Final Fantasy Chronicles Review
by Jason Venter
"Go, Leviatan! You can do it, you can do it! Go, Leviatan!" What are you doing, just sitting there, readers? Join the cheer. Start a Leviatan fanclub! Final Fantasy IV is released once more on USA shores! And this time around, it's harder. In fact, people have been known to die in an encounter with Leviatan. That's one great reason to join the Leviatan fanclub.
Jokes aside, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the release of Final Fantasy Chronicles, Square's most recent attempt to cash in on older gems they once made and now seem (debatably) unable to reproduce. Final Fantasy Chronicles contains 'polished' versions of Final Fantasy IV (originally released in the USA for the SNES as Final Fantasy II) and Chrono Trigger. Both games are hard as heck to find, now, and if you can they'll individually cost more than this entire collection. With that said, you're probably thinking something along the lines of "Well, I better get Final Fantasy Chronicles, then. It's a steal."
Hold your horses.
While Final Fantasy Chronicles does a fair amount of things well, the original good games aren't enough to carry it to the top of the heap, especially when both of those games have flaws.
First we have Final Fantasy IV to consider. Somehow, even though I'm an RPG freak, I managed to miss out on experiencing Final Fantasy II back in the day. Long before Americans knew about the funky numbering of titles in the series, they loved the excitement of Final Fantasy arriving on Nintendo's new system. The magazine, Nintendo Power covered the release quite well, and the game sold like hotcakes. Apparently. I say that because now you have to look under every dark rock in the world to find a reasonably priced copy. It's in high demand and short supply.
Back in the day of its original release, Final Fantasy IV was dumbed down for American audiences. That means the battles were toned down, dialogue was cut, and items were reduced. The localization staff--or maybe someone back in Japan--didn't have much faith in the American mind. Only now, years later, can we see the game as it was meant to be played. Well, that's not entirely true. While I can appreciate the extended dialogue, the occasional, mild profanity, the sexual innuendo, and so forth that we've never seen before, I do know the load times are a new feature.
That's right, load times. Lengthy load times, though not as annoying as those in the other part of this re-release package. Seems that Square couldn't find a way around forcing the gamer to wait about 15 seconds every time he wants to save his progress. This flaw is honestly a problem the player determines. See, you have this fairly tough re-release, where you're concerned you could die any time. If you're like me when you play an RPG, you save frequently. Saving frequently in Final Fantasy IV is a hassle, now. And the game lets you save anywhere on the map and in several portions of dungeons. So it's an exercise of self-restraint. Saving issues aside, though, Final Fantasy IV has never looked better (though I should mention in passing that the opening FMV is the worst we've ever seen from Square, hands down).
Now it's time to take a look at Chrono Trigger, which drags the package down like a two-ton anchor on a life raft. Before playing Chrono Trigger, I was prepared to rank this package in the mid-90's. No more. Chrono Trigger has such a serious flaw that I personally can't stand playing it (I'm going to have to break down and buy a cartridge version).
What is that hideous flaw? Load times. Who seriously expects terrible load times on a game that is just emulated from the SNES? Not I. And not a lot of gamers, I would suspect. Unlike the saving issue I mentioned in Final Fantasy IV, though, this load time occurs MUCH more frequently. It's hideous. Suppose you're walking about and you find an item. Well, time to equip it. So you call up the equipment screen. Load time. Like 10 seconds of it. Then you equip and you exit out. You go several steps and you mutter, "Oh, damn, I forgot to equip Marle." So you call up the load screen. It's another 10 seconds. If you're reading this review, you probably know how item screens work and how frequently they are used. They might be needed after each battle in a particularly devious dungeon, for example. Do you see the problem, here?
Load times aside, Chrono Trigger is a good translation. It looks just like the SNES version, which honestly isn't so far (graphically) behind some first-generation PSX titles. There are also the anime cutscenes, made in Japan for that version, which look quite good. The opening one is a real treat, and I guess they're interspersed throughout. I wouldn't know, though, as the stupid load times finally made me decide I would either have to quite playing or risk losing all my hair.
In the end, then, is this package worth a purchase? Yes. It's worth the purchase because of Final Fantasy IV, despite that game's minor flaws. You get the real version America never got to see before, and you get it for a price less than if you buy the old SNES cartridge. So this package is recommended, but definitely NOT for Chrono Trigger. Buy it today!
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