Final Fantasy I & 2: Dawn of Souls
Game Boy Advance
Reviewed: 01/30/2005


The first two Final Fantasy games might just be the most remade games of all time. First came the WonderSwan Color version, then the Final Fantasy Origins iteration, and now we are at the set’s Game Boy Advance outing in Final Fantasy I&II: Dawn of Souls. Is it really worth it the fourth time through? It’s the original Final Fantasy! Of course it is!

The first game in the set is arguably the more popular one. Even today the original Final Fantasy has a cult status achieved by few other games. This can probably be attributed to the game’s interesting system of picking four characters out of a pool of six classes. You then have to play those characters throughout the rest of the game. Since you can pick any class more than once, this leads to a plethora of different ways to play the game. There are several personal challenges you can set yourself up for, such as trying to complete the game with a party of White Mages. Such gameplay elements are preserved today in this little GBA cart. In past remakes, the option to play through the game with everything straight out of the NES days was always available. Not so this time, there’s only one way to play and it’s pretty heavily modified.

One change is that mages run on an MP pool system much like later games in the series. This allows much greater spellcasting potential because you don’t have to worry about how many low-level spells you are using as much. The original game worked on a system much like that of Dungeons and Dragons, where a mage would only have so many spell charges per spell level. This meant at the maximum 9 charges of each spell level. So in the old system you could only cast 9 Fire spells before needing to rest, whereas in the new system if your mage has 100 MP (which isn’t hard to do) they can cast 20 Fire spells. The classes’ developmental paths have also been tweaked slightly here and there. The once lowly Thief class has enjoyed a large beef-up in the HP department. The Thief also enjoys insane bonuses to the number of hits he can deal. My Thief often times did more damage than my Warrior. Shop prices have also been lowered and their stock switched around a bit. This was done to avoid gratuitous levelling up for gold. The save anywhere system is also new, owing mainly to the need to shut a portable game off at a moment’s notice. For those thinking that these changes make the game easier, well they do. However, bosses have been given a little HP boost as well. Let’s just say the final boss has exactly ten times as much HP as his NES form.

Screen Shot
Since 1989, baby

The extra dungeons add a fair bit of challenge as well. The graphics are the same quality as in the other remakes, which is perfect. The sound quality is also surprisingly good. It’s leaps and bounds over the WonderSwan version’s music, and just a few stones removed from the PlayStation’s wonderful tunes. One thing that was missing from the Origins version, however, was the menu music. This has returned in the GBA version. The story in Final Fantasy isn’t much to look at. This hasn’t changed much from the old NES days, although a few new scenes and much better written dialogue have been added. Although, much to my personal happiness, Garland’s famous line “I, Garland, will knock you all down!” has been faithfully preserved in its badly translated glory. All in all, I’d say this one game is worth the price of the entire package all on its own. I do think, however, that a choice to play the game with things closer to the NES version would have been a welcome sight to many a long-time fan.

The second game in this cartridge is Final Fantasy II, the game that, until Final Fantasy Origins, was never released in the US. This game needed the system changes and balancing a lot more than the original did. In my experience, the changes made to this game in the translation to the GBA mark a 100% improvment over the NES and Origins versions. The system used is great, in theory, but had some fatal flaws that needed to be worked out. The first of which was HP gain. You couldn’t gain HP unless you lost it, which usually meant attacking yourself because the randomly encountered monsters really sucked at hitting you. Now everyone gains HP ups at regular intervals so you don’t have to worry so much about how much HP you have. Ability increases are also changed. It used to be that an ability like strength could either go up or down depending on how you played. Now they only go up, which offers a few more options in the way you play.

That being said, one of the most interesting features of the game has to be the level-up system. Instead of gaining levels and stats to go with those levels in predetermined steps, you only gain ability bonuses based on how you are using certain skills. Attack with a sword, your sword skill and strength go up. Attack with black magic, your skill with that spell and your intelligence go up. Basically this leads your character development into whatever you can think up. When I played the game, I had Firion be a Paladin-like character, wielding a sword, shield, and white magic. Maria was some sort of mystic Amazon, who had two very nasty spears and black magic at her control. Guy went Monk-style using his bare fists for brutal damage. There really is no limit on the different weapon and magic combinations you can make. My party is very melee-oriented, but stick someone in the back row and they can become a mage killing machine. If someone is in the back-row they can only take damage from long-range attacks, and with the automatic HP ups still rolling in, they aren’t at that much of a severe disadvantage. The various “cheating” methods that have been used in the past are pretty much gone from this version. Not that you’ll probably need them, anyway. All in all, I haven’t experienced the headaches I felt when playing Final Fantasy II through the first time, which is an extremely good thing.

The story in FF2 is better than the first game, but still shows its age today. Firion, Maria, and Guy find themselves orphaned during the war between the Kingdom of Fynn and the Empire of Palamecia. They must use what little ability they have to try and help Fynn defeat the Emperor and his minions of evil. It is pretty generic, however one must not forget that this game is practically the pioneer of the evil empire in video games. The re-translated dialogue goes a long way to making the story better. The characters feel a lot less wooden and generic. And while it may be a generic story, it is executed fairly well even with the cheesiness. The graphics are very nice, with rooms having a lot of details put in them. They are of basic SNES quality and feel right at home on the GBA. The sound is the same situation as the first game, with many a fine tune coming through the little GBA speaker. Final Fantasy II really comes to the top of its form in this cartridge.

Final Fantasy I&II: Dawn of Souls is definitely worth playing for any Final Fantasy fan. The two games in the package lend themselves perfectly to portable play, and should provide much enjoyment on any long trips that may be in your future. I can also personally attest to their time-filling properties in situations like waiting for the dentist. It gives a person much satisfaction to whip out that Game Boy and be taken back in time to the days when games were games, and white mages had their gender called into question on a daily basis. If you’ve never played either of these fine games, now would be an ideal time to do so.

-Orie House

Score Breakdown
Out of 10

See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Great
Story Average
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Good
Replay Value Good
The Verdict: 8