“I, Garland, will knock you all down!!!”

Final Fantasy ++I don’t usually pay much attention to ROM hacks; I tend to assume that they’re mostly high-quality productions like “Bloody Axe Bros” and “Lesbian Tennis”. As it so happened, however, I was poking around at romhacking.net a few days ago, and found myself looking at the Final Fantasy section.

I actually didn’t play the first Final Fantasy game until relatively recently (by which I mean, like, 5 or 6 years ago)- I’ve been meaning to play it again, but the thought of grinding away in that clunky interface for hours bores me to tears, even on fast-forward. Likewise, I try not to be too critical of a game’s appearance, but let’s face it- the original FF shows its’ age.

Luckily, I came across Final Fantasy ++.

Final Fantasy ++ is a rebalancing patch combined with a visual update. It includes updates of most enemy graphics (most of these are 8-bit-ized graphics taken from later FF games- FF4 and 5 in particular) and map tiles. Maps have all been redrawn to be prettier, although they’re fairly similar to their original incarnations. The game’s interface has been improved and the difficulty rebalanced; it no longer requires nearly as much obnoxious EXP-grinding as the original version. The classes, likewise, have been rebalanced such that Black Belts are no longer as overpowered as they once were, and Black Mages are now as useful as the fighting classes. A new magic-using class (Time Mage) has been introduced as well.

While most of the changes represent a big improvement, there are a couple rough spots- I wasn’t terribly impressed by the Ice Cave, and the whole ‘river section’ feels like it’s a lot harder than it should be. The familiar Four Fiends have been replaced- I like having the new enemies that don’t behave exactly as expected, but the choice for the new Fiend of Fire bothered me a bit. I expect that purists won’t like the idea of new Fiends, and I can see where they’re coming from- the Four Fiends are among the most recognizable characters from the original Final Fantasy, and I’m not sure that removing them was the best choice.

The class change now works somewhat differently than it did in the original- instead of each class turning into an upgraded version of itself, fighter-types generally turn into mage-types and vice-versa. It feels like the hacker was trying to make the class-change function more like the class changes in Dragon Warrior 3, but the game’s engine doesn’t quite support it. The new system works, but it takes a while to wrap your mind around.

That being said, Final Fantasy ++ adds a lot to the original- it’s still the same game at it’s core, but its’ rough edges have been smoothed down significantly. I strongly recommend giving it a try!

– HC