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Sunday, July 15, 2001



SQUARESOFT
The main characters of ChronoTrigger camp out for the night.



Fulfilling a
‘Fantasy’

Let the role-playing games begin

The ‘Final Fantasy’ movie weaves in
video elements as magic confronts technology


Review by Wilma Jandoc
wjandoc@starbulletin.com

Square has finally re-released two of its great role-playing games in America, in the form of Final Fantasy Chronicles.

The Chronicles consists of two games: Final Fantasy IV (released as Final Fantasy II in America) and ChronoTrigger, both of which were cartridge games on the Super Nintendo game system before moving to the CD medium of PlayStation.

Both games were re-released for PlayStation in Japan about two years ago but only now have made their way overseas to the American market.

Final Fantasy IV

FF4 centers on Cecil, a Dark Knight who is captain of the royal air force of Kingdom Baron. The king orders him to capture a mystical crystal from Mysidia. Cecil obeys, but the attack on innocent people disturbs him and his crew. The king sees Cecil questioning his authority and strips the dark knight of his rank. He then sends him to Mist, a village of people who can summon monsters to their aid. It's a quest filled with mystery that eventually confirms Cecil's suspicions about the king.

As with any game that goes from cartridge to CD, the main concern is loading time. The Japanese PlayStation version had that problem, but it was evidently fixed before its American release; the game has nearly no load time in scene changes, such as from the over-world map to the status screen.

FF4 also sports a reworked English script based on a better translation of the Japanese that sounds much more natural. The dialogue now also includes accents. Cid, an engineer, has a rough old-man accent, while one woman has a Southern accent that puts across a "don't mess with me!" attitude.

But not all is lost: The infamous "You spoony bard!" line is still there, a tribute to the initial lack of space and hilariously confusing translations that still haunt games. That line is in all caps now, perhaps to emphasize the fact that it's supposed to be an insult, in case we couldn't figure it out. The translators' sense of humor in keeping the line is to be applauded.

Most of the original Japanese elements, such as items and special character attacks, that were taken out of the Super Nintendo game reappear for the PlayStation version.

FF4 has also grown up since its days on the Super Nintendo. Religious references are back in names such as Devil's Road and Holy Arrows. There is also mild swearing: "Hell if I'm gonna let the king use my beloved airships for killin'!" Cid vows early in the game.

But improvements go only so far, and actual game play has not been changed other than a new two-player feature. There is no analog joystick support; the direction pad is used for all controls. And don't expect CD-worthy graphics; all the old sprites remain and the only computer-animated scenes are at the opening and ending.

ChronoTrigger

In the year 1000 A.D., the kingdom of Guardia is holding a Millennial Fair to celebrate its victory over the wizard Magus 400 years ago.

Enter Crono, a normal teenage boy. He bumps into an energetic girl at the fair, who decides to tag along with him. This chance meeting leads to a journey through time to save the world.

This game has one of the more innovative battle systems, a combination of real-time action and turn-based attacks. Enemies move around the battle area --and so do the characters, to an extent--and their attacks can actually move your party to different positions.

Special character moves, called techs, take strategy as many have a limited range and may involve waiting until enemies are in the right position.

One drawback to the battle system is that the windows detailing your characters' statistics sometimes block part of the battle area.

Naturally, time-traveling is an important aspect. What you do in the past affects the future; remember this before opening treasure chests.

CT was released near the end of Super Nintendo's reign, and so had generally better dialogue and inventory system, so few aspects were changed for the re-release.

Unlike FF4, ChronoTrigger has horrendous lag time when pulling up status screens. There is also noticeable but tolerable lag when loading battle scenes.

CT has no game play improvements and no analog support. Its additions include scenes that are animated -- rather than computer-generated. It also has scenes that tie its story line to its PlayStation sequel, Chrono Cross.

One much-heralded feature of ChronoTrigger is its multiple endings -- about 15 in all. After finishing the game once, a portal appears allowing you to travel directly to the final boss at any time. Depending on where you are in the game when you beat this enemy, the ending will change.

Discovering more endings unlocks special features, including a theater to view movie scenes and a sound test to listen to the game's songs.

The games are really just prettied-up versions of the original releases, with dialogue changes and added CGI scenes. But these are a must-have for those who missed them on the Super Nintendo. You won't be able to get a better deal for two classic games in one package.


Map

The ‘Final Fantasy’ movie
weaves in video elements
as magic confronts technology


By Wilma Jandoc
wjandoc@starbulletin.com

The Final Fantasy video game series generally has had completely separate story lines with different universes, but there are shared elements that maintain a kind of continuity.

Although the related and recently-released movie "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" is a completely different world, it liberally takes elements from the video games and incorporates them into its own saga.

The movie's story line mirrors the beginnings of Final Fantasy VI and VII in its focus on technology, rather than the medieval and fantasy aspects that had been a staple of the game series.

Magic in the movie has been relegated to eight spirits that, although being a more earth-friendly way of saving the world than blasting away with the Zeus cannon, are seen as inefficient fairy tales in the face of superior technology.

This direction is likely to not sit well with those who have come to expect a greater role of fantasy--as opposed to science fiction--in the series.

The characters are more like those found in Final Fantasy VI. Both have tragic heroines, and an important part of the characters' personalities and interactions deal with painful events in their past.

And, as in several Final Fantasy games, the group heralded as the last hope of the world consists of a bunch of people who by circumstance have been thrown together. Some are believers in their quest and some not, but by the conclusion of the game (and movie), they do believe in their cause.

Then there is the character of Cid, who has become something of a running joke in the game series. There has been a Cid in nearly every game, and though his personality and age change between games, he has generally been a scientist, as he is in the movie.

The movie's storyline just screams Final Fantasy VII, with all the major aspects it takes from that game--which may be understandable, considering that it's the one game that brought Final Fantasy and other role-playing games more into the mainstream's view.

The technology that created the smooth full-motion videos in the PlayStation games also makes it easy to associate movie personalities with game characters. General Hein is a dead ringer for Seifer in Final Fantasy VIII, down to the scowls on their faces. Ryan Whittaker is a bit like Barrett in FF7 and Gray Edwards could pass for one of the Figaro brothers, unshorn, in FF6.

And what would a movie be without romance? A movie scene that takes place in outer space is reminiscent of a certain scene in FF8 between that game's two main characters, Squall and Rinoa.

It is still "Final Fantasy" in the sense that, although scorned by most, magic --along with the requisite friendship, love and teamwork -- proves to be the ultimate savior of the world.



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