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Final Fantasy: Xbox Windows Phone Review

Final Fantasy Lead

For more than a year, the Xbox Live lineup on Windows Phone languished without the presence of a single traditional RPG. Thankfully Japanese publishing giant Square Enix has finally tossed their hat into the Windows Phone arena with Final Fantasy, a remake of the original NES classic that vaulted their company to stardom. The first Final Fantasy may not have some of the finer trappings of its sequels, but it remains a vast and remarkable adventure that mobile gamers shouldn’t miss.

Head past the break for our extremely detailed review!

The beginnings of an epic

Final Fantasy

The game runs in multiple languages, not just Japanese.

Fans who’ve never played the 8-bit Final Fantasies (I-III) may be in for a surprise: they’re quite light on story elements. Not until Final Fantasy IV (initially released as Final Fantasy II in the US) came to the Super Nintendo did the series fully come into its own. Still, this Fantasy boasts a premise that will instantly appeal to RPG fans. At the outset, the princess of Cornelia has been kidnapped by Garland, a rogue knight. Four young warriors come to the rescue, each possessing a mysterious crystal. They are the Warriors of Light, who prophecies foretell will thwart four Elemental Fiends and restore balance to the world.

The Warriors of Light are simply ciphers, never uttering a single line of on-screen dialogue. Final Fantasy III would eventually dabble with character personalities, but again, Square didn’t truly flesh out its characters until part IV. Similarly, while each new location presents a goal for players to accomplish, those goals really form the crux of the story. NPCs sometimes provide information on where to go next, but otherwise they don’t say much of consequence or provide side quests like in later RPGs. Clearly, this Fantasy focuses on gameplay and exploration while allowing players to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations.

Class act

Upon creating a new game, players must name each character and assign them one of the following classes: warriors, monks, thieves, black mages, white mages, red mages, and lap dancers. Err, scratch that last one. Each type excels at different things, and it’s essential for the party to include at least one healer (white or red mage). You can safely accept the starting lineup if the choice seems daunting. Later in the adventure, a certain famous dragon will upgrade everyone’s classes, bestowing them with new powers and increased stats.

Not such a small world after all

Final Fantasy

This FF’s world consists of three sprawling continents dotted with towns, castles, and dungeons. A crystalline-shaped virtual d-pad controls party navigation, while a run button allows for faster movement. When the main character stands near an interactive object or person, tapping anywhere on-screen (besides the d-pad) will initiate interaction. Generally, these controls work pretty well, as RPGs aren’t exactly known for requiring fast reflexes. There are a few exceptions when the controls can’t quite keep up, but they’re mainly relegated to the optional, super-tough Labyrinth of Time.

Monster hunters

Chaos

Concept art of Chaos, the final boss by Yoshitaka Amano. Courtesy of the Final Fantasy Compendium.

If there’s one thing old-school Japanese RPGs are full of, it’s random battles. Outside of towns and castles, every few steps the party takes will initiate these enemy encounters. Their frequency can become irksome when you’re just trying to get from point A to B (let alone C and D!), but only by slaughtering hordes of monsters can the party gain experience to level up and Gil (gold) to spend on equipment. Actually, many chests contain hordes of Gil later in the game, but early on you’ll need to fight for it.

Good thing the battle system is fun and rewarding, without some of the twists that bog down modern-day JRPGs. During each round of battle, players assign a move to all four characters, and then the enemies get a turn. The action menu at the bottom of the screen offers the following choices: Fight (melee attack), Magic, Guard, Item, and Flee. With these tools at your disposal, you’ll usually come away victorious, though boss battles and certain enemies can provide much steeper challenges.

Some critics have lamented the lack of automatic targeting for attacks. FF requires players to tap the enemy they’d like to target, and then repeat for each character. While simply tapping Fight would certainly make things go along even faster, it honestly doesn’t require too much thought or energy to tap the enemy every turn until it’s defeated. Heck, in the NES original, if two characters had targeted a baddie and the first character killed the target, the second character simply lost his turn. Thankfully, the second character now automatically attacks a different monster.

Bringing a classic into modern times

Final Fantasy

Speaking of improvements, the graphics and sound are much enhanced as well. Every character and backdrop has been redrawn to match 16-bit standards, with wholly beautiful results. This Final Fantasy basically looks just as lovely as Final Fantasy IV on Super Nintendo, if not more so. Nobuo Uematsu’s iconic soundtrack has been spectacularly remixed too, making for one of the very best soundtracks on Windows Phone, period.

