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Final Fantasy Anthology

Publisher: Square Developer: Square
Reviewer: Musashi Released: October 5, 1999
Gameplay: 100% Control: N/A
Graphics: 75% Sound/Music: 95%
Story: 97% Overall: 92%


After receiving numerous requests from gamers to localize Final Fantasy 5 and re-release their SNES RPGs, Square delivered Final Fantasy Anthology to North America. Final Fantasy Anthology is a bundle including the PlayStation versions Final Fantasy 5 and Final Fantasy 6.

Final Fantasy 5 begins with the King of Tycoon boarding his dragon and heading for the Wind Shrine. He is going there to investigate a problem with the Wind Crystal. Before he leaves, he tells his daughter Reina not to follow him. Reina, who is more adventurous than her father thinks she is, leaves the castle against her father's wishes. While she is on her way out, a giant meteor falls in the forest near Tycoon, so she heads over to it to investigate. The noise and shaking caused by the meteor attracts the attention of Bartz, who is the hero of Final Fantasy 5. Before the meteor fell, Bartz was spending what appeared to be a typical day of traveling with his Chocobo, Boko. In addition to meeting each other, Bartz and Reina also notice that an old man named Galuf was nearly crushed by the meteor. Although he received no permanent injuries, Galuf now has amnesia. The three of them agree to head to the Wind Shrine to check the reported problem with the Wind Crystal and find the King.

In Final Fantasy 5, your party consists of a team of up to four heroes. At first, the characters are almost all alike, and have very few distinguishing characteristics. The heroes become unique through the player's use of Final Fantasy 5's job system. Selectable jobs are acquired by finding the crystals of the elements. As the heroes find more crystals, they gain access to more jobs. Associated with each job are job characteristics and learnable skills. Job characteristics are present as soon as and whenever the character is practicing the job. Characteristics can include battle/menu commands, ability to equip certain weapons and armors, changes in max HP, max MP, strength, magic power, and, speed. Learnable skills are gained whenever the characters earn enough Ability Points to gain a job level. When a character gains a job level, they gain access to one new ability. At any time, a character can equip one ability learned in this fashion. For example, let's say Reina is a White Mage. She will be able to equip staves and lighter armors. She will have the battle/menu command 'White', allowing her to use any White magic spell that the party possesses. When she gains her first job level, she will gain the equipable ability 'White 1', which allows her to use level 1 white magic while practicing jobs other than White Mage. Her strength and HP will be lowered, but she will have higher MP and magic strength. If she was a previously a Thief, and earned 4 job levels with the Thief class, she can also equip the 'Steal' ability. As a result Reina is a White Mage who can steal from enemies.

Final Fantasy 5 features well balanced difficulty. FF5 is one of the hardest games from the series. If you're not careful in some of the boss fights, or even in a series of regular battles, you could end up dead. Some bosses are particularly hard to injure, and some can put your party in a tight spot very quickly. The encounter rate is reasonable, although there are slightly more battles in FF5 than there are in FF4 or FF6.

Final Fantasy 5 definitely does not look like a PlayStation game in terms of graphics. The graphics used in the PlayStation FF5 are the same as those from the Super NES game. The one use of the PlayStation's power present in the game is the swirling animation that indicates a battle is about to start, which is exactly like the screen swirl used in Final Fantasy 7 before battles. In terms of Super NES game graphics, FF5 is much like games from a year after the launch of the system, back in 1991. Much like its predecessor, Final Fantasy 5 uses 2-D, tile based maps for the towns, the dungeons, and the world. Sprites are typically one block in size. Graphics in battle are much like those of Final Fantasy 4, with heroes that are bigger and more detailed than their block-sprite counterparts. Enemies look decent, and the bosses feature especially lifelike artwork, but all animation in battle is usually only the heroes; only a select few special monsters ever move. Final Fantasy 5's graphics feature bright vibrant colors, giving it the look of a fantasy realm. Special effects for magic are better than those in FF4, but are again limited by the power of the Super NES, so they don't look as impressive as those in other PlayStation games.

