Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals Review

Final Fantasy V came out in 1992 on the Super Famicom, and wouldn’t see a Western release until 1999 when it was released as part of a double pack (as Final Fantasy Anthology) with Final Fantasy VI on the PlayStation. For its time, Final Fantasy V was praised for its deep job class system, which allowed for immense customization. It was also fondly remembered for its lighthearted tone and colorful cast of uppity characters.

Today, direct sequels for Final Fantasy titles are not uncommon, but under Hironobu Sakaguchi’s watch in the 1990s, they were unheard of. Final Fantasy V holds the distinction of being the first entry to receive a sequel, in the form of an OVA. This came more than a decade before Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and Final Fantasy X-2.


When Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals came out, Square chose to use it, as part of its marketing strategy, for Final Fantasy VII in the West. They had a lot of faith in this project and hired some of the best talent in the industry to animate it.

Rintaro was already a bit of a legend in anime, having directed some heavy hitters like The Dagger of Kamui and Harmagedon. How has this forgotten Final Fantasy OVA held up? Find out in this Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals review!

Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals
Production Company: Madhouse
Distributor: Urban Vision, NTT Publishing, Squaresoft
Director: Rintaro
Release Date: March 21, 1994

The Spring of ’97 was a different beast. I was eleven, a scrawny kid with more dreams than dollars, roaming the aisles of Babbage’s like a shark on the verge of a blood frenzy. My mission: snag the holy grail, Final Fantasy VII, pre-ordered months ago. For weeks I had devoured the demo and replayed it. I was ready to stick it to Shinra and cut down scrubs with a huge buster sword.

Amidst the stacks of would-be classics and future rare games, a glint caught my eye. It was a duo anime VHS, emblazoned with a wild-haired warrior youth wielding a katana longer than a politician’s lies. Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals, it screamed. I knew from that moment, this had nothing to do with Cloud and the gang who I became acquainted with in the demo, but I did not care.

This was new territory, uncharted and begging to be explored. I grabbed that tapes faster than a greased weasel. It wasn’t the Final Fantasy I expected, but sometimes the best stories are the ones you stumble upon when you least expect them.

Set about 200 years after the events of Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals finds most of the game’s events relegated to legend, with time having wrought significant change upon the world. The enigmatic wizard, Ra Devil now threatens the four elemental crystals, and only the descendant of the light warrior can stand in his way, tasked with preventing him from unleashing a void that will consume all life.

The unlikely hero is Linally, a timid yet cute girl who has a penchant for magic and a skirt so short that it would make Tifa look like a nun. She has all the makings of a headstrong heroine who has a lot to learn and is hopelessly outmatched by the utterly alien forces of Ra Devil.

Fortunately for Linally, she won’t be traveling alone. Her local friend, Prettz, is a hot-headed, uppity swordsman who rides a motorcycle and secretly harbors a crush on her. Though stubborn and rambunctious, he’s fiercely loyal and would risk his life for Linally. He proves this almost immediately, charging towards a giant crab monster, dicing it to pieces, and even having the nerve to deliver a one-liner after his heroic display.

Linally and Prettz’s quest to retrieve the four crystals is a mad dash that follows the structure of Final Fantasy V and even recreates some plot elements with a twist. The heroes eventually join up with a big and burly older man named General Valkus, who is secretly a soft guy at heart despite his massive frame. Much like his video game counterpart, Galuf, they are both surly yet big-hearted guys.

To further round out the party of four heroes, Captain Rouge of the sky pirates gets entagled in the plot due to her own greed. Her character arc is that she overcomes her greed for riches when Ra Devil destroys her island. Like Rouge, Valkus also joins the cause of the heroes when his home is attacked.

Rouge is a classic “noblewoman” anime archtype with flashy red hair, stilletos and leather bondage gear. She combines elements of Jessie from Pokemon and Lady Grandis from Nadia. While Faris from Final Fantasy V serves as her inspiration, Rouge is more of a buffoon, often a victim of her own hubris.

The only returning character from Final Fantasy V is Mid, Cid’s grandson. In The Legend of the Crystals, he exists as only a ghost who likes to reside inside of Linally because he is a bit of a sex weirdo. Ra Devil had killed Mid and Cid shortly after Cecil and the gang saved the world in Final Fantasy V, so it’s natural that Mid would want some payback.

Mid’s methods revolve around hiding the power of the crystal is storing it in Linally’s butt. The boy is an ass-man and this leads to many sequences of exposed panties and good old fashioned fan-service the way the good lord intended. Only based Sakaguchi and Rintaro would make it so panty shots are a plot point.

The tone of Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals is usually comedic and fast paced with a lot of action. This anime wastes no time between all four episodes spread across two VHS tapes, totaling at about two hours in length. There is never a dull moment and Rintaro’s panache for highly expressive characters and fun drawings keep this anime always engaging through out.

