Review by Reverent
A Newer Spoony Bard
To my memory, this version of Final Fantasy has to be, by far, the most remade version of them all, with an impressive 3 releases on the SNES, and one release on the Wonder Swan, PSX, GBA, and now the DS.
In the most recent version of FFIV, Square-Enix has done some major revamping of the tried and true system that was already in place. Let me say that if you enjoyed the original release, you may like the GBA remake of this a lot better than the DS release. However, if you're new to FFIV or if you enjoyed playing FFIII on the DS, this is a very satisfying and enjoyable gaming experience.
Story (10/10) - The core story from the original release has stayed intact and is a wonderful fantasy based story seeping with intrigue, betrayal, and discovery that definitely captures the imagination. In this re-vamped version, the dialog is more adult than it originally was when FFIV hit the US shores as FF2, but at times it can feel a bit campy. Many points that went ignored also get further treatment in this version though either extended scenes or the ability to "read" your party's mind by going into the main game menu. This retelling is sufficiently changed enough from the GBA version as well to where it doesn't feel like Square simply rehashed the entire script, but rather gave it another good look.
Graphics (9.5/10) - The entire game got a major graphics overhaul and face lift going into 3D. The backgrounds and environments look wonderful and adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game. Nothing is ambiguous, and you will be able to very clearly find your way around. The monsters, bosses, and NPC characters were all kept faithful to the original game art, and the added animation is fantastic.
Where the graphics is getting a ding is on the choice for the main character models. Some of the most hardcore Final Fantasy fans will recognize immediately where the new character models came from - the original Amano concept artwork. While some of the characters look great, others end up looking somewhat silly. There is also the issue that the characters are drawn in a "chibi" or child-like form that takes away a bit from the seriousness of the plot. This is really not a hindrance to the game overall, but some players may get turned off by this choice.
Sound (8/10) - Sound is the only part of the game that Square did not take as seriously as all of the other components. The soundtrack is as solid as ever, quite possibly being one of the best soundtracks that Square has ever had. There are some issues with some of the synthesized instruments in game that come off sounding more tinny than even the original SNES release. With a little bit more time and polish, the music could have shone through, but instead it is left to be more functional than anything. Only certain songs got the time and care they deserved.
The voice acting, however, is pretty bad. Its not the absolute worst you will ever hear in a video game, but there are some major problems that are hard to ignore and even harder to not laugh at. Primary among them is the choice to use an uncommon pronunciation of a common name (Cecil being read as Ses-Ill not Sea-Sil), the over the top ham acting of nearly every character, and the way some dialog just comes off as being flat. There is an option to turn off the voices if you so choose. I find its amusing to leave it turned on, but the entire experience may be more enjoyable with the game being safely put on mute.
Gameplay (9.5/10) - The basic mechanics of the game are still intact, but with some very interesting and nice improvements. Its easier to track in battle when a character will perform a certain action, its easier to track what status effects a weapon will have, easier to tell what a monster will be weak to, and easier to keep track of your character's overall status. The game also implements an "Augment" system that can endow a character of your choosing with abilities like 'counter' or 'auto-potion'. While the effects of these augments are not always apparent, they can often times be a saving grace.
While it may sound like the game got a swift kick in the nuts when it comes to difficulty, it blissfully remains balanced. Monsters have a better AI function now and will retaliate against your party in response to specific attacks. Its also worth noting that this game is a little grind-tastic, but it always has been. You will be able to get through a good portion of the game without spending time dedicated to leveling, but it will catch up to you in the end. Thankfully, you can choose to set your characters to "auto-battle", which cuts down on the monotony a bit.
Extra Content (7/10) - Most of the added content to this version of the game definitely makes it a more enjoyable gaming experience. Its prettier, characters have a voice, the new augment system - pretty good stuff. There is also a new "mapping" function that will reward you for exploring an entire dungeon with useful items, and also makes the process of leveling up a little less boring.
Rydia also gets an interesting twist with her personal summoned monster getting level ups by playing mini-games. If you want the little snot to be any good, though, you'll have to play the mini-games ad nauseum, and some of them really aren't fun enough to warrant that.
The biggest disappointment in the extra content is the total removal of the extra content that was in the GBA version, which featured new dungeons for each of your characters, giving a bit more plot background, new weapons, and a fun extra 3 to 5 hours of game play. Instead, we get a weak New Game + function that doesn't really add to the replayabillity of the game.
Overall (8/10) - I've always loved FFIV, ever since it first hit the US shores as FF2. I'm not sure if I would say that this is my favorite remake of it, but Square really did give it a lot of love and attention. Some players may not have as much fun with this one. This is NOT like your more recent Final Fantasy games - this is a mix of the old style from the SNES with a newer style that is similar to what was done on FFIII DS. It has a little something for everyone, but not everything for each type of player.
Old School Gamers: If you're worried about how much of a departure this can be from the original game, stick with the GBA or SNES release. Otherwise, I'd give this a go - its not quite the same game anymore.
Newer Gamers: If you liked FFIII DS, this is a must have title. If you haven't played FFIII DS, but have played the newer titles on the Playstation, this may not be what you're expecting to play. Lots of fun, but not nearly as dynamic as Square's newer titles.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Final Fantasy IV (US, 07/21/08)
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