Final Fantasy IV Advance
Review by thadarkman78
"SquareEnix could have done SO much better on this port..."
Final Fantasy IV, my favorite RPG of all time, and one of the least talked about, if not the least talked about Final Fantasy game in the western side of the world (aside from FF3, but that's because it hasn't been released yet). It is such an underrated and under appreciated game. It hardly gets the credit it deserves for changing the generation of RPGs at that time into much better story told games. FFIV created some of the common cliches we see now a days in RPGs. Naturally, I was really hyped going into the release of this port, I figured SE was going to take this impressive game and make it all the more better. Well, after playing and finishing the game, I was wrong.
The story is probably my favorite story of all time. While it may seem like a short story and an overdone one, keep in mind that this game was made in 1991. Most of the plot twists you see in the game were the first of its kind for that era. Starting in the ships of the Red Wings of Baron, your hero, Cecil, is not really your typical hero. He is a dark knight, someone who is of evil status so to speak. It's not something you generally think of for your hero of an RPG, something that needs to be done more of in current RPGs in my opinion. Cecil begins by questioning their stealing of the Mysidian crystal, and why the king of Baron wants to collect these crystals. His doubt leads him to question in King directly, and as a result is demoted from his status as Captain of the Red Wings and sent to deliver a mysterious package to the town of Mist. So begins your journey in the land of FFIV, where you must figure out why the king is trying to take all the crystals for himself, who is this new captain Golbez, and Cecil must try to figure out himself. Through the twists and turns of this plot, you'll find yourself beating this game and realizing it was so good yet so short. A fun and original storyline that will have you screaming for more.
The gameplay in the original game was nice and crisp. The battle system was very simple, even for its time. It took your basic RPG mechanics and incorporated it into a more fast paced RPG than your typical RPGS of that time. With an active system, you had to think on your feet at times instead of planning out your moves with each turn. Leveling up was pretty easy to do, not hard at all. Going through the game with a little bit of time spent leveling up was more than enough finishing the game. 14 years later, well there were some setbacks to this formula which made FFIV so good.
For one thing, there is an obvious case of Frame loss in this game. You can see the characters and their actions moving incredibly slow. Combine that with trying to move your cursor to another action during the frame loss and you find the game not registering moves with the d-pad and attacking instead of using fire. It becomes very frustrating over time, it's not the occasional miscue here and there, it happens in nearly every battle. Also another "problem" is when a character accidentally gets a turn to attack right after they attacked before. While this is really a blessing in reality, it's still is a problem that SE apparently overlooked when they were QA testing for this game. Lastly the way in which the turn