Review by Axios
"Compared to other versions of this game, the Gameboy Advance port is terrible"
I first played Final Fantasy IV many years ago when it was released on the PSX, and immediately it became one of my favorite games. For a game so old, it has an incredible storyline, great gameplay, and it presents quite a challenge to the gamer. It was one of the few games where I would spend many tries on almost every boss, and often I ended up redoing entire dungeons simply because I was too underleveled and consumed my MP and items too fast. When I defeated the final boss, I felt an enormous sense of pride, because I had worked very hard to reach that point. So naturally, when this game was announced for the Gameboy Advance, I grabbed it the day it came out. Almost immediately I regretted my decision.
If a structure is poorly built, it does not matter if it was built by a "great architect," or if it replicates an extraordinary building. The only thing that matters is that it is a cheap shack. Similarly, if a choppy, simplified game is made for a console, it does not matter if it was designed by a company with an outstanding reputation like Squaresoft, or if it is a port of a classic game loved by many fans. The fact remains that you'll spend more time waiting for the game to function properly than you will spend actually defeating a boss.
This is the case with Final Fantasy IV. It is full of glitches during battles. Sometimes the game simply won't respond to your commands for a few seconds, which will give the enemies an extra turn to attack you. In other cases whenever you push a button once it will act like it was pushed twice, which can really screw you up if, for instance, you choose to attack and then you automatically attack the default enemy when you wanted to target the more powerful enemy instead. And oddly enough, sometimes a character will suddenly get a turn even if their ATB gauge hasn't finished filling up yet.
As if glitches aren't enough, in and out of battles the game can be very slow. When I am cycling through items, for instance, I expect the cursor to go down the list at a very fast rate. However, in this game it seems very choppy whenever I scroll the cursor down a list of menu selections, which I honestly don't have the time for - I'd rather be killing enemies instead. Casting certain spells can slow down battles tremendously, which is simply inexcusable.
The little time you will actually spend fighting enemies more than makes up for the time lost due to glitches. Although this game was rumored to be based on the "hard version" of Final Fantasy IV (the one released in Japan for the Super Nintendo and on the Playstation in America), it is remarkably easy. On many of the bosses I found myself simply telling each character to do a normal attack (even the casters, who do less than ten damage) over and over again, and I would win the battles without ever having to heal. This was all done without ever bothering to pause and level up my characters. So I suppose the fact that magic slows down battles is compensated with the fact that you don't need magic at all in battles - they're all too easy. There is little point in playing an RPG that forces you neither to level up nor use any special skills nor form any strategy.
To top it off, there are some features of this game that are just plain annoying. One of them is the fact that your characters cannot walk; they always run. Why Square couldn't have simply required you to hold the "B" button to run is beyond me, but the fact is that at running speed you are likely to bypass openings that are one tile wide, which in a dungeon can easily lead to unnecessary random monster encounters. I don't like to have to press left and right over and over again in a desperate attempt to line myself up with a doorway.
On a more positive note, this game is still Final Fantasy IV, even though it's been butchered a little. The storyline is outstanding for a 2D game - it even rivals that of some of the newer 3D games. There are tons of plot twists, complex characters, and unique and memorable events. There are many items to acquire, places to visit, sidequests to do, and even some new features in this version. Does the quality of the original make up for the poor quality of this port? Well, if you are a diehard Final Fantasy fan and must have this game to take with you on a car trip, than I suppose you shouldn't let it's faults stop you. But if you're simply looking to try out Final Fantasy IV, try it on another system where it will play much more smoothly.
I never thought I would give a Square RPG a poor rating, but with a great game turned into something this terrible, I have no other choice. Had this been the same as the original or PSX version of Final Fantasy IV this game would receive a deserved 10 out of 10, but with glitches, slowdowns, and a complete lack of challenge, this once-great game becomes a malfunctioning abomination that I would strongly discourage you from buying.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 12/26/05
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