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Final Fantasy 4 Package Art
GENRE
RPG
DEVELOPER
Square Enix
PUBLISHER
Square Enix
LOCAL WIRELESS
MULTI-PLAY
Yes
Wi-Fi/GLOBAL ONLINE
MULTI-PLAY
No
MICROPHONE
No
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Final Fantasy 4

Final Fantasy IV was an important entry in Square’s flagship franchise; not only was it the second Final Fantasy to make its way westward, but it also marked a significant change in both the gameplay and story mechanics that drove the series. Not surprisingly, FFIV has become a fan favorite all around the world and it has made a major mark on the history of RPGs and storytelling in video games.

Also unsurprising, is the fact that Square has been milking this cash cow for a while now. This version marks the third time FFIV has been remade; the first was for the Playstation 1997 and then it was remade for the GBA less than three years ago. This time Square Enix started with a blank slate and rebuilt everything from the ground up in full 3D, just as they did with Final Fantasy III in 2006. All that remains now is to see if a critically acclaimed classic can stand the test of time with the help of a fresh coat of paint.

visuals

Square has made one thing apparent since the dawn of 3D gaming – they know their polygons. FFIV is one of the DS’s best looking games and represents a marked improvement over the Final Fantasy III remake in terms of presentation and technology. While FFIII definitely looked gorgeous, it only used one screen and the action really seemed to chug along at a slow pace. The newer remake uses both screens (top for the action and bottom for a map), renders everything with even more detail, and moves at a noticeably faster clip. Cutscenes are also more common this time around, both prerendered and in-game. The compression is noticeable in the prerendered bits, but the overall quality still beats out all the competition on the system. Ultimately, the magic and summon animations during battle steal the show and really show off what Square’s incredible engine is able to accomplish with the hardware.

There is only one real visual problem, but some gamers could find it quite distracting. Square has stayed true to the original art style to a degree that is admirable but might not have been that good of an idea. FFIV’s overall tone is rather serious but the new 3D models come off a little chibi-esque, especially when placed in such a detailed world. In other words, it kind of looks like someone mixed a serious, epic story, like Lord of the Rings, and mixed it with a young child’s anime. This mix is by no means a deal breaker, but some gamers could find the juxtaposition offsetting during some of the more serious moments of the story.

audio

Nobuo Uematsu is one of gaming’s best composers and he was just as brilliant back in 1991 as he is today. Hearing FFIV’s magnificent main theme again will undoubtedly bring about pixilated bouts of nostalgia within thousands of gamers. Every musical aspect of FFIV has been lovingly recreated and any liberties taken were obviously done with great care and competence. Not only is this the best looking FFIV ever made, but it is easily the best sounding thanks to the DS’s stereo speakers; though headphones would be a good idea if you truly want to be immersed.

Outside of the music, FFIV has a standard set of decent RPG sound effects (sword swipes and the like) and some questionable voice work. While none of the voices sound especially atrocious, a few of the voices will not match the ones you imagined and the actual deliveries range from the unconvincing to the overly dramatic. FFIV probably would have been better off without this unnecessary addition.

gameplay

FFIV was the first game to really expand the story into a broader world with cultures, politics and ideals. Previous entries presented you with a group of heroes and told you to save the world, FFIV made the world worth saving. The characters also received some substantial personality upgrades and were given much deeper histories; though you could no longer customize all of their classes and skills. While this changes made the overall experience less customizable and more linear, it greatly improved the impact and significance of the story which, even after all these years, remains FFIV’s greatest asset.

Cecil is the hero of the game, though you might not believe it at the start. As captain of the Red Wings, the kingdom of Baron’s elite airship unit, Cecil is ordered to take a magical crystal from a neighboring country by force. Cecil is confused by these orders; the other country show no sign of aggression and is offers little resistance to Cecil as he carries out his orders. Upon his return to Baron, Cecil questions the motives of the once peaceful king and is stripped of his rank for his insubordination. Now, just a regular soldier, Cecil is ordered to deliver a package to a town of summoners just outside of Baron. Cecil is joined by his friend Kain, a fellow soldier who also questioned the king’s newfound aggression. Upon arriving at the town, the package releases bomb upon the town and, in the chaos that follows, Kain and Cecil are separated and Cecil has to take care of Rydia, a powerful young summoner and the only survivor of Baron’s malicious plot. Betrayed by country, Cecil sets out on a journey to avenge the atrocities of his former home and to seek redemption for the role he played in them. Of course there are plenty of shocking twists to be experienced along the way but you can witness them for yourself.

All things considered, FFIV pretty much plays out exactly as you probably think it should: travel to a new part of the world, level up, upgrade your equipment, fight your way through a dungeon, defeat a powerful boss, and then repeat until you reach the final boss. The actual battles vary a bit from the RPG norm but should be familiar to most Final Fantasy fans seeing how FFIV actually introduced the Active Time Battle system that has been featured throughout most of the series. The ATB system forces every character to wait as a bar next to their name and HP/MP fills up before they can attack, defend, or use an item; this system does its part in separating the Final Fantasy from the seemingly endless number of RPGs that stick to purely turn based battles.

Unlike other Final Fantasy titles, IV offers very limited party customization. The GBA version allowed players to swap party members at the end of the game, but that feature, as well as an extra dungeon, has been removed in favor of the rigid party system from the original. Each character has specific traits and skills so you are forced to work with the strengths and weaknesses the story deals you. The only real exception is the addition of items that can grant one of your characters a skill another character possesses. Unfortunately you never get the ability to teach everybody Kain’s awesome “Jump” attack.

Several other changes have made their way into this otherwise faithful rebuild. Rydia the summoner has a new summon, Whyt, a little white guy with a customizable face who is powered up by a series of touch based minigames. Namingway, a moon rabbit of sorts, is also new to the game and allows you to change your characters’ names and rewards you for exploring every corner of a level and filling in your map. However, the biggest additions in all of FFIV are the numbers added to enemy stats. This is easily the toughest version of FFIV ever made and is bound to give power levelers, like me, a run for their money. Trust me on this, whenever you feel like have done enough leveling make sure to level up a few more times. Sometimes the game can feel a little cheap, but overall the challenge is reasonably fair and it also helps the extend the already long game.

Tragically, we must now move on to the bad. Actually, the worst parts of FFIV are not a bad as they are old; Square’s strict adherence to all the ins and outs of the originals is as much a bane as it is a boost. While the story is strong and all of the game mechanics work without a hitch, the overall design feels incredibly dated and not quite as satisfying as newer games with more compelling gameplay and better stories.

multiplayer

The only multiplayer option in FFIV is a wireless battle mode that allows you and a friend to have your Whyt’s kick each other’s butts. If you really enjoy powering up Whyt and you can find a friend with a similar mindset then this mode could provide hours of entertainment; most people will probably ignore it, though.

overall

FFIV has always been a solid game and will always remain that way, but some games don’t hold up as well as others over the years and, for most of us, nostalgia can only take you so far. If you loved the original, are an RPG addict, or have yet to try one of the remakes or the original, I highly recommend you give FFIV a shot; as dated as it might feel it still remains a piece of gaming history and remains a solid game.

However, if you are a modern gamer through and through, you are probably not going to like FFIV, especially if you think “Bioware” whenever you hear somebody utter the letters “R”, “P”, and “G”. Ultimately, you can kind of look at FFIV like a modern Corvette body on an old Corvette frame; it looks new but doesn’t offer the same kind of experience. However, if you like that old school feel and love the modern aesthetic, then you will be in heaven.

final score 8.0/10





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Staff Avatar Andy Hoover
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"There's SAND on my boots!"


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