The music score of Final Fantasy 5 was very memorable. In addition to mood setting tunes for towns, battles, and dungeons, Final Fantasy 5 also includes all of the traditional Final Fantasy 5 songs, including yet another remix of the chocobo anthem. The sound effects aren't the most realistic I've seen in a game, but they usually fit their purpose well.

The translation of Final Fantasy 5 sports decent dialogue for events and townspeople. The story is easy to understand, too. There is also occasional profanity. The monster names are somewhat awkward, but that may have been the way they were in the Japanese text as well. One thing about this game's translation is the controversial pirate accent given to Faris. On one hand, it gives the impression that Faris is trying to sound like a pirate, which makes sense because she is the leader of a band of pirates, but on the other hand, having her talk normally might make it clear that she isn't really a born buccaneer at heart.

The story of Final Fantasy 6 begins with the history of the planet. 1,000 years ago, the War of the Magi occurred. The War of the Magi was a battle between magical beings called Espers and humans who desired their powers. The war ultimately lead to the apparent disappearance of Espers and magic.

Fast forward to the present, the people of the mountain town of Narshe recently dug up a frozen Esper in their mines. The emperor of the city of Vector, driven by his quest for power and his goal of world domination, has sent three soldiers to Narshe to retrieve this Esper so he can use its magic power to increase his military strength. These soldiers are armed with Magitek armor, machines enhanced by magic drained from Espers. One of these three soldiers is Terra, a woman born with the ability to use magic. When they reach the Esper, Terra appears to have a strange connection to it. After some sparks fly, Terra awakens in a house in Narshe. A man names Arvis rescued her from the mines and brought her in. Arvis showed Terra that the soldiers were using a slave crown to control her actions. Unfortunately, the people of Narshe don't know the details, and see Terra as a fallen invader from the empire, so they send their guards to apprehend her. Arvis shows Terra to a secret passage to the mines, and tells her to escape town through the tunnels. The guards begin to follow her, and things turn worse when the ground underneath Terra's feet gives out, and she is left unconscious and vulnerable. Terra is saved when Locke, a treasure hunter that Arvis had previously asked to look after Terra, appears on the scene, and when a band of moogles from the mines appear and agree to defend Terra. They fight off the guards and escape Narshe. Ultimately, Locke and Terra, along with a dozen other heroes, learn that the root of the world's problem, the search of magic and power, is the empire and the people in control of it.

The heroes in Final Fantasy 6 include 12 normal characters and 2 hidden characters. Each hero has his or her own special move, and varying levels of Vigor, Speed, Stamina, and Magic Power. You normally control 4 at a time, but there are some events where you will have multiple teams of 4, and can select between them.

Most magic in Final Fantasy 6 is learned through Espers. Each character can equip one Esper at a time. Each Esper has up to 5 spells that it can teach. Each spell has a learn rate, a specific percentage towards completion of the spell that is gained per Magic Point (not to be confused with MP) earned in fights. When the percentage earned builds up to 100%, the spell is learned. Battles can be worth anywhere from 0 to 10 Magic Points. Spells can also be learned from pieces of equipment, as a few have spells and learn rates associated with them. Also, Terra and Celes begin with a few spells, and can learn some other spells simply by gaining levels. Finally, there are summon spells. A character can summon the esper they have equipped once per battle, and the esper will use its attack.

Final Fantasy 6 is not a hard game, but it does have some challenging parts. Back in 1994, when I was playing FF6 for the first time, I died fighting a few bosses on my first few attempts. The encounter rate is fairly low, and each battle is worth a lot of credit, so battles tend not to be tedious.

Like FF5, Final Fantasy 6 is clearly not a PlayStation game in terms of graphics. Other than a new, screen splitting battle entry animation, all graphics in Final Fantasy 6 for PlayStation are the same as they were on the Super NES. Whereas FF4 and FF5 were typical early SNES games, Final Fantasy 6 has some of the best graphics possible on the Super NES. Walking is still tile based, but the maps feature bigger, more 3-D looking buildings, larger sprites, and more realistic images. In any town, you can find everyday objects such as tables, lamps, record players, bookshelves, and other things. In battle, the monsters look much more realistic and lifelike than they did in FF4 or FF5, but as before, very few monsters have any animation. Special effects for magic, while not as stunning as those in FF7 or FF8, are great. The animations for spells in FF6 have larger, more realistic images of fire, water, bubbles, wind, and rocks than those of its predecessors.

