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Review – Final Fantasy IV

posted on August 27th, 2008 by horatio

Let’s be honest kids, it’s not a real Final Fantasy game until I review it here on your favoritest ever videogame site videolamer (tell your friends). Of course, as it turns out, Final Fantasy IV actually already was a real videogame, like, a billion years ago back on the SNES when we Americans called it Final Fantasy II because we didn’t know any better.

Now, full disclosure, back on the SNES, Final Fantasy IV/II was the first RPG I ever beat; I was in Kindergarten, my older brother beat it first, and to this day I lord over him the fact that I found the crystal sword (best sword in the game, now retranslated as Ragnarok) before he did.

I also beat it on its PS1 rerelease, and again as the GBA game, Final Fantasy IV Advance. So yeah, I like FF IV, kind of a lot. Given that I imagine a large portion of the audience has played the game in one of its iterations, this review is going to focus primarily on the changes this game makes to the original.

Thanks to the DS, magic and magicians are now 100% more fabulous.

Final Fantasy IV was revolutionary in a few ways, one of which being that it was one of the first big RPGs (especially in the U.S.) to actually have named heroes with specific personalities/assigned classes/etc. The story revolves around Cecil, a dark knight. His quest is to defeat Golbez, a powerful badass who has usurped the power of Baron, Cecil’s home and the strongest kingdom in the world. As with most Final Fantasy games, there are some elemental crystals (and elemental bosses!) thrown in for good measure.

In terms of changes, the story was maybe the biggest let down. FF IV has always had a solid plot (it’s many remakes are a testament to the strength of the characters) and during initial interviews about the remake developers claimed the original game contained only a quarter of the original ‘scenario’ and that we could expect to see the vast majority put into this remake.

All told, there are maybe two or three flashbacks (only one of which is playable, and for about five minutes) that distinguish this game from the original, and they aren’t terribly life-changing.

On the plus side, the game does have a smoother translation that also stays closer to the original Japanese (for example, an item called a ‘twin harp’ that plays the same tune as the infamously spoony bard Edward plays on his own was actually just supposed to be a whisperweed… a.. um… plant that let’s sound travel far distances) without taking out any of the more famous dialogue in the game. Still, if you’ve played the game once, these additions are certainly not a reason to buy it again.

If you’ve played the FFIII remake, you have some idea of what you’re getting into with FFIV’s new graphics. Slightly Chibified designs, but all around solid 3d. I think the 3d graphics were done much better this time around, especially on character design, which I was afraid of given my attachment to the old-school sprites. Sure, Cid has lips that make him look like an orangutan with a giant beard but other than that everyone is looking pretty good, especially Rosa, Cecil’s girlfriend, who is super hot (this is almost too bad since I was more of a Rydia, the summoner, fan back in Kindergarten, but what are you gonna do?).

The voice-acting is good but not great, with quality ranging drastically from character to character. Cid has shitty voice acting to match his shitty design, and Cecil starts out sounding like a whiny-emo punk (I’d know because I am a whiny emo punk) but gets better as it goes. Ultimately the voice is good enough that I’m happy they put it in. At the end the “everybody comes together to support you so you can take down the last boss” scenes have a fresh life added to a concept that is now more-than-cliched (is that possible?) in RPG’s.

The DS can pull off some very impressive 3D.

The music, which was always great, has been redone wonderfully. Ultimately, in comparison to other current games, FF IV is a good example of what the DS can pull off when it wants to (there’s also a pretty great opening cinema scene), so whether you’ve played this game or not before the game’s style is certainly a selling point.

FFIV was already revolutionary in RPG mythos by introducing the active time bar. Different attacks will make your next turns bar fill up faster or slower, but also, as you pick attacks your enemies bar also fills, meaning you have to choose quickly or get the shit beaten out of you. This is even more true in the remake, which has had a lot of monster fights tweaked, especially the bosses – which come with new patterns, weaknesses, and most importantly counterattacks.

More interestingly, grinding is never necessary and undoubtedly not very helpful for most boss battles in the game. Instead, the trick is figuring out which types of attack (magic, physical, elemental, etc.) a boss will counter with, how to avoid these counters, and also which statuses the boss is vulnerable too (spells like silence, berserk and slow are way more effective and in many cases seemingly necessary to beating some key bosses). Even regular monsters have been souped up and require a bit more strategery, although in these cases grinding a bit may be equally helpful.

