|Final Fantasy for the WonderSwan Color: Is it any good? Is it worth importing?|
In a word: DEAR GOD YES! (I know, that was 3 words. Whatyagonnado.) Without exaggeration, I think I can safely say that FF1 WSC is one of, if not THE, greatest technological and artistic achievement of mankind in all of history. There are only two reasons why any sane person would not buy FF1 WSC: 1) They already have it. 2) I lied, there is only one reason. GET IT! |
As a long-time fan(atic) of FF1 for the NES, I had insanely high expectations for FF1 WSC. I was nervous that they'd change too much, and that the FF1 that I knew and loved would be gone; at the same time, I was excited about some of FF1 NES's inherent "bugs" being "fixed", and I really wanted to see the new graphics and whatnot. I need not have feared, however. FF1 WSC IS Final Fantasy. Every single thing I loved about the Original is intact or enhanced in the WSC version. They fixed what needed to be fixed, and left the good stuff alone. THANK YOU SQUARE!
Although the game is all in Japanese, the dialogue is all hiragana (no kanji) and most of the menus, spells, items, etc. are katakana. Understanding the dialogue is also not really necessary to completing the game, and there are translations of the menus at GameFAQs. If you can read kana or if you've played FF1 on the NES a couple times, you ought to have no problems playing FF1 WSC at all. I highly, HIGHLY recommend importing this sucker. Or you could always wait for the (possible) imminent U.S. release sometime later this year. Either way, just GET IT!
|How are the graphics?|
The graphics in FF1 WSC are absolutely incredible. They are easily SNES-quality, even on the tiny WSC screen. The graphics are very much like FF4 or FF5. All the maps and environments are incredibly detailed and full of color and life. |
For example, take the Sea Shrine. In the NES version, the Shrine was pretty a much blue-tiled floor with a water-tiled background, with a couple rooms thrown on, and that was it. In the WSC version, the Sea Shrine looks like an ancient ruined Roman temple. There are fallen pillars all over the place, crumbling rooms, brilliant tiled floors, and so forth. The WSC version also somehow managed to make the Sea Shrine seem BIGGER, without actually making it bigger at all. The graphics extend off the screen, beyond where your character can walk; it makes the place seem huge, abandoned, and eerie.
Another example is Elfland; it strongly gave me the impression of being deep in an isolated wood. The buildings all LOOK like wood, now; the paths are dirt; rivers flow through the city, and are traversed by wooden arched bridges. The "default town" feeling from FF1 NES is gone; the same graphics aren't reused over and over in FF1 WSC. Every town is completely unique, and incredibly detailed.
The world map is also changed a bit. The town and castle graphics are very much bigger and more... grandiose. The world map in FF1 WSC isn't made up of the repeating "grass", "mountain", "water" tiles of FF1 NES, and it isn't as square-looking as the NES version; the terrain is instead varied, the shoreline is rough, the rivers are large and winding, the sea laps at the shore, the forests are more uneven and life-like.
As for the battle graphics... they are amazing, that's all I can say. The spell effects are outstanding. Cast FIR2, and a fireball WHIZZES out of the distance, and explodes all over the place. Cast LIT3, and lightning shoots all over the place, too. Cast HARM, and beams of light shine down from above, as if through clouds. Cast RUB, and Death himself comes, sucks out the monster's soul, and chops it up with a schythe. Cast QAKE, and the groud splits apart. It is better than I can even put into words; you'll just have to see it.
The battle backgrounds are also amazing. Gone is the plain black void-like emptiness of FF1-NES. Instead, depending on the terain or dungeon location, the background is full-color, takes up the whole screen. When you fight in a forest, it really FEELS like you're in a forest; when you fight aboard the ship, you actually fight ABOARD the Ship! (It looks like you're standing on the deck.) The dungeons each have their own battle backgrounds too, and they are highly detailed and very well done.
Every monster has also been redrawn to be more colorful and detailed. The Fiends, in particular, look wonderful. They are now HUGE; they take up the whole screen. Take a look at some of my screenshots to see what I mean. ALL the monsters, though, look about 10 times better in FF1 WSC than they did in FF1 NES.
