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Final Fantasy Anthology

Final Fantasy
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  • 05/17/02
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A Final Fantasy Anthology review Author: Paul Le Published: August 11, 2002
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If one were to judge Final Fantasy Anthology solely on the collective merits of the games it bundles together, FFA would be without fault except to the most incorrigible of nitpickers. Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI are not merely classic RPGs; they are undisputably milestones in the transformation of a cherished series:
The case for a 3-D PS2 remake of FFVI.

While FFV arguably represents the zenith of gameplay in the entire series, FFVI did no less than redefine "Final Fantasy" and cleave the series' history into two eras.
FFV (which was never released for the SNES in the West) signaled the final, glorious evolution of the series' hallowed Job/Ability system. (Only Final Fantasy Tactics, which is not part of the main series, has featured the Job/Ability system since FFV.) In addition, FFV marked the end of the "Light Warriors" mythos and the "legend of the crystals," which were once staples of the series.
On the other hand, FFVI (released as "Final Fantasy III" for the SNES in the West) did away with the plot elements that defined Final Fantasy for five games. It proved that an RPG plot could actually handle emotional heft and present realistic, relatively complex characters without being dismissed as cheesy (in fact doing what no previous RPG had bothered to attempt seriously). The simple elegance of FFVI's storytelling, which paved the way for a new generation of RPGs laden with mature themes and solemn overtones, places it among the most memorable of all RPGs, not merely among the best of "its time."
FFA, however, is not a merely a compilation of the Super NES versions of FFV and FFVI, but a compilation of the (Japan-only) PlayStation remakes of the Super Famicom games. With only two games, FFA may barely be considered a "compilation," considering that Final Fantasy Collection, the Japanese version of FFA, also included Final Fantasy IV. The omission of FFIV from FFA was, in fact, Square's admission that the remake efforts were conducted with little thought to improving the games or even merely adapting the games to the PlayStation competently. It was said that the PS remake of FFIV was burdened with exasperating loading times and graphical flaws, supposedly the reasons FFIV was not included in FFA. (FFIV was eventually released in the West as part of Final Fantasy Chronicles, another compilation, along with the PS remake of Chrono Trigger. The European version of FFA included FFIV and FFV; FFVI was released as a separate game.)
I think that ashy look is actually quite fetching.

The term "remake" must be used loosely with respect to the PlayStation ports. From a purist's standpoint, the remakes are acceptable because the gameplay was left untouched. Actually, virtually no tinkering was done to any aspect of the games themselves (graphics, sound, gameplay, or otherwise), rendering the PlayStation little more than a glorified emulator. Other than the addition of CG movies, the remakes are carbon copies of the SNES versions released more than half a decade ago.
While the 16-bit pixelated graphics and dated sound quality might be disconcerting to players for whom FFA is a introduction to the series pre-VII, those are minor, even trivial concerns compared to the jarring loading times, which the plodding transitions before and after every battle hardly disguise. Although the loading times are ultimately not a fatal flaw, they disrupt the games' flow and even make playing such classics somewhat of a chore. Lag is even noticeable when moving simply from one location to another, which makes one wonder how bad FFIV's loading times really are.
Fortunately, FFA has a handful of features that will placate players who succeed in looking past the loading times. Even though they are merely tacked on to the ends of both games (not integrated into the games), the splendid opening and ending movies for each game, which are montages of important scenes accompanied by arranged music, prove that Yoshitaka Amano's illustrations can indeed be given the CG treatment. FFVI boasts a "Bonus mode" with a theater (to view the CG movies at any time), image gallery, game information (bestiary, Lore, Esper, and Colosseum data) and a status recap updated each time the game is completed. (Some of these options are unlocked upon finishing the game once.) Finally, fans might appreciate the occasional appearances of one of the Onion Kids (Final Fantasy III for the NES) and Squall (Final Fantasy VIII) in the file-loading screen for FFVI.
The limited edition "Collector's Package" of FFA includes a bonus CD titled "Music from FFV and FFVI," a selection of some of the best music directly taken from the games, SNES sound quality and all. (Some of the selections, though, are questionable considering that FFVI has music that surpasses the likes of "Spinach Rag" and "Johnny C. Bad.") It would have been a nice gesture on the part of Square to have included the music from the arranged/orchestral albums, "Final Fantasy V: Dear Friends" and "Final Fantasy VI: Grand Finale." (The orchestral version of "Aria di Mezzo Carratere," the music from FFVI's famous opera scene, is played during one of FFVI's movies.) Instead, the CD is symbolic of the whole remake/anthology effort.
The other case for a 3-D PS2 remake of FFVI.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of an anthology - the flaws of FFA are inherited from the PS remakes. An English-translated FFV was certainly long overdue, even if its plot and characters pale in comparison to FFVI's. However, it is pretty obvious that Square did not make a serious attempt to remaster FFV and FFVI or fix the loading times for FFA.
It is even understandable that a complete overhaul of the graphics and sound quality would have required substantially more effort for FFV and FFVI than for the smaller Final Fantasy titles for the NES. The WonderSwan Color (an obscure Japan-only hand-held system) remakes of Final Fantasy I and II featured SFC-quality graphics and upgraded sound quality. Maybe Square thought FFV and FFVI did not need an overhaul.
Even with that in mind, the minimalist remakes of FFV and FFVI must still be considered mediocre, but certainly not the games themselves. Fans who expect true remakes will be disappointed.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "Although the loading times are a serious flaw (in truth, the only serious flaw), FFA is an excellent value especially for Final Fantasy fans who have never experienced these classics (at least for those who can find it). The special features are a nice inclusion. Perhaps that is enough to mitigate the fact that the PS "remakes" that FFA includes simply do not do two wonderful games justice."
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Vapid Buttmunch
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