Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
This review is going to need some clarification at first. Squaresoft has this habit of giving us Europeans the Japanese version of their collections. And in the case of FF X, they made an International version that included some really überhard optional bosses, and released that in Europe (yay!). And -my- copy of Final Fantasy Anthologies thus consists of Final Fantasy IV and V, while Final Fantasy VI was released as its own game. On the other hand, neither of these included an extra CD that contained music from the games.
Also, remember that -none- of these three originally SNES games were officially released in Europe to start with, so this was actually a first time-experience for me (and let's not mention that I've tried FF VI on an emulator. That was before I knew this collection existed, and since I've in any case bought the game properly now, it shouldn't be an issue. Right?) . In any case, I shall make this review include IV, V -and- VI, just to cover it all properly.
A final word of caution, is that reviewing these games can be hard. After all, they are very old as games go, and to enjoy them, you will need the nostalgia mentality turned on. I'll try my best to review these games with said mentality, though my modern mindset will shine through from time to time.
I'll cheerfully skip the plots for each game, merely mentioning that they are all typical FF stuff you've come to expect from the series. So, let's skip right to the gameplay. All of the games are having the Active Time Battle System, which you've already played a variation of, I'm sure. I'll therefore go in on the details that separate each game:
In IV, your characters are pretty much preset, automatically popping in and out of your party as the plot goes on. Each character has his or her own specialty, such as throwing stuff, or summoning, or white magic. You know the drill. The only way to improve your character is to level up, with the exception of the summoner in your party, who'll also need to defeat some side quest bosses to gain access to all summons. In other words, there's not much exploration going on here, and it's the weakest of the bunch.
V only has a total of four playable characters, but it introduces the concept of job classes and Ability Points. As you progress through the game, you'll discover more and more different job classes, which carry with them abilities you can learn and then use. For example, if you play one character as a Black Mage for a while, you'll learn Black1. You can then change class to Knight, and then equip Black1, thus getting a Knight that can cast black magic of the first level (A Black Mage can always cast any spells that are learned, just to be clear on that.). This leads to either two styles of gameplay: Carefully picking out which characters shall learn what and then which job class to use... Or just go all OCS and learn it all. Much much deeper than IV, that's for sure.
VI is a strange hybrid of these two games. Everyone can, after a certain point in the game ,learn black and white magic spells via equipping different summons and earning AP in battle. But every character also has a specialty, ranging from the obvious "Steal" to the more bizarre "Sketch", the latter is about drawing a monster, which then makes it come alive and do battle for you. After a point, you also get freedom to usually choose the characters in your party, thus you'll be able to fit things pretty much as you like.
Graphically, FF IV and V were ugly even by the SNES standards. Of course, space for data was a real issue in those times, and FF VI is in fact getting pretty good at showing emotions in the characters. In fact, that game shows emotions significantly better than FF VII's crude non-battle polygons. And that's pretty much all one can ask from a SNES game of this genre, and then some.
The music has a similar story. FF VI is again the star of the bunch. The MIDI tunes here are technically on par (again) with FF VII, and frankly, I think Nobuo did a much better job on this game, as he made the limits in the SNES format work for him, unlike what he did with many of the FF VII tunes.
Finally, let's talk about the port portion (no pun intended). There aren't much included apart from beginning and ending FMVs, which all look pretty nice, but... Well, it doesn't really add much to the games themselves. And when it comes to the games themselves, there is one thing in particular that bugs me a hell of a lot: When you enter the battles, the loading times are actually longer than on the original SNES versions! Considering there is no beefing up of graphichs whatsoever, this is nothing short of inexcusable! Whenever I think about this horrible sin, I'm starting to go into a murderous rage; I guess video games makes us violent after all.
But, if you have patience of a sea turtle (or even world turtle), and a strong sense of SNES nostalgia in your soul, these games will probably still give you what you desire. Plus, the opening FMV for FF VI includes a piano version of that classical opening score. It could be a lot worse than that, eh?
+ Gaming history. + Now also in Europe (finally) + Music in VI still holding up against many of the games released today +/- Old style gaming, with some pretty hard bosses - Showing age - Longer battle loading times than on SNES?!?! #="#&"¤%!!!