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Final Fantasy IV
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Cartridge
Released: US 07/22/08
Japan 12/20/07



Scorecard
Graphics: 89%
Sound: 84%
Gameplay: 86%
Control: 89%
Story: 81%
Overall: 85%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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The theater mode and fat chocobo minigames are cute additions.
 
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I've seen this kind of anime before... this isn't going to end well.
 
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Never borrow money from Edge. He's way too melodramatic about it.
 
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Well this guy doesn't look the least bit shady.
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Ashton Liu
Final Fantasy IV
07/30/08
Ashton Liu

People can often look at experiences from their youth with rose colored lenses and embellish memories that are dear to them. For many a RPG aficionado, these would be from the 'golden age' of gaming, when Nintendo's SNES system reigned supreme and Squaresoft's Final Fantasy series represented the pinnacle of 2D RPGs. The first entry in Squaresoft's flagship series on the SNES, Final Fantasy IV, is generally regarded as one of the greatest–if not the greatest–RPG ever wrought by the hands of man. Nearly two decades later, Square Enix has released a newly packaged version of the game, and it's no mere port–it's a complete remake from the ground up.

Those familiar with the story of Final Fantasy IV will feel right at home in the remake–the base story itself is completely unchanged: Dark Knight Cecil returns from the city of Mysidia, after having slaughtered many of its inhabitants in order to take the city's crystal to his king. His faith in the king wavering, Cecil is dismissed from his position as captain of the Red Wings, and given the task of bringing a ring to the summoner's village of Mist. Kain, who comes to Cecil's defense, is given the same punishment, and the two begin their journey, questioning the actions of their king.

While this story was groundbreaking in that it was one of the most serious stories seen in a RPG at the time of initial release, it's rather poorly paced; while many games today suffer from long and overly drawn out stories, Final Fantasy IV has the opposite problem–events in the story unfold so fast that three major characters will die (or at least appear to) in as many hours. Halfway through the game, it's basically expected that a character in the party will die off or be replaced within an hour or two of joining. This requires the player to constantly change his or her battle tactics to suit the party at the moment, but also makes each character’s appearance more of a transient affair–there's hardly much time to connect to most party members, much less mourn their (possible) deaths.

The localization, however, is superb. Having been translated and retranslated no less than three instances prior, the fourth time is, apparently, the charm, as the localization in the current incarnation is quite assuredly the best. Recently, Square Enix has been more and more inclined towards localizations that involve medieval-like dialogue, as evidenced by Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII, and, more recently, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. They used the same localization style for the newest incarnation of Final Fantasy IV, with splendid results–the dialogue flows well and each character's lines fit their personalities like a glove. This is also thanks, in no small part, to the wonderful voice acting within the game; each major scene is voiced, breathing even more new life into an old story.

The graphical style is similar to that of the DS remake of Final Fantasy III, except much more detailed, and with fewer glitches than the previous game. While I'm not a big fan of the super-deformed look that the characters sport, the style grew on me, and regardless the technical achievement is no small feat–it proves that the DS is graphically capable of much more than most other developers are willing to push from it. The music has also been remixed from the original score and sounds better than ever on the DS. I had always appreciated the music in Final Fantasy IV, as it came from the time period which I consider to be Uematsu's peak, and the newly remixed soundtrack does the original composition justice.

The gameplay remains mostly unchanged; exploration involves going from dungeon to town to dungeon and exploring the many corners of the world. The touch screen is used to display a map of the area the player's currently in, be it the overworld, a town, or a dungeon. In dungeons, each floor starts out with 0% mapped, and the player completes the map by exploring. Once the entire floor's map has been completed, the player is then rewarded with a set of items. In the beginning these items are simply a collection of potions or a phoenix down, but by the end of the game these prizes become much more significant. Going into the menu screen also allows the player to see what the current party leader is thinking, adding more into the development of the characters.

During battle, FFIV uses the good old ATB system. Each character has an ATB bar that charges according to his or her speed, and when the bar is filled the character may initiate an action. In the past, each character had primary and secondary abilities, with primary abilities being their main fallback during battle and secondary abilities being all but useless. Now, however, each ability has been significantly enhanced such that they are now worthwhile commands to be used in battles. For example, Rosa's secondary ability, Pray, was nearly useless in past incarnations of the game, not only due to its rather high failure rate, but also because it didn't heal much even when it didn't fail. Now, Pray not only can heal a large amount of HP for every character in the party, it can also recover MP and has a much lower failure rate.

A new addition to the ability system of the game is the Augment system–after certain events, and with a bit of searching, the player can obtain key items named after specific abilities. These range from Yang’s Kick ability to a more passive ability that lets you gain more experience upon winning battles. Once used on a character, these items grant him or her the ability to be used it in battle. However, as each character only has five ability slots (two of which cannot be changed), the player must think thoroughly about which characters will get which abilities. Some party members will even leave more than one Augment ability item if another had already been used on them prior to their departure, so proper distribution of these items are a must, as they can be a great asset. The player will need all the help the game offers, too, because the game is much more difficult than before. Even random encounters can wipe out the party if the player's not careful, and bosses will throw everything they have at Cecil and his entourage–if veterans of the older games think they can easily bulldoze through the enemies, the game will humble them.

However, Final Fantasy IV unfortunately takes a step back from the previous GBA port in some ways. Gone are the extra characters and dungeon that was added into the GBA port, which is a rather significant loss. In fact, the game sticks so closely to the original experience that nothing outside of the Augment ability system is new.

Underneath the fresh layer of paint sits the game that series fans knew and loved so well over 15 years ago. While Final Fantasy IV may have been given a completely new and improved look, the underlying game is nearly unchanged. Those that don't appreciate Final Fantasy IV's gameplay or story probably won't change their minds about the game with this new entry, but those who remember being awe stricken and amazed by the game all those years ago will find this a worthy investment.



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© 2008 Square Enix. All rights reserved.


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