Review: Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection

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Like most Final Fantasy games, my first experience with Final Fantasy IV (hereafter FF IV) was on a handheld – the excellent GBA version, to be precise. I later played the DS version, which took all of the great stuff they added to the GBA version and made it better. So naturally I was thrilled to look at the PSP version, since it contained everything else and also added ‘The After Years’ WiiWare content. How does it all work together? Let’s check it out!

Final Fantasy IV is one of the true classics of the role-playing genre, and it’s also my favorite of the series (much better than the over-hyped FF VII). It has been remade and re-released many times through the years, and there is a basic reason why it is still appealing: it features a great story with interesting characters and loads of fun content, including introducing the ‘Active Time’ combat system to the Final Fantasy universe.

I’m not going to delve into the specifics of FF IV, because the question is not IF you should play FF IV, but if you should buy the PSP version of the game. Let me be clear – you SHOULD play FF IV, whether on PSP, GBA, DS, or on one of the older console collections.

And specifically, you can consider the PSP version to be the ‘definitive’ release: it has all of the added content from the GBA and DS versions, fully updated graphics and audio similar to the PSP releases of Final Fantasy I & II, and an altogether polished experience that is worth replaying … yet again.

The real question is about the REST of the package … well, and whether it is all worth paying full price for – again. And that has become an item of some debate. In addition to FF IV, there is The After Years, a fairly long sequel originally released for WiiWare in 2009. There is also a short ‘interlude’ section that lasts a couple of hours and bridges the two games.

But when I say ‘bridge’ I am speaking theoretically – none of your characters or items or anything transfer between sections of the game. Also, the difficulty levels are wildly different, with FF IV well balanced and thought out, Interlude excruciatingly difficult, and The After Years somewhere in between, but also the least consistent.

Because of the difficulty of Interlude, you will be grinding for levels quite a bit – and still getting one-hit killed all too often. It makes the experience tedious at times, and considering you are playing this right after a ~40 hour jaunt through the random battles of FF IV, that can turn you off from ever completing the Interlude!

The After Years is interesting in two conflicting ways: it is full of fan-service elements and meant to reward long-time Final Fantasy players, and yet it is entirely superfluous, extending a story that was already sufficiently closed.

But once you dive into The After Years you will be immersed for several hours in an epic story with new tweaks to the gameplay and combat that at least attempts to update a very old game. Unfortunately the story itself is extremely lackluster compared to FF IV, there are way too many random battles, and it just feels like a fan-made work instead of a fully-realized production worthy of the Final Fantasy name.

And yet in spite of that I don’t hesitate to give this a ‘Buy It’ recommendation. At $30 the value might seem a bit strained for a twenty year old game, but it is one of the classics of the genre and has been fully updated and contains every bit of content available. If you have played multiple versions already you might skip this one, but otherwise this is a great addition to the Final Fantasy collection.

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Pros:
+ All of the content brought into one great package
+ Still a great game all these years later

Cons:
– Additional content doesn’t live up to original
– The combination of content might not be enough incentive to buy AGAIN

Game Info:
Platform: PSP
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: 4/19/2011
Genre: RPG
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!