Final Fantasy Anthology PSX (PAL) box (Also includes Final Fantasy V) Final Fantasy IV Advance GBA (PAL) box Final Fantasy IV DS (PAL) box (VERSION TESTED MOST RECENTLY)

The Final Fantasy series is what many would call a veteran in its field. It is the longest running Japanese RPG that is still going strong besides Square Enix’s other series, Dragon Quest. However it is the series that has gained the most notoriety. This could be due to the fact that westerners have been exposed to it a lot more, and that there have been more remakes of the series than any other RPG on the planet. Final Fantasy IV, a game originally released on the SNES in Japan and America, is he primary culprit of re-releases for Square Enix. In Europe at least, it has been ported on more than one occasion. The most recent of these is the Nintendo DS full on remake. Is Final Fantasy IV a story worth retelling and reimagining, or is it time Square Enix retired the material?

It isn’t an easy life being a mere pawn in an activity that goes against your morals. That is particularly true for Cecil, leader of Baron’s Red Wings squadron. He is being asked to retrieve with force the crystals from neighbouring kingdoms. After a recent mission, he confronts his king about the issue. He is thanked by being demoted and sent to deliver a package to the town of Mist. Upon reaching Mist he soon discovers that a dragon he encountered was an Eidolon belonging to a child’s mother, and that the package was meant to lay the town to ruin. He and his partner Kain vow to bring an end to Baron’s tyranny when they become separated via an earthquake caused by a small girl. The plot is somewhat predictable in the most part, though the dialogue in the DS version has been given a brand new translation, which flows far better. The characters though for the most part are either incredibly dull or not there long enough to further their characterisation.

Red and Yellow uniforms for guards never caught on. Some wonder why (From PSX version)

On the Playstation and GBA (the two released here in the UK), the presentation is made up of 2D Sprites, which while distinctive do seem a little bland. Perhaps this is because of the technology available during the time of conception. The GBA version improves things slightly, featuring character portraits for character dialogue. For the Nintendo DS version however, the entirety of the game adopts the same visual presentation given in Final Fantasy III. This is a vast improvement, and allows for a more fluid flow of gameplay. One thing that is consistent throughout both versions however is the quality of the soundtrack. Even in the original, the music was epic. While they’re also a little on the forgettable side compared with more recent efforts, they get the job done. The only real difference in audio between all the versions is that the DS version includes some voice acting, which for a lack of a better term screams hammy Lord of the Rings. It isn’t going to win an Oscar however due to some awkward delivery. Environments are nice though and towns provide steady pacing in terms of equipment.

One thing to note about the different ports is that there is a huge difference how the Playstation/GBA releases play to the Nintendo DS version. Consider the former to be a very simple take on the Active Time Battle system introduced via this particular Final Fantasy. Characters line up against enemies and beat the snot out of them. While battles in those versions are relatively simple, the DS version shakes things up with allowing enemies to Counter with specific abilities. For example, one boss I encountered decided to respond to a physical attack by binding the attacker so that they can’t attack again. Cecil’s initial technique as a Dark Knight has changed to merely increase damage done by sacrificing HP, rather than send a shockwave at everything. There are also many changes to encounters with enemies and bosses alike. All of these changes increases difficulty vastly. You will actually need to think about what you should do against enemies, and if need be, grind. Yes, the curse of all JRPGs is back with a monotonous vengeance. Just like in Final Fantasy III, you will need to aimlessly wander around beating the snot out of random monsters just passing you to go to a tea party.

Three...is a magic number. It makes goblins disappear! (From GBA version)

Essentially, the content on each version begins to fizzle out at this point. The Playstation version only offers cut-scenes at the beginning and end, while the Gameboy Advance shows new dungeons. The DS version in contrast offers all of the above, and also a new mini-game mechanic. One of the many friends the summoner, Rydia, has is called Wyght. He will stand in for her and randomly attack with equipped techniques. It is upgradeable via mini-games which are surprisingly hard. All of which utilise the touch screen in one form or another. There is also a mode where you can edit how Wyght looks, including a canvas to actually scribble on for its face. The customisation of its face is a little flawed in that you have to work with a particular colour scheme each time, because it has a nasty habit of changing colour when you change the scheme. It is also a little disappointing that we don’t have more options to customise our own summon magic. But what is given is at least a good attempt to engage the players into something other than card games.

Final Fantasy IV is a pretty easy and basic game if you look at the Playstation version. It becomes slightly harder, but more rewarding with the GBA version. The DS version expands even more, including a new visual presentation and more tactical nature in its combat. The game couldn’t be more schizophrenic if it wanted to. The Playstation and GBA versions appeal to the retro/new to RPG crowd, while the DS version appeals to the experienced gamer/those who like mini-games. They all have only one thing in common and that is the plot, the incredibly dull plot. RPGs have always tried to tell a tale, but with Final Fantasy IV, its heart doesn’t seem into it. On the DS version the translation helps somewhat with the awkward overall story. But when the material would put an enraged lion to sleep, you have to wonder if the person who came up with it was having an off day. For me this is the weakest link in the Final Fantasy series, and no Square Enix, just because you can pimp it up all you like doesn’t mean the plot can ever be salvaged with dignity.

  This thing exploding is perhaps the worst thing that could happen... (From DS version)