Final Fantasy Anthology- Review

By Jeff Davis, RPGamer Writer

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Gameplay 9.5
   Music 7
   Originality 9
   Plot 8
   Replay Value 9
   Sound 5
   Visuals 6
   Time to Complete

FF V (30-50 hours)
FF VI (40-70 hours)


    Back in the heyday of the 16 bit era, three RPGs shone brighter than any -- Final Fantasy IV,V and VI. But Unlike its Japanese counterpart, (which came bundled with all three games) Final Fantasy Anthology is packaged with two games: FF V and VI and an arguably terrible Bonus Music CD.

    Final Fantasy Anthology targets two sets of RPG gamers: the old school RPG gamer who has played through the various FF incarnations in 8/16 bit systems and the new RPG gamer who has recently joined the Final Fantasy ranks with the releases of Final Fantasy VII or VIII. The former will find FFA somewhat disappointing in its lack of new features added -- 5 new CG FMV scenes and the FF VI Bonus Mode. The latter however will be hard-pressed to find the FF games included in this package as enjoyable as current Final Fantasy games, unless the shock of 16 bit era graphics and music can be overcome. With FFA Square, undoubtedly intends to bolster the brand name for the new set of RPG gamers and at the same time, try to get the old gamers to shell out the bucks and recapture a long, perhaps forgotten nostalgia.

Shadow - Sleek as ever
Shadow - Sleek as ever  

    The main bones of contention for the new gamer will be the graphics and the music. There isn't much to say about the graphics. The graphics, while gorgeous for their time, are nothing more than sufficient aesthetics in today's highly demanding graphic culture. After the introduction FMV all notions of 32 bit splendor soon fade as you are thrust into the world of 16 bit graphics. The newly included CG's are as top notch as one can expect from Square. Fair or not, with the previous release of FF VIII these FMV's won't impress the casual gamer. Unfortunately the FMV's seem to be only mere formalities as they lend nothing to the overall feel and story of the games themselves. Those who've never played either of the two in their height of glory, won't find the same comfort in these games as those who have.

    Both Final Fantasy V and VI have been lauded in the last few years for its incredible music. Though sounding dated, both include some very memorable tracks that will be sure to get the nostalgic juices going. While the tunes are extremely catchy there is no denying the fact that the music sounds old. The most annoying feature of the music is the inclusion of high pitch sounds in certain songs. Needless to say the sound volume was lowered by force and not by choice. All in all the music fits both games well, more notably so in FF VI. The bottom line is that the quality of the sound just isn't there, but that can't be helped with cartridge quality music.

King Tycoon mounts Hiryuu
King Tycoon mounts Hiryuu  

    After the much ballyhooed, drawn out delays and years of waiting, this was my first chance to play Final Fantasy V in full. It has been said in many quarters that Final Fantasy V had the strongest story line of all the games in the series, if not best overall game. Sad to say this is not the case as FF V's story line ends up being nothing more than mediocre. The game revolves around the four main characters: Bartz the traveler(no distinct name, but named Bartz in manual screens), Reina the princess, Galuf the amnesiac, and Faris the pirate. Unlike its predecessor FF V does not contain a set of inspired cast of characters or character interaction/development. The premise of the story is simple. After a meteor unexpectedly crashes into the planet the crystals suddenly are in danger of being destroyed. The four characters are then entrusted to journey the world in order to save the four Crystals. While the story presents a number of twists and turns in your journey, by today's standards it is as predictable and banal as can be expected. My lack of enthusiasm does not mean in any way, shape or form that this game doesn't have its highlights it does...but they are few and far between.

    While the story isn't its strong suit, if gameplay is your cup of tea then this will hit the spot nicely. FF V employs the Job System, a system with classes ranging from Knights to Mages to Ninjas to Lancers. Much like Final Fantasy Tactics this system determines the character's abilities, spells, and attacks.

