Review by Fin_Obelius
"The question is whether this classic has aged well or not."
The game I am currently reviewing is Final Fantasy IV Advance, a port of the original FFIV that was released on the SNES in 1990 by Squaresoft (currently known as Square Enix). But you know what's the funny thing? Back then, this was known as FFII, and no one was the wiser until the cult classic FFVII was released. By that time, people were getting seriously riled up about where the hell Final Fantasies 4-6 were. So then, Square re-released the rest of the games on the PlayStation console (minus FFIII). You know what happened? Square decided to crank up the difficulty on the PS releases to ridiculous levels. Let's not mention the crappy glitches. This included FFIV as well. Players noticed changes that served as proof that Squaresoft edited the original FFIV so the American audience was playing a downgraded version of the original Japanese format.
Even so, people in the US loved it. Despite the flaws, gamers loved this classic RPG. Let's speed up the usual crap to a few years later. Unexpectedly, Square Enix announced that they would be remaking the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) Final Fantasies on the Game Boy Advance-without the edits. A few months later, FFIVA was reborn in North America-with a prettier face than ever before.
I have to say that FFIV is the first Final Fantasy to have a real storyline. For all of you romantics out there, you'll not be disappointed as the story focuses on a love story. But first, allow me to elaborate upon the actual storyline itself. Right off the bat, you play as Cecil, a Dark Knight, who is under orders of the King of Baron to take Mysidia's crystal and give it to the said monarch. After committing such an act of theft, the seeds of dissent are sown within Cecil. Once he confides the King with these feelings, he is demoted immediately. Can you say 'suspicious'?
The king seizes this weakness to kick Cecil and his best friend, the Dragoon, Kain all the way over to the village of Mist. Unfortunately, because of this, he leaves his beloved Rosa as quickly as he saw her again. After some dungeon crawling, the duo arrives in Mist. Simply put, all hell breaks loose. By then, the story starts to unfold piece by piece. This game has a good linear story, and will occupy your attention for a while. This is both it's shining point and it's downfall. The linearity doesn't let you stray off the designated path often. Like I already mentioned, the sheer depth of the story makes up for this lack of flexibility.
The gameplay in this classic is both an improvement and the opposite compared to Final Fantasy III. The obvious downside would be the exclusion of the genius that is the Job System. However, it was replaced by Squaresoft's more recent brainchild. This concept was so popular that it was incorporated into the next ten Final Fantasies. I am, of course, speaking of nothing other than the Active Time Battle system! No longer do your assailants and companions take turns attacking, for that has been changed in favor of a more modern-and somewhat complex-concept. Your characters now have gauges that show you when their turns will be. When the gauge has filled up, that character's turn starts. When you have issued a command such as Attack, Magic, Item, etc., the gauge will become empty and gradually refill. The cycle repeats until your party members or your enemy is defeated. It's that age old concept: Poke it with a sharp object until it stops moving.
Of course, there are times you get in an uncomfortable situation where you would rather flee. Never fear, you can easily run away from the random encounters in this game but usually it comes with a price-you drop some Gil (The currency of the Final Fantasy games). There have been times when this doesn't happen, but it's rare. You don't get experience points either, even for monsters you slay in the opponents' party before you flee. The ATB system might be incredibly awesome, but this game is a port of the original-meaning any glitches that might have resulted from experimenting with the ATB are still present. Those glitches vary from annoying lag times to premature turns (not that I'm complaining about the latter but that's still messed up).
Therefore, the key to mastering this game is rapid execution of commands and the lag really screws up the gameplay-especially in that particular aspect. Regretfully, the linearity of the storyline shows it's ugly face even in this section. The Job System has been removed in favor of preset classes for each character you are capable of controlling. Since this is a traditional RPG, you level up by killing monsters before they do it first to you. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? When you level up, your characters' stats increase, and at some levels, you can learn new magic.
So really, the developers were just slacking off even in this port. I can't change the fact that we asked for a port, not a remake, though... People on the internet are still finding new bugs; and that's not good. But if you can ignore the glaring flaws, FFIVA turns out to be a-okay.
Back then, the graphics were competent, and since this is a port, I'll go with 1990's standards. The graphics are sprites with color, that's all just swell. The only gripe I have is the infinite movement loop NPCs are stuck in. Instead of stopping running, NPCs's legs continue to jerk back and forth in a crude impression of walking. The only characters that are cured of this terrible physical ailment are the characters that have any significance to the plot. Therefore, it leads me to believe that the game developers put little effort into this game.
This is it. The only section you are interested in even though I spent an hour or two writing this dang thing. Square managed to cram in a few extra features such as the ability to change party members, new optional bosses, but yet, ironically, they did little to remedy the major flaws that besmirch this game's image. As I mentioned before, it is my belief that the developers put little effort into this game. It might have been easily ignored compared to it's other revolutionary features in 1990, but nowadays, it seems like a buggy mess.
And guess what? This game is completely portable. You can just play it on road trips if you're bored. You've just gotta love the Game Boy Advance. A little thing to note is that the transition of SNES to GBA sound effects and music wasn't done well. There might be moments where you cringe at the alien sounds that emanate out of the speakers of the GBA. But again, like a lot of the features in this game, it's just a minor gripe and nothing that will have a lasting effect on your opinion of this game. FFIVA threw in some new tunes into the mix, and some of them are a definite improvement, so I can't really complain. But this is a review so it's my job to complain about and praise games!
This version is without a doubt an inferior incarnation of the classic that has been reawakened from it's grave once too many times already. Thankfully, the bugs are my only major gripe and they don't hinder the gameplay significantly so you should still be able to enjoy this game. All in all, Square didn't do anything to improve the game in question and simply slapped on some nifty new features to make it worth the veterans' time to play. At least they didn't screw up in that. So therefore, you should play this game to experience firsthand the evolution of the world's most legendary game series.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 02/25/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy IV Advance (US, 12/12/05)
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