Review by VirtuousWrath
The Reason I Got a DS and I Couldn't Be Happier (Spoiler Free)
Let me start off by saying that this is indeed the reason I went out an purchased my Nintendo DS. I had always been a Final Fantasy fan and an even bigger fan of anything related to Dark Knights so when I found out this game starred a Dark Knight, I had to change my pants. So with a giant leap of faith, I invested a relatively hefty sum of money into this little endeavor and am happier with my purchase than I imagined.
To me, the story is one of the most important aspects of any game. The stories don't have to be good or well-thought out to be loved by the public. Instead, the stories just have to be fun and engrossing and I would say that FFIV captures that perfectly. There are times in the story where I spotted things that don't make sense but they were tiny such as a character knowing another character's name when they were never told what it was but these flaws are so small that you would have to be trying to poke holes in the story to actually find any. And yes, it is slightly predictable but that doesn't mean the way the characters interact with each other isn't funny or dramatic or whatever emotion the game wants you to feel.
There are no overly preachy characters like I experienced with Tales of Symphonia which makes for a much more enjoyable experience. I wish I could dive into greater detail about the story but I don't want to mention any spoilers or anything like that. But I will say this though, Edge and Rydia's flirtations are funny and cute and Kain is bringing emo back. So, if you don't mind the story not being revolutionary or absolutely groundbreaking, and just enjoy the ride then you'll see that this tale isn't just some half-baked plan.
The graphics are a downgrade from FFIII but it's very slight and this version, being the second FF DS remake, makes better use of the two screens for the intro FMV by having the credits on the bottom scree and the action on the top instead of including both screens making the shots a little harder to follow. So anyway, the style takes a departure away from FFIII and it's a good thing. Things move much more fluidly now and that's a big thing. I would rather have a character represented with slightly less detail if it meant that they ran with being clunky or artificial. And if you really are a person who focuses on graphics, then you might be put off by my constant comparisons between this game and FFIII for the DS. The graphical difference is ever so slight and you might not even notice unless you spent as much time as I did playing this game.
This is most crucial part of the game or of any game for that matter and this game does it well. FFIV was the first to introduce Active Time Battle but the thing is, when the game was originally released, there were no gauges to show how close you were to it being a character's turn. Now, thanks to modernization, you can see that gauge and, believe me, it makes things a lot better. The game play has the same basic mechanics as FFVII or FFVIII. You wait until your ATB gauge fills and then you choose a command and then that particular character executes your command. It's not too difficult and comes with an adjustable battle speed with six different speeds and the option of having the game wait for you to make your turn or have everything keep moving even while you're navigating the menus selecting items or magic.
The battles flow smoothly and the game keeps a good frame rate throughout them and there is almost no slow-down as you choose some of the more graphically taxing spells or attacks. And a mini-map of every dungeon now dominates the lower screen which is a huge help in navigating. An Auto-Battle features was also added and it helps a lot. Think of it as a simplified Gambit system from FFXII. You choose a command for a character to perform when you activate Auto-Battle and then they do it. It's very, very convenient for things like farming and whatnot.
The biggest change to the game play you might notice is that there are this things called Augments. One of two things happen. You either find Augments (on your own or by using one of the lovely FAQ's) or you don't find Augments and you have to fight battles without them. Augments are the thing that make this game so much easier. They do exactly what their name implies, they augment your characters by giving them certain abilities. For example, one increases the amount of experience you receive at the end of every battle and another one allows you to cast two completely different spells in one turn. They can become a necessity to the more un-experienced and newer players but in reality, if you have good strategies you won't need them to fight all the story bosses. This brings me to another point about how the game plays.
This game is hard. I'm going to come out and say it right now. I've hardly ever had a game over in any Final Fantasy but this is the first one to hand me my ass on more than one occasion and even the developers acknowledge the fact that the final dungeon is intense, like a circus. Not only that, I forgot to mention that you can only place four abilities on a character for them to use at a time meaning you cannot overload characters with Augments and allow them to do everything in the game.
The game is indeed balanced. Augments would make you ridiculously overpowered so the enemies are now smarter and stronger than they've ever been before. My answer to these problems: print out a list of where and how to get all the Augments and then print out a list of who to give the Augments to. This will save you so much trouble that you'll find yourself enjoying the challenge of the bosses instead of swearing at how much leveling up you would have to do otherwise.
This game has a wonderful soundtrack. It really does. There are songs on here that were beautifully composed and there are the fun and wacky songs mixed in there as well. But what you might notice and consider even more important is the voice acting. The voice acting is in all honesty, a little weird at first but then it becomes a welcome addition. Finally, we can hear the emotion in a character's words as they pour their heart out or the fury in their screams. A pair of good headphones really improves the sound quality as you will notice how crappy the speakers in the DS are.
This game is full of side quests and things to do. There are five mini-games for you to master using the stylus which include slashing goblins or birds or various other creatures, solving nine math problems in under a minute and holding the stylus on the touch screen for an exact number of seconds. Also, you can customize your own little summon creature. You can draw it's face, give it a certain set of commands to carry into battle and you can even battle other people's summoned creatures that they too have customized. The whole thing encourages some social interaction which is not a bad thing by any means.
You might be saying, "But what else is there?" I'm glad I pretended you asked me. You can work on completing every mini-map that is displayed when you enter a dungeon which yields one of the most useful Augments ever that you would be stupid to pass up. "But I don't like maps! I like battles against tough monsters!" I'm glad I pretended you shouted that. This game is a little annoying in this sense. To get the best armor and weapons you have to kill a ridiculous amount of tough enemies. Even at level 99 you would still have to keep your guard up. So, after you spent a ridiculous amount of time acquiring the ultimate equipment for your entire party you might decided to beat the game. But when you do, the game says you get to keep your ultimate equipment and all the Augments you gathered as well. That's right, this game comes with a New Game+ which allows for so much extra fun to be had. It also unlocks two super bosses which you can challenge and then either dominate or be dominated like me after my Physics final. There are quite a few extras aren't there?
But I didn't even mention the fact that you can break the damage limit with two very carefully chosen characters (It's your choice who gains the ability to do up to a maximum of 99,999 damage) and plus, there are extra summons you can go for as well. Three optional summons you have to actually fight and there are four you have to acquire through items received at the end of fighting certain groups of enemies.
Either way, you have quite a bit to do with this game. And because of the Augment system you can truly customize your characters and from that arises special runs you can do. You can choose to do a low level game or a magic only challenge in which you only use magic and nothing else. The customization and possibilities are nearly endless and there quite a few easter eggs as well including being able to speak to the developers in the game in a thing called the Developers Room.
If you're looking for a good RPG and have a DS or are thinking about getting a DS then this game has so much to offer that you would not be stupid to purchase this game. In fact, I would say you that you have taste if you choose to accompany Cecil on his journey.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Final Fantasy IV (US, 07/21/08)
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