Final Fantasy 6 has one my all time favorite soundtracks from a video game. The songs I particularly like are the battle music, the final boss's song "Dancing Mad", and the music from the Floating Continent. There are many other great songs present in Final Fantasy 6, all of which are very fitting to the scenes and a real pleasure to listen to. The music effectively creates feelings of empathy, excitement, and mystery as appropriate. Sound effects in Final Fantasy 6 are good, and are more realistic than those in FF4 or FF5. Claw swipes and flames sound more believable than they did in previous FF games. Square even did fairly well trying to use the Super NES's sound capabilities to simulate an opera singer without having an actual voice over. It's still fairly obvious that it's not a real singer, but even bogged down by emulation, it sounds like kind of like singing.

Final Fantasy 6 retains its original translation from 1994, but a couple of things were tweaked. The soldier known as Vicks on the Super NES game was renames Biggs, which unifies and Biggs and Wedge tradition present in FF6, 7, and 8 (which Square of course got from Star Wars). The word "Sasquatch" was changed to "Yeti". On the whole, FF6's translation was pretty good, and was an improvement over Square's earlier 16-Bit localization efforts. Due to some of the rules Square was subject to in 1994, the translation had to be slightly censored in terms of using profanity and references to death.

The PlayStation version of Final Fantasy 6 features a new Bonus area. It is partially accessible at first, but to see it in its entirety, you must finish the game first. The bonus area includes a Lore list, an Esper list, a Bestiary, User statistics, a Theater, and an Art gallery. The Art gallery contains various conceptual pictures and CG stills. The Theater contains all three FMVs from the game, and is the only place from which the third FMV can be seen.

Both FF5 and FF6 use the traditional active time battle system used in most other games of the series. All characters and enemies have time bars, which rise at a speed based on the characters' speed stat, and when they are full, the character gets a turn. If you wait around when your turn is up, the enemy will continue to attack. In FF6, you can pass a character's turn by pressing the Triangle or Square button. When you pass like this, the character's time bar remains full, but you get to have a different character with a full time bar take their turn first. This feature is not present in FF5, where you must have your characters take their turns in the order that they come up. Also, both FF5 and FF6 can support 2 players. From the Config screen, you can set some of the characters to be controlled by player 2 in battle. Playing FF5 or FF6 with a partner can be very fun.

The PlayStation versions of Final Fantasies 5 and 6 have a few new FMV scenes. FF5 has 2 FMVs, one at the intro of the game, and one at the end, after the "The End" screen. FF6 has 3 new FMVs: an intro, and ending movie, and a special pilot FF6 trailer. The characters in the FMVs look different from the way they appear in the games because they are based not on the game graphics, but on Yoshitaka Amano's conceptual art for FF5 and FF6. The FMVs in these games are the traditional high quality CG cutscenes present in Square's PlayStation games. In fact, I'd even say that the CG in Final Fantasy 6 gives the CG from Final Fantasy 8 a good run for its money!

FF5 and FF6 are being run on emulators, so there are a few small glitches in both games. Loading times for menus and maps are long and frequent. There is occasional slowdown during sprite heavy spell effects, and sometimes there is a brief lag just before your turn comes up. Some of the songs have a couple of sounds missing. A few sound effects are a little scratchy. The graphics were kept intact perfectly, and the Mode 7 emulation was flawless.

In conclusion, with Final Fantasy Anthology, you get 2 great RPGs: one making its belated first appearance in the US, the other a re-release of an excellent 16-Bit classic, as well as a music CD featuring a small sample of both game's soundtracks, all for the low price of $40. Final Fantasy Anthology is great deal and a worthy purchase.

Musashi

Beautiful cinemas are part and parcel of the great Final Fantasy package.

Finally, gamers will get to play the long awaited and highly praised Final Fantasy V.







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