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?
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 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.
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.
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.
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