To all the Square-heads and otakus out there (who are gonna buy this game regardless), I apologize in advance, but this review isn't meant for you. It's meant for Squaresoft whom I hope to sting a little. As a consumer-conscious web site, I feel it is my duty to send a message to those marketing geniuses who decided to call this an 'anthology' and somehow forgot to include the most important piece of the puzzle, FF4. It's like having an exhibit of Impressionists and forgetting Monet or Renoir. It's like talking about Film Noir without mentioning Double Indemnity or Touch of Evil. It just doesn't make sense to leave FF4 out, especially since this is a collection for prosperity more than anything else. And we are most unlikely to see part 4 by itself unless we get another, perhaps, more 'perfect collection' to milk our pocket books.
Or course it didn't help that they sought to correct this offense by including a poor excuse for a musical soundtrack. I've long been a fan of game music and no stranger to paying exorbitant prices for import CDs. One of my great pleasures as a gamer has been to hear musical scores from videogames remixed or even given the full-blown orchestra treatment. Sadly, the CD included in the FFA package is far from that. Music from the 16-Bit era sound terrific when actually playing the game, but when taken out of context and played back on a full blown audio system, it sounds like you're listening to something on your baby brother's Playskool toy. Its even more of a travesty that the music was left exactly as is considering the sheer amount of reorchestrated FF soundtracks currently available in Japan. All they need to do was work out the legal and copyright issues and port over any one of the superior offerings.
As for the actual games themselves, I was duly impressed with the previously-MIA FF5. I was never fanatical over Square's RPGs (aside from their Game Boy Legend series) because attribute development, which I feel is the utmost important feature in an RPG, took a back-seat to storyline. You could tell easily that Part 5 marked that turning point away from attributes and toward the intensely plot-driven Part 6. Had Square continually stuck with the extensive 'job' and 'ability' development system found in Part 5, we could be looking at a very different company today. Nevertheless, Part 5 did have a great attribute system, which was much to my liking and after getting over the old-school graphics, I found the game refreshing since I, unlike some of my more ambitious friends, never ventured to play the Super Famicom version. The game was surprisingly easy to grasp and I was drawn to not only to the 'job' system, but to the finely understated plot as well.
FF6 (or 3 when I played it) is another story since this is a game I played my brains out with upon its release. Within minutes of playing it, all the old memories started to come back and as each new character was introduced, I kept thinking to myself how amazingly complex, yet comprehensible the story was, even by today's standards. Never has a game had such an ensemble of richly emotional and distinctly likable characters (Tekken comes close, I think). The myriad special effects during combats also show the ancestral beginnings of Part 8's overblown Guardian Force attacks. For this particular version, I liked the little bonus development artwork and CG captures, yet one thing that I couldn't shake was how annoyingly often (even compared to Part 5) I was attacked during play. I couldn't enter any danger-zone without getting attack once or twice on average and I don't recall being so flustered when playing it back on the SNES.
So the real gem here is Part 5 and had Squaresoft tried to package FFA differently or simply included the maligned Part 4; I might be singing a very different tune. As it stands, the games play fine and I'd marginally recommend it to anyone looking to reminisce or is dying to play the forgotten Part 5. Others, not familiar with the series, may find the frequency of attacks a little too grinding by today's standards. Finally, as an anthology, trading one MIA hostage for another doesn't cut it and throwing in a sub-par soundtrack proves that, outside of mathematics, two negatives don't make a positive.