Final Fantasy IV Advance

Nintendo made quite a business out of releasing old games for the Game Boy Advance and has continued the trend for the various incarnations of the DS. Here we have the popular fourth* Final Fantasy game remade and reformatted for the GBA. The idea is that if you liked these games in their purest form, now you can play them anywhere. Often, Nintendo would add cool extra stuff to these remakes. This is no exception. In fact, thanks to the new goodies, this is actually better than the original.

*Although the second in the U.S., since the second and third games were never released here except as ports on later consoles.

Plot: 9 out of 10

I always thought this game had a great storyline. It’s a tale of deception, betrayal, loyalty, and redemption. Cecil is captain of the Red Wings, a fleet of airships owned by the monarchy of Baron. Ordered to steal the crystal of water from the village of Mysidia, Cecil feels guilty that he would commit such an act, even under orders, and soon rebels. Many twists and turns occur before the game is over. It’s a really a gripping tale and holds up well even today. My only critique is that (warning: spoiler ahead) they cheat you with many sad death scenes without most of the deaths actually happening.

Graphics: 6 out of 10

Final Fantasy IV was one of the earlier SNES games. It showed in the graphics, as character designs were small, exploration mode was simply detailed, and enemies, except perhaps for some bosses, aren’t much better. Square Enix may have made a mistake in not even touching the graphics. If anything, they’ve suffered just a bit. Then again, Final Fantasy has a distinct look. As long as it has that look, the fans are happy.

Top: 8-bit. Bottom: 16-bit. Not really that much improvement, is there?

Sound: 9 out of 10

Final Fantasy is a series with sound that is second to none. All the music is quite catchy and fitting. My favorite song would probably be the music that plays when you fight one of the four fiends.

Gameplay: 9 out of 10

Far from the best game in the series, in my opinion. Why? It’s just too damn linear. You always know where to go and that’s it. No sidequests, not even any mystery as to what to do. I’m not saying I’m a fan of the other extreme — making locations so obscure that it takes a trip to GameFaqs or NeoSeeker to find them — but what’s wrong with a little flexibility?

Still, the game’s fun. battles are simple and to the point. So simple a crack addict can play OK. The usual routine is attack-attack-offenisve spell-attack-heal. The only real strategy is that some spells, especially in the end, take too long to cast (I’m talking to you, Meteor). This might disappoint some who enjoy strategy in their RPGs, but sometimes it’s nice to not have to think too hard about what you’re doing. This is especially true with handhelds, as outside the home, you really can’t afford to focus too much on the game.

This category gets a point or two more for the extras. Remember how at one point many former allies would stay at Mysidia except for the five who are still in your party? In this version, things have changed. You can sub your current people out for others. It’s really quite cool. You might think them to be rather weak since everyone had a unique weapon type. Not to worry. There are two new dungeons you can go through if you like. The first opens as soon as this option becomes available and includes an up-to-date weapon for any untraditional choice you may have made. The second is a difficult one that pops up after you’ve completed the game and has special, character-specific quests that flesh out the personalities a little more.

Challenge: 8 out of 10

The original version was much easier in America than Japan. Word is, the Japanese thought their version was too hard for us. This appears to be that version, although perhaps a little easier (Square Enix often seems to alter the difficulty in these rereleases, One way or another). For all its simplicity, this can be a challenging game. Expect just a little more level grinding than in the American version of the original. In other words, its kind of like having to drill a lot more boards into walls than you might expect. Not a complicated job, but one that will make you sweat.

Overall: 8 out of 10

Bouncing up a point due to the additional features, Final Fantasy IV is a textbook example of how to do a remake. The original wasn’t anything magnificent, but Square Enix did a great job adding enough new things to make it more worthwhile.

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