Review by shenmuer2001

Reviewed: 01/26/09

Final Fantasy IV (DS) doesn't love you, and it never will

Some time ago, MTV created a TV show called Pimp My Ride. The premise of the show is simple: some guy or girl will complain about their piece-of-junk car (which often is missing seat belts or has padding hanging off the wall or worse), and Xzibit (or whoever the host is) will examine it while finding out some of the interests of the driver. Xzibit will then convey said interests to a group of mechanics who will then rebuild and customize the damaged vehicle ("pimp that ride"). These customizations are often ridiculous. Like video games? Then prepare to have 5 PS3s installed in the trunk. Like smoothies? Be prepared to have a blender built into your center console so you can make smoothies while you drive. And of course, every one will have multiple TVs installed in their cars, since god forbid there is ever a moment in your life when you're not looking at a screen. The only problem is, most people don't want all of that junk in their car. They just wanted their seat belts fixed and maybe a nicer stereo system installed. That pimped out ride is Final Fantasy IV (DS). The only difference is that the original game didn't start out as a piece of crap.

Final Fantasy IV was a huge step forward for the FF series. Final Fantasy I established the basic layout of the game: group of people band together to complete a quest. They complete this quest by first fighting hundreds of monsters to get stronger and then proceed to dungeons where boss monsters live to beat them up. Usually they get some item or acknowledged by some person who will allow them to advance further. Lather, rinse, repeat. Final Fantasy II went on to question this strength gaining system and replace it with a system that involved training skills to improve them (ie. if you get hit a lot, you'll learn how to take hits and your HP will improve.) Unfortunately, this system was so flawed that it would be forever scorned by the majority of FF fans and would never see the light of day again. Final Fantasy III would go back to the old "level-up" system, but would introduce (steal from Dragon Quest III) the concept of "job classes." While your main characters were still void of any back story or personality, at least they could be customized to your liking. It wasn't until Final Fantasy IV, however, that things got interesting.

Final Fantasy IV birthed the genesis of FF staples such as character-driven plot and back story. We knew enough about the characters that we wanted to fight with them and see their story through. Take, for instance, the main character Cecil. Cecil, head of something called the Red Wings (not just a hockey team!), flies to a city known as Mysidia. He goes there because his king orders him to take their crystal for reasons unknown to us. We can tell that this order troubles Cecil because he questions why he would have to slaughter the residents of a peaceful town that offers no resistance. He then goes back to his kingdom to report to the king and question his leader's motive. In their conversation we learn that Cecil is indebted to the king, which led to his training to be a Dark Knight under the king's request, but he is still deeply troubled by his majesty's demands. Doubting Cecil's loyalty, the king orders Cecil and his friend Kain, who is also leader of the Dragoons, to deliver a ring to the Village of Mist. They both comply, but learn that in doing so they not only murdered a woman, whose summoned monster they killed on the way to Mist, but that the ring they were carrying was actually a device capable of destroying the village. The murdered woman's daughter, upset and enraged, then summons a titan that creates an earthquake that separates Kain and Cecil. Finding that the girl who summoned the titan is hurt and feeling remorseful about the actions he has performed so far, Cecil sets out to find a village where he can let the injured girl rest.

Right away the game gives us motivation to continue on. We can see that Cecil, while performing horrible acts (the facts that he wears dark blue armor and is a DARK KNIGHT give us enough reason to believe he is evil), is deeply troubled and is really a good person inside. We want to see how he will overcome his personal demons as well as help the girl whose life was ruined by Cecil's (and therefore our) hand. The game also shows us early on that battle parties are often fleeting. True, Final Fantasy II had a forth character that was constantly replaced, but we never truly cared about any of them. They came, hung around for a dungeon, and died. Final Fantasy IV gave us Tellah, a man who was consumed with and ultimately conquered by his lust for revenge, Yang, a man of honor who would always but others before himself, and Cid, whose spirit and love of Cecil and Rosa would lead him to (possibly??) give his life for those he loved. Of course, the writing was simple, but the themes of love, revenge, and companionship proved that this game loved the player and wanted to be loved. Final Fantasy IV (DS), on the other hand, has no love for the player. It exists simply to make more money and reuse the engine created for the remake of Final Fantasy III.

