Final Fantasy IV DS Review
Final Fantasy IV is an important game in Final Fantasy’s history, not only in terms of quality but also for it introducing elements that were to be mainstays of the series until Final Fantasy XII came along. For those reasons, Final Fantasy IV was certainly due a remake and Square Enix and Matrix Software have delivered one such game for the DS.
Being a remake, obviously the games’ visuals have been modernized, making it appeal to a wider audience that perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise touched such an old and crusty looking game with a stick (of which I say to you, it’s what’s inside that counts). The 3D engine is well made, but it just doesn’t have the charm that the old 2D SNES version did. The reworked music on the other hand is fantastic and much deserved for what is a typically wonderful soundtrack from the musical maestro, Nobuo Uematsu.
Final Fantasy IV wasn’t only the first game in the series to have a fully fleshed out storyline, consisting of themes of conflict, love and betrayal, it was also one of the first RPG’s to have a substantial narrative. It still holds up well these days, which is really quite extraordinary for such a long in the tooth game, but certainly assisted by a tidied up translation (still with spoony bards thankfully) and the addition of not only scenes that due to technical constraints were cut from the original version, but strong voice acting, too.
The strength of the characterisation certainly can’t be ignored in its contribution to the appeal of Final Fantasy IV’s storytelling, either. The protagonist, Cecil, questions the merciless orders of his once kind king and father figure, he’s every bit the tortured hero who wants to leave his horrific past behind him and easily one of the most intriguing heroes in any RPG, a character who one can easily root for. Other characters are just as likeable, with little touches that can’t help making one feel sympathy or elation for them, for instance the summoner, Rydia, is a young girl, who tragically lost her parents in a fire and for that reason (minor spoiler incoming, cover your eyes if you want) early on in the game she won’t use a fire spell when it’s really needed. The main antagonist, Golbez, is sadly all too conventional, though with enough cruelness to make one really hate his armour concealed guts.
Final Fantasy IV didn’t only introduce a true storyline to the series, but also brought a series defining mechanic with the Active Time Battle System, variations of which were to be used for many future iterations of Final Fantasy, as well as adopted by other developers. Obviously, the system is in its purest form here, which could be disappointing for some, but a welcome step back in time for those who find later versions to have too many complexities.
Individuality of characters isn’t only prevalent in Fantasy IV’s story, but also during combat. Party members all have their own abilities, which sets them apart from anyone else. New to this DS version are augments, which allows you to give new skills to your characters. It’s not complex, but is a nice little addition, that gives you some control over the abilities of your characters, that wasn’t available in the original version.
Being an old game, Final Fantasy IV is more difficult than most contemporary RPG’s, particularly the start of the game, when your levels are low. As you grow in power, things largely get considerably easier, though to be in with even a sliver of a chance of defeating them, the occasional boss battle still requires some level grinding, which is likely to be a turn off for those who are looking for a game with smooth progression.
At its best, the Dungeon design can be truly excellent, with many paths and treasure chests to be looted. There’s a high abundance of random battles along the way too, which is only to be expected for an aging game and perhaps even embraced by many an old school gamer. A nice new feature to this remake is that when each section of a dungeon is fully explored, you’re rewarded with items, which gives you even more of an incentive to search out every nook and cranny of a dungeon, that’s if the constant lure of treasure and level increases wasn’t already enough for you.
Final Fantasy IV is a remake, crafted with plenty of love and aplomb. Rightfully so for such an important game in not only the Final Fantasy series, but also RPG heritage as a whole. It’s the definitive version of a game that was already one of the better games in the series, and I look forward to other legendary iterations of Final Fantasy receiving similar and deserving star treatment.