I can't really even tell you how amazing the graphics are. I would place their quality at a level equal to FF6, or even slightly above. In short, FF1 WSC is a work of art. It is very obvious how much time went into making this game look good; it really shows.
|What about the music?|
The music in FF1 NES was always one of my favorite parts of the game. The Prelude, Prologue, Battle Theme, and Victory Fanfare of FF1 were good enough to be reused NINE TIMES in the rest of the series. Squaresoft realized this, obviously, because the music in FF1 WSC is the same wonderful Uematsu collection that I remembered, except with better quality. The same songs play in the same places; the dungeon themes, map theme, town thems, etc. are all the same, just with much better quality. The music in FF1 WSC has a lighter, livelier... "tinkly" feeling to it, as opposed to the horrible grating midi of the NES. Although the WSC's speaker isn't the greatest in the world, the improved music quality really shines through. |
As if that wasn't good enough, there were some new songs added to the game. I counted THREE Boss Battle Themes (One for the Fiends, one for Chaos, and one for every other boss, I believe.) Also added was a holy-sounding Clinic (Church) Theme, and a lively version of the Town Theme that plays when the Bridge is built and during the Mini-game, among other places. The new songs fit right in with the rest of FF1's music; I wouldn't be surprised if Uematsu wrote those songs 15 years ago, but they just didn't get included in the game.
The sound effects are also a bit less "grating" than the screechy NES sounds. Hearing the menu sound effects over and over no longer makes me want to kill myself, as the NES ones did. All in all, the sound and music of FF1 WSC is a great improvement, while keeping the excellent music and songs from the NES version intact.
|Did they add anything else?|
YES! They added cutscenes / little movies in the game at various points. First of all is the excellent opening movie that plays when you turn on the WSC. Cloud billow past, and the four Fiends' dungeons are visited one by one. Then the four crystals come shooting onto the screen, whiz around, slam together, explode, and the new FF1 logo is displayed. It's very cool, trust me. |
When the King decided to build the Bridge for you, a little movie plays of a scholarly man yelling at some knights to get to work, and of them finishing the bridge. There is also a movie of the Airship rising from the desert that was very impressive. Another movie plays when you descend in the Submarine to the Sea Shrine. And when looking out the Window in the Sky Castle, you actually SEE the four Forces flowing into the Temple of Fiends. There are other movies, as well. The movies are really impressive and add a lot to the game's plot and enjoyability.
Also, walking into shops now takes you INTO the shop, ala FF4. You can walk around in the shop; to buy stuff, you have to walk up to the counter and talk to the shopkeep. This isn't much of a change, but it does flesh out the game a bit more.
In addition, there is also a lot of added DIALOGUE throughout the game. Most key characters now have a lot to say; often two or three screens worth of text is displayed, whereas in FF1 NES, one screen was the limit for everyone. Your characters also split up on the screen, FF7-style, when talking to people. They move around, wave their hands and cheer when good stuff happens, and get a little FF5-style exclamation point over their heads when excited. When re-lighting a Crystal, your characters actually walk up and take out a Crystal, hold it up and light it. The NPC characters in the game do stuff too; Bikke's mates are actually shown on the screen, and they run over to fight you. Matoya walks back and forth bumping into things because she can't see. You get to see the Elf Prince actually WAKE UP. Nerrick the Dwarf plants the TNT and runs for his life to avoid being blown up. The Fairy is shown actually diving into the Spring. And perhaps the greatest thing ever is Dr. Unne jumping up and down excitedly when you give him the Slab. All of this stuff adds to the plot immensely. The storyline and characters are much more interesting, even though I couldn't understand most of the dialogue because it was in Japanese.
|What about the gamplay? How is that different?|
A lot of the gameplay bugs in the FF1 version were fixed, and a lot of options were added to make the game easier, or more fast paced. For example, holding B now lets your character run in towns and dungeons (but not on the world map), like in FF7. It really speeds the game up, trust me. |
The layouts of all the menus have been very much simplified. Now, you can buy 99 potions AT ONCE, instead of hitting "BUY" 99 times. THANK YOU SQUARE! This is REALLY something that needed fixed; I'm glad they did.
