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Final Fantasy Anthology/Collection - Retroview

Days Long Gone...

By: ASV


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 8
   Plot 10
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Highly Variable
   Time to Complete

90-200 hours

 
Overall
10
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   In the past year or two, gaming companies have been on a quest to update and rerelease their early games on more advanced systems. Much of the time, the enhancements that get added are very minor and can be hardly noticable... One such collection of rereleased games - that came out in 1999 - contained what can only be defined as the library of games most well-known, beloved, and longed-for by the majority of the 'old school' gamers. Squaresoft proudly presents: Final Fantasy IV (II US), Final Fantasy V (never before released in the US), and Final Fantasy VI (III US)... Granted, FFIV wasn't included in our version of Anthology, but I'd still like to touch on it briefly because it is being released later this year.

   Final Fantasy Anthology contains a vast amount of variety in its' battle systems. If I was to break down every single piece, it would take a dozen or more paragraphs... Since you don't want to read all that, I'll cover the generalities. First, each of the three games runs on the ATB-and-menu system that we're all so familiar with. The primary differences from each game are as follows:
FFIV: Magic is divided into the original 3 categories that SquareSoft set as the industry standard; black (attack), white (healing and effect), and summon. The fight command and items work identical to how you would expect. Magic learning is based on the level your characters are, e.g. Rosa learns more powerful curative magic as she gets to higher levels, etc.
FFV: The same as its' predecessor but with major changes to the infrastructure. Much like Final Fantasy Tactics, each character can have a wide variety of jobs that each has its' own skill-set. These skill sets can be used in conjunction with other jobs so that the characters become exponentially more powerful the more jobs they master the use of. This is the first Final Fantasy (that comes to the US shores... Even if it came later than VI) that incorporated more than the three types of magic. In fact, certain job-classes are able to use more than one type of magic, respectively; e.g. the Red Mage job lets your character use some specific spells from both the white and black magic lists but not blue or summon magic...
FFVI: Basically identical to FFIV except that magic is no longer learned by leveling up, but by having 'magicite' items equipped to your characters. More character development is possible in this type of organization than in any other Final Fantasy since. Also, as in FFVII, Limit Break skills do exist; they happen randomly when the character is extremely weak.

   The menu systems in each game are virtually identical except for the content. If you've played one game with option menus, you've played them all.


The Original 'Weapon' - Omega
The Original 'Weapon' - Omega 

   The best thing about having all these games conjoined under one title is that you can hear the musical evolution of the series. Nobuo Uematsu - of all the game composers I've ever heard - has come the furthest in his art. From the meager but memorable pickings of FFIV, to the majestic and (sometimes) laughable pieces from FFV, and on again to the wondrous and sweeping 'mega' score of FFVI; this game truly deserves the perfect score of '10' if any does.

   A good amount of effort went into each individual piece of the collection and, although some of the concepts behind them are now cliché, they helped to pioneer the games that we have now. A good example of this lies in classic 'Star Wars' resemblance to the plot of FFVI. It seems immediately noticable but, were it not for the existence of those plot elements, most gamers would never become as attached to the game as they do. Sometimes, it is the simple things that make a game; Final Fantasy Anthology/Collection has not one, but three different sets of simple things in its' repertoire. All around, I'd have to say that because they pioneered so much, collecting them together for a final presentation to the generation of gamers that grew up with them, was a fantastic idea.

   With three totally separate storylines, about all I can say is that you'll see everything from the obligatory 'Evil Empire' to the first creature designed to be as hard (if not harder) than the games' final boss; the origin of Final Fantasy Tactics' job/class system to the advent of the 'Dragoon' character; the purest definition of exploration (with each game having at least 2 totally different world maps) to the hardest final boss in a FF game (if you have an argument about NeoExDeath being the hardest, I'd love to find out who you think could beat him...). The vast plethora of things is almost mind-boggling so, I'll just advise you to buy the game and find out why the time frame for beating all three parts is what it is.


The Greatest Of All The Dark Knight/Paladins
The Greatest Of All The Dark Knight/Paladins 

   The translation and 'americanizing' factor of each game has only improved with this rerelease. I only hope that the game that requires the most translation work (FFIV) is totally redone before it comes out here... If not, it won't be worth buying if you have the SNES cartridge... I've seen the movies and I'm not that impressed.

   Speaking of the collection as a whole, I've only played through it one time. Each person probably likes a different piece of the trilogy the best and has likely played it a good deal more than the others... FFV sorta gets a bum-rap because it's a classic SNES game that we never saw before the PSX era. Storywise, it lacks what we expect now - in the way of flashiness and violence - but it more than makes up for it with how much character customization is possible. On the flip-side of the coin, both FFIV and FFVI are lovable because we grew up with them and like to replay them for their sentimental value. I think that, all around, the collection is a wonderful experience the first time through, but it's really a personal thing as to which part is the most replay-worthy...

   Difficulty is the one thing that the FFA/C brings back to RPGs in spades. I've often wondered why SquareSoft decided not to release FFV here when they could have before... My only answer is that - to this very day - it's the hardest of the Final Fantasy games and they didn't think that we could beat it; which is very nearly true from all the accounts of my friends that I've ever heard... Even I had trouble with ExDeath and Shinryuu... Progressing a great deal down the scale to 'Very Easy' is its' predecessor. I don't really know anyone that thought Zeromus was difficult to defeat let alone a part of the game (FFIV) that was totally insurmountable. The one that falls in the extreme middle of the difficulty heirarchy has pieces that are both 'Very Difficult' and 'Very Easy'... On the whole, they average one another out, really.


A Spirit As Pure As Fresh-Fallen Snow
A Spirit As Pure As Fresh-Fallen Snow 

   Graphics... Well... Being a remake of a previous game, the graphics are the one really difficult thing to rate. On the one hand, the quality of the in-game graphics are superb... If you only consider them as being on the SNES. When you take the square-ish (no pun intended) graphics and the block-by-block placement of tiles on the maps the sheer audacity of them is quite apparent as far as the PSX goes... Until you consider that the FMV graphics easily rival those of FFVII if not FFVIII. I think that considering everything from an old-schooler who avidly loves all three games from an SNES standpoint but also enjoys seeing 3D enactments of the most memorable parts of the trilogy, the graphics rate among the best ever. That's how I choose to represent my claim here.

   Given that each game is a minimum of 30 hours of toil - on average - you begin to see why the collection is as mammoth a task as it is. The amount of time it would take to play all three games consecutively is mind-boggling for the simple fact that there are at least ten factors to each individual game that influences the game-clock.

   Well... Now that you've read the longest review ever posted on RPGamer (and my 15th, coincidentally...), I'll let you draw your own conclusions about FFA/C. All I can add to what I've previously said is that I think Final Fantasy Anthology/Collection is the best rerelease of games ever made. Keep an eye out for the upcoming port of Final Fantasy Chronicles; it contains the long-lost third piece to the puzzle that is the SNES FF Trilogy...





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