After reading Dale's coverage of Final Fantasy Chronicles and being assigned the task of doing the Second Opinion, I was strongly tempted to simply write "Ditto" and call it done.
Dale has pretty much hit both nails on the head when it comes to the two games presented in this compilation, and theres not a lot that I can say that wouldn't be simply repeating what hes already written.
Interestingly, I will say that I was actually a bit fearful of doing this review. The reason for this was that despite my love for games that I consider "classics", I dont harbor any illusions about the fact that often the memory of something is greater than the thing itself. How many times have you gone back to experience something you had fond memories of, only to regret doing it after finding that the reality wasnt as good as what was recorded in your head?
Fortunately, such is not the case with Final Fantasy Chronicles. Unlike so many other "classics", RPGs are uniquely fortunate in that they seem to hold up better over time than other genres– and I cant think of any examples more suited to stand the test of time than Final Fantasy IV (FF4) and Chrono Trigger. Despite the minor technical issues of loadtimes and some skipping music tracks, they remain two world-class RPGs perfectly showcasing the talents of SquareSoft while still at their creative peak. Like Dale, I was outraged when I heard that FF4 had been left out of Squares Anthology package, and their continued reluctance to bring over Chrono Trigger (debatably the internets most sought-after RPG) has never made any sense. Despite the misnamed final product, Final Fantasy Chronicles ended up solving both of these problems simultaneously, and is a much better value for gamers than the first release, in my opinion.
Besides the technical issues Dale has already mentioned, Chrono Trigger seems strangely easier than I remember it being back in the days. Im not sure if my RPG skills have improved, or if being older just puts a different perspective on things, but the difficulty level of it feels a lot lower than I recall. (No senility cracks, please.) In any case, this is a good thing, since it doesnt feel like Im doing any unnecessary leveling up, and the pace flows right along.
However, FF4 has some very noticeable differences compared to the SNES version. (One of my top ten games of all time.) One of the biggest changes is that this is the Japanese version of FF4, not the same one we previously received here in the USA. Notable things different between the two include lots of new items which are fairly mysterious since the games book doesnt give the usual informational rundown. Almost all the characters have some new abilities like Paloms "Bluff", or Rosas "Pray". Also, many of the names and terms have been changed. Snake Road is now Devils road, the town of Toroia is now Troia, and sadly, my favorite evil character from the game- Kainazzo- has had his name changed to Cagnazzo. These changes will be most noticed by people who have played the original, but in general I think that the additions (restorations, rather) improve the game.
The one thing that I dont like about the new version is that it is harder than the original. While some hardcore players will call the SNES version "dumbed-down", the pace and flow if it was utterly flawless with no extraneous leveling up since the characters gained enough experience simply traveling between areas. Playing through it again, Ive run into several spots that I remember being easy, and then getting my posterior handed to me by enemies that hit harder and bosses that have gained new attack modes. (2x Attack plus Haste? Where the heck did that come from?) Its still a superior RPG, but I think the delicate balance between flow and difficulty has been thrown off a bit.
All in all, not a person in the world can consider themselves well-rounded or knowledgeable RPGers if they havent spent time with these two games. Without a doubt, they are among the best of the best. While the visuals have certainly been eclipsed on newer systems, the core play and ideas here are as solid as any console role-player could hope for. With two titles of this caliber for one price, passing on this release simply isnt an option. Getting schooled on the classics has never been so much fun.