Time Keeps On Slippin' Slippin'...
Man, it sure has been a while since the halcyon days of 16-bit gaming, back when we were ruled by George "Big Poppa" Bush. Travel back with me...
Cecil, a dark knight of the Kingdom of Baron, hasn't been enjoying his line of work, what with all the killing, looting and pillaging. Not only that, but the Baron's stock value has dropped to squat. When the King of Baron says, "Get me a mythical crystal," Cecil obediently plays the fetching boy. Until, that is, Cecil's morality finally catches up and he goes rogue. And the King wants him dead.
While we're mucking about in the past, how about...
Crono is a red headed, spiky-haired kid from the country and Marle is his princess pal. Don't forget Lucca, the "Velma" of the Chrono Trigger gang. Together they travel through time in the Epoch Time-Travelin' Machine, along with their talking dog...err, I mean talking Frog, solving mysteries and trying to stop the imminent apocalypse.
Well, maybe my memory ain't what it used to be...which is all the more reason to revisit the glossed-over days of role-playing yesteryear. Final Fantasy Chronicles is a bundled re-release of the classics Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV (which was originally released stateside as Final Fantasy 2).
The Chronicles name somehow manages to link up the unrelated series. These two games "chronicle" the span of Squaresoft's 16-bit days, with what are essentially their first and last SNES releases. While they certainly don't look flashy, these are both good, solid RPG's that fans should check out, if they haven't already.
The highly-touted bonuses include additional CG and animated cut scenes. Think Star Wars: Special Edition. Honestly, I used to think that movie was utter crap, but once Lucas stuck in that scene with Jabba and Solo...pure gold. Everything makes sense. The struggle, the conflicts, the Jabba. And if you aren't getting the gist of the point I'm trying to make, I'm being SARCASTIC.
The video is a nice bonus, but really doesn't add much to the game. From today's standpoint, the Final Fantasy IV CG quality looks very dated. The animated sequences in Chrono Trigger strike a chord of nostalgia, but the framerate needs a boost.
Aside from the video stuff, both games are pretty much identical to their past incarnations, which gave me an idea for comparing the reissue to the Super Nintendo originals. What if I played the Playstation and SNESversions at the same time, thanks to the power of Picture in Picture?
I tried that for all of 5 minutes, before realizing that mere mortals were never meant to play two video games at once. Head spinning, I resigned myself to just switching back and forth at random areas to compare picture and sound quality. Suffice to say that the picture and sound quality match up well, apart from minor, minor loading issues.
Similar to its emulator predecessor Final Fantasy Anthology, Final Fantasy Chronicles has some issues with saving games. Accessing the memory card to save (as well as just entering the game menus) is a touch slower than the SNES originals.
As a workable band-aid, there's the Memo save, where the game is saved in active memory. When the system is turned off or hard reset, the game is lost. But if you do die and you haven't turned off your system, you can just go back to your Memo save and continue your journey. A nice touch.
Final Fantasy IV is not quite the same game it once was. Originally, North America got the dumbed-down easy version. Chronicles gives us the hardcore, uncensored Japanese version. Watch in amazement as a little 8 x 8 sprite sheds her clothes. Whoa, momma. Just kidding - PLEASE don't ask for nude codes, sickos.
Final Fantasy IV has been re-translated. The new version flows a little smoother. Plus, it has a newfound fondness for the word "bastard." Hmm.
Another new addition is the "dash" feature, allowing your characters to move a little faster. It won't help you avoid the random battles and there's a tendency to over-dash, but it definitely speeds up play.
Chrono Trigger offers a new Extras feature, allowing you to unlock secrets when you complete one of the many endings the game offers. The game still looks great in all its old-school glory.
Whether a new translation and increased difficulty makes Chronicles worthy of a purchase when you already have the original games depends on your commitment. It's worth mentioning to those of you searching for the originals that with the release of FF Chronicles, a weird little side-effect is deflated prices for the original cartridges. As more people buy Chronicles, less people want originals. Demand goes down, prices adjust accordingly. Now would be the time to finally snag those cartridge versions, if you're a nostalgia buff.
Final Fantasy Chronicles may not be the fanatic's perfect cup of tea, but to Joe Gamer who doesn't already have the originals, there's no better way to revisit a bygone age. And to those out there who missed both games, you won't be disappointed. These are both high-quality RPGs that, for the most part, stand the test of time.