Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls


Review by · January 24, 2005

The Game Boy Advance has been a safe haven for remakes and re-releases of many roleplaying titles from the 16-bit days. Someone’s apparently forgotten to tell Square Enix which titles to re-release, as following 2003’s Sword of Mana is Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, another spawn of NES titles. That’s not to say that Dawn of Souls is a complete rehash, however; the game holds a completely redone visual interface as well as additional dungeons for each of the games. Square Enix has done well for themselves this time, as this package is more worthwhile than Final Fantasy Origins, which saw the same games, sans extra dungeons, late in the PSOne’s lifecycle.

Graphically, Dawn of Souls is somewhere around Super Nintendo quality. The games are ported from the WonderSwan Color re-releases of the titles, and as such, uses slightly less power than the SNES. The battle sprites are clean, however, and animate well despite having less frames of animation than, say, the characters in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Both games share equal graphical prowess, one doesn’t have more frames of animation or larger sprites than the other. The overworld map graphics don’t fare as well as those in the battle system, as sprites are relatively small and undetailed. Environments are often just one or two tiles in a big clump for a long distance.

Dawn of Souls’ strongest point is its audio. Although it doesn’t share the space of its CD-based cousin, Origins, Dawn of Souls’ MIDI-based soundtrack sounds simply superb. These works of Nobuo Uematsu’s are some of his best, and focus more on the actual tones of the music instead of the feel they create. Although a monaural game, the tones sound great coming out of a Nintendo DS’ stereo speakers. Unfortunately, I haven’t played this game with a standard Game Boy Advance, so I can’t comment on the sounds directly from the original machine. The sound effects are nothing special, just the run of the mill aural effects one would expect from a 16-bit game.

Final Fantasy I’s gameplay setup is far different from those in later Final Fantasies. More akin to a D&D style game, FFI starts out with the player’s choice of four characters from six different classes. Players can choose the Fighter, Monk, Black Mage, White Mage, Red Mage, or Thief. The classes all function differently, so you may not have the same play experience as your friend, but they are not different enough to warrant multiple playthroughs for the casual gamer. The exploration and combat system find themselves anchored in 1987, except for the magic system. Changed from the original system of spells per level, Final Fantasy I now finds itself with a mana-based system that modern gamers are more familiar with. This, combined with a nerfed difficulty, make the game much more suitable for a handheld. Combat runs as one might expect it to, with the standard Attack/Magic/Item system everyone who has played an RPG has seen before. FFI also finds itself with four extra dungeons after the defeat of each of the four Fiends of Chaos. These dungeons are randomly generated and feature boss characters from later Final Fantasy games.

Final Fantasy II finds itself less modified than its predecessor and its unique experience system intact. FFII finds characters completely without levels or experience, but molds its characters by their actions in combat. Is Guy busting out magic like there’s no tomorrow? He’ll find himself with more mana and increased magical damage. Because of this, players will need to be careful not to put themselves in the rut of having characters that all just do massive amounts of melee damage through power leveling. Final Fantasy II also features an extended storyline since Origins, as well as an extra dungeon where characters that die in the storyline fight in the underworld. Both games also feature an in-game bestiary to check out all of the monsters you’ve slain over the course of your adventure.

Do you like random battles? Do you like annihilating waves of goblins, orcs, and other assorted monsters one after another? Dawn of Souls delivers helpings of random encounters in both games. Gamers used to today’s lessened battle rate or see-on-the-screen enemies may be caught a bit off guard by the sheer amount of combat. Players are now able to save anywhere on the map in these portable versions of the game. This does ease a bit of the difficulty, but won’t save you from wandering into territory that’s simply too hard for you, something that happens quite a bit if caution isn’t heeded. One important difference in battle is the fact that if a monster dies, the characters will attack the next target along the line, unlike the NES originals.

Final Fantasy I’s story is as simple as it gets: You control the Light Warriors, saviors of the world! No, really, that’s it. Go kick some monster butt; you’ve got the crystals to prove you can do it. Final Fantasy II shows quite a bit more plot than the previous game. Four youths are orphaned when an evil empire attacks their hometown and one is separated. The three remaining characters embark to stop this empire and save their friend. Despite the relatively simple premise, FFII delivers fleshed-out characters as well as a more-developed storyline when compared to the NES or PSOne versions.

Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls is simple, old school fun. Neither game is horribly complex, nor are they the epitome of handheld roleplaying. What this compilation is, however, is what gamers wanted back in 2003: Final Fantasy Origins to be portable. These games don’t have the mettle to stand up to current console roleplaying games, but they sit perfectly happy along their perch in the world of handhelds. Even if you were born after 1987 and never played these games originally (and you certainly didn’t play FFII unless you were a Japanese child), there’s a bit of nostalgia to be found here. Pick it up; the least it will do is keep you entertained while you’re at the DMV.

Overall Score 80
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John McCarroll

John McCarroll

A Nevada native now in the Midwest, John started at RPGFan in 2002 reviewing games. In the following years, he gradually took on more responsibility, writing features, news, taking point on E3 and event coverage, and ultimately, became owner and Editor-in-Chief until finally hanging up his Emerald Cloak of Leadership +1 in 2019.