Twenty years ago I ripped open the shrink wrap of my latest Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game. I opened up the black box and pulled out the cartridge. From that moment on I was hooked into the Final Fantasy universe. Since then I have played all of the numbered Final Fantasy games, except for Final Fantasy XI, but that original title is always able to draw me back in for some reason, so much so that I own it on the NES, the Virtual Console, the Game Boy Advance, the Playstation, the Playstation Portable (PSP) and now the iPhone.
One would think that after twenty years and numerous remakes that there would be nothing new to talk about and for the most part one would be correct. The iPhone version of the game is very much the same game that has been played by millions of people on numerous different systems over the years. The iPhone version in particular is a very near port to the PSP version of the game but there are some basic design changes that make it more manageable on a system with no buttons.
For those new to the series and this game in particular. Final Fantasy puts players in control of a group of four heroes called the Light Warriors, who must set out to rescue the world from Chaos (literally). The story has become the general foundation for nearly every core Final Fantasy since and while it is not incredibly detailed in this game, I love it for its simplicity.
However gamers coming into the series now may not be able to relate to the simple story and the tried and true gameplay mechanics that Final Fantasy employs. The biggest turn off will most likely be the random, turn based battles. Random, turn based battles went out of style for most people a while ago and Final Fantasy relies solely on these battles. To put it simply Final Fantasy is about as old school as you can get and if you can’t throw yourself into it you may not get the same level of enjoyment I did.
Because everything on the iPhone is touch control, Final Fantasy presents players with an on-screen D-pad for traversing the over world, towns and dungeons, while a simple graphical menu is in place for battles. It all works quite well although there have been times when the battle menu is not quite as responsive as one would like, being as the battles are turn based it is not a game breaker but it can get annoying. The gameplay itself lends itself quite well to playing on the iPhone and the option to save anywhere means that booting the game up and battling a few random Ogres is certainly doable.
From a technical respect, Final Fantasy is not the most visually impressive game to hit the Apple smartphone and it has a couple technical hiccups that include spotty crashes and excessive load times (particularly the battle sequences, which are not necessarily long load times but there is a noticeable hitch when you enter into a battle). With that said though, the game looks and plays fairly well. It also sounds particularly good and the classic Nobuo Uematsu score is presented in all its glory here.
The decision to buy Final Fantasy on the iPhone is going to come down to a few factors. If you are new to the series and are looking for a mobile Final Fantasy fix to hold you over from Final Fantasy XIII while you are on the go, this is probably not going to work for you. Final Fantasy is a 23 year old game (1987 Japanese release) and while Square has updated some aspects of the game over the course of its many different re-releases it still feels like a game that was made over two decades ago.
The fact that it is 23 years old also brings up another issue, that being that there are plenty of ways to play this game at this point in time. If you don’t already have it, or have no other way to play it, then the iPhone version is great otherwise the $9 price tag may be a bit steep, especially considering you can download the original NES version from the Nintendo Virtual console store on the Wii for nearly half the price.
If you do choose to purchase Final Fantasy for the iPhone you can be happy in the knowledge that you are purchasing one of the Japanese roleplaying genres greats. It is a piece of gaming history and the iPhone version is more than a worthy way to experience it.
4 out of 5.