I played the first game on the iPad, which is a few versions after the original NES version. Through those versions of the game, the artwork has been remade as well as improvements of the music and sound. While doing this, the translations have been redone as well. The original game had bugs that made some spells useless and those are also fixed in later versions.
Some extra content has been added somewhere along the way. For those who would like to have something grind for after beating the game, there are four four large dungeons (one for each crystal) that become unlocked during the game, containing bosses from the other games in the series (as well as the boss music from those games during the encounters). Near the end of the game another even harder dungeon is also unlocked.
The iOS version is generally pretty good. The touch interface can be a bit annoying when trying to walk in certain areas. It is quite easy to put the finger down in a way that sets the character off in a different direction than intended. It might not feel like something that can affect a game like this, but there are places where you do not want to walk more steps than you have to or walk on the wrong tile. There is a resume feature that lets you just close the app and then resume where you left off later which is very nice for this format.
This first game gives you four character slots, and you can choose freely among six classes for all positions. At first I started with the suggested setup of Warrior, Thief, White Mage and Black Mage, but found that I did not really enjoy the touch interface too much when it came to spells. Thus I restarted and rerolled the group as Warrior, Warrior, Monk, and White Mage. This is the group I then played with until the end.
Story-wise, the game is pretty simple. Visit the four crystals one by one and slay the boss that is tainting it, but the end of the game actually has a semi-nice twist to it (even though it does not really occur until the last boss explains his motives). Even though you have a map to explore, that gets bigger as more modes of transportation unlocks, there is most of the time a string of specific things you have to do to unlock the next thing and so on. It could be me, but there were a few times in the game where I was left not knowing where to go next. Having a little more patience exploring might have given clues, but some of them seemed a little bit far-fetched and I guess I felt more like progressing the story than trying to find out where to go. At those times I used one of the game guides that can be found via Google.
With this version, and my group setup, the game was not very hard at all. I am guessing the game has been made easier since the NES version, especially since you can save anywhere, but I am not exactly sure. My first group wipe happened at the end of the game, at the end boss, after which I teleported out and ran through the dungeon once more to get that extra grind to beat him.
My save file from just before the end boss says 17 hours, where the characters were all at level 54. After beating the game I spent about four hours on the extra content, clearing out the four bosses of the earth dungeon and two of the bosses in the water dungeon. After that it became clear I would have to grind more, as the two last bosses in that dungeon (optional order) owned me at level 58. I might get back to clear them out at a later time, but I was more interested in going on to the next game!
So to sum it up, the classic game where it started, is addictive in its own way. I liked grinding through it but found exploring the overworld a bit boring. A story was at least there keeping it interesting even though it is less advanced than what we are used to nowadays. I am glad I have finally played and beaten this game and I will return with my thoughts on the next game from the NES era of Final Fantasy games shortly.