Review: Final Fantasy (Xbox Live)
Final Fantasy is a big name in gaming. It's one of the leading role playing game (RPG) franchises, which has been releasing new titles for the last twenty five years. With fourteen titles in the 'main' line and countless other compilations, spin-offs and off-shoots, the basic style of Final Fantasy is known the world over. Does the Xbox Live version of the game match up to the expectations?
Version Reviewed: 220.127.116.11
The short answer is yes, it does deliver. But only if you remember this is a port of a port of the 1987 original Final Fantasy game. Derived from the Playstation Portable porting of the '87 title as 'Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition', the Xbox Live version of Final Fantasy is a great place for those new to the franchise to jump on board - there's no expectation that players will know how the series works, nor is there a need for knowledge from other Final Fantasy titles. That's a smart decision given that many in the Windows Phone target market may not have sat down to grind through the franchise. You are expected to know the basic tenets of an RPG title, so it's not immediately accessible.
The other group of people, the Final Fantasy hardcore, will more than likely enjoy returning to the roots of the game series and seeing the first beats of the storylines they continue to play over a quarter of a century later.
Stepping aside from the huge 3D worlds with a third person camera, Final Fantasy on Xbox Live is a more retro affair, sporting a more flat viewpoint of the world. It's almost cartoon like, but it's a look that should be familiar to many of us who have been playing games for far too many years.
With a slight nod towards the rather cliché storylines of the nineties (not that they have improved over the 25 years), your goal in Final Fantasy is to guide the four young friends in the party on a perilous quest. Each of them carries a elemental orb which has no more light in it - to infuse them with light the four Elemental Fiends (based around Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) must be defeated.
Okay, perhaps not so simple...
And to help you along the way, there will be smaller quests to complete (such as rescuing Princess Sara in the first few moments of the game) that will contribute to your progress on the main quest against the Fiends.
Maybe the only issue I have with Final Fantasy is that it still feels like that first 8-bit version. To the modern eye, the graphics are very flat, with simple colours. The text is using a very basic font which is not adventurous at all, and the control system is, frankly, geared towards a physical joypad - something that your Windows Phone is going to replace with a touch screen based virtual pad. It's not a perfect solution, but it's one that many gamers are getting used to on their smartphone. I just wish there was a more graceful way of doing it, with a way to provide some haptic feedback. A lot of my gameplay time was spent looking at the bottom left of the screen to see which direction key I was pressing.
One advantage of coming from the 8-bit joypad is there is only one other action button on the right of the Windows Phone screen, so that's easy enough to find.
What I do like is that in the menu screen and dialogs you can use the touch screen on the available options, and not have to navigate a cursor around the screen (as you might have to if you dug out an old Nintendo machine), which actually makes the game much easier to play. The decisions are the same, but it's much easier to make them, organise your party of four, keep an eye on equipment, and work through all the numbers and choices you would expect in a typical RPG.
I'm glad there has been some thought and changes put in to the code for the user interface. This isn't a simple piece of emulation, it has been tailored to the Windows Phone environment. You still have a soundtrack that's beeps and chirps (but they are really classy and appropriate beeps and chirps), and because the game was designed to be played on a low resolution TV screen in the 80's, the detail on show is more impressive on the tiny Windows Phone screen than the CRT's of my youth.
Final Fantasy is going to be a popular title for Xbox Live gamers. It's the first fully fledged RPG for Windows Phone, and it has a huge vision. This isn't a title with gameplay measured in hours, this is going to last a very long time. It's also had a huge amount of play-testing in various incarnations and ports, so the underlying game mechanics, balancing, and difficulty curve aren't guesswork, but the product of a very large volume of feedback and testing.
While it is one of the more expensive titles on Xbox Live, some may baulk at the idea of paying $6.99 for a 're-release' when compared to the cost of other leisure applications. But this is a premium title with a huge amount of game play. Yes, you need to be partial to some RPG, because it has very little hand-holding if you don't understand the genre, but for those that do, Final Fantasy is a must have download on your Windows Phone. For everyone else, have a look at the trial version and see why Final Fantasy has endured all these years.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at