Review by Neopolss

Reviewed: 08/01/08

Improvements graphically, setbacks mechanically, this FFIV is not the best version

Story

Final Fantasy IV is mostly known for its story. If you were to take the story and place it into today’s near-Hollywood scripting, it would be laughable. It’s best to see it in context, as a game that is seventeen or so years old. Characters die, others characters take their places, and most generally seem to get over death fairly quickly. Perhaps this was due to the space limitations of the original SNES cartridge. It would have been nice to see more scenes added (which there are a few). Despite their transparency, you develop a real interest in the fate of all of the characters, with the end result being that I usually cannot stop playing once I have started. The translation in this version is far superior to previous games, and really adds depth to the story overall. The voice work adds to each character, really helping to distinguish a personality that at one time was left to imagination. I would have preferred to see the entire game done with voice instead of just key scenes. The scenes that are without voice feel out of place. This should have either had it throughout, or not at all. As is, it feels half done.

Mechanics

The game mechanics have went through some changes since other versions, and not all for the better. Graphic changes have forced out some monsters from the battlefield, leaving the developers to ramp up stats and difficulty to offset these changes. The result is a serious imbalance that makes even the most basic encounters deadly. The ice monsters in the Tower of Zot come to mind, being highly overpowered compared to their other enemy friends onscreen. It would have seemed better to retain the enemy count or even increase it, perhaps by utilizing a third row off-screen or by using multiple numbers on the same screen (like the black dragons would do in the original version). That said, battles have changed since the original version. The largest and most significant is the omission of back row damage. Back rows now take full damage, reducing the effectiveness of your party as well as the enemy parties. Magic casters in back rows are easy to take out now, making previously difficult encounters a breeze. At the same time, keeping your mages safe is a considerable challenge.

Almost all aspects of the action feels sped up, with the pace of battle faster and more hard-hitting. For me this is a turn-off – it takes away from the strategy of battles. Instead of weighing options, it quickly turns into all-out assaults to end the fight. There is a wait when in a menu or selecting an enemy, but otherwise there is no way to set it to more turn based. The actions look sluggish. With the constant slew of attacks, it often looks like the CPU is barely keeping up with the animations – it does not look fluid. Enemies now counter certain attacks, another deviation from the original. This changes some strategies in order to keep the game somewhat fresh. It is a welcome addition, although it has no randomness, and is therefore moot after a play through.

Graphics

I will be the first to tell you that graphics do not mean a whole lot for me when playing a game that is this old. The facelift is nice, but the desire to go 3D is almost unnecessary. There is nothing wrong with 2D graphics, especially if they can be redrawn to upgrade to better hardware. Super Street Fighter HD is a great example. It is redone with new animation and drawing. The 3D version here sacrifices other elements of the game to fit itself in, which is major taboo when doing RPGs, since gameplay always comes first. The backgrounds in battle are nice, with a few touches of movement like rolling clouds or shimmering sun, and most dungeons look simply fantastic. This is where the 3D elements should have ended. The characters themselves look blocky and disjointed, enemies look like separate parts all moving near each other, but do not look whole. While it is nice to see some animation, there seems to be a desire to make the game look realistic as opposed to the goofy cartoonish nature that it once was. Why is beyond me, as most people buying this are fans of the original goofy game. I even prefer some of the simpler animations. The original black magic casting looked and sounded deadlier. The summons now have gone the way of the ridiculous long winded intros, something that came in FFVII, and simply refuses to die. The old versions had it right. Not too flashy, and quick so as to be useful. Now I prefer to avoid using summons.

Gameplay

Final Fantasy IV made a huge departure from the series. While every version before allowed some form of party selection and class pursuit, FFIV sticks to the story instead, and revolves new classes and characters around the main character. This was a bold step and still is. The major gripe was that some characters left to never return, and the final characters for the end game were predetermined. This was finally corrected with the GBA version, allowing part selection (like FFVI), and then promptly removed for this version. What replaced it is the augment system, designed to add specific character abilities to your members. Some are even new skills that were not in the original. While the augments are neat, it does not correct the problem of the characters leaving your party, who then take your augments forever. The other problem is that once you know which characters are leaving, it takes away any interest in developing or leveling the characters. I often kill them off before the boss battle ends to get more experience for the ones who will stay. The GBA party selection should never have been removed. The developers also failed to realize that since this is a story driven game, many of us want certain characters for our party, not necessarily abilities. It was also about challenge. Trying to take the final boss with different setups made the game interesting to play again. Granted, allowing extra characters to stay in makes a problem finding weapons and armor for a few, but since the developers have already made changes, what’s a few more?

Changes

This is a good game. It is well worth a playthrough. Some of the features are great, such as the mapping missions, the auto-battle (invaluable), and the events being viewable at any time. The onscreen ability assignment is great, and saves time for searching for that fire rod constantly. Seeing weapons and armor placed on the characters is welcome too. A major change is the arrow item. They are now unlimited. This unbalances gameplay somewhat, as enemies drop rare arrows that can now be used infinitely. What is baffling are some changes that would have made better sense. Improving Cecil as a paladin to give him better spell selection would have been welcome. Simply making Tellah unable to use meteor instead of restricting his MP to 90 would have made more sense too. This has always been a frustration, especially since at some points he is your only caster, and is constantly running out of MP. Some of the changes in magic have helped, but perhaps removing or changing magic would have been better. Libra is useful now that the game retains bestiary information, but sight is still completely worthless. Hold may have been better suited being a multiple use spell with its low percentage rate, and do we really need three transformation spells? Here there was primer opportunity to make changes that really mattered. Again, considering what has been changed, why not go the extra mile?

Final Word

This game deserves a total overhaul. Instead of tacking on a few features here or there, this game should be remade entirely, using the full potential of today’s graphics, storytelling, and music. While there have been major changes, it only takes one time to walk into a town with just an inn and weapon shop to remind you that this is still a simple game from a simpler time. With today’s GTA sprawling cities, why not update FFIV to the same caliber. Ambitious no doubt, but the overly simple world map and simplistic towns just don’t cut it anymore. We’ve seen the original, so make the remake something different. Had this game gone the extra mile, it would have been worth waiting longer for. Perhaps extra weapons, armor, enemies, scenes, locations, more dungeons all would have improved this game. As it is, this game is only for those who have not played the GBA version, or who just love this game in general. There’s not a lot new here besides graphics. The new mechanics aren’t difficult, they just are fast. The original versions had a better balance in difficulty and strategy. And speaking of originals, why was it not included? It would have been nice to play them side by side. To sum, if you are in love with FFIV, you’ll probably play this anyway. If you like the idea of new graphics, check it out. But if you want the original game with more features, get the GBA version.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Final Fantasy IV (US, 07/21/08)

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