Review by roadtosalvation
"Final Fantasy, drown in mediocre extras"
Final Fantasy. It's a name that once held a significant amount of clout. In recent years, or more accurately, ever since Squaresoft and Enix merged after the disaster that was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, "enhanced" ports of previously successful entries have pretty much come down the pike in the numbers one expects from in vitro fertilization.
As disgusting as this cow-milking practice has become, and as disgusting as it is that I'm probably going to shell out for the fifth version of Final Fantasy IV in the Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection come April, I still like the original Final Fantasy despite the fact it lacks a robust storyline like the later games. So I was more than willing to enlist for the first and most faithful recreation of the game on the PS1, but beyond that point, the core game has been retrofitted with so many ill-fated additions that it quickly diluted what was a simple yet enjoyable experience. So, in the spirit of debate, let's look at the three main segments that make up Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition.
~ Final Fantasy: The Main Course
The core of the experience that emulates the original adventure on the NES, one will find that many liberties have been taken since Final Fantasy Origins. Most of them aren't too groundbreaking: the high resolution graphics are nice to look at even thought there wasn't really anything wrong with how the game was presented on the PS1 and GBA, the heightened accuracy of your character units at the beginning of the quest is quite helpful as are the additional commands available during combat (like Defend) that weren't originally there. Unfortunately, it's one of the most welcome changes, the ditching of casting system for mages, that puts everything into jeopardy by absolutely destroying the game's balance. Now, most will jest at the idea of the original Final Fantasy being balanced, especially when the spell casting units where as handicapped as they were, but in its own, odd-ball way, it was. Here, there is no real worry about getting through a dungeon in one piece because your party has so many options, which destroys the last bit of challenge the title had.
~ Soul of Chaos: A Lesson in Monotony
A set of four optional dungeons that were first featured in the GBA Dawn of Souls package, Soul of Chaos represents some of the most insanely insipid concepts that can be used to artificially inflate a game's lifespan. These multilevel dungeons throw there pre-programmed floors at you in random order, and the treasures on each floor are randomly selected from a pool specific to that floor. This means you won't find everything they have to offer on one play through. Boss floors, filled with classic bosses that are just a sad way of siphoning off past ideas, are set up so you can only take on one before you are forced to advance or leave. The mostly static (and weak) cast of enemies you encounter in random encounters throughout will chip away at your enthusiasm faster than a rabbit nibbling away at a carrot as the super-powered bosses prove the game's battle system isn't really built for challenging battles.
~ Labyrinth of Time: It Gets Worse
As much as the Soul of Chaos dungeons remind me of terrible dungeons like Wild Arms 3's Abyss or Star Ocean 3's Sphere Company, The Labyrinth of Time shows up to prove things can get even messier. Once again, the levels are thrown at you in a random level, but this time the focus is mostly on non-combative challenges like memory games. This would be fine on its own, but we're not done. Each level requires you to sacrifice abilities for "time" to keep the "miasma" at bay. "Miasma" basically acts like a poison that saps away at you health and magic and increases enemy encounters until you leave the area. The whole experience is as "fun" as sounds. On top of that, you'll need to pass and fail challenges in a handful of certain patterns to encounter the various versions of the game's hardest boss. Oh, goody goody gumdrops!
~ The Conclusion: Finally
Much like the evil "miasma" itself, Final Fantasy on the PSP starts out great until the extras corrode your soul from the inside out. Of course, just looking at the Square Enix logo (and what it's come to represent) is enough to do that, so you don't really need to subject yourself to the torture within this UMD to experience that. Still, I would honestly recommend the PS1 Origins package, Dawn of Souls and the much more deserving Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions over this 20th Anniversary cash-in. It's pretty to look at, but that's about all.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 03/15/11
Game Release: Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition (US, 06/26/07)
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