We know what you're thinking: we don't like this game because we spend every day mourning the death of the 2-D sprite as the accepted graphical medium. And you're right. That doesn't mean that all graphical improvements are horrible. Dragon Quest V for the PS2 has graphics that are beautiful and music that is divine and is probably the greatest remake of any game that we've ever played. So, we know it can be done. Also, we acknowledge that Final Fantasy IV was released for the GBA three short years before this version was released, so we understand the need to make this version significantly different. It's also not because of the voice acting that we dislike this game, although it is somewhat ridiculous. For example, we can never take any line of Cid's dialogue seriously because he looks like a bear, sounds like a bear, and therefore must be a bear, and even poignant dialogue coming from a grizzly can only ever be absurd. We can knit pick more (Cecil is too emo, Kain is too deep), but since we have the option to turn off the voices, we'll let this one slide. No, the reason that we dislike this remake so much is because it is bogged-down by so much BS that it became a hideous shell of what it is supposed to be.

First off, there are these hideous little "gems" called augments. Augments are used to give the player a chance to "customize" every single character. For example, you can give someone the ability to use potions when he or she is hit. This system is quickly abused, however. The game doesn't tell you this, but you need to give augments to people so you can get better augments later. This leads to confusing logic. Why did I just give Yang Recall? Why did I give Cecil Dualcast? They're not even proficient magic users, but I have to give it to them if I want better junk that I probably won't even want to use. To think about it another way: all of the characters' are defined by their job class. Cecil's troubled soul is reflected by his Dark Knight class, and only when his inner demons are destroyed can he become a Paladin, the "pure" knight. Rosa is a kind character with a big heart, so she is the only one who can be a White Mage. So who is Cecil the Paladin when he can dualcast and curse people? It doesn't make sense.

Second off, this game overuses numbers. Let us tell you a little secret about JRPG fans. Regardless of whether they say that they love the "epic storylines" or the "character development" (if this is all you need, then read a book), they only play them for one reason: numbers. Buy better weapons, and their various statistics will increase. Hit a foe, and the amount of damage done will be displayed. Heal a friend, and the amount of HP recovered will appear in a beautiful green hue. This constant flashing of numbers everywhere elicits the release of pure dopamine into the brain. However, Square Enix simply overdid it this time around. We're already going to explore every part of the dungeon, so please don't show us what percent of a dungeon floor we've been through, and please don't reward us for it. You might as well reward us for breathing. Don't tell us how many monsters we've fought, since it's better to just enjoy the trip rather than worry if we're experiencing every tiny aspect of it. And, for the love of God, do NOT try to tell us that playing a math game, or any mini game for that matter, is fun. We play video games to escape work, not to embrace it.

Third, this game's "revised" combat is nonsensical. In this game, they decided to make it harder. Why an RPG needs to be harder, we can't comprehend. Instead of fighting a boss at level 12, you fight it at level 15. Whatever. People will tell you that you need to think harder and/or use a strategy to finish the battles. On the other hand, this game inplements the "auto battle" command. This means that when we level up, we set all characters to "attack" and let the game play itself. We feel ashamed every time we do this, but we are concerned for the A button, so relieving its stress only makes us happier. Please, Square Enix, choose to make the game easier or harder, not both.

Finally, there are too many stupid extremely rare items to collect. In order to get all of the best equipment for everyone (including characters you can only give it to when you play New Game+), there are at least 30 items. Each item can only earned by trading in extremely hard to get items. Each item has a .4% chance of being dropped, which means that you have a 1 in 250 chance to get anything. Which means that you could end up fighting over 3000 battles just to get everything. Also, unless you use a siren, you could fight other monsters that don't have what you want. That adds up to hours upon hours walking around fighting pointless battles. You might think that you can just auto-battle through it, but you do have to push a button to end a battle. This means that you either have to watch all of the battles or press the A button over and over again. All to get some item that you probably won't need because you'll be so strong from fighting so much anyway. We play games to enjoy our spare time, not to waste it.

As a final note, we ask, nay, implore Square Enix to rethink its re-release strategy. Don't add additional BS that only adds time, and not enjoyment or content, to the game. You had a nice, simple game that was lovable, so why screw it up? If you remake this game again, and you probably will, make some significant changes. Redo the battle system so that it will be less monotonous. Add some more content about the final area so that we'll further understand the characters better. Just don't add fetch quests and gimmicks to make the changes seem meaningful. We don't need another disaster on our hands.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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

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