC in the starting town that is supposed to give you a more “direct” hint on where to go at any given time but the few times I bothered to talk to her, she was completely useless to me. Instead of saying something useful, she chooses to tell me about her amazing dancing skills.
Well whatever, you don’t need her, off you go out exploring &… uh oh, you are under attack! Fights are random encounters that can occur at any given time be it the field, the ocean or in dungeons, you can be attacked by a pack of monsters. Battles are simple & familiar to anyone that has played an RPG, each turn you choose your party’s actions. Once the selections are made the round will play out, everyone taking their turn to hack, slash & sling spells at each other till a side kicks the bucket. Rinse & repeat with the next encounter & the next & so on… but there lies one of the biggest issues with the game, the awfully high encounter rate. You will be fighting a lot & since it is extremely simple, it will get boring & opens up yet another flaw.
Final Fantasy has a traditional albeit flawed EXP system. You kill things, you gain experience point & at a determined amount you gain a Level which means better stats & in the case of the Mages access to slots for higher tier spells as well. Spells, weapons & armor (both of these can also be found in dungeons or dropped by monsters as well) can be bought in towns & the game will tell you which you can equip. The high encounter rate coupled with the confusing dungeon layouts plus the questionably high amount of EXP gained means you will be pretty over leveled, meaning that most enemies drop in a few turns of combat & the threat that bosses are supposed to pose is rendered moot. Let’s not forget the huge amount of amount of Gil (currency) you will gain from both fighting & chests, some of them giving 10k+ alone, item shops selling their wares are questionably low prices & overall any sense of difficulty is thrown out the window. The biggest threat being your sanity as it slips away after the Nth encounter with wimpy goblins or whatnot. By the way, you can save at any time instead of at specific points just in case you need a break or something.
With the game being an enhanced version of an older title it does feature four extra postgame dungeons though the entrance of each opens up at key points, so you are free to explore them at any time if you so wish. They feature bosses from the Final Fantasy series & more loot. Art is pretty serviceable, enemies mostly taken from old fantasy & DnD designs obviously a product of its time. Music, on the other hand, is a whole lot better though I recommend wearing headphones to listen to them.
All in all, Final Fantasy 1: Dawn of Souls is a pretty basic experience by today’s standards, that should be played by those curious to the series’ roots or those that hold nostalgia to it. Those seeking a challenge or a meaningful plot will find it lacking. It was certainly enjoyable for what it is & was also frustrating at times for multiple reasons. It has 15-20+ hours of content just for the 1st game so it certainly pays for itself. If found at a decent price it is quite a steal. The game is also available for PSP which features an extra dungeon & updated visuals. Whichever one you choose you are sure to find some enjoyment out of it.