Review by gbarules2999

"Classic with Class"

Following up my big budget FF III review for the DS, here comes a Game Boy Advance game that came as just as much of a pleasant surprise as any GBA game I've ever played. I was expecting another “I+II: Dawn of Souls” type of old-and-feeling-it game. Not the case. Not only is it one of the finest games ever made, but it's captivating and remade on the GBA in a diminished glory.

Pros:
-Amazing story and writing
-Frantic, fun battle system
-Long quest
-Finally on a handheld (we care about, anyway…sorry Wonderswan)
-Same great music

Cons:
-Outdated graphics
-Unreasonable difficulty spikes
-Some slowdown
-A few unclear objectives
-Poor porting to the GBA

Gameplay:

The gameplay still stands as one of the best and inventive ways to unleash violence onto your enemy. Although it comes with a slight learning curve and a difficulty dip, any fan of Role Playing Games will recognize it for the ingenious engine it is.

In battle, each of your characters has a small bar that fills slowly (or quickly, depending on your level) as the battle progresses. When you (or your enemy's) bar fills, you get your attack in. This becomes frantic and active as you play as the enemy starts to attack after him and her and all the multiple boss attacks get factored in. When the battle ends, you really feel like you participated something, just like a fun action game, because your reflexes and cleverness gets factored in, beside your character's power. Final Fantasy games have been using this system up to FFX, so any gamer will be able to tell you how awesome it is to get this method in your hands. Only rarely is it plagued by slowdown.

The overworlds, the walking around segments, are typical RPG exploration methods. Traveling from town to town, fighting and battling monsters and bosses, and trying to discover the next place to progress, none of this is new. But of course Square-Enix is the undenied master of this, and they pull it off with the mastery of the first three Final Fantasy games before it. Sometimes it's not clear where to go next, which may result in some needless walking, a small annoyance at most, and it will never cause the sort of headaches you get from, say, Legend of Zelda. The story pulls the game along so well that this is not a factor. Another might be the constant random battles, which at times get very frequent and boggling. This involves some jumps of monster levels, which means, yes, there is some power leveling.

But in the end, the gameplay compliments the rest of the game so well, and it is one of the best RPG's made. Gamespot has the original Final Fantasy IV (called FF II here in the US) in their “Greatest Games of All Time” article, and it lives up to that with aplomb.

Graphics:

Groaner time. What Square-Enix did here is not worthy in such an amazing game, and I strongly wish that this game instead of III could have gotten the amazing DS makeover.

This game is underwhelming for the eyes mainly because the game has been changed little from its SNES grandfather. The overworlds look identical; the battles look only slightly better, but in the long run, it's very underwhelming and detracts from the experience Final Fantasy games are known for evoking. Even the menus just give off a lack of quality that makes it harder to keep yourself in the present. Not a good thing, I assure you.

What really bites (and what I hear that cleaned up in the remake of V) is the slowdown that was mentioned earlier. When the game starts getting heated, it stows to a halt, or even pauses for a few moments to catch its breath. It's obvious the GBA is capable of so much more that makes this yet another disappointment.

But once you forgive the game for looking like it was on the Game Boy Color, there's a great world ahead of you. Looks aren't everything, and here it's even more obvious. The game isn't really penalized too greatly for the graphics, though it sure would be better if they had given it a little effort.

Sound:

Yes, it's amazing. What you have heard about Nobuo Uematsu and his amazing work on the SNES is true, and the GBA is made for this sound. Not only is it cleaned up, but it's some of the best chiptune music ever composed.

Although there isn't a whole lot of variety (the soundtracks has 40-some tracks, which is respectable of that game of age and size) what material is here will stun even the most jaded listener. From the distinct downbeats of Castle Baron, to the heart stirring piano on the opening menu, not only is the music better than before, but it still retains every ounce of brilliance it had in the original. And that is saying a lot.

The sound effects are elementary but adequate; I doubt anyone what expecting anything too great there anyway. The whacks of the enemies sound okay, the booms and the roars of magic sound alright, and in the end, really, it's just fine.

The sound adds a lot to this game. It's obviously a classic, and any person who claims to listen to video game music has no excuse to not have this one on their shelf. It's one of the best things that have happened to video gaming.

Story:

Saying it's a novel in your GBA is an understatement; calling it an epic in a cartridge is a disgrace. This baby is one of the best paced, well written plots of its time, and it still is. Final Fantasy is known for their huge, intricate stories, and this one is no different.

The game begins with Cecil, a dark knight under the service of the kingdom of Baron, stealing (rather violently) a crystal from an innocent town. He does not know why, he only know that he feels remorse for it; with this remorse comes a demotion in the ranks, and a mission: deliver the package to the town to the north. What occurs there is the beginning of a never-ending fabric of love, tragedy, and revenge.

While only slightly cliché in parts, the game also strikes a fine balance between too much story material and too little. There's enough to pull you along, but not so much that it's playing the game for you (hear that, FFX? Yeah, I'm talking to you!). There are some amazingly emotional scenes that will rip anyone up who is not prepared, and the fact that they are spread throughout but never become tiring ceases to amaze me. How do they get nine characters, all different, to interact with the party and the plot so well that it doesn't become a total bore?

What started a legion of a series stands as one of the best. Although VII's story is still better, those who want a firmer grasp on the plotline and the philosophy behind it better begin here. And there's nothing you're missing out on; this is a finely crafted masterpiece.

Value:

If the rest of the game wasn't enough, the game is also pretty long. Most sources say around 40 to 50 hours, with a few GBA edition bonuses giving an hour or two of extra fun. The sad thing is that the replay isn't that big, because your party will always be the same: jobs, equipment, etc. are unchangeable. You'll be using the same stuff and moves every time. There's also little incentive to backtrack. But what makes the game okay here is that it's long and it's great. Need I continue?

Finale:

Fans of RPG's, heed my decree: If thou hast not played this fine game, then get a copy immediately (unless you want to hold out for the DS version). It is one of the best games ever made, and with out a few remake-induced problems, the game would be nearly perfect. Amen.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/13/07


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