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Final Fantasy Anthology

Developer: Squaresoft | Publisher: Square EA
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/30/99 | Genre: RPG

As the name suggests, Final Fantasy Anthology is a collection of older games under the Final Fantasy name. It consists of Final Fantasy V, (a Super Famicom game that was never released on this side of the world) Final Fantasy VI (also known as Final Fantasy III over here), and a music CD with a slew of great songs from both games. Final Fantasy IV (the U.S. version of Final Fantasy II) is included on the Japanese version of the anthology in the music's stead, but unfortunately, American gamers will not be able to experience that marvelous game in the domestic compilation. Whew, now that I've laid down the premise of this review, and just about worn out my Final Fantasy macro key, let's get down to business.

Square enthusiasts consider Final Fantasy V the paragon in the series-the finest book in the sempiternal Final Fantasy library. And while I think very highly of the game, I am afraid I cannot concur with the so-called enthusiasts. Final Fantasy features a pretty standard story with a modest amount of plot twists and subquests to keep you interested. Where the game really earns its wings though is in the execution of the characters. You can choose from a large handful of different jobs to customize your four main characters under. Furthermore, each job has specific skills, which can be learned while training under it, and these skills can be transferred to other jobs when you master tem. This allows for such creative concepts, as ninjas who can cast white magic or animal trainers who can sing like divas. My personal favorite is having a sorcerer who can wield swords with the strength of a knight. The game is very straightforward and easy to get into. This is easily worth the cost of the set by itself.

The other game that graces this compilation is Final Fantasy VI, one of the greatest RPGs ever made, back from the now defunct Super Nintendo. The graphics and sound in this title are leaps and bounds above its predecessor, and its artistic flair and attention to detail rival that of present day's RPGs. Final Fantasy VI was the first cartridge to use 256 colors at once, which made for photo realistic backgrounds and state-of-the-art visual effects. On the tonal side of things, this is one of Nobuo Uematsu's, the composer of the Final Fantasy series, best work. The music is catchy, emotional, and fits the mood like a glove. You'd be hard pressed not to cry as you empathetically reach out to Celes during the opera scene. It's hard to believe that such puissant and moving music could have been created on technology so relatively primitive. Final Fantasy VI forewent the job system for an intrinsic huge cast of characters. This allowed for no centralization of one single protagonist (I think the main character is Locke while a friend says Celes֯f course he's wrong) and an amalgam of many different personalities working together. Each character has a soul unique to them, and they each draw you in with individual endearing qualities. Hardcore RPG fans will want to relive the magic of this stellar title while neophytes to the
genre will find this an excellent introductory title to change their lives.

Everything about Final Fantasy Anthology screams "get offa yer smelly keister and buy me!" With two five-star games and a priceless soundtrack, this is one of the best compilations and gaming values out there.

By Ira Humphrey - 08/15/99
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