Fantasy Collection

   If you're looking to see the latest technological wonder from Square, you won't find much to get excited about in Final Fantasy Anthology. On the other hand, if you're looking to relive "the good ol' days" of RPGs, where tiled maps were king and cars were unheard of, you'll have a grand time with FFA.

   Many "old school" RPG players malign the FMV-based Final Fantasy titles of the present and long for the joy brought to them by older games. Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI, the two RPGs included in the anthology, represent Square's last two Final Fantasies on the Super NES. Curious players who have never owned a system before the PlayStation and have never experienced one or the other should enjoy Final Fantasy Anthology, assuming a certain mindset is taken before starting into the package.

   Let's get one thing straight: the graphics, compared to those on the PlayStation, suck. FF V and FF VI are old games: FF V was made in 1992, FF VI in 1994. Outside of a few obligatory FMV sequences, the graphics have not been upgraded for their PSX appearances. They were solid for the SNES, but nothing spectacular; Square's focus in those days were to create games with intriguing plotlines, interesting characters, vast worlds to explore, and unique character-ability systems. Those aspects are not forgotten in recent games; they are instead complimentary to the cinematic gaming experience (or the other way around, depending on your perspective).

   FF V and FF VI are not cinematic games. Players may, at times, feel like they are in the midst of an interactive movie, but not as often as they might during Final Fantasy VIII. The graphics are not drawbacks to the games; rather, they simply don't add an extra dimension like they do in the cinematic FF VII and FF VIII.

   For those familiar with both titles, however, the anthology will be a huge disappointment. Both games have an added introductory and ending movie; they're pretty to look at once or twice but not worth the price of admission. Not only that, Square did a slipshod job of porting the SNES titles to the PlayStation. Load times are noticable both in and out of battle. Menus load slowly, and battle animations can be a chore.

 'Omake' options
'Omake' (extra) options

   Including a partial soundtrack with the game was a good idea, but again poorly executed. The tracks chosen are questionable at best, and insulting at worst. The official Square U.S. home page had a poll to choose the songs included on the soundtrack, but appeared to ignore the poll.

   Looking past the flaws of the port, however, the two games included are both excellent. Final Fantasy V has the distinction of being one of the most delayed games in gaming history. Back in 1993, it was scheduled to become America's Final Fantasy III. As it neared completion, Final Fantasy VI was released in Japan, and the decision was made to scrap Final Fantasy V's translation and port Final Fantasy VI as the U.S. Final Fantasy III.

   Disappointed fans revolted, and the announcement came that Final Fantasy V was set to be ported under the title "Final Fantasy Extreme," as it was a bit more difficult than other U.S. Final Fantasy titles. The character-skill development system was also more complex and central to the game than in any other Final Fantasy title the U.S. had seen, adding further justification to the chosen name.

THE MAN in action

   The project eventually faded into the background and was cancelled with little fanfare. Years later, when Final Fantasy VII was released in the U.S., Square announced that Eidos would be bringing a port to the PC of it. Not only that, Eidos planned to bring Final Fantasy V and VI to the PC. Hooray! The U.S. would finally see FF V in English!

   Not. Square and Eidos parted ways, and the FF V and FF VI ports were forgotten until Square realized there was money to be made in the re-releasing of older classics. The Japanese version of the Anthology, titled Final Fantasy Collection, also included Final Fantasy IV, but lacked a soundtrack disc. When Square announced the Collection would come to America, they rejoiced, as perhaps this was the time FF V would make it to the U.S.

   FF V's plot and storyline is relatively weak compared to other Final Fantasies, but is solid and enjoyable nonetheless. For the last time, crystals are the focus of the story. All the action revolves around the weakening crystals, which hold the world together. Unfortunately, FF V has a weak villain: X-Death comes across as a hastily inserted, shallow character whose sole role to keep the plot moving along.

   FF V's strongest point is the character ability system. Players familiar with Final Fantasy Tactics will be quick to recognize FF V's system; it too revolves around "jobs" that determine the skills a character can use. Besides the usual knight, lancer, mage, and ninja, FF V includes some fun classes to experiment with, such as dancer, bard, and hunter.

You sound like chapters from a self-help book!

   Released as FF 3 in the U.S., FF VI was a great game on the SNES and is a great game on the PlayStation. It represents a major leap forward for Square, as the character development far surpasses that of any video game released to that point. The cast of characters is lengthy, but each character in the list is given a more than perfunctory exploration of motivations and personalities.

   The plot is more predictable than in some of Square's other works, but is enjoyable nonetheless. The second half of the game, the World of Ruin, contains very little expository plot, but is rich with details on the characters' lives. The World of Ruin is non-linear; depending on your style you'll find it a lovely chance to explore not just territory but characters or you'll bore of it and try to get to the end. Full enjoyment of the game requires spending some time on the optional subquests.

   Final Fantasy Anthology isn't the best collector's set ever released. It's a shoddy job of transferring the magic of older Final Fantasies onto the modern PlayStation. The mistakes in the port result in detractions from the games' magic, but aren't enough to kill the two. Final Fantasy V and VI are strong enough titles to thrive on any system in any era.

Review by Andrew Kaufmann, GIA.
Final Fantasy Anthology
Developer Square
Publisher Square EA
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium CD (3)
Platform PlayStation
Release Date

Final Fantasy Anthology PS2 compatiblity issues
31 FF VI CG characters and tests / 29 FF V CG shots and sketches
14 FF VI intro storyboards / 15 FF VI ending storyboards
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