    The battle engine like its predecessors is set in 2D side view fashion. Those who are unfamiliar to it will most likely find it comparable in view to that of Lunar SSSC's battle view. Battle options are standard with options like Item, Change Weapon during battle, Defend, Change Row, Escape and two JOB ability slots -- one for the main job and one as a secondary skill. Those who enjoy building up characters through hours of fighting will find this game as captivating as one can imagine.

    The game while solid, ends up in the middle of the Final Fantasy pack and runs about 30-40+ hours.

The Opera in all its Glory
The Opera in all its Glory  

    The other game included in this package is Final Fantasy VI, (FF 3 for SNES) a game considered by many as the best in the series. Indeed this game is the centerpiece of the package. FF VI has been long hailed for transcending the norms with a strong, dynamic story line, a large cast of memorable characters and mind boggling amount of optional side quests. Simplistically speaking, the story is of an empire seeking to wield the power of magic in order to conquer the entire world. Terra, the central character who is the only one born with the ability of magic, is the key to their plan of domination. Things go awry and Terra who has "amnesia" is forced to choose to side with the empire that enslaved her or the rebellion group that seeks to stop the Empire's plan for world domination. From the onset you are thrust into a world of despair and darkness, but in the dark bleaknesss of it all, blooms a story of friendship, love and hope. Though it is a straight forward story line with few bumps on the road, it set a new benchmark for stories to come. But most importantly it was a story that remained close in the hearts of Final Fantasy fans for years to come.

    With such a large cast of characters, the cynic among us would expect little interaction and growth between the characters. Luckily that is not the case. At the time of its release FF VI broke new ground with such lavish regard in exposing the perfect character interaction system. The strength of it all is in the diversity of character personalities and how they interact with each other. It has been said for years that these characters are the best to ever play in an RPG. Generally, I am inclined to agree.

    The magic system of FF VI is the Esper System. Somewhat like Final Fantasy 7's materia system you equip the esper, gain it magic points through battle, gain new spells. Simple, efficient and effective.

    Like FF V, the battle system is set in 2D side view fashion. The typical Fight, Magic, Item, Weapon and Armor switching, Row, Defend and Escape are all present. Unlike the newer games in the series each character has his, her or its own innate battle abilities. For example Locke can steal, Mog can dance or Cyan can use his Sword Techniques. This was the battle system that marked the first quantum leap of true contrast between characters in the battle field. Heralded for its uniqueness this is surely one of the most attractive battle systems to grace an RPG.

    FF VI includes the Bonus Mode. It is one of the new things included for the FF Anthology version of the game. The Bonus Mode is divided into 3 main sections: Studio, Status and Secret. The Studio section gives you access to the FMV clips and Artwork in FF VI. The worst section in the lot is the Status section. It provides information on how much time was taken to beat the game as well as time records if the game has been beaten several times. Lastly is the Secret section. It contains a list of the enemies in the game, Strago's Lore Magic Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia of Espers and the Dragon Head Colosseum list of: items, enemies and acquired items.

   FF VI ends up being a great game whether you have played it back then or just now. With an average of 50 hours of exploration, there's no better time to give this game a whirl than now.

Terra gazing at the Stars
Terra gazing at the Stars  

    Last in the bundle is the Bonus Music CD. Nothing good can really be said about this one. It comes of as a cheap Square marketing ploy to further the title "Collectors Package." First and foremost one would think the music would be arranged to either CD quality or better synth standards. Instead, it sounds only somewhat better than the cartridge format. If that isn't bad enough the CD is missing some of the best music from the two games.

    After all is said and done, Final Fantasy Anthology contains two games that evolutionized and revolutionized RPGs in the early to mid 90's. It is a worthy purchase, especially for those who haven't played FF VI. And since many a US gamer has not played FF V, the draw of that alone might be worth the price of admission. With a total of over 60-100+ hours of pure unabashed gameplay and exploration it's hard to find a game more entertaining or longer lasting. Despite its age, this package is sure to please the Final Fantasy diehard. The only caveat that permits me from a full and all out recommendation of this game to everyone, are the recent releases of FF VIII and Grandia.

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