Review by WishingTikal
Reviewed: 08/20/08 | Updated: 08/21/08
The fantasy is revived, but shows its true age
After revamping the first two Final Fantasy titles for the PSP and remaking the third title in full 3D for the DS, Square Enix finally delivers the long awaited Final Fantasy IV. This FF title, along with the sixth one, is among many people's favorites. It was the first Final Fantasy game to introduce a storyline with some depth, and characters with emotions that could be conveyed to the player. It wasn't just about the quest itself anymore, but also about the characters that carried on the quest. It's no wonder that many fans were awaiting this 3D remake, but now that it's finally here, the game starts to show its age despite the revamped look.
Final Fantasy IV stands firmly between old-scool RPGs and modern RPGs, with its involving storyline and engaging characters, but the same dungeons you've already gone through countless times in other RPGs. It has some very thrilling moments, but also some very dull ones. FFIV is that one step towards the most recent Final Fantasy games, the game that all following RPGs took as a prime exemple for the genre, yet it does not really improve on anything from the last three titles. Even for the time, it doesn't really propose anything new to the player besides its storyline and plot. The game mechanisms are still those of the first FF game.
Even the storyline, which was indeed very good at the time, is now unfortunately nothing special anymore. For a player new to the game, the plot twists will all appear extremely predictable, because they've have been already seen in many other games of nowadays that still use those same old cliches over and over. Something that was once new and impressive is already obsolete and unoriginal. For players who have already played the game however, reliving the adventure with characters that now feel alive will have nostalgia win over the feeling of deja-vu. The twists still have impact if you already have a bond with the characters.
Although FFIV has never looked better, it still feels outdated today. The graphics are very pretty, with a better world map than FF3 did, better looking towns, new animations, and still the gorgeous pre-rendered battle scenes that are probably some of the best looking on DS. The FMV at the start of the game is just as breath-taking, and you'll see plenty of real-time cutscenes fully voiced and scenes for every single summon in the game. Still, it isn't really much more than FF3 did, and in the end, FFIV isn't so different.
Last year we got FF3, and FFIV really just is the same, but with a storyline. You'll walk through a similar world map, visit similar caves that all pretty much look the same since the first Final Fantasy game, and if it wasn't of the storyline, I would really have felt like I was replaying through FF3, or any of the previous titles. It's still fun every time, but it's just too bad both DS games don't look much different from each other. The graphical style is recycled, the characters have the same look, and even towns all look alike. The game also doesn't have the job system as all your characters have fix classes, which takes a bit off what FF3 had introduced as a way to be distinct. Since FFIV doesn't have that, there isn't much outside of the storyline-driven quest.
All that being said, FFIV is still a very enjoyable game for old-school RPG fans, even those who've never played the game before. Many characters will join your team at any moment, then go, leaving you off only to be replaced by new characters. You never know what's ahead and what old friend you may encounter. In that sense, the plot delivers. Many other surprises are up ahead, including new areas you wouldn't have thought of, several different airships and now Augments Abilities to find around the various places. These abilities can be assigned to any character of your choice and carried over to the New Game+ for an easier second play-through.
Old-school RPGs are hard, and FFIV is no exception. At the beginning of the game, you'll probably see a lot of Game Over screens as your party usually consists of two or even only one member, facing five or six enemies at a time. You'll need to grind before entering new areas, and grind even more every time a new under-leveled character joins you and becomes a real burden before catching up. Often you'll feel as if you're over-leveled, only to find out that the next moment you're already under-leveled in the new area. Bosses hit with no pity, often taking out half of your party in one single blow. Even though it is your usual turn-based battles, you'll need to think and act promptly because of the time bar. Enemies won't wait for you to make your move, and you'll need to use all of your spells to your advantage, thinking of strategies to be able to heal before the enemy strikes again. FFIV does a really good job at keeping you on your toes during battles, and at providing something challenging and strategic.
FFIV is about the same length as the previous titles (an average 30-40 hours, or even 50 hours if you grind), so it's not a short game, nor a really long one. What really keeps it going is the increased difficulty level and the new map feature which records your progression in dungeons. While the game plays on the top screen, the bottom screen displays a map that will only appear as you explore the new areas. This means finding secret passageways is now a lot more easier as you can see the locations of chests and keep track of where you have been or not. Exploring all maps in the game to 100% will net you a little extra at the end of the game. Since the game doesn't really have much sidequests to start with, except perhaps for the bestiary and one fetch quest at the end of the game, it was a good thing to add in contrast of FFIII which didn't use both screens to their full potential. Now during battles, characters stats are shown on the bottom screen while the battle takes place on the top one.
All in all, FFIV is a game that will most likely be enjoyed only by those who've played the original version and hope to find some nostalgia in the remake. Fans of old-school RPGs will probably also dig into that one, but the simplistic plot and predictable twists might not appeal to all. If you've never played FFIV before, then this game isn't a necessity as pretty much all RPGs today are based on this one, with everything done better. This is a remake for hardcore fans, and people who wouldn't play the game unless it was in 3D. It was a really great game for the time, and it's still a great game, but simply does not really carry well into today's new generation of RPGs.
To be honest, I had a lot more fun with the remake of FF3, which even though not as good as FFIV technically, wasn't trying to be so much compared to other recent RPGs. It was just fun as is, without the now very cliche characters and storyline. FFIV just ends up paling next to the modern RPGs sold for the same price. There is just nothing very memorable about the quest, all I remember from my play-through is going through some caves and watching dialogues between characters I had seen countless times before. It would have been different twenty years ago, but not at this day and time.
Presentation Impressive remake in terms of visuals and music. DS features not really pushed far, but both screens are used this time, unlike FF3. The storyline and characters are as great as they were some twenty years ago, just not for today's standards. 8/10
Gameplay Traditional old-school quest with a lot of dungeons to explore, each filled with many secret passageways. Battle system is turn-based, but timed, which adds a lot of challenge to the already very difficult battles. No job system, but a lot of characters that come and go; love it or hate it. Not a lot of variety in the gameplay. 7/10
Graphics Stunning introduction video. The visuals are very similar to FF3, but the world map and villages look a lot better than last time. The character models don't seem to look as good, but the animations are much improved. 8/10
Music Beautiful musical scores, and well-acted voices for the characters. 9/10
Replay Value Lengthy quest of around 40 hours. Some small side quests and things to collect, added features and a New Game+. 7/10
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Final Fantasy IV (US, 07/21/08)
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