Final Fantasy. This very name has not only captivated the imaginations of literally millions worldwide since 1987, propelled a game company (Squaresoft, now known as Square-Enix) from the bottom to the top, but continues only to get better as the series goes on. Twelve titles later in the series and Square Enix has decided to start remaking some of their previous games for the handheld systems. So far they’ve remade I, II, IV, V, and VI for the Gameboy Advance; the first two Final Fantasy games for the PSP; Final Fantasy III and now, most recently, Final Fantasy IV for the Nintendo DS.
From the get go, when Cecil is on the Baron Redwing airship, it couldn’t be more obvious just how much of a step up Final Fantasy IV is from Final Fantasy III. Not only does this game now contain cutscenes that look absolutely astonishing, but it has voice acting! In the previous Final Fantasy for the DS, everything (both plot points and conversations) were told in a text box. And while most of Final Fantasy IV’s story is told via text box, the major plot points are told through in-engine cutscenes. I was a little disappointed to not see some of the beautiful CG that Square-Enix has been known to create, except when you start the game up, but I feel that the cutscenes that were made sufficed.
The main goal of this game’s protagonist, Cecil, is pretty straight forward for the most part. You, and the rest of the characters that you meet along the way, are trying to get to the Crystals before an evil force does to stop the world from facing a catastrophe of the like it’s never faced. With that said there are plenty of twists throughout the game that will leave you feeling that this story was much more than just about the Crystals.
From the incredibly relaxing theme of “Troia“, to the tear jerking “Theme of Love“, Final Fantasy IV’s music, in true Final Fantasy fashion, will not disappoint. There wasn’t a single time where I didn’t say wow when a tune came on. It was just that good. I’m extremely impressed at the fact that the music Nobuo Uematsu created for this game seventeen years ago still has some of the best in the video game industry today.
In the DS version there are abilities that you can equip to different characters called “Augments”. Some are given along the main path of the story, such as Counter and Draw Attacks, but most are given through means of sidequests or giving specific characters augments before they leave the party. My only real complaint with this system is that there’s no indication on how you should get a majority of the augments. Far too often you’re left guessing, or forced to read some type of a guide, on how to get them. There’s also a New Game+ feature on the DS version that becomes available once you complete the game. What this allows you to do is keep all the augments you had equipped on your characters before and pick up any augments you missed on your first playthrough. Two optional bosses, said to be the toughest in the game, are also available to fight if you wish to do so in the New Game+ mode.
If you’re worried that Square-Enix doesn’t take advantage of the dual-screen capabilities, it can be put to rest now. Not only can you move your character around with the stylus, but there’s a map down at the bottom for both the World Map and dungeons while you’re in one. While you traverse the dungeon, more and more of the map layout shows up on the bottom screen. When the percentage number reaches 100% you’ll receive an item. While this isn’t useful outside of the beginning and towards the end of the game (especially when you start getting Silver and Golden Apples which increase your HP by 50 and 100) it was still a nice feature to see put in the game instead of just having a blank screen.
The battle system is a major improvement from Final Fantasy III. In FFIII, you had to select what every single character was to do before you engaged the enemy which left you a lot of the times having to predict what exactly the enemy was going to do. Whereas in Final Fantasy IV, the ATB (Active Time Battle) system was implemented. What that basically means is you can decide and select what you’re going to do on the fly instead of having to do it all at once. Not only does this make for more engaging battles, but it leads to a lot less frustrating moments.
I want to note that this review is coming from someone who is a gigantic fan of the traditional Final Fantasy games ( by traditional, I mean the same basic turn-based gameplay style that has been here since the beginning), and from someone who hasn’t played Final Fantasy IV before. I missed out on the SNES version and by the time it was ported/enhanced for the Gameboy Advance, I sold mine. I didn’t miss out on in this time though, and to be honest, I couldn’t be more pleased with the product. I look forward to seeing what Square-Enix pumps out next for the handheld systems, or any system for that matter.