A couple things were changed in the battles, too. You now have the option of using Auto-targetting in battle. What that means is if two guys try to attack the same monster, and the first one kills it, the second guy will attack another monster instead, like in the latter FF's. In the NES version, you'd just waste a turn if your target got killed. Another addition to battles is the option to allow the LIFE, LIF2, and SOFT spells, and Soft Potions, to be used in battle (you couldn't, in FF1 NES.)
There's also an option to display little help-windows in battle, to tell you what spells and items do. This is especially helpful to us non-Japanese speakers; it makes it a bit easier to navigate through screen after screen of kana.
Finally, a quick-save option was added to FF1 to allow you to save ANYWHERE. This save is temporary, however; when you use it, the game exits. When you load it, the savegame is erased. So to save permanently, you still have to use a Tent, Cabin, House, or Inn.
If you're diappointed over all these additions to make the game easier, have to fear. You can turn them all off! Turning them off makes FF1 WSC essentially exactly the same as its NES predecessor. But the new options are worth a try, anyways; they do make the game a bit faster-paced and more fun. And for those of you who thought FF1 NES was too hard, it makes the game more bearable.
|What's this I hear about the Mini-game?|
| The rumors are true. Beating the Mini-game (aboard the Ship) now gives you 10,000 G! This is perhaps one of the few gripes I have with FF1 WSC. A free 10,000 G for beating the very easy Mini-game makes the game INCREDIBLY easy. You can also keep playing it over and over, and as long as you beat your best time, you get ANOTHER 10,000 G! But, I don't have a REAL problem with it, because playing the Mini-game is completely optional. I just don't do it, and the game is as challenging as I remember. But a free, virtually unlimited source of money kind of unbalances the game, I think. |
|They added too much stuff! They CHANGED too much stuff!|
NO! The greatest thing about FF1 WSC is that all the added options that make the game easier or change the gameplay radically are OPTIONAL. If you loved the Original NES version so much that you can't stand to see it changed at all, but still want the great graphics and music of the WSC, just turn all the options off, and it'll be like the old NES version in almost every way! |
Although they changed the graphics, the new graphics are based very, very strongly on the NES's graphics. The monsters' sprites are all very similar to the NES versions. It looks like someone looked at the NES's monsters, and drew them by hand and colored them, then scanned them at 16-bit quality and put them in the game. There was some serious nostalgia flowing in the room when I first found some of the monsters and saw something that was like the NES monster I loved, yet a hundred times better quality.
Another thing that is unchanged is the dungeons themselves. Although the backgrounds are updated, the dungeons' layouts are EXACTLY the same. The maps are the same, the same treasure is found in the same places, even the world map is almost exactly the same as the NES's. (Although a couple things WERE changed on the world map, like in the area near Onrac, only obsessed people like me would even notice, most likely.)
The same items and magic are for sale in the same shops for the same prices as in the NES version. This is pretty darn helpful to those of us who don't speak Japanese. There are also the same number of guys in the towns, and they say for the most part the same thing as in the NES version. Arylon the Dancer in Coneria, Jim the Dwarf in Melmond, and Dr. Unne's Brother are all still there, and they are unchanged.
The plot/storyline is also unchanged. You still have to do the same things, in the same order. You can still go to the Castle of Ordeals before the Ice Cave, or vice versa. And many of you will be happy to know that the Peninsula northeast of Pravoka with the super-powerful monsters is still there as well.
What I'm trying to say is that, despite all the changes and improvements, FF1 WSC IS Final Fantasy. It is FF1 the way it was always meant to be. I heard a saying once that there comes a point when adding one more brush stroke to a painting ruins it. FF1 WSC is as close as you can come to adding that one brush stroke too many, without actually doing it. It is the fulfillment of every dream I've ever had of playing a game better than FF1 NES. FF1 NES will always hold a special place in my heart, but FF1 WSC is sitting right there next to it. And it will stay there forever.
Sound and Music: