"Being a crazed fanboy can cause people to do stupid things. Take me, for instance. I should really have no reason to own this game. I already play FF6 regularly, and FF5 isn't good enough for me to want to own a copy. But my Playstation was sitting there all lonely and this game was really cheap and, well, here it is. And thus that little urge I get to replay one of my favorite games of all time became irresistible, and I popped the FF6 disk in. Twenty minutes in convinced me that I should..."
Being a crazed fanboy can cause people to do stupid things. Take me, for instance. I should really have no reason to own this game. I already play FF6 regularly, and FF5 isn't good enough for me to want to own a copy. But my Playstation was sitting there all lonely and this game was really cheap and, well, here it is. And thus that little urge I get to replay one of my favorite games of all time became irresistible, and I popped the FF6 disk in. Twenty minutes in convinced me that I should just turn it off and restart on a vastly superior version, but I pressed on. Why? Because I'm a fanboy, and the promise of unlocking a FMV I've already seen overpowered the more logical side of my brain. And since I suffered through this, I might as well write a review to try to help other fanboys grounded in reality. People, just play the SNES and forget this exists.
To some, the big draw here is the fact that this was the first American release of FF5, a tale of two worlds and a tree's desire to destroy them (yes, a tree). And it's not a bad RPG either. The game's biggest asset is its excellent job system, allowing complete customization of your characters and full control over how they'll end up. Balancing your jobs and abilities - allowing specific strengths for each character while insuring that they remain somewhat well rounded - is a ton of fun. Unfortunately, that's also the only really great part of the game. The plot is a complete joke, the characters are one dimensional (not to mention having funny names like Bartz and Exdeath), and the pacing is awful. For those expecting a good story or atmosphere to back up this nice job system, they're bound to be disappointed. And the game has some balance issues too, as you can be breezing through areas without a problem and then run right into an impossible boss or even a group of random enemies. Of course, these bosses are made easier by unbalanced jobs and abilities (the strength of the Coin Toss is absolutely ridiculous), which sort of hurts the whole job system a bit. It's a pretty good RPG, but unfortunately there's just not much there to recommend it.
And then there's FF6, one of the most loved RPGs of all time and the only reason I actually bought this game. I could spend hours boring you with how much I love this, but I already did. So just read my SNES FF3 review if you really care. Let's just say that I can't stand most RPGs and yet I adore this one. The gameplay is remarkably deep while still being accessible, the atmosphere is pleasant and the music is downright brilliant. The simple story is fortunately low-key, and the character interaction and development takes a front seat instead. Thus, we have quite a few touching scenes, exciting boss battles, intriguing characters, complete freedom for the second half of the game, and did I mention the wonderful music? Anybody with even the slightest interest in this genre owes it to themselves to play this game. Unfortunately the SNES cart can be a bit hard to find these days, so the thought of a PSX port sounds pretty good on paper.
Unfortunately, it's the worst port I've ever seen. The key word here is slowdown. From the moment you first blast a helpless Narshe soldier with your fire beam you'll see it. Watch as Edgar's Autocrossbow shots slowly chug their way across the screen, or wonder where those extra few frames of animation went to in Sabin's Aura Bolt. And apparently Mog can only slowdance now. Any special effect, no matter how minor it may seem, will cause the game to stop and ponder how to perform such a difficult task. I deal with this enough on my computer; I have to worry about it in one of my favorite games as well? And this is on top of all the loading times. You'll spend 5 seconds waiting for the battle to start, waiting for the battle to end, waiting to go to the menu screen, waiting to enter a town, waiting to enter a room, waiting to save, and so forth. A few seconds here and there may not sound like much, but it adds up very quickly. As someone who is used to playing this without any waiting or loading at all, this is ridiculous. You're porting a 16 bit game here Square; surely your brain-damaged coders could have done a little better than that.
And yes, it's more than a mere annoyance. It actually changed the way I played. Considering every time I have to go to the menu screen I wait five seconds, I found myself going there less. Pick up a new piece of equipment? Well, there's a save point a few rooms ahead, I won't bother to equip it until then. Cyan's running low on life? Well, maybe I'll just run a few more battles. Go into that town to stay at the inn and stock up on supplies? That's 4 loading screens right there; forget that idea. Should I use fire dance on these enemies even though it will slow the game down to a crawl? I found myself getting upset every time a random battle occurred (which I think is slightly more often than in the SNES version, but I can't prove that) because I hated to wait. I played far less conservatively than normal, just wanting to push my way through. And that's unfortunate, because this game is usually a relaxing, enjoyable experience. Talk about killing one's enthusiasm.
At least Square did try to make this version worthwhile by throwing in a few FMV movies. And don't get me wrong, they're very pretty. I'm glad they're there, but I just wish they spent a little more time on them. Locke and Terra have blond hair? That's news to me. And where are the rest of the characters? As disappointed as I am that I didn't see Relm, I can sort of understand that. But Cyan? You're telling me Setzer can have 2-3 shots and the retainer of Doma can't even get rendered? The fact that your bonus movie is just a remix of scenes from the first two was a bit disappointing as well (although the aria was nice). The effort Square put into these was merely adequate, which is simply not good enough for a game of this stature. Just look at the translation. "Why do you yearn live"? "Commence to launch the attack on Narche"? There were only 5 lines to translate! I half expected Kefka to tell Edgar that all his castles are belong to us. Sheesh.
Speaking of translations, they kept the SNES one except for a few minor changes. It's not really a complaint, but I am confused as to why they changed the few bits that they did. For instance, you meet Relm, and she leaves with Interceptor in tow. But she reappears at the doorway for one final parting comment. In the original, it was "What a sweet puppy!" which was fine. Now, it's "Here, boy", despite the fact that the dog has already left! What's the point of it? The original was fine, and it boggles the mind why they would change a quote to something that makes less sense. And what the heck is "Melton" or the "Safty" ring? Weird. Also, either the font grew or the text box shrunk, because you'll notice many places where the text is forced to spill over just for one word. It makes the game look amateurish and really breaks up the writing. And it's another thing that for the life of me I can't figure out what Square was thinking. Once again, weird.
And so I give this compilation a six. Not because the games deserve it, but rather because they deserve more. FF5's first appearance in the US shouldn't be filled with slowdown and riddled with load times. A port of FF6 could have included better special features than just a few poorly translated FMVs. In all honesty, I'm quite amazed at how much anger and frustration I managed to feel playing what is one of my favorite games, a testament to Square's laziness and shoddy porting skills. That's really all I've got to say about this. If you want FF5 in English, you really don't have much of a choice. But I'll stick with FF3 on the SNES, thank you very much.
Community review by mariner (January 26, 2005)
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