Final Fantasy
| Final Fantasy I

According to the internet, peerless purveyor of useless information and biased opinion, the 20th wedding anniversary is traditionally the time to give china. Square Enix clearly feels different though, because the publisher's tactic for celebrating the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy's first union with players is to return us to where it all began, by polishing it up for PSP.

That's it? That's how it treats the game that not only saved the company's hide but also made it into the global powerhouse it is today – by yet again remaking a game that it's already remade for the PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, WonderSwan Colour and a truck-load of mobile phones? A quick plaster of make-up and off you go, pushed back onto centre stage to dance for your keep once more – don't stop milking 'em while there's still life in their bones, eh?

It's an understandable reaction. And then you look at it, and doubt melts away.

You see, static images, like those you can so breezily flick your way through at the top of this page, can get across only some of the beauty. This game is nothing short of stunning, easily the most startling display of 2D mastery to ever grace any medium. No longer stand-out Lego blocks, pixels now slip incongruously into intricately detailed vistas and subtly shaded characters; indistinguishable and yet, thanks to the PSP's vivid pin-sharp screen, entirely distinguishable at the same time.

The only way of describing it is like this: Final Fantasy on PSP is the world's first high-definition handheld game. (Click 'Watch It!' to download an MP4 file of gameplay footage from our friends at Gametrailers – Ed).

The music, too, is another area which has been given far more than a spit-'n'-polish. No longer tethered to a four-note polyphony chip, composer Nobuo Uematsu's 20-year old melodies have never sounded more alive, bursting with the banging of drums and the flitting of flutes. These aren't your usual remasters, but fully-fledged rearrangements, using synths of exquisite quality and arrangements that – disappointingly old-fashioned battle theme aside – touch upon symphonic quality at their best.

Under the skin, of course, this is mostly the same Final Fantasy that people were playing two decades ago. While the game seems easier than our age-addled brains remember it to be – still considerably harder than most contemporary RPGs, but easier than the brutal difficulty of, say, Square's Final Fantasy 3 DS port – it's certainly observable that, back in the old days, heroes were made of stronger stuff. They didn't mope or moan like today's emotionally stunted RPG heroes. In fact, they didn't open their mouths at all.

Instead, people told them of their woes, and these four Warriors of Light – the initial congregation of which is left untold, one of the many 'minor' details the game fails to elaborate upon – do their best to help out, simultaneously attempting to restore peace to the world by reviving the four elemental crystals.

Pulitzer winning it isn't, but Final Fantasy is an anachronism from when things were different. While modern RPGs tend to guide the player by the hand, Final Fantasy doesn't do anything of the sort, frequently leaving the player without any clue as to what to do next.

There isn't even a world map, the game relying squarely on the player's memory of countless coastlines and mountain ranges for progress. This exploration wouldn't be such a bad thing if it didn't result in your party being beset by monsters every few steps (and even then, because you'll be recrossing old territory, they're often not particularly useful for levelling up).

But for all its old-fashioned clunkiness, these are the foundations upon which most modern RPGs still build their castles to this day, and with good reason. Indeed, uplifted by stunning artwork and a skilfully enhanced score, Final Fantasy is a much more tempting prospect than it has been for years.

When faced with something of this grandeur, it dawns: affording Final Fantasy the chance to shine again for the first time in 20 years is possibly the best anniversary present Square Enix could have given this, its most treasured beginning.

Final Fantasy

Far more than a cynical cash-in, this PSP version of Final Fantasy is the perfect opportunity to see where it all began