Retro Review: Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls (GBA)

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With my recently finishing Final Fantasy IX, I started to get into an RPG mood. I decided to replay the Game Boy Advance remake of the first Final Fantasy. While this remake, titled Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls comes with both Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II on it, I will not be covering Final Fantasy II in this particular review. Final Fantasy II is a harder game to get through, and has many noteworthy differences from the original, that a separate review may be needed at a later date. It should also be noted that many remakes of Final Fantasy released after this one have the same features as the Dawn of Souls edition, and a few extras. Much of this review will cover content that will apply to newer remakes too.

FFDOSBattle
You can encounter a lot of foes at once in Final Fantasy.

To start, Final Fantasy is a much simpler RPG than most. There isn’t much story involved, so the game is mostly random encounters, and dungeon exploration. Much of the time, you are earning gil (this game’s currency) from defeating monsters to buy the latest equipment, and to obtain magic spells that some of your party members can learn. I found myself not rushing immediately to each dungeon until I gathered the purchasable goods I think I needed to progress. Even though I prefer to adventure than to grind for money or levels, it feels like that I needed to do this after arriving at each new town.

Perhaps this game’s most interesting feature is that you choose the classes that your four party members belong to at the beginning of the game, and you stick with those classes for the entire save file. There are six classes to choose from, with three being weapon based (warrior, thief, and monk), and three being magic based (white mage, which is the healer, black mage, which relies on damaging magic, and red mage, which is good at everything, but doesn’t excel at any one task). Unlike many RPGs, there’s no class changing here (aside from an optional mid game upgrade, which is preset based on each party member’s starting class), so this means that each play-through can be unique, if you so choose. Incidentally, you can have multiple characters belong to the same class, for an extra challenge. I found myself playing this game several times just to see what might feel different each time.

FFDOStown
A sample of an early game town in Final Fantasy.

That being said, Final Fantasy has a few odd quirks that alter the flow of the game. You can encounter up to nine enemies at once, which is virtually unheard of in a non-tactical turn based game. They all are quite weak when you find this many foes, so the battles aren’t usually that long. In some cases, the village NPC’s will block where you need to go in town, and could take a while to move out of the way. If this is your first time playing, and you are doing so blindly, you might not know where your next task might be. The dungeons are much more maze-like than most RPG’s which many dead ends, and wrong turns with limited rewards for fully exploring these areas.

Additionally, Final Fantasy is a fairly short RPG, as it will only clock in at 10-20 hours, even with this game’s bonus content and reaching the highest character level. This is generally a good thing, especially if you don’t have much free time. More seasoned players might want a little more, but the game feels good almost no matter what, a rare feat for an older game.

Speaking of which, you might be wondering what is different between the original and this version. Here’s a quick look at differences between the NES version and this edition of the game:

  • Most notable is that if two or more characters target a single foe in the NES version, and one character KO’s a foe before the other character attacks in the same turn, the second character will attack the dead enemy, doing nothing. In the GBA edition, such an attack will be redirected to a random foe instead, speeding up battle.
  • Additionally, the NES version prompts you separately for each enemy hit by a multi-target attack, slowing things down. In the GBA version, the numbers pop up at the same time, speeding things up considerably.
  • The NES version has a set number of spells that can be used per spell level, similar to most editions of Dungeons and Dragons. The GBA version uses a single MP meter per character, and each spell costs a certain amount of MP per use.
  • All spells work properly in the GBA version. Many non damaging spells didn’t work in the NES version.
  • Some enemies are tougher in the GBA version, especially late game.
  • You do not have to rest at an inn to save in the GBA version.
  • The GBA version has four bonus dungeons to complete, with bosses from Final Fantasies 3-6.
  • The GBA version has a bestiary that fills up as you defeat monsters.
  • And of course, there is a graphical and musical upgrade in the GBA version.

Here are some game play recommendations:

  • On your first play through, select one character to be a warrior, and another to be a white mage. The other two should belong to two different classes of your choice.
  • Gather enough cash to buy the latest equipment and spells before adventuring to new areas. You may want some supplies like potions too!
  • Try to figure out some of the games riddles without a guide the first time around. You won’t need a guide on future play-throughs.
  • Try the bonus content before finishing the game. Some of these dungeons require multiple visits to fight each boss.
  • The bonus dungeon called Lifespring Grotto has the hardest bosses at the end of it. Complete this dungeon last, but before finishing the game.
  • If you really enjoyed this game try playing it again with a different combination of character classes. Be sure to try out any classes that you didn’t use the first time around.
  • Completing the bestiary isn’t necessary, and isn’t rewarding, but is fun to view. There are 195 enemies in all.

Now for the Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Choosing your characters’ classes at the start of the game encourages multiple play-throughs with somewhat different experiences.
  • Minimal story means this game focuses on game play.
  • This version of Final Fantasy is one of the smoothest versions of this game, with only certain remakes made after it being better.
  • The graphical update was good at the time, but only adequate now (a possible pro, based on personal fondness of retro graphics).
  • The party can get a class upgrade, making the game more interesting.

Cons:

  • Music doesn’t quite match the rest of the Final Fantasy series (possible con, based on your taste in game music, and whether music interferes with your experience).
  • Game relies on grinding for money.
  • Some methods of progressing might be obscure on your first play-through (possible con, depending on how easily you figure these moments out).
  • NPC’s can block your movement in towns.

Verdict:

8.9/10 A great remake of a classic

This game has a range of 8.7- 9.1, based on your tolerance of RPG style grinding, and whether you like replaying a good game. It is a very strong game overall, and is worth a look if you like RPG’s.


So there you have it, my opinion on the Dawn of Souls edition of the original Final Fantasy. Would you like to see a review of the original NES version? A review of the Dawn of Souls version of Final Fantasy II? Did you like this edition of Final Fantasy? Which remake is your favorite version and why? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this article, you can click that like button. To stay up to date on everything That’s All Games, you can subscribe via email too! Until next time, have fun gaming!

2 thoughts on “Retro Review: Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls (GBA)

    1. Sounds like a fun quest to have. My main issue with the NES FF was the empty space attacking in that version. There were other issues in that version too, not all in the review, and I may cover the original at some point. The NES DQ didn’t have that issue as all battles were 1v1, and if I’m not mistaken, the other early DQ games didn’t have that issue either.

      Liked by 1 person

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