Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to gain experience or Gil, as most monsters you encounter can be beaten pretty easily with the right weapons. There is an option to flee from battle, but not a hold or pause feature, which stresses the importance of party formation (not to sound like a Communist newsreel or anything). The missions in the new FFI echo the previous version’s, featuring the elemental caves and weapons. Shops vending items such as the sleeping bag and cottage, as well as various potions, are usually plentiful and offer reasonable prices – just like Sam’s Club, only thousands of years ago, and more magical. There’s also the chance to find the Canoe, Pirate Ship and Air Ship.
One of the major upgrades, as I have learned via a friend who is not such a NES-tard, happens when you board the AirShip: the screen rotates about 45 degrees, giving the appearance that the ship is actually in the air. Compared with the recent re-issues of Zelda, it's apparent that the graphical upgrades are significant, and not just slapped together for the GBA. Square and Nintendo have gone the Evil Dead 2 route and made a substantially better-looking version of the original.
Final Fantasy II begins as your party is fleeing the kingdom of Flynn, and before you can do anything but rename your characters (you are given no choice as to your original party members) you are dropped into a battle that you cannot win. It seems like a silly way to begin the game, and this type of non-playable exposition hampers the first few stages of the game. You have the option in FFII to rotate your party members in and out as needed, and you do not need antidote to cure poison, which is a nice change from the original. There is also a new "Learn" feature on the Key menu, which allows your characters to, well, learn terms and phrases that will become useful upon their journey. Mostly, however, the changes from FFI to FFII don’t improve upon anything, and actually succeeded in confusing me. Despite the small refresher course at the beginning of the second game, I found it much easier to jump right into FFI.
What sets these games apart from the originals are the bonus Chaos Dungeons in FFI and an all-new storyline, dubbed "Soul of Rebirth," in FFII. There is also a new feature, called "Bestiary," which allows you to view the monsters you have defeated. This comes in handy when determining the best battle strategy in a later fight. One more minor nit (to pick, that is) is in regards to the user-unfriendly map: it can only be accessed by pressing B and Select simultaneously. With the added save option in the Start menu, was it too much to ask to place an accessible map there as well?
Ah, well. Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls is a much better translation than the recent Legend of Zelda crossover, and while FFII seems needlessly improved, the whole package is worth a go, even for a NES novice like me.
Score: 7.0 (out of 10)