Final Fantasy: Origins Playstation Network Review

Article first published as PSN Review: Final Fantasy Origins on Blogcritics.

Los Angeles based Square Enix North America has extended their “Winter of RPG” promotion with the release of Final Fantasy Origins for the Playstation Network.  With Final Fantasy XIII-2 shipping soon, its not surprising that Square Enix has found something to dust off and re-re-release.  Final Fantasy Origins is not the PSP re-release but the original Playstation port of the first two titles that popularized the Final Fantasy franchise.  The download is a bundle of the full versions of NES games, Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II with some improvements.

The first Final Fantasy game, released in 1987 and as many are well aware, was the gaming industry’s equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.  Luckily, it worked out like Montana to Taylor in the back of the endzone.  After 15 years of JRPGs trying to follow Square’s not entirely original formula, the setting and premise of the story is what has aged the worst.  “Four mysterious characters…plot to destroy the world… etc.“  Thankfully, the game is fun and unlike newer Final Fantasy titles, your party is highly customizable and can be personalized with class and name options.

For those that missed out on the early console RPG days, these games are a low-res, top down view sandbox type affair.  Except in the standard turn based combat, your party is represented by a single avatar, in this case, the leader of your party.  Surprisingly, the inventory system in RPGs haven’t evolved much so, there should be little trouble figuring out who can be equipped with what.  Many of the items and equipment are class specific for the handful of typical fantasy classes available.

Once done with the first Final Fantasy and if you still haven’t gotten enough of your old school RPG fix, Final Fantasy II lies in wait.  The main Final Fantasy series rarely does sequels and Final Fantasy II is no sequel but more of what you wanted to play the first one for.  In the second title, you once again control four young survivors.  Instead of saving the world though, this time it’s about avenging the deaths of your parents.  If you ever wondered how JRPG characters ended up so emo, this just might be where it all started.

These remakes of the two Squaresoft titles that laid the foundation of the Final Fantasy series, have original and new cutscenes that have been revamped, albeit for the original Playstation.  From the original NES titles, the enhanced graphics make these vintage games much more playable, aside from not having to blow on the cartridge contacts.  Origins also features, new opening theme songs and improved sound quality, a new beastiary that contains detailed descriptions of all of the monsters, access to art galleries featuring illustrations by artist Yoshitaka Amano, and a “Memo File” function for quick, convenient saves.

Playing so many games, this writer has become somewhat of a graphics snob, but this title having been redone for Playstation puts it on par with many Playstation 2 titles.  Revisiting Final Fantasy Origins, reminds me how much fun the old RPGs were and honestly, most current RPGs particularly JRPGs have evolved little in the last 15 years or so.  The new ones have nicer animation and are able to convey more artistically than before but, much of the gameplay is still the same.  For RPG fans that never played these classics, Origins is easy to recommend and the ability to adjust the difficulty should hearten even more casual gamers.

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