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A proper prequel to the game that started a legacy.

Let me preface this by pointing out a few things. First and foremost, this is my first review on this website, despite having partaken in a variety of RPGMaker titles, so forgive me if the formatting isn't amazing. Secondly, theStory part of the review will delve into HEAVY SPOILERS. Lastly, this review comes from the point of view of someone who has played all mainline Final Fantasy titles from 1 to 10, but nothing beyond that, I have no experience with the newer titles, newer spinoffs, or the MMORPGs

And so, on with the review.

Gameplay:

Final Fantasy: Sky Warriors is a prime example of how to do a fan game right. It manages to both feel and play like the original title it's based on, with enough improvements to the pacing and engine, thanks to RPGMaker's own engine, that it removes much of the tedium associated with the original NES entry. The game will make you feel like you're playing a NES title, and you'll be drawn back into the world of Final Fantasy 1, and for those of you who've played and grown up the NES title, you'll feel right at home. Newcomers, thanks to the improvements, should also find some enjoyment in the title, although needless to say that you'll miss out on a lot of story details if you're not familiar with FF1 in some shape or another, and a lot of nostalgia if you've only played some of the remakes.

The battles are engaging enough, and reward proper tactical thinking and strategy, while never feeling too drawn out or dull. Each party member is different enough to warrant their inclusion with one exception, and here I'm going to nitpick. The third party member feels like wasted potential, and despite being given a set of skills, I never found a reason to use any of them over having him use items or regular attacks. Even when he did get useful skills later on, by that point his own weaponry, with buffs, would do more damage than said skills, and any status inflicting skills were a waste as regular battles were over too quickly to warrant them, and any bosses (to my knowledge after some testing) were completely immune to them.

That said, the other three party members all emulate a 'class' from the original game, each with their own distinct purpose and usefulness, and every single one of them feels important and integral to your strategy. If anything, the game might have been a tad too easy, and I was only met with a game over once from attempting a late game boss too early. Still, I'd hardly call that a flaw, as it keeps the game's pacing nice and enjoyable, and avoids undue frustration that might draw away from the game's main focus, being the story, and the world. At least that's how I felt about it.

One area of concern is that money in this game can feel very sparse at times, and equipment, particularly new spells, can become extremely expensive. The late game is particularly guilty of this, and if one wished to 'complete' their entire spellbook, they'd need to spend a severe degree of time grinding, which honestly, isn't required at all. This is easily resolved by simply being selective with what you pick up, but it'll certainly bother the more 'completionist' folks out there. It's a strange contrast between the game being fast paced and moving along neatly, and always being short on cash.

On that topic, the game offers a good amount of sidequesting and things to distract from the main quest, and the world, despite being familiar, felt very fun to explore, and discovering new things was always rewarding. Likewise, most of the new maps included felt like they fit right in, and I was a big fan of actually using the canoe in dungeons, something about that just felt 'right'.

One thing that I will personally nitpick upon is the menu. While the transition to it is super nice, being immediately thrust into a palette swapped default RPGMaker menu afterwards was a bit jarring at first. I definitely grew used to it, but had the menu itself been made to look a bit more like the original game's own, or more NES-Era Final Fantasy-esque, I might have found it much more pleasing. In the same vein, while the party order swapping mechanic is still present, it tends to be a bit awkward, as the order of your party will be visually swapped in battle too... But not the order in which their status appears, making the visuals mismatch the list, so I felt strongly incentivized to keep the main character as my leader for the sake of convenience.

While playing, I encountered a few minor bugs, with one particular game breaking bug later on in the game. Thankfully, I was able to resolve said bug on my own and proceed with the game normally. Being based on the RPGMaker 2003 engine meant dealing with one of it's more infamous downsides: Interrupted attacks, but this only happened to me a handful of times, and only while using an item skill, so nothing that'll detract from the experience.

Gameplay wise, I give Final Fantasy: Sky Warriors a solid 9/10

Music, sound, and graphics:

Let me begin by getting sound out of the way. It's Final Fantasy. If you've played Final Fantasy 1, you'll know exactly what to expect. The sound is crisp, high quality, and fits extremely well, from that satisfying sound effect when a monster hits you with a physical attack, to the sound of your spellcasters channeling a spell. You'll feel right at home if you've been here before.

Music wise, the game chooses to use improved remixes of the original's score, but also keeps the soundtrack strictly in the 8-bit department, much to it's credit. Songs from various other games and other Final Fantasy titles were used, and 'downgraded' to a NES era sound which complimented the soundtrack nicely. I thought the vast majority of the soundtrack was quite nice and enjoyable to listen to, but I did notice a few songs that were jarring. One in particular was a bit annoying to listen to, and another felt far too upbeat for the tone of a NES era Final Fantasy and took me out of the experience completely for a single boss. I understand that this is all down to personal taste of course, and others might completely disagree. Nevertheless, one or two boss songs is hardly anything that affected the entirety of the experience, and I had a really good time listening to the game's music overall.

More specifically on the issues (minor spoilers)
The Shiva boss theme is the song I felt was too upbeat, and I found it absolutely unfitting for the tone of the game, and it simply made me want the battle to end as quickly as possible. The Leviathan song, while not bad, has a really droning, repetitive opener that lasts for quite some time and can make it rather difficult to listen to. Once it got into the song proper, it was actually quite good, but that opener was definitely pretty rough on the ears.


