Review by darthjulian

"Square ends the PlayStation era with a bang-up collection"

In 2001, near the end of the PlayStation life cycle, Square Soft decided to provide US gamers with a nice good bye present in form of "Final Fantasy Chronicles", a classics collection similar to "Final Fantasy Anthology" that had been released two years earlier. With "Final Fantasy IV" having been the only SNES FF game to be ported onto the PSOne for a US audience, Square decided to pack in a really sweet treat no one could possibly resist: a port of "Chrono Trigger", not only one of the best RPGs on any system, but also one of the best games of all time in general. Sounds like an awesome package, now doesn´t it? But the question is, is there anything new for veteran gamers? And are the ports even perfect?

The storylines for both games remain unchanged, of course, which is quite a good thing especially in case of "Chrono Trigger", with its complex and well-thought yet engrossing and entertaining plot about Crono, his friends and their adventures throughout the different ages of the earth, in order to stop an evil entity from another planet, still being one of the most memorable experiences in any RPG, and nothing, absolutely nothing has changed about that...not even all those years that have passed ever since its original release, which is a testament to the quality of the storyline...a storyline EVERY gamer should experience at least once. In fact, the same can be said about "Final Fantasy IV", at least to some smaller extent. After all, it was the first Final Fantasy title ever to feature a serious storyline full of charismatic characters, and despite the fact that parts of the plot seem a little outdated by now, the tale of Dark Knight Cecil still is an engrossing experience that is surprisingly deep and meaningful for its age. Thankfully, Square also decided to rewrite the English script of "Final Fantasy IV" - those who remember the horrible, original English text of the "Final Fantasy II" easy-type version for the Super Nintendo might be able to agree on this being a vast improvement over the first US release of "Final Fantasy IV". Now, the characters have more depth and remain closer to their counterparts of the original Japanese script, and overall, the quality of the English text in this new translation is outstanding, providing this equally outstanding game with a worthy translation at long last.

However, the gameplay remains exactly the same in "Chrono Trigger" as well as "Final Fantasy IV" as in the old 16-Bit days. Well, except for one tiny detail about "Final Fantasy IV": instead of the dumbed-down "Final Fantasy IV Easy Type" version on the Super Nintendo, Americans now got the REAL "Final Fantasy IV" experience, or, in other words: the original SNES "Final Fantasy IV", along with the same high difficulty level. In fact, looking at how difficult FFIV can be especially for newcomers at times, it makes it at least partially understandable that Square only brought an easier version of the game over to the western world. Nevertheless, RPG veteran will surely dig the challenge the game has to offer. As for the basic gameplay itself, there isn´t a lot to say, really. It´s the same as in the original, offering the very essence of what we perceive as classic RPG gaming nowadays. The gameplay found in "Chrono Trigger" is a little less classic and more modern thanks to a revolutionary battle system, a lack of random encounters and several other neat twists to the gameplay - but why not find out for yourself? After all, "Chrono Trigger" is yet another outstanding classic by Square Soft every gamer needs to have played at least once - essential gaming at its best. Even after so many years, "Chrono Trigger" still feels fresh and unique compared to some other RPGs of today, and in my opinion, it simply is a timeless game, and I cannot praise the developers of the original enough for having crafted together such a masterpiece. Having said that, it hurts me to bring up one rather strong point of criticism for this practically flawless game. It used to be flawless on the Super Nintendo at least, but in this PSOne port, you are going to be plagued by some extremely bothersome load times before and after each battle and whenever you enter the menu screen - at times, the screen freezes for almost 10 seconds before a battle actually starts, and I just don´t get it how such a nasty flaw could have worked its way into a port of an SNES game. Nevertheless, "Chrono Trigger" still is a lot of fun to play, regardless of this load times issue, and you will be pleased to hear that as some sort of redemption, Square put some nice features for completists onto the CD, including a theater mode, a sound test as well as a list of all skills and endings, and the deeper you get into the game and the more ending sequences you unlock, the bigger this collection will grow. All in all, you really cannot blame this collection in terms of gameplay; not if the games included are "Final Fantasy IV" and "Chrono Trigger".

I think that we already established the fact that "Final Fantasy Chronicles", like so many other Square Soft collections that have been released over the years, features two (almost) straight ports of two absolute 16-Bit classics, so you can guess that "Final Fantasy IX"-caliber visuals are not to be expected to say the least. Especially not from "Final Fantasy IV". Even at the time of its initial release on the Super Nintendo, "Final Fantasy IV" did not manage to impress gamers with its graphics at all, so it is only too natural that its PSOne re-release fares even worse, being a port of the original on a more powerful console. What remains to be said about FFIV as far as its looks go is that the character sprites look rather puny, the surroundings seem stale and that there is a general lack of colors throughout the game, making some places seem a bit lifeless at times. Naturally, Square remained true to the "tradition" of providing their SNES/PSOne ports with brand new cinematic cutscenes, and such is the case in "Final Fantasy IV". And honestly, after having seen the new CG intro for FFIV, I just could not help but wonder why Square even bothered to create these scenes. Seriously, Square Soft delivered its weakest performance in the CG cutscene department with this entry: the character models are laughable, the animations are stiff, the quality is lacking...well, you get the picture. Seeing these scenes after having played the PSOne exclusive Final Fantasy titles really makes it hard to believe that these pitiful scenes have been created by the same company. A classic like "Final Fantasy IV" would have been better off without unfitting rendered cutscenes.

"Chrono Trigger", on the other hand, holds up far better in terms of visuals than its counterpart "Final Fantasy IV". After all, the game has originally been released in 1995, during the golden age of 16-Bit RPGs that saw gorgeous gems of the genre like "Tales of Phantasia", "Star Ocean" or "Terranigma", and "Chrono Trigger" fits into this list of 2D beauties perfectly. The entire world is colorful and extremely atmospheric, underlining the great story of the game and helping you to experience this game even better, and the same goes for the detailed character sprites, the nifty mode-7 effects and the astounding battle graphics including huge monster sprites and cool spell effects. And yes, "Chrono Trigger" received some brand new cinematic cutscenes as well, but unlike "Final Fantasy IV", Square created anime sequences instead of CG imagery. And thankfully, this decision by Square was pure gold indeed. With the world famous Akira Toriyama having been the character designer for "Chrono Trigger", anime sequences always seemed like a fitting addition to the game, and whenever you´re watching one of them, you can´t help but feel reminded of an episode of Dragon Ball (Z)...Akira Toriyama´s style really is visible here, making them a CT fan´s dream come true.

The fact that the developers ported the majority of the games from older versions can be quite a good thing, too, when looking at the musical enjoyment of both titles. The soundtracks of both games are absolute milestones not only for the RPG genre, but for video games in general, and they sound better than ever on CD. Especially Yasunori Mitsuda´s compositions for "Chrono Trigger" are timeless classics that haven´t lost any of their appeal over the years.

So, is "Final Fantasy Chronicles" still worth buying in 2007? Most definitely! "Chrono Trigger" alone is worth the price of the entire package, since the SNES version might be tougher to find and this collection remains the only way to legally get your hands at this masterpiece without having to strain your wallet too much. "Final Fantasy IV" is a must-play as well, even though I am quite undecided on whether or not the Game Boy Advance version might be the better choice in order to play this title. But apart from the load times issue in the port of "Chrono Trigger", "Final Fantasy Chronicles" remains a great collection that allows newcomers to experience these two classics for the first time or veterans to relive joy of glorious times.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/29/07

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