April 19, 2007 - I wasn't into the RPGs way back when the original Final Fantasy game came out on the Famicom, but I still feel like I've played the game in one form or another a dozen times now. Let's see... there's the PlayStation version in Final Fantasy Origins, the Game Boy Advance version in Final Fantasy I&II Dawn of Souls, and the mobile version. Okay, maybe three times.
Of all the remakes, the PSP version seems like it could be the ultimate. Square Enix has redone the sprites and 2D visual elements so that they look sharp and distinct on the PSP's screen. The overworld map also looks nice and clean compared to what we're used to seeing of the SNES-style psuedo-3D effect. On the whole, the game's visuals look like they were designed specifically for the PSP, without attempting to hide the retro nature of the material.
Gameplay is... well, it's the original Final Fantasy. You start off by selecting four warriors, choosing one of six classes for each, and giving each a name (you can also have the game automatically select a name for you). You then head off on the most basic of RPG adventures. You can't really expect the complexities of a modern day RPG, but that may be a good thing, especially for a portable system like the PSP.
Square Enix has seen fit to include include many of the features and bonuses that have made their way into past remakes, plus some new ones. Starting up the game, you'll find the PlayStation's CG intro movie. From the Game Boy Advance, you'll find the added Soul of Chaos dungeon, along with a PSP-exclusive dungeon, the "Time Labyrinth," where your characters' HP slowly depletes as you advance. Yoshitaka Amano fans can look forward to an art gallery.
Options include the expected message speed settings and the ability to switch movement between the thumb pad and the d-pad (either way, character movement is strictly digital). In a big surprise, Square Enix has also included, in addition to the Japanese options for kanji or no kanji, an option for English! Switch to English mode, and the game completely does away with Japanese characters. This should make life easier for importers.
The only problem I've noted so far is that the loading isn't as optimized as it could be, with your first fight upon entering a dungeon or heading out to the world map making the game pause for a few seconds.
Aside from that, this PSP remake feels like the perfect way to sample the earliest Final Fantasy of them all, assuming you haven't already done so through one of the previous remakes.