Review by renegadeoffunk7

Reviewed: 02/12/08

Final Fantasy IV ver 4.0

With all of the remakes and remixes of games these days, many reviewers have philosophical differences with how they approach an evaluation. Some say that, if the original game was great, the remake deserves the same starting point, and should be entitled to the same high review barring any bad changes. The original Star Ocean was brilliant, and so the PSP version by virtue of being essentially the same game, is also brilliant. I do not subscribe to this line of thinking.

Video games, like other arts, evolve over time. Unlike other arts, video game technology evolves very quickly, and what is possible one year is vastly different from the next. Simply put, if a game identical to the original Super Mario Brothers were put out today as a brand new Xbox 360 game only they changed the title, no one would call it a good game. The graphics are atrocious, the music is a joke, the gameplay is laughably simplistic, and the overall presentation is insulting to today’s gamer. Nevertheless, if someone re-relases the original Mario, they call it a masterpiece. Super Mario Brothers, the original Legend of Zelda, and the Super Famicom Final Fantasy IV are all still good games. Improvements in technology do not change the achievement of those games for their time. The last part of that sentence is what I’m driving at. A video game must always be judged in the context of what is possible. The Final Fantasy series has seen a lot of re-releases over the last several years across many systems, but not much has been added. This is my essential gripe with Final Fantasy IV DS

Gameplay

I understand the idea behind reissuing classic games to newer systems with shinier graphics. Classics are always classics, and having a mobile version is always convenient. However, I am also of the opinion that the distinction between a reissue and a remake is that the latter also changes the gameplay. Final Fantasy I and II were reissued onto PSP (rather unnecessarily in my opnion) because Square new they would sell and they wanted to get people who didn’t have DS for the Gameboy Advance reissue (or Playstation for yet another remake). When Final Fantasy IV was announced for DS, the 3D graphics and FMV scenes suggested they might change more than the surface. Sadly, this is not really the case.

The game plays almost exactly like the original. The battles are turn-based, only now there is an active time battle system with a bar that fills up when it’s your turn. The one significant change is the addition of an ‘ability’ system, which, depending on some of your choices, allows the player to use items to make characters learn new command abilities. Skills include things like counter-attack, Yang’s kick, auto-potion, and twin magic. It’s a nice addition but really, it’s not much. The fights are just a repetitive as the original. Add to that the fact that the game will seem much more difficult to fans of the SNES original and you have a recipe for frustration.

While there are many RPG lovers who will always swear by the random battle system I find it tedious. It lowers the quality of general in-game graphics, is monotonous after an hour or so, and removes a crucial element of strategy – the decision when and when not to engage enemies. Chrono Trigger got it right twelve years ago by doing away with it. FFVI – X were all excellent games in spite of this system because they each added several innovations of their own to the battle system. Final Fantasy XI and XII finally moved the series beyond it, and XIII looks to have a cinematic and fast-paced battle system thanks to Square’s thinking out of the box. This ''new'' version of FFIV is a step back.

The gameplay is classic, simple, and fun for gamers who want classic and simple. For those who’ve outgrown this style, there isn’t much to get excited about.

Story

Final Fantasy IV has an engrossing and intriguing plot...for a game made seventeen years ago. By today’s standards, the characters will seem one-dimensional, with the exception of Cecil. There are a few extra bosses and a new game+ option, but still, not much is added compared to the GBA reissue. With the DS's capabilities, surely they could have fleshed out more of each character's individual stories with extra subplots and optional quests, but sadly, they didn't bother. Compared to today’s Lost Odysseys and Xenosagas, FFIV is not a very challenging story. Nostalgia is the biggest reason you will have to call it good.

Graphics

Not bad but not great. The game looks like an early Playstation 1 game, which is not a good thing when PSP is looking more and more like a mini PS2. The castle and dungeon layouts are just as simple as the original Super Famicom version, though there are some changes in architecture. Some of the backgrounds are quite good. The opening FMV is marvelous and shows that the DS is capable of stunning graphics in short bursts. You’ll wish there were more, like the gorgeous FMV’s in Final Fantasy VIII. FFIV uses a polished in game engine for cut scenes, which is not bad but underwhelming.

Sound

FFIV’s sound is definitely improved, with updated versions of songs, including the gorgeous vocal rendition of Rosa’s Theme of Love. The added voice acting is also generally good, though like the FMV scenes, you’ll wish for more. The vast majority of the game uses the exact text dialogue from the original game. The production is fine and much of the music is memorable but there is still a strong feeling that they could have done much more.

Conclusion

Final Fantasy IV on its own merits for its time and judged as a member of the Final Fantasy series will never be a bad game. As a brand new DS RPG however, it is not a very good one. The graphics and sound will not blow you away unless you are already in love with everything. The gameplay and plot both have little new to offer. I give credit to Square for the excellent voice acting and cinematic moments, the few changes that they did make, which were good, and the fact that FFIV has aged reasonably well and is still a pretty fun game. But is has aged. Square needs to take a break on all the reissues and remakes. This game has already been released three times for three other systems, as have the other Final Fantasy’s I – VI. People are screaming for a Final Fantasy VII remake on top of all of the mediocre new movies and games related to the series that have already come out, we got a sequel to X, and it’s not unlikely that VIII and IX will become ‘classics’ in a few years and be re-released. I’m not totally against all of these developments; they help to get new people into the series and some changes are actually good. Still, Square should really put its energy into developing new franchises and let older games alone for a while. FFIV has convinced me of that above all else.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Final Fantasy IV (JP, 12/20/07)

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