The only presentational hitch to speak of is the game’s screen resolution. When porting the game from iOS to Windows Phone, the developers did not adjust the display to take advantage of Windows Phone’s wider aspect ratio. As a result, a black bar occupies the side of the screen at all times. Wouldn’t a colored border look more attractive? Sure, but black pixels actually eat up a bit less battery life. Besides, the blank portion displays the phone’s clock at all times. Tapping said area pops up battery life and network indicators too – all quite given the game’s length and addictive nature.

Soul of Chaos

The main quest will take most gamers about 15 hours to complete, but your actual completion time is likely to be much longer thank to the inclusion of several bonus dungeons. The four Soul of Chaos dungeons were first introduced in the GameBoy Advance remake Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. Spread across the world map, they unlock as each Elemental Fiend bites the dust.

Each of the four dungeons is longer than the one before it, with the final Lifespring Grotto consisting of a whopping 40 floors. Some floors contain the most unusual things: whole new towns and world maps, to name just a few. Each Soul of Chaos dungeon also hosts four bosses taken from Final Fantasy III-VI along with the appropriate boss music from those games. If all that somehow fails to tantalize you, perhaps the Achievement for defeating every Soul of Chaos boss (requiring multiple runs through all but the final dungeon) will do the trick.

Labyrinth of Time

Final Fantasy

Amazingly, the Labyrinth of Time (created for Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition on PSP) adds even more playtime. Each run through consists of 8 floors taken from a pool of 30. Every floor features a single unique puzzle or challenge, though they still involve some exploration and monster battling as well. The path you take decides which form of the new ultimate boss Chronodia you’ll face, as well as the unique completion reward. To get the Labyrinth of Time Achievement, you’ll need to face all nine forms. Since each run through the Labyrinth takes 2-4 hours, that’s a whopping 18-36 hour time investment!

How sad then that the Labyrinth is not much fun. See, your path isn’t determined by what exits you take but by an obscure Seal system. Basically, the length of time you spend solving a floor’s challenge determines whether you receive a red or blue seal for that floor. Reaching all of Chronodia’s forms requires some very specific combinations of red and blue seals. You’re often forced to sit around twiddling your thumbs for minutes on end while the counter ticks down in order to get red seals – a truly terrible mechanic, especially in a portable title.

Even worse, players can’t save their progress through the 2-4 hour Labyrinth at all. Resuming the game from the title screen (via a quick save) puts you right back at the dungeon start with none of the experience or items acquired beforehand. Thus the only way to complete a Labyrinth run and not waste your time is by doing it all in one sitting or making sure to keep the game running on your phone (locking the phone is okay). All told, the Labyrinth is a pain that only completionists and Achievement hunters will bother to endure.

Achievements

FF’s Achievements are entirely secret, meaning they can’t be viewed through the game or Xbox.com unless you’ve actually unlocked them. The secrecy is entirely pointless since many of them require optional goals that players would never do on their own. Fear not; we’ve already revealed the full list in our Achievement Guide. The only challenging one I haven’t already discussed here is for completing the game in less than 8 hours. Luckily, a glitch makes that one easy to get without having to rush through the game - see the guide for details.

Overall Impression

Final Fantasy is exactly the game Windows Phone needed. Instead of yet another casual game, it's a lengthy role-playing adventure with serious challenge, beautiful 16-bit caliber visuals, and CD-quality sound. Achievements provide a new incentive to play not only the main game but the copious bonus content as well. The $6.99 price tag doesn’t seem so hefty when you consider this is a full PSP game squeezed onto our phones that offers 40+ hours of playtime. RPG fans, buy FF right away and enjoy this piece of gaming history.

  • Final Fantasy – Windows Phone 7 and 8 – 92 MB – $6.99 – Store Link
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Comments

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brorim says:

Thanks but no thanks

Mr4eyes86 says:

Necessary...? Gtfo

el.venenoso says:

That's what I'm sayin

RaRa85 says:

After playing the demo when it first came out I definitely sprang for the full version. My first introduction to the series was none other than the great Final Fantasy VII. Still hoping for a PS3 remake...

EAA575 says:

Me too. I was introduced to Final Fantasy with VII. I still miss it.

RaRa85 says:

I still own it and play it sometimes on my old PS2.

myrandex says:

FFVII was my introduction as well...on the PC no less.

I have to say though if FF Tactics was ported, I would buy with no hesitation.

