Review: Final Fantasy IV

FFIVDS.jpg The mainstream choice for the best Final Fantasy game ever will always go to Final Fantasy VII. Love it or deem it highly overrated, the classic PS1 RPG really put the franchise in the mainstream eye and revolutionized the gaming scene with production values and storytelling of unprecedented quality, so it’s hard to argue against the success and stature it has achieved in the annals of videogame history. However, if you ask Final Fantasy fans who have been with the series since day one, more often than not Final Fantasy IV (originally released in the US as Final Fantasy II) will be the answer. And again, it’s hard to argue against it. FFIV too revolutionized the genre for its era with the legendary Active Time Battle system and its own cast of memorable characters and dramatic storyline.

FFIV’s famed reputation has also led the title to be one of the most re-released games in the series, making an appearance on four different platforms since its original SNES release back in 1991, including a version for the GBA only a few years ago. As many times as it’s been ported around, though, FFIV had never been truly remade until this year when Square Enix delivered the all-time RPG classic to the DS (now its fifth different platform).

After a successful DS remake of Final Fantasy III two years ago, Matrix Software once again teamed up with Square Enix again to give FFIV the same remake treatment, and the results are even more impressive. The dark knight Cecil’s epic quest of honor and self-discovery has been beautifully remastered in richly detailed 3D featuring colorful polygonal characters and environments complimented by new CGI sequences and in-engine cutscenes that bring heightened dramatic impact to key moments in the story, well-acted (for the most part) voiceovers, and a remixed soundtrack. There have been debates amongst long-time fans over the remade 3D graphics and added voice acting — some fans saying the new style is too cutesy – but personally I love the brighter colors and more modern art style. 3D graphics on the DS don’t get any better than this, period.

Remade presentation aside, FFIV DS is still very much the same RPG it’s always been. A few gameplay tweaks and additions have been introduced here and there — things like an augment system enabling you to further expand the stats and skills of your characters beyond their default class abilities, a neat map system that rewards you with bonus items for searching every nook and cranny of a dungeon, barebones touch screen functionality, and some optional (and I thought quite pointless) mini-games and two-player wireless battles – but for the most part these features are subtle in their impact. You can easily go back and play any of the previous ports without missing any of these additions.

And that’s perfectly fine. Anyone who thought this game needed some drastic gameplay overhaul is out of their mind. FFIV’s Active Time Battle system still resonates as possibly the single most revolutionary concept in the history of console RPG development, the character cast is all-time memorable, and the storyline and character development remains unmatched to this day.

Final Fantasy IV DS truly is the definitive version of Square Enix’s most cherished RPG and obviously a game any self-respecting RPG gamer must own. However, one question lingers: “if I already have Final Fantasy IV on another platform do I really need to rush out and buy it again on the DS?” Honestly, that’s a tough question to definitively answer, but for my money I’d have to say yes it is.

BuyIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Updated 3D graphics and cutscenes look beautiful
+ Masterfully composed soundtrack
+ Emotionally captivating characters and storyline
+ Active Time Battle system still the best in the business
+ Solid voice acting

Cons:
– Old school fans may not dig the new art style
– New DS features are good but ultimately not that significant

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Matrix Software
Release Date: 7/21/08
Genre: RPG
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-2

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!