The structure and pacing is a lot like a traditional Final Fantasy plot where the heroes get acquainted during fantastical circumstances and learn to work together. There are brawls, magic attacks, huge airship battles, and even a dragon manages make the cut.

For the most part, everything a fan would hope for in a Final Fantasy story is here and accounted for. The only element missing is the gravitas and drama. Most Final Fantasy stories veer into some heavy themes and have extensive moments of deep and thoughtful character introspection.

The Legend of the Crystals does not abide and sticks to being a swashbuckling romp… apart for the nightmarish depiction of the final confrontation with the main antagonist. There is no profound symbolism or meaningful metaphors in this story, just raw entertainment aimed for boys who want to have fun.

This is based on Final Fantasy V after all, and that was considered the most humorous entry in the franchise until Final Fantasy X-2 came along. Ergo, it is fitting that an anime sequel leans into the more fun and silly aspects that made it endearing.

Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystal’s art style does not really resemble Yoshitaka Amano’s art or designs. Apart from Mid’s character design and Ra Devil kind of looking like a final boss, you’d never know that this was connected to Final Fantasy V. Linally has a cute design and Prettz looks like he could have been the headliner of a real Final Fantasy game if things were different.

It is reasonable to believe things would look different 200 years later. The change in style was worth it and Rintaro combines his signature expressiveness and bold gestures with some of the visual flair seen in the works of Jean Giraud Moebius. There is a lot of emphasis on careful line art, gradient skies, flat color. Highlights are rarely used the art opts for high contrast shadows instead.

This is a very visually pleasing anime that stands out now more than ever. It helps that Rintaro’s expressive style was and still is very unique. He understood the assignment very well and wisely chose to focus on only the fun parts of Final Fantasy V because two hours is not enough time for an epic adventure with big and heavy ideas.

Regretfully, Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals has been buried by Sqaure Enix. In the West, it only has a VHS release. Japan did upgrade it with slightly better image quality with the laserdisc release, but after almost 30 years since its release, the discs are falling apart. If you have a player, you’re better off with the dubbed VHS tapes.

Getting decent copies of Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals on tape isn’t going to be expensive, but they are hard to come by. There has been talk of it getting remastered for an airing in Japan, but it remains to be seen if anything more will come of that, which is a shame because Rintaro’s take on Final Fantasy still manages to outclass any other animated Final Fantasy media available.

The English voice acting is surprisingly good for 1994. The dialogue is pretty faithful to the script apart from a few unusual lines. There was a reference to Barbarella that is a little distracting. Overall, Urban Vision did a solid localization and cast the characters with a lot of Tenchi Muyo alumni. Prettz’ voice actor is especially spirited and high energy, and fully embodies the character.

The music in The Legend of the Crystals is very faithful to Final Fantasy V. There are many cues and themes recreated and orchestrated which makes it feel bigger and more epic, which is fitting for the adventurous, wind-blowing-in-your-hair sense of wonder. Rintaro may have snubbed Amano, but he did Uematsu justice.

If you’re looking to own a copy of Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals, you’re shit out of luck because while the first tape is easily found, the second tape isn’t. Most people will be better off finding the whole series on YouTube or on archive.org. Since it was never converted or remastered, the image quality for all versions will look very haggard.

If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy V or appreciate the works of one of the best anime directors of all time, then Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals is worth a look. If you don’t care about Rintaro or Final Fantasy, but still enjoy a fun story full of beautiful vistas, interesting settings, stylish action and fan-service, then The Legend of the Crystals is highly recommended… just so long as you don’t mind low resolution image quality.

Final Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals was reviewed with a VHS copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy hereFinal Fantasy: The Legend of the Crystals is now available on VHS.

, , , , ,

The Verdict: 8

The Good

  • Rintaro's brand of action and character expression is some of the best in the anime medium
  • Fast paced, lighthearted, humorus, and stylish Jean Giraud Moebius-inspired art style
  • Surprisingly good English dub for its time that's made up of the English cast of Tenchi Muyo
  • Lots of musical cues that take direct inspiration from Nobuo Uematsu
  • Easily enjoyable if you've never played Final Fantasy V and is wholesome fun for the entire family

The Bad

  • It is only available on VHS in the US, and only Japan got a laserdisc release making physical copies very hard to come by
  • For some reason, Squaresoft sought to release this before Final Fantasy V
  • Nowhere near as heady and deep as traditional Final Fantasy stories, but this one is connected to Final Fantasy V... the "funny" one
  • Rough image quality due to being released only in standard definition

About

A youth destined for damnation.


Where'd our comments go? Subscribe to become a member to get commenting access and true free speech!