I picked this up though, and I appreciate the review.

gorebashd says:

Love it and all final fantasy games

Robborboy says:

Bought it the day of release. I had been waiting on this for a while now. Unfortunately I lost my save(8hours) when I had to hard factory reset my Lumia 710.

Fantastic game. I hope to see 2-6 and Tactics follow as well.

dannejanne says:

Lol same here. I factory reseted my phone after the Tango update messed up a bit. I lost 8 hours of gameplay in FF. But I have reached the same place again now and it only took like 3 hours this time hehe.
 
Love this game! FF6 was the first for me but I love this one too. Great remake.

RaRa85 says:

Yes, I thought I was the only one.lol Except I lost over 20 hours because I forgot to install the language packs which in turn did not allow me to restore to the backup. But Tango is working great now and I'm back to 2 hours of work.lol I love it though.

Iskandr says:

I've had the trial on my phone since it was put up on the market place, but I just can't push myself to buy it at the $6.99 price point.  I just can't justify paying even that much for a game I own on the NES and PS1.  Here's hoping that it drops in price or goes on sale. Now, if FF6 was released at $6.99, I would jump on it in a second, even with multiple copies sitting on my shelf.

Mr4eyes86 says:

Cheaper than ios....people like you will prevent ff6 from coming to the platform. Square enix needs to realize windows phone is profitable....obviously they won't think so when there are people like you around....

jdelroyc says:

You mean people who have already purchased a certain game on another platform and don't want to be milked into buying yet another SE re-release?  I love the series but have serious heartburn about buying an incredibly old game with re-done graphics for $7 on a phone.  The mechanics in this game are dated and the story is pretty meh by RPG standards.  SE needs to bring experiences designed for mobile devices to WP such as Chaos Rings instead of these constant cash-ins.  
Stepping off the soapbox and contradicting myself - I do plan to buy this when the price drops and would love to see some superior milkage come to WP such as Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana but at "mobile prices"...bad economy and whatnot ;)

el.venenoso says:

Chrono trigger is the game

Iskandr says:

Cheaper than iOS, but this port is still nothing more than a money grab.  Sorry, SE has to realize not everyone is going to buy the same game over and over.  Eventually we have to stop and say, "No," even if it means losing out on titles.

Paul Acevedo says:

No, it's a wonderful game that deserves preservation and to be discovered by new audiences. You must've gotten mixed up.

jdelroyc says:

Boldly stated, but I find much of the enjoyment I had when playing this game via Origins after playing the NES original years ago was purely nostalgic.  Truly, the game has not aged well compared to its 16-bit successors and this bleeds into every aspect of the game.  Battle mechanics, story, character development, and the necessity of the "grind" are all dated and lacking by today's standards.  The game shouldn't get a pass because we WP fans are starving for RPGs and it bears the Final Fantasy name.  Gamers would do well to discover the far superior experiences offered by Square Enix classic titles such as Chono Trigger/Cross, Final Fantasy VI, VII, or IX, Xenogears, or Secret of Evermore, some of which have been well preserved by this company in the form of rereleases and digital distribution (or better yet, Konami's fantastic Suikoden series).  As for me, I want new experiences tailored for a touch screen such as The World Ends With You or updated old school games like Radiant Historia. 
 
That said, I think the price is the real problem here and while cheaper than iOS, it's still a lot for a port of a graphically updated rereleased game from the 80s.  It's hard to not view this as milking.  And as a PSA - For all you Final Fantasy lovers who own a 3DS and are looking for a quality trip down memory lane, check out Theatrythm.

Iskandr says:

Having bought and played the game when it was originally on the NES in the 80s (and later on PS1), I'm going to agree with jdelroyc in saying that much of the enjoyment is the nostalgia factor.  Even the later SNES era games (like FF6, which I would love to play on my Windows Phone) have seen better days by this point.  Eventually, the rose-colored glasses need to be taken off.  The kicker here is the price point, and at $7 it's asking a lot for a game I have bought multiple times, and is nothing more than a mobile port of a handheld port.

Paul Acevedo says:

Just because you've  bought it multiple times, that doesn't mean everyone has. It's safe to say that millions of gamers - in act, likely the great majority of Windows Phone owners - have never played the first Final Fantasy, and many of them will appreciate being given the opportunity to do so now.

