Mark Marrow
28 Feb, 2006

Final Fantasy IV Review

GBA Review | A solid experience on all accounts.
I’m an old-school gamer at heart and still enjoy most of what was released in the late 80’s and the early 90’s than pretty much everything that was released in the last five years. Call me crazy, but I’m a nostalgic gamer. It is hard to not be either when you consider that back then pretty much every game released was so original compared to one another. It felt like a completely new roller coaster ride each time. Comparing that with today’s generation of clichés and recycled ideas from one game to the other and you haven’t got much imagination coming for the developers. That is why Final Fantasy IV’s release was so significant when it first appeared on gaming consoles. It was the first RPG game to actually include an in-depth story full of twists and plot changes, which is pretty much a fundamental for RPG games of today. In a sense, Final Fantasy IV was the game that launched a lot of what is seen in today’s RPGs – and for those reasons, that’s why I love it so much.

While we PAL gamers didn’t get to experience the game until it’s PlayStation re-release in 2002 in the form of Final Fantasy Anthology, bundled with Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V, the game still stood as a major pivotal point for future games in the genre. Now here we are today, in 2006, with another re-release of Final Fantasy IV, which stands as probably one of the most complete versions out of those that were ever released, and another superb RPG title for the GBA.

Final Fantasy IV begins with players taking control of a black night named Cecil, the Captain of the Airship Squadron known as “The Red Wings”. It isn’t soon after beginning the game that Cecil wrestles with his conscience over his King’s decision to obtain the World’s crystals and is asked to acquire these crystals by any means of action. Cecil soon questions his King’s decision. After a debate with his King, Cecil is demoted of his duties and is banished from the land, and is ordered to embark on a special mission to the town of Mist, where our story begins to kick-start.

Revised and much cleaner translation.

It isn’t long after until this relatively dry opening scene expands into a much more interesting story full of all sorts of interesting plot twists and story developments. Equally interesting are the game’s characters. There’s a lot of variety between each character, whether it be the conflicted Dragoon Kain, the delicate (perhaps slightly feminine?) Edward or even the wisecrack Cid. These characters are very well presented and create a great atmosphere for the game’s story, in which keeps it from being too predictable and generic by RPG standards.

The noticeable changes from the PlayStation re-release to Final Fantasy IV Advance is that the translation has once again been fixed to allow the dialogue to read much more naturally and making details that weren’t as clear in the original translation much more understandable. However, there are still some areas of faults in the translation, but also the more famous lines such as “You spoony bard!” remain. Taking a note from Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, the game also includes character portraits and larger and clearer text to the conversation boxes. The added quick save option also ensures that the game is that much more ideal for your portable needs, with allowing gamers to instantly save their progress at any point in the game. There is also a number a minor new features such as the in-game bestiary, letting you record beast’s data, as well as additional dungeons during the game and after. One of the most significant differences, though, is that the game can be finished with any character that survives before the final battle. Gamers can also take these characters to one of the new areas in the game for each party member, which didn’t join Cecil in his trip to the final battle in the original, to obtained their most powerful weapon. The extra work is definitely worth it on some occasions and offers a bit more flexibility in how you want to finish the game. In addition, there’s also a 40-floor dungeon that is opened after defeating the final boss. While this added dungeon is little more than just a cool new area for hardcore gamers to plow through, it is no less an excellent inclusion.

The gameplay has had a few changes from the game’s PlayStation re-release also. The game now includes certain abilities that were only featured in the original Japanese version of the game. The combat of the game is pretty much unchanged from most of the Final Fantasy games of today. You’re still required to run around and come across random battles, as well as turn-based battles. The game includes the Active Time Battle system, in which each character in the party has their own time meter, counting down to his or her turn to use an ability or attack. This feature adds a bit more thinking to your typical turn-based game as some abilities will require time to charge before attacking, leaving you open for attacks from the enemy, meanwhile your standard attacks will strike immediately. The game also includes enemies with various strengths and weaknesses, mostly the typically elemental wheel-of-effect system – where your water attacks are stronger against fire creatures and etc. Considering the amount of characters, there’s also a lot of variety during battles. Most of your characters will come and go, which means that you’ll be experiencing most of the battles in the game with differently classed characters. For instance, Cecil is a powerful warrior whose main attribute is his strength, while other characters may be able to summon creatures, offer heals, unleash magical attacks or even throw and steal items.

Revamped detail assures for a much better experience.

However, there are a few minor bugs that were introduced into the game, notably the game’s battle system, which makes us question Square Enix’s ability to port games, as this isn’t a first for the company (issues with ports). During battles there are often occurrences of party member’s turns being skipped or randomly given a second turn straight after finishing their first. For example, Cecil may attack a creature and is straightaway given a second without waiting for his time gauge to fill up. This isn’t such a problem, as in most occasions it works to your advantage, but this was obviously an inclusion that wasn’t intended for the game’s release. Another much more noticeable bug is the game’s jerkiness during menu navigation (in and out of battle). It makes it more frustrating because of the game’s decision to use Active Time Battles where your ability to quickly jump through abilities is essential in attacking before your enemy. It isn’t much help either when you expect to jump quickly through the menu of party members to heal and you end up accidentally healing the wrong character, which not only wastes mana but also one turn.

Final Fantasy IV is a very well presented game that has also fleshed out a lot of the original’s graphical flaws and improved them to fit on the GBA screen. In-battle creatures are extremely well detailed compared to the original, the colour is a lot more balanced and the game just looks much more clearer all-round. One of the franchiser’s merits has always been its music, and Final Fantasy IV is no different. The music is absolutely stunning, featuring a very lively and atmospheric soundtrack that enhances the experience greatly.

By no means is Final Fantasy IV the best game, but it is most definitely one of the best in the franchise. The Game Boy Advance version not only retains what was so excellent about the original release, but also adds enough additional features that makes this game stand quite well on its own feet. The few port bugs aren’t enough to ruin the experience, but the new features most definitely warrants a purchase for RPG fans and handheld fans alike.
The Score
Final Fantasy IV Advance is quite easily the best version released yet, and is an ideal RPG for handheld gamers. An essential purchase for what is, currently, a dead console.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 years ago
Nice, I prefered it when the buy link was below the article though.
Also a UK partner for PALGN would be nice, and would encourage a wider UK audience.
(split this to new thread if it distracts from article)
8 years ago
this reveiw is wicked
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