This is by far the best improvement to the game. For those who have played the game, it’s a great way of making you start from scratch. Above and beyond, it’s a great evolution from typical RPG boss fighting. Instead of having some set of skills that are generically the best for every character, you actually have to go into a fight ready to try out multiple strategies for everyone to find out what is most effective. To Square’s credit, this idea came out in some optional bosses in FFXII (certain eidolon fights restricted you from using any magic, or any physical attacks, etc.) but its nice to see them using this idea on nearly every boss in the game, required and optional, and I hope they expand this to include even more regular monsters in future games.

The second big gameplay change is the addition of ‘augments’; these are skills you find or are given to you (like counter, or autopotion) that you can stick onto characters. After level 70, they also change stat growth. This is a neat feature, but since most of the good ones come later in the game it’s really only helpful for people who use the game’s new game+ feature to play through a second or third time (there are two optional bosses worth running through again, both super hard and pretty fun, although there’s no real reward for doing so).

“I’m still upset you got horned shoulder armor. You knew that was my thing.”

If you are the kind of gamer who does this, augments become much more interesting as you can only equip a limited amount at a time and so are forced to make strategic choices like sacrificing a basic attack ability so that you can dualcast magic. There’s also a nice autobattle feature where you can set one action for every character to perform while in automatic mode (sort of a limited gambit idea stolen from FFXII).

Finally, Rydia has a new summon, Whyt, that can fight in her place for a few turns and is leveled up by playing some DS style gimmicky minigames. They’re kind of fun, but also really annoying and seemingly one of those “ooh we’re on the DS so we have to use the touchscreen and stylus” ploys.

In conclusion, even if you’ve bought this game before, I’d buy it again. The graphical improvements are solid and the gameplay is deeper than before; Square has really shown that with minimal effort you can remove a lot of the annoying filler battles in an RPG and turn them into engaging fights. I hope Square continues this in the future.

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5 Comments

  1. christian said on August 27, 2008:

    The older I get, the stronger I say that this is my favorite mainline Final Fantasy. Glad to see it made a smooth transition.

  2. Golden Jew said on August 28, 2008:

    Wonderful, so my inability to find the Crystal sword is now broadcast to all 10 of Videolamer’s readers… curse you!

    I actually am not as much of a fan of the voice acting, mainly cause the voice actors annoy me. Cid sounds like cookie monster, and Cecil just annoys me.

    The rendering is pretty nice, especially around characters. I think that Cecil and Kain were too skinny and bizarely emo (accentuated by their voices and how their weapons always seem to gently touch each other), but everyone else turned out great. Another great bonus for the rendering is I finally know what the fuck a Namingway/Hummingway is supposed to LOOK like. And the calcabrinas are even more disturbing whey they dance in 3-D.

    Seeing the potential of the DS unleashed in terms of rendering and music, I hope they can find a way to port FF7, mainly because I’m afraid if they do it on the PSP I’ll end up buying a PSP.

  3. jay said on August 28, 2008:

    I have never played this. I should, but I fear it may replace FF6 as my favorite FF, and being a weak minded person I am not sure I can allow that. My entire identity would be in crisis. When people ask me now who I am I respond, “A guy who thinks FF6 is better than FF7. 2D forever. Amano kills Nomura.” Who will I be if I cannot say this?

  4. Horatio said on August 28, 2008:

    6 still has the better combat/summoning system and amazing nonlinear gameplay. Also one neat thing I forgot to mention in my review is that when you go into your status screen a thought bubble appears over whichever character you have set to your onscreen character and tells you what he’s/she’s thinking. It’s kind of a pain to cycle through your whole party to read them as you go along but they’re nice additions to the plot.

  5. Golden Jew said on August 28, 2008:

    Yes, I was actually going to add that as well Horatio, the plot bubbles. They add a lot of depth to the story, but the cycling is a bit weird to see them all. Also they change frequently, so you can inadvertently miss sequences when multiple plot things happen at once. A great addition regardless.

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