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Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition
Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
To this day, it still amazes me how many Final Fantasy fans still haven't played the original. Of course, to many of these devotees, the series began with Final Fantasy VII, but the original has seen enough re-releases over the years that it is impossible to not have played it. Then again, there are still weirdoes out there who have never played the original Super Mario Bros. or Pac-Man, so I suppose anything is possible. Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition is the latest version of the original, adding new visuals, a brand new dungeon and not much else.

Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition's presentation keeps a classic vibe while making a few enhancements. The game retains a 2D look and replaces the original sprites with high resolution ones. Backgrounds and characters looks just the way they did in the original, only with more detail and a clearer look. Spell effects have a haziness to them that makes them look more like magic effects rather than a simple drawing of a lighting bolt or flame. Backgrounds also feature small, noticeable touches like cloud shadows. A few bosses have even received a complete visual update and look even better than previous editions.

Music, which is always one of the series' highlights, has been cleaned up as well. The arrangements are still synthesized and remain the same, but Final Fantasy fans will not be disappointed.

Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition isn't so much a remake of the original as it is an amalgam of all remakes that have come before it. The core gameplay is left fully intact while bringing over the enhancements made in the GBA release, Dawn of Souls. For gamers who weren't around during the game's original NES run, the gameplay may not hold up compared to more modern RPGs, though it is fun to see how many things have changed in 20 years and how many have stayed the same - most notable among them, random encounters.

Although Final Fantasy games have become synonymous with good storytelling, you won't find much here. It is just four characters, four crystals and a world in peril. Many of the series' classic elements, like multi-colored mages and crystals, are introduced in the first game and, like gameplay, it is fun to see how they have held up over the years. The game is mainly focused on exploring areas and fighting bosses while you uncover crystals. At certain points in the game, you will acquire items and vehicles that open up new areas of the world to explore, eventually giving you an airship and access to the entire world .

The new dungeons added in Dawn of Souls are included as is a brand-new dungeon that will really push player's skills. The dungeon is fun, especially for hardcore RPG players, though it can sometimes border on incredibly cheap.

Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition is only as hard as you make it. You begin the game by assigning classes to four characters that make up your main party. Each class, which includes an assortment of mages, a fighter, monk and a thief, has its own abilities that directly relate to how your party will function in combat and indirectly influence the difficulty. A well-balanced party will mean an easy game while one composed of thieves and mages will make for a harder game. Later in the game, starter classes level up to more powerful classes, which could improve the viability of certain party make-ups, though getting to that point could be difficult.

Beyond party composition, keeping your party leveled is important; otherwise you will end up in a bad place. I was able to keep my party on-level through normal gameplay, though every so often I had to take a few laps around an area for a few extra levels.

Game Mechanics:
Combat is turn-based and finds a balance between keeping the game true to the original while making the game a little more accessible to more players. The more noticeable of these changes is the magic system. The original used a system that limited your use of spells. Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition uses the now-familiar system based around mana points. However, the number of spells you can hold per level is still limited, so you have to think about how you want to build your mages.

Another addition is a run button, which makes exploration much easier and faster.

If there is such a thing as a definitive edition of Final Fantasy, this is it. With that said, if you own any of the multiple remakes, there is little reason to purchase the PSP version. Though you get a new dungeon and updated visuals, the game is still the same and doesn't hold quite the appeal of the GBA version, which also includes Final Fantasy II.

For the PSP owner who hasn't played Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition should be a purchase; otherwise you can skip it and not miss much unless you want to tackle the new dungeon.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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