I decided to include the graphics in this category, as a good amount of them is from the original NES iteration, of course. But at the same time, a lot of custom spritework was done for this game, which all fits superbly. A lot of the 'new' bosses have the feel of later NES era games, FF3 in particular, and some of them are particularly huge, filling up the entire 'enemy field' with their size and making them quite impressive. But where the graphical direction truly shines is in the design of the main cast, each of them having a distinctive, detailed look that helps to emphasize their character and makes them feel right at home within the game.

Music and aesthetic wise, I give Final Fantasy: Sky Warriors an 8/10

Story (Contains heavy spoilers, view at your own discretion):

From the get go, it's clear that Final Fantasy: Sky Warriors announces itself as a story focused game, from the opening cinematic, to the early reveal of the Guardian's true name, you're immediately left wondering about a few things, and questions begin to spring up in your mind. Soon enough, you're joined by another of the original Final Fantasy's cast, and then another final one.

Although this felt odd, at first, playing the... Well, the 'bad guys', I have to say that I became attached to the characters, in no small part due to the amazing dialogue provided during 'interludes' that happen every so often between major events when you use an inn, or rest in a tent. This helps to bring a great deal of personality to the cast, and you really begin to understand their motivations.

The game's main 'Quest' itself feels like an emulation of the original NES entry. Seeking to restore power the orbs, essentially, and going after various bosses that guard said elements. Before long though, it'll start to throw curveballs your way, and take things in an unexpected (or perhaps expected, due to our cast) direction. I found it particularly amusing that at one point, you could essentially create a time paradox with the original game, which the game itself is quick to 'retcon' using a bit of time travel shenanigans.

That said, after growing so attached to the cast, spending time with them, going through their struggles, and finally defeating the big bad behind it all... The ending really tugs at your feeling, and I have to admit, a part of me will never see the original Final Fantasy the same way again. When facing particular bosses, there will definitely be a feeling of guilt that I won't be able to shake away, and for that, I can simply applaud the game on delivering an amazing prequel.

One slight nitpick that I will bring up, is that as I mentioned at the beginning, I hadn't played Dissidia or Final Fantasy XIV, and came into this game expecting that my own knowledge would be sufficient to 'get' everything. But some of the references, and a bit of the story, definitely required some googling on my part. In particular the dialogue/exposition between Cid and Bahamut had my head spinning for a bit. But even so, I feel like the rest of the story stands amazingly well on it's own, and the lack of said knowledge hardly did anything to distract me from the experience.

Story wise, I give Final Fantasy: Sky Warriors a perfect 10/10. Nitpicking be damned, the feels at the end alone definitely warranted the flawless score.


Final Thoughts and score:

Final Fantasy: Sky Warriors is obviously meant to be enjoyed as a prequel to the original, and will be best appreciated by those who grew up playing the NES title, or have at least experienced it. Those who have played the various remakes of the original might also enjoy it, but won't have the same feeling of 'nostalgia' attached to the graphics, sound and music.

It offers an interesting take on what could have been, and is extremely well delivered, and if you're anything like me, it'll be an experience that you'll remember for sure. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the original, in any form, and perhaps even to those who simply want to see a little retro game that essentially serves as a prequel to the entire series. Fans of the original will feel right at home, and fans of the series in general should also give it a shot.

If you're a fan of the original, you NEED to play this one if you haven't already. So stop wasting time here and get to it!

All in all, I give Final Fantasy: Sky Warriors 5 stars out of 5.

The nostalgia, combined with the amazing story, characters, and well put together game is deserving of the high mark, and will remain on my mind as one of the best Final Fantasy fan games out there.

Posts

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Illy
Professional Amateur
4281
Wow! I'm truly humbled, thank you for the amazing review!

I did spend a lot of time picking away at the story development, and a lot of time studying the history of the Dissidia and FF1 titles to make sure I got all the facts as close to correct as I could. The story will definitely make the most sense to anyone who has experienced both the FF1 story as well as the first two Dissidia games stories.

I'm really glad you enjoyed the game! I'm not sure which Final Fantasy I'll be pre-sequelizing next, but keep an eye out if you liked this one!
Will do. And I think it speaks to the quality of the game that I was still able to enjoy the story despite not being familiar with those two games. The story still ties neatly together, and the ending in particular makes everything come together in a very satisfying fashion... Despite being a bit rough on the feels.

A pre-sequel to Final Fantasy 4 could be interesting, but I dunno how much potential there is there. I just think of a game where you play as Golbez and the four elemental fiends and I start squeeing internally, hah.
Illy
Professional Amateur
4281
Well it's funny you mention that, as if when it comes to 4, my idea if I went prequel would likely revolve around Zemus and the fiends.
About the music:
Shiva's music is an 8-bit remix of her FF14 theme, Oblivion. It's ... less upbeat if you know the lyrics.
Leviathan's music is too. As are Garuda's, the bonus boss of the Dwarf Cave, and everything to do with Sharlayan... not to mention the quotes and the form of many of these bosses Ultimate attacks.
As an avid FF14 player, I found the music choices absolutely amazing; but I can see how a non-player might find them somewhat jarring.
I would fully support the idea if you did a prequel for FF4. Hell even FF6 for that matter, FF6 clearly had more going on than what it lead on.

FF5 had Enuo and THERE IS backstory relating to him and Exdeath, so there is that to play around with.
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