Title :Final Fantasy Chronicles
Platforms :Sony PlayStation
Publisher :Square Electronic Arts L.L.C.
ESRB Rating :Teen
Game Rating :9.0
Review by :Ken Gagne

The role-playing game (RPG) genre, for all its style and sales, has declined in substance in the eyes of many role-playing veterans. Gamers new to the pastime don't know what they're missing, but with the release of Final Fantasy Chronicles for the PlayStation, Square uncovers the past for new and old gamers alike to enjoy. 

Chronicles consists of two classic Super Nintendo games: Final Fantasy II and Chrono Trigger. In Final Fantasy, the dark knight Cecil rebels against his kingdom's new-found militarism which threatens the very fabric of life. Chrono Trigger is a time-travelling story in which players explore the world across various millennia to prevent a future apocalypse. 

Both games have undergone slight changes for this rerelease. 

The Final Fantasy II that America received ten years ago was based on an easy version of the Japanese game, Final Fantasy IV. This PlayStation adaptation has the more difficult version of FFIV as its source. New dungeons, story arcs, items, and character abilities are present in this edition. The game has been retranslated from the original to provide a more faithful and mature story. Players may now hold down a dash button to move more quickly, and share control of the battle with a second player — both features formerly present only in Final Fantasy III. 

Chrono Trigger now includes a gallery to view art, music, and other extras unlocked within the game. 

Both games now feature beginning and ending sequences of full-motion video, showcasing familiar characters in a way never before possible. In Final Fantasy's case, the opening sequence is pathetically short, but still more than the Super Nintendo could ever handle. 

Also new to these versions, especially Chrono Trigger, is a trait specific to the PlayStation hardware: loading times. The delay when entering a building or opening a menu can seem interminable to gamers weaned on the cartridge-based originals and their instant access. The fast disc access of the PlayStation 2 does nothing to ameliorate this condition. 

The only other disappointment is the lack of further additions. In Final Fantasy II, Square could have improved the shopping system to make apparent the relative strengths of weapons and armor prior to purchase. Many other items lack description, leaving the player to explore the manual for details; and nowhere are the effects of magic spells specified. Such minor mechanical details could easily have been updated without detriment to the overall game. 

Neither game has been fitted for use with the PlayStation analog control sticks. 

Despite the loading times and opportunities missed, Final Fantasy II and Chrono Trigger are no less the masterpieces than they were at their release. As progenitors of the RPG genre, these games' gameplay and plots rival today's RPGs, reflecting the genius of developers not that long ago. 

Final Fantasy II was the first RPG to feature Square's ATB (Active Time Battle) system, in which individual character and enemy turns are constantly occurring. When the battle's engaged, the screen changes from the standard overhead to side view in which good and evil face off. The background music changes to accompany standard skirmishes, decisive battles, or surprising encounters. The graphics display the world with the Mode 7 techniques that were new with the release of the Super Nintendo. It's not much by today's standards, but the graphics and sounds were landmarks back then. 

Chrono Trigger also has a unique battle system in which encounters occur on the standard exploration screen. Character positions play an important role, as most attacks are area-based: if an enemy lies beyond the realm of attack, the player must reposition the heroes or wait for the attackers to make a move. Each character learns unique battle techniques, or "techs," which can be combined with other fighters' techs with more damaging (and colorful) effects. 

Experienced gamers will relish the opportunity to replay these classics without dusting off their Super Nintendo systems. Other players accustomed to the showiness of PlayStation games may be deterred by the antiquated graphics and sound, but would be depriving themselves of the quintessential role-playing experience if they let that stop them.

This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 09-Jul-01