The original Final Fantasy has appeared on many formats in the two decades since its original release, and the latest to be graced with its presence is the newest mobile format on the market, Microsoft Studios’ Windows Phone 7. Presenting the same adaptation of the original videogame that has previously been available for iOS devices, the Windows Phone 7 version has one extra ace up-its-sleeve in the form on Xbox LIVE integration, offering Achievements and all the other benefits that cone from being associated with the service.
The videogame begins quite hastily, asking the player to name a team of four heroes and choose each of their classes from the six presented without offering any explanation of the differing factors between. Of course, any experienced gamer will immediately be able to recognise the differences between a Red Mage and a Black Mage without thinking twice, but for newcomers it’s an unfortunately a case of trial-and-error to find the combination that suits your play style.
The four characters chosen will become the Warriors of Light, a band of heroes foretold by a prophecy. The land has becoming overwhelmed by darkness, with raging stormy seas on a decaying earth, and it’s up to the Warriors of Light to put things right. A king who firmly believes in the prophecy – as do most of the people you will encounter on your journey – has been searching for you, and so when coincidently beginning the videogame just outside of his constituency there really is only one thing to do.
Upon meeting with the king he will confirm your mission, but also give you a more immediate task. Herein lies a perfect example of the structure of Final Fantasy, as completing the smaller task will open up new paths allowing you to continue with your main objective. It’s a subtle dynamic that offers not only a gradual increase in exploration, challenges and opportunities, but also acts as a constant mark of progression. It’s a reward system that is just as enticing now as it was back in 1987.
Final Fantasy is the videogame that laid the foundations upon which all role-playing games (RPGs) that have followed since have been built. Though it may appear very simplistic by today’s standards, conventions used in the likes of Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and, of course, Final Fantasy XIII, remain clear for all too see. The level system is the most obvious and yet most basic of these conventions, with players gaining experience in every battle and increasing statistics across a number of different indexes. However, the progress is predetermined and the player has no further input to the development of their characters beyond the initial class selection and the equipment purchased for them.
The combat of Final Fantasy is again the basis of all RPG fighting systems that have followed since, with players selecting moves from a menu which will either do damage against their opponent or grant a special ability to an ally, such as increased strength or speed. Different classes will be able to gain different abilities, such as healing spells for the White Mage or destruction spells for the Black Mage. Once every team member has been assigned an action a full turn is played out, with both your moves and those your opponents executed in relation to each character’s speed. It’s a simple but effective system, and one that has stood the test of time despite infinitely more elaborate iterations appearing every single year since.
Final Fantasy was also a pioneer in terms of exploration, delivering a scaled overworld map and regular sized towns and dungeons. The visual standard of both is splendid, clearly having had a similar makeover to the Game Boy Advance’s Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, and some unique characterisation despite the minimalist approach to animation. The technical capabilities of Final Fantasy match the style of the videogame perfectly: there’s clearly more that could be done on the hardware, but it’s not needed. Final Fantasy is a respectable looking videogame as it stands, just as it is an enjoyable one.
Despite being rather long in the tooth, Final Fantasy is a wonderful videogame experience. It may not feature the same complexity of modern RPG titles, but the groundbreaking design still remains as playable now as it was more than two decades ago. Any Windows Phone 7 owning gamer who cut their teeth on 8- and 16-bit consoles will undoubtedly have marked Final Fantasy as a ‘must buy’ title already, despite it’s arguably excessive price tag of £5.49 GBP, but equally for gamers who have become enthralled with the series since the Hollywood era of Final Fantasy VII should invest in this original outing. Final Fantasy is undoubtedly the finest RPG available for mobile formats at present, and one which no genre aficionado should be without.