Oh, my. How to review a game with the historical significance this one has? Tell you what: I'll keep it brief and descriptive. If you love RPGs and haven't ever played this game, you owe it to yourself to ignore whatever scores I give and play Final Fantasy 1 on the iPod. You'll never find it at a lower price, and even the parts you don't like will show you how the genre has evolved for the better over the years.
Final Fantasy's story puts you in the shoes of the four "Warriors of Light" who are needed to save the world from four Elemental Fiends and whoever has called them forth. You'll notice a number of clichéd plot elements, but it's important to remember that this game was originally released in 1987, and what's old now was new then. There are a few small twists and turns along the way, but nothing that will blow your mind, especially if you've played any other RPGs. Still, the story isn't the thing that made this game worth playing, so don't let a low score in this category keep you away.
The game features random enemy encounters and classic turn-based gameplay, and you play with the same four characters from start to finish. You can choose any of six classes for your four characters, all of which are very familiar if you've played an RPG before this one. This choice is your main option in terms of party customization, and whether you decide to play as a Warrior, a Thief, a White Mage, and a Black Mage, or as four Red Mages, you can probably find an FAQ somewhere online to help you. You start out on foot, but as the game progresses, you obtain faster methods of transportation, including the series' ever-present Airship. The iPhone OS version of Final Fantasy is basically the PSP version with touch controls, which means that you get all the extra dungeons that have been added over the years as well as the gameplay tweaks the developers have made to previous versions.
The main and only real problem with Final Fantasy's gameplay is the fact that you are sometimes left without any indication of what to do next. Talking to every NPC you can find may give you a hint, or it may not. For example, at one point you need to find a caravan in a desert. All other locations in the game show up on the map, but not the caravan. Issues such as this will likely drive first-time players to a walkthrough, FAQ or forum even if they normally oppose such things.
Graphically, this version matches the PSP version, although like so many iPhone OS games, it includes a semi-transparent d-pad while you're walking around the map. There are certainly prettier games out there, but Final Fantasy's graphics are the right fit, and that's more important. There are nice little touches that you notice over time, like the fact that weapons have unique appearances when you attack, and if you've read my reviews before, you may have noticed that I love attention to detail.
This version of the game doesn't use Nobuo Uematsu's original music, but rather the PSP remixes. Still, it's great stuff. As with so many other elements of the game, listening to it helps you see where the genre came from. Music is an important part of the RPG genre, and this is where it all started. A part of me wishes that I had the option to listen to my music while playing the game, but given the fact that orchestras play arrangements of this music in concert, I can understand why the developers chose not to include that option.
Being an iPhone OS game, Final Fantasy is controlled entirely by touch. It works relatively well in battle, where you can instantly choose which enemy to target rather than using a d-pad to cycle through them and select one. However, the controls' sensitivity leaves a lot to be desired. You often have to hold on an enemy longer than you'd like, or even tap them multiple times in order for your selection to register. Outside of battle, you frequently find yourself fighting the d-pad to start walking, although once you're moving, inertia seems to take over, and you can keep walking or change direction without any trouble.
As I said at the beginning, my scores on this review aren't important. If you haven't played Final Fantasy I before, you should play it. Sure, this review is for the iPhone OS version, but at this point, you can play it on a DS (via the GBA slot) or a PSP as well. This game influenced everything that came afterwards, whether the developers were trying to build on what it did right or learn from the few things it could have done better.