Final Fantasy IV Advance
The concepts of new battle systems, melodramatic characters, psychotic villains and detailed parables seem to pervade every role-playing experience these days. Players owe these distinctions to the Final Fantasy series, an experience that has spawned from one company’s Hail Mary into the definitive series individuals seek for role playing experiences.
It is no surprise that the developers of this series, Square-Enix (formerly Squaresoft) have amassed great wealth due to this series success; an unfortunate byproduct of this though, is their insistence on making sure the Final Fantasy name remains in the hearts of gamers everywhere; various iterations of the series have been released and re-released dozens of times, to the point where people like me are clamoring for an original idea from this establishment.
Final Fantasy IV is the latest iteration set for a remake, due for release on the Nintendo DS later this month; prior to that, it has seen release on Sony’s original PlayStation as part of the Final Fantasy Chronicles package, along with the Game Boy Advance. Both of these games are based off the original Super Nintendo version that was renamed Final Fantasy II and released in 1991.
FFIV’s ‘advanced’ edition is probably the version that will be the most accessible to players, due to its wide availability and lower price; however, while the game may offer the promise of portability, the question remains of whether or not this iteration does its predecessors justice and the series proud.
Final Fantasy IV’s story centers on the exploits of Cecil, a dark knight in the kingdom of Baron. While he has spent the majority of his life serving his majesty dutifully, he starts to question the nature of his responsibilities when he learns of his master’s true intentions. Cecil’s sovereign makes it clear that he desires the crystals and will stop at nothing to obtain them, even if it means decimating an entire village. Cecil eventually questions his lordship’s actions which lead to his majesty relieving him of his rank; he then sends him to defeat a monster in a far-off village. What starts as a simple quest eventually becomes so much more.
Along the way, Cecil is befriended by a diverse group of characters: Kain, his good friend, Rosa, his longtime love, Rydia, a young summoner, and Tellah an old mage with a bit of an early memory problem. Other characters will make their services available as you progress, and the assistance provided will be vital if Cecil is to complete his journey.
Of course, this is all familiar territory if you have seen and conquered Final Fantasy IV on the Super Nintendo or Sony’s original PlayStation, on the surface, there is not much to differentiate this game from its earlier iterations. The graphics and sound remain unchanged from its Super Nintendo predecessor; meaning that the environments are well-presented and the music is memorable enough that players will find themselves humming on various occasions. The game’s ‘active time battle’ system is also present, which combines the best of turn-based battles with active participation. While players can take time to deliberate on their choices, enemies will still attack, meaning that quick decisions are paramount.
A few minute changes exist though; for instance, the dialogue in this version is slightly better than before, and a few name changes are present throughout. The character portraits are also redrawn and the text is modified to acknowledge the GBA’s smaller screen.
However, while these minute changes are nice, what makes this version of Final Fantasy IV ‘advanced’ are the gameplay changes that are present. An additional dungeon is included should players wish to extend their time with the game; also, some of the characters are given new abilities that contrasted from the Super Nintendo edition. Cecil’s Darkness ability now emanates an energy wave, which was a perk not present in the Super Nintendo edition of the game.
Other than these alterations, this is the same Final Fantasy IV that has made a mark as one of the definitive role-playing adventures in gaming history. While the outside may appear dated compared to modern games, the core gameplay experience remains fresh. Anyone looking for a worthwhile and challenging role-playing game should definitely pick this up.