Review by JDWitchDoctor
Reviewed: 12/29/07 | Updated: 01/01/08
A Classic Revisited: Final Fantasy IV Meets the Nintendo DS
Final Fantasy IV was a classic in its own time: a bold new entry into the RPG genre that redefined the standard set in the Final Fantasy series. Once again, Final Fantasy IV makes a powerful entry into the gaming market, this time in the form of an enhanced remake for the Nintendo DS. Does it deliver the experience fans of the game have been dying for since the release of the somewhat flawed Game Boy Advance port? In short, the answer is yes.
Final Fantasy IV DS offers a variety of new characteristics that help the game compete in the modern gaming theater. The main features that set this version of the game apart from other renditions of the classic include gorgeous 3-D graphics, events featuring voice acting, a stunning CG Intro, new scenes and dialogue, various tweaks in the battle system, and a few nice quests and mini games as extra content. However, the game is not without its flaws, the most notable of which include the somewhat stressful difficulty of the bosses and the taxing method of unlocking endgame extra content.
The first and most noticeable improvement is the 3-D graphics. The visuals in Final Fantasy IV DS are some of the most impressive sported by Nintendo's portable system, and are very sharp. Environments, both in and out of battle, look very clean and even the world map is a pleasure to look at. Considering the platform, the few defects you may notice in the backgrounds are easily forgivable. The characters of Final Fantasy IV, easily some of the most recognizable in the series, have made a fine transition into pleasant 3-D models. Characters even manage to show a lot of personality in their facial expressions. It is a nice touch, especially coupled with the voice acting. Characters even manage to strike their own unique poses at the end of a battle. The graphics are especially nice in the many events scattered throughout the game that feature voice acting, and really contribute to making the story feel more real to those who have already experienced it.
Camera angles in boss battles enhance the epic feel of the encounters, and overall, the graphics in the game help to set the mood in each scene, and contribute to making the game an excellent experience.
Whether you are strolling through a castle hallway or trudging through the bowels of a cave, you will feel very involved in the story, which still manages to work its magic. The plot follows the adventures of Cecil, the protagonist, and his exploits in a world where the kingdom of Baron seeks to acquire the mysterious crystals. The story introduces a large cast of interesting characters, each with their own unique abilities and personality. Final Fantasy IV is arguably the first Final Fantasy game to have a dramatic and complex plot. The classic plot twists and events still teem with the drama and passion gamers expect in an RPG today, qualities further enhanced by the addition of voice acting in many of the game's most important scenes. The game sports a cast of respected Japanese voice actors who portray the characters in a way that enhances the emotion felt as self-sacrifice and bravery come into play in the classic quest against evil. This feature makes the experience all the more enjoyable. In addition, there are various scenes added to the plot. I will not give anything away, but they really help explain the background behind some important characters and their relationships with other characters.
Final Fantasy IV DS provides a lovely remixed track of music composed and arranged by Nobuo Uematsu. It is very pleasing, and provides an excellent background to major events and battles. Many regard it as one of the best tracks of any Final Fantasy, and it is sure to please those hoping for good music to augment their gaming experience.
The gameplay is very enjoyable. The battle system flows quite well, as the ATB system has been cleaned up a bit. Battles take place in active time, meaning that when the bars displayed at the bottom screen fill up, characters are able to select from a command list abilities and command with which to fight monsters and such in combat. This time around, actions taken have their own bars to fill up. Powerful spells may take longer to execute, whereas regular attacks take place almost immediately. It is standard fare in fantasy now, but when Final Fantasy IV first came out it was revolutionary. However, the developers have put a spin on the system by adding the Decant Ability System, which allows characters to inherit the abilities of characters that leave the party at given points. Decant Abilities can also be obtained after certain events in the game, and can even be obtained from NPCs. Players can then customize the command list of characters, selecting from a list of passive and usable commands to select in battle. The system manages to create new methods of setting up strategies to defeat difficult bosses, and actually gives options never before possible in Final Fantasy IV.
Speaking of bosses, the creators have managed to enhance the difficulty of the bosses in the game. While refreshing to veterans of the game, newcomers might be put off by the threat these monsters present at the end of a dungeon. Boss battles now often require level grinding, and can be stressful even with considerable training. It seems that the key to winning battles is now finding out a boss's weakness and exploiting it. Casual gamers might not enjoy this more involving method of battling, but other can appreciate the depth it gives to the major engagements in the game.
Final Fantasy IV DS is not without its extra content. Various mini games provided through the Fat Chocobo provide a lighthearted diversion from the serious and involving story. These mini games play into the option of customizing and strengthening a new summon that can take the place of the summoner, Rydia, in battle. One can customize the face, stats, and abilities of the little creature, as well as rename it if they wish. Players can then engage in wireless battles using their cute little creature, thus putting their high scores in mini games to good use. There are also side quests one can take part in during the actual flow of the story. Players also gain the opportunity to earn treasure for completing dungeon maps filled in as one explores each dungeon. This encourages players to explore towns and dungeons thoroughly in search of the next event in certain quests, but the endgame content seems to be a bit lacking. After beating the game, players have the ability to start a new game over, carrying over their unused and learned Decant Abilities, certain items, mini game scores, and extras unlocked in the previous play through. Players are also encouraged to play through the game multiple times in order to unlock the potential to fight super bosses that truly provide a challenge even to seasoned pros. However, some gamers might not be too thrilled by the prospect of playing through the game multiple times just to unlock a new boss to fight, especially considering the difficulty of the game itself. However, carrying over learned and unlearned Decant Abilities seems to balance it out. As always, extra content is for the gamers willing to take the time to experience it to its fullest.
Final Fantasy IV works very well on the new platform of the Nintendo DS. Despite competing with newer RPGs, it nonetheless manages to perform well, sporting an improved ATB battle system and increased customization options with the Decant Ability System. The story has been enhanced by the nifty addition of voice acting and beautiful 3-D graphics. The first thing one sees, the great CG intro sequence, is a nice feature as well. However, the increased difficulty may present some problems for more casual gamers. The remixed music sets the mood for scenes and battles, as always, and really sounds well with a pair of good headphones.
Overall, Final Fantasy IV DS is a solid remake, and is more than a welcome addition to any RPG fan's collection. However, one needs a decent knowledge of the Japanese language to enjoy it now, since the developers have yet to announce a North American or European release date.
Stay up to date with news of this game, folks. It is a game worth the waiting for in the west.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Final Fantasy IV (JP, 12/20/07)
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