Well, let’s begin with the elephant in the room: I used the iOS version. I did some research on the different versions of this one and it came down to either having to track down a copy of Dawn of souls for the GBA or downloading it in like 20 minutes onto my iPod. I chose the latter.
Now, I know that I can’t speak to any aspect of the original version, since from what I’ve read this version has more differences than similarities with the original. Though, from that same information I will say that I would have never been able to get an hour into the old NES version. Thus my opinions are only on the remake for iOS.
Because of the methodical, turn based nature of the game, it works pretty well with touch controls. From what I read, the combat was updated from the original to be far, far less of a motherfucker. In fact, I found this to be rather manageable. Of course, that could just be a function of my being a tedious bastard and grinding every time the battles started to get even slightly difficult.
The most striking thing I found about the game was just how little there was driving the plot forward. Yes, I know it was made in '87 but coming in as someone with modern sensibilities this is initially kinda jarring. It can be summed up as: short beginner quest to save a princess, the world starts ending and you find out you need to go find four crystals, you find them, you go find the boss, you fight him, the end. There’s side stuff you gotta do along the way involving an Elven prince, pirates, and an airship, but it’s not much. Even with the grinding the whole endeavor took 25 hours. Though this might be a side effect of it being made easier with each remake.
That may be the most significant thing to take away from this game. When you strip out the punishing difficulty of these old NES era games, like this version did, there really isn't much to write home about. That’s a “no duh” kinda thing to say, but when you look at how much reverence some people have for old games like this it creates a stark juxtaposition between nostalgia and reality.
But I digress, I still actually found the game to be rather enjoyable. The simplicity works in favor of the mobile format, especially with the ability to save at any time and it’s persistence during sleep mode.
Special mention needs to be made to the art design and the music. It was consistently strong throughout and the music will stay with me for the rest of my life, probably. Also, an odd effect of the particular way it’s designed is that I became attached to my four party members even though they had no personalities. I can even name them four months after beating it: Argus, Ellla, Puck, and Zok in that order. That strikes me as a strange quirk of human psychology that I am ill-equipped to properly analyze.
Favorite song: Matoya’s Cave.