Final Fantasy I and II reviews

I hate random battle encounters, and now I have two games on my iPhone that introduced the phenomenon to a wider audience.  Final Fantasy released back in 1987 for the NES is one of the forefathers of iPhone hits such as Zenonia. Final Fantasy is one of those classics that need to be experienced in some shape or form during a lifetime. So how well do the first two instalments in the Final Fantasy saga fare on the iPhone/iPod Touch?

My party of the four original TouchGen members.

My party of the four original TouchGen members.

The interface and controls are all touch based. A virtual four directional joypad is located to the left on the screen. When moving in a town or cave using the directional button a run button shows up at the lower right. Combat is turn-based, and you have to select an action for each of the members of your party. Fight, magic, defend, use item and escaped are most commonly used. When you select any offensive move you have to tap the enemy you want to target. The battle rages back and forth until one side is dead, or you have escaped the scene. The controls overall works really well, and any turn-based RPG work well with the iPhone on the go lifestyle.

The TouchGen Warriors of Light to the rescue.

The TouchGen Warriors of Light to the rescue.

The improved graphics stay true to the original games, and have been tweaked to freshen up things for a 2010 market. Final Fantasy II looks slightly more detailed and polished than the first game. Both games suffer somewhat from the small screen when it comes to all the text available. I also find the font, and colour palette of menus somewhat boring. It is perhaps an old tradition to use white text over blue backgrounds, but some variation would be appreciated. Final Fantasy I has had some strange slowdowns on my iPhone 3GS when running through a town. I have not been able to replicate this in the second instalment.

The music of Final Fantasy games has always been a highlight with compositions by Nobuo Uematsu. I love the music of both these games, and it has aged well. 8-bit classical video game music is truly remarkable at setting a mood for a game, and it has been enhanced to cater to new gamers. You can override game music by using a headset with play button or the double home button trick. Sound effects are kind of underwhelming, and if you have played any Square Enix game for the past 20 years you definitely recognise them.

Final Fantasy I battle against pirates that Nigel the Black Mage put to sleep.

Final Fantasy I battle against pirates that Nigel the Black Mage put to sleep.

Exploring the world of Final Fantasy is quite fun, but the constant interruptions from random battles limits my motivation to have a look around. I am happy each time I reach a town as I get some rest from the battles. Sure my party gets experience, and becomes stronger and richer. Once in a town there are a handful of NPCs to interact with, and a number of houses to walk into. Usually you can use an inn to rest your party for a small sum of Gil. Shops for armour, potions, weapons and magic let you look for the best equipment for your team. Once something is purchased you can equip it using the menu screen. This is accessible by just standing still for a moment. A stats screen shows up in the lower right corner of the screen. Just tap it to enter the pause menu. Here you find equipment screen, save game and options among other things. The game can help you equipping the best equipment for the active character by tapping optimal.

Talking to characters is also important to get clues to where you are going. Final Fantasy II also introduces key phrases that you can learn to later use to ask other characters about it. This really helps to get a sense of progression to the game. Both games have got a great story filled with all the RPG clichés available: crystals, family ties, sorrow and woe, love and loss.

Early battle in Final Fantasy II.

Early battle in Final Fantasy II.

Final Fantasy I and II are not related when it comes to story or characters, and both games can be played independently. Both games let you create your band of heroes choosing name and class. If you are interested in playing some classic role playing for your iPhone I definitely recommend you to start with Final Fantasy I first. Final Fantasy II is perhaps better in most regards, and introduces the chocobos that later on got their own series of games. The original product is still the best place to start any experience.

There are three save files available letting you start three games at once, or using them for backup of your current game. The game also auto saves whenever you exit the application. This is a really handy feature that shows the development within Square Enix to cater to the iPhone market. Previous Square Enix games didn’t have this feature for the iPhone. Final Fantasy I lets you continue your last game straight from the main menu, and strangely enough in Final Fantasy II you have to actively load a saved game.

Doing some shopping in FFII.

Doing some shopping in FFII.

Both games cater for loads of gamelife with a massive main story each, and a lot of side quests to dig into. If you choose to commit yourself to Final Fantasy I and II you have weeks of exploration, character development and as deep and cheesy story you will ever find in role playing games. It takes commitment though, and the price demanded might feel steep but it really goes two ways. It is not fair to the game to buy it and expect to spend an hour or two with it, and hence I like the fact that the higher price point attracts dedicated gamers.

I would have liked the option to turn off random encounters to make the experience more casual, and let the player explore freely without interruption. I respect any company eager to preserve as much as possible of the original experience but at the same time we have a lot of new gamers used to more casual games.

With updated visuals the first to Final Fantasy games storm into the App Store, and if you have a lot of time on your hands I can definitely recommend them both. Final Fantasy II gets a higher final rating due to crisper visuals, chocobos to ride on, and the inclusion of the “ask” feature in conversations with NPCs. Final Fantasy I is still a better place to start whether you are a seasoned veteran or completely new to the series.

Final Fantasy I                                              Final Fantasy II



Final Fantasy I $8.99
Final Fantasy II $8.99
Seller: Square Enix.

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  • Kevin

    Downloading now, can’t wait. I played these games growing up on NES.

  • Nathan Mustafa, USA

    I will have to respectfully disagree and note that FF2 was monumentally worse than FF1 from a mechanics perspective, opinion I know but one shared by many. I think that a difference for the worse in how actual leveling systems work is very important, since that does comprise the majority of the game.

    Final Fantasy one uses what is now largely thought to be a traditional JRPG system and is inspired by the Wizardry games. Players engage in turn based battles, with each encounter offering experience to the characters. One will receive levels as more battles are fought, and this distributes points to a character’s attributes.

    In the review it was noted that you can pick your class and create your characters in FF2, this is sadly not correct and a big part of why many people don’t like two. FF2 differs fundamentally in that it throws players in with no bias towards any skillset and ties experience to actions. Thus, if I hit someone with a sword, I get both more strength and better at using that weapon. Where that leads to a problem is that characters feel limited to min/maxing certain kinds of weapons. The game is also broken in that one can gain experience simply by hitting their own party members. FF2 also lacks the ability to upgrade one’s class (because you didn’t really have one in the first place), a key feature to the original game. FF2 did introduce the concept of having different battle lines, in which characters in the front line are more prone to being hit with a melee attack. This feature is a detriment when combined with the new leveling system, as players in the back will get hit less and thus gain less HP experience.. leading to weaker characters that you feel the need to balance by shifting to the front for a while. Unfortunately, by that time you will have probably leveled them in ranged attacks and will feel uncomfortable with having them up front. The leveling system made 2 far too tedious for most to bear.

    Like FF8 (but worse) FF2 goes out on a limb to be different and strays from what makes the games fun.

    With regards to removing the Random Battles… I would think that would break the game right in two. The fact that you need virtually all of the XP you can get to succeed anyways would almost make the games harder for newbies. Imagine walking all of the way without battles to the first boss and being utterly crushed. (you could always flee if you are running low on HP) It is important to note that these versions (a continuation of the PSP releases) are already nerfed compared to their forbears.

    I am also surprised that they took out the ability to change the menu colors, since you could even do that in the GBA releases of FF1 and 2. That is a big disappointment to me, since the first thing I usually do when playing FF1 or 2is change the menu color.


    I’ve never played FF before but i think i am going to get into this.

  • Nathan Mustafa, USA

    Torbjorn is really right about starting with FF1 legend. Just download that and if you really, I mean reaaallly, like it go ahead and try 2.

    One has that core simplicity to it that to me makes it wonderful. The version (NES) available on the Wii Virtual Console retains the challenge of the original, and is a great play for those who want to delve into history a bit further.

  • Tj

    Before I start I’d like to say I’ve played FF I,II, III,IV,V,VI,VIII,IX and XIII several chocobogames and that is just the final fantasy franchise not including all of the other RPGs I’ve dominated…now…I recently downloaded FFII on my phone and I must say I enjoy it thoroughly I don’t mind the lvl system or the magic system I like how you can just beat yourself to be a hardass…just like a sayan the worse you get beat on the stronger you are…and as far as our authors disdain for the random encounters…he’s a blundering dolt random encounters are what make RPGs RPGs…they all can’t be secret of mana or FFXIII where you can pick and choose Battles like a pussy if you can’t take the heat get out of the fire…this game is great and anyone who says different doesn’t appreciate nostalgic greatness…the only complaint I have is the rough controlls of the “D” pad and how bad it kills my battery…aside from that…the game is great =p

  • Nathan Mustafa, USA

    “he’s a blundering dolt random encounters are what make RPGs RPGs…they all can’t be secret of mana or FFXIII where you can pick and choose Battles like a pussy if you can’t take the heat get out of the fire”
    As someone that has played FF I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, XII and XIII, all of the tactics games, some mystery dungeons as well, not including all of the other RPGs I’ve “dominated” in recent history (The Etrian Odyssey Games, SMT games, Shiren, all of the US released DQ games, and more) I can say that there is no reason to attack someone that isn’t as “hardcore” as you.
    I can understand arguing that the random battles are necessary for how this particular game is structured, and to take them out would mean that the devs would need to make even more gameplay concessions to adjust, but I wouldn’t call someone a dolt for not liking them.
    Plus, games like Morrowind and Dragon Age have no random encounters or even traditional turn based battles, and they are most certainly RPGs.

  • Nigel Wood

    I had a random encounter once… I caught Chlamydia! (and that ain’t no Pokemon boys and girls!)

  • Hopedenial

    $9 for a game nearly as old as I am? Unacceptable.

  • qmish

    >>$9 for a game nearly as old as I am? Unacceptable.<<

    the only thing in games wich become old – are graphics

    and here there is not “nes” graphics..
    ah, also about FF2 system
    i like it, yeah. more than “jobs” for example.
    though sometimes u need grind (but in early ff u always need to grind)