Also, if you don't like classic games like this or think they don't age well, just don't play them. Loads of people do like classics and will buy them on modern systems when given the choice.

jdelroyc says:

This has gotten off topic. The point is that for someone to attack another person for not buying a ported game they didn't like or purchased before and claiming that this is the reason why FFVI etc won't come to windows phone is absurd. The game at it's current price point is not an impulse buy and is a lot for a mobile game. I'm glad you and others like this classic, but I find that we all have different taste and the only thing to blame for the lack of quality RPGs on WP is lack of market share.

mythos13 says:

RPGs is my favorite genre of games but is the a help page or some resource to read about this game? For instance while playing the trial it was confusing knowing when I had items equipped or not; how to get my mage to cast spells and what ended my play until I found out how to play one of my characters died and now what?

Mr4eyes86 says:

Go to main menu and hit equip......there are stores in different cities to learn new spells.....there are stores to revive characters or buy a phoniex down....are you sure you've played rpgs before? Part of it is exploring EVERYTHING.....

mythos13 says:

Thanks though that doesn't help a whole lot. I didn't explain everything but I did get some items to equip but some won't even though I meet the criteria. I have spells in my inventory but I cannot even get the lvl 1 spells into my book. I walked around town aimlessly looking for a way to revive my character but nothing was obvious but now that I know it is in stores I'll concentrate there. I've played many RPGs but they all had manuals and were more intuitive than this one (though I never play JRPGs so that may be the problem).

Paul Acevedo says:

You can pay to revive characters in a church, which you'll find in every town. Also the Phoenix Down item and the Life spell can revive characters.

Click on the Final Fantasy in this article and check our post about Final Fintasy becoming available on the MP - it links to several beginner's resources.

dannejanne says:

One BIG useful tip for this game that many overlook is how to access the world map.
 
While walking around on the world map simply press and hold instead of tapping the status box to access the world map. This is seriously needed to play this correctly!

RaRa85 says:

Thanks for the tip cause you really can get lost. Going to try it now.

dannejanne says:

No problem. You're going to love it. You can even zoom in and out and move the map while you are zoomed in.

tylerh1701 says:

I'd probably get this on XBLA or PSN so I could play it on my TV over time.  But I just don't see me ever playing this on my phone because of the time dedication it takes.  If it goes on sale maybe I'll pick it up.
 
Great review though.  That Labrynth of Time achievement sounds awful.

RaRa85 says:

Have you ever had to go to a doctor's appointment or any other place that will likely have you waiting idely for some amount of time? This game is really perfect for that. Or if you're like me and work at some place like a library. I can get in a good hour a night at work. This is the only game that transforms my phone into an all out gaming machine!

MarkAllett says:

Having never played any version of FF on any platform, I guess I'm not the target audience. However, I thought this game was utterly awful, I was glad to get the 200+mb back when I uninstalled it after an hour of dreary nonsense.
 

aeronaught says:

This is probably sacrilegious to some of you, but in my opinion this game hasn't aged very well. It was a great game back in the day but present day I think a game like Dragon's Blade is more fun while retaining that old school feel.

Mr4eyes86 says:

Try comparing it to the original NES version.....world of difference

Baka says:

Yeah, Dragon's Blade is awesome, and a whole lot cheaper, too. MS just needs to approve the 3.1 update, b/c DB is currently borked since the dev removed some trait caps. Once that update gets pushed, DB is hands down the best WP RPG.

Sprude says:

I played it and loved it. At first the black bar was annoying, but after a while I started to appreciate being able to see the time, and now I wish all apps had an option for that.

brandoshido says:

I haven't progressed that far yet, is there a world map in game?

Paul Acevedo says:

Yes. Press and hold down on the status box at the bottom-right of the screen.

WorkinNTN says:

You are a lifesaver!

dKp1977 says:

Very good review, Paul. As usual. :) This game is a must have. Period!

Awesome game and review. Im 30 hrs in and still enjoying the new dungeons. While $7 is a bit much, I think the inclusion of all the extras makes it ok. Hopefully when wp8 drops the barriers to great games on the phone will diminish!

Bought it day one, haven't started yet, and since I don't do trials I haven't even seen the game. Labyrinth of Time puts me off. Seriously. Anyway I wanted to support SE games on WP, so I invested the price of a poor meal on it.

Paul Acevedo says:

Don't worry - if you're not after a challenge (or the Achievement) you can safely ignore the Labyrinth and just enjoy the experience. But even though I criticize the Labyrinth, I don't dread my final 3 trips through it. :)