Final Fantasy Anthology Review
Final Fantasy has always been regarded as one of the finest RPG series out there. However, it wasn't until the series moved into 32 Bit that the series finally took off here in the US. Up until Final Fantasy VII, the series had enjoyed a cult status among it's loyal American fans. Now that the series has hit the big time over here, and you can't turn on the TV without seeing the commercial for the latest in the series, Square offers a "time warp". A chance to look back at the earlier games that spawned the recent blockbuster titles. For long time fans of the series, it's a chance to get nostelgic, and have fond memories of countless hours leveling up their characters. For those who were introduced to the series on the PSX, it's a chance for them to see first hand what us "old school gamers" have been talking about all this time.
Final Fantasy Anthology contains both V and VI of this long-running series. As just about anyone reading this review must know, Final Fantasy V has never seen a translated release here in America. (Unless you own a SNES emulator for your computer, but it's just not the same to me, playing a Final Fantasy game on the PC.) And Final Fantasy VI was released over here years ago as Final Fantasy III. These games are both great in their own way, and I'm not afraid to admit this, I prefer them over both FF VII and VIII. There's just something "epic" about these games. It's a feeling that the two latest releases are missing, in my opinion. That's why I love both of these games so much. These games, though simple in graphics, have real heart in their story and characters. (Especially VI.)
Okay, the first thing that's gonna turn some people off are the graphics. This is not the Final Fantasy you're used to, if you were introduced to the series through VII or VIII. Short, stubby SD characters and very 16 Bit graphics. VI fares better in this department, since it's more recent. Man, I remember thinking how graphics could never get any better than VI's. And that was just five years ago...Anyway, I personally don't mind. I find the short, stubby characters have a certain charm to them. Square was nice enough to add some CG scenes into the game and a 32 Bit screen warping effect when you get into battles, but that's about all the improvements here.
The music...I'm going to go on record that Nobuo Uematsu (the composer for the series since Final Fantasy 1) wrote some of his best work during the 16 Bit titles. Final Fantasy VI has some of the best music ever in the history of video games. The music during the opening credits with the imperial soldiers marching to their destination still gives me a thrill. Square was even nice enough to include a CD soundtrack with the original SNES recordings from both games. However, my main gripe is that for some reason, the music in the PSX versions does not sound as good as they did in the 16 Bit versions. They're the same songs, but there's just something not right about the way they sound. Maybe it's because I'm used to the originals. Another minor gripe, since Square did so little to improve the graphics, don't you think they could have used the remaining memory to replace the music with Uematsu's masterful symphonic renditions of the songs? Imagine how wonderful it'd be playing a Final Fantasy game accompanied by a fully orchestrated soundtrack of classic FF tunes...But alas, it remains a dream...
Both of the games in the package have their own reasons for playing them. FF V has a less interesting story, in my opinion, but it features the great Job System, where you can customise your characters to your liking. That's what's so great about V, you can play it however you want, and it doesn't have to be the same game twice. You can give your characters different skills from a wide variety of "jobs" like knight, chemist, white mage, time mage, etc. And, you can even mix and match their skills, so you can have a Monk with the White Mage's White Magic.
As for FF VI, it's main selling points are it's wonderful story, large cast of memorable characters, customisable magic system and one of the best soundtracks ever to grace a video game, CD or cartridge. FF VI features a large party of characters to choose from and a unique magic system, where you equip spells and raise their levels. I must say, however, this is also one of the most depressing video games ever made. All of your characters (except for the Moogle and maybe one or two others) have some kind of past pain that comes back to haunt them during the course of the quest. There's a lot of talk about death in this game, and one character even tries to take her own life at one point, so it's definately a more somber quest than V. But, this is also a good thing. It allows you to sympathize with the characters. (Who doesn't feel sorry for Locke and his tragic love story?) There are also many memorable moments in the game, my particular favorite being the famous Opera House scene. This game is worth the price for the package alone, especially if you've never played it.
Despite these two great games and a great music CD, there are a few kinks that make it less than perfect. It's kind of hard to get used to loading when you're so used to playing these games on cartridge. Also, there's some slowdown due to some of the spell effects. Another gripe is that battle seems to be a bit too frequent at times. It's one of those games where you can finish a battle, take one step, and be attacked once again.
Okay, this review has gone on way too long. My advice? Run out and buy this game. If you're a long-time fan like myself, this game will be the best nostelgia trip you've had in a while. And if you're a new fan, you can find out how we "old timers" used to play. ("Back in my day, we only had 16 Bits and squashed-in SD characters, and we were happy, dang-nabit!!!") And if you're one of those people who won't play the games, because they don't have CG-rendered backgrounds, polygons, and spell effects that take over a minute to run through, I feel sorry that you can't enjoy these true classics, due to your biasness for eye candy. You can keep your flashy polygons and cinemas, I'm quite happy with these two titles. And if any of you young whipper-snappers got anything to say about that, I'll tan your behind with my cane!!!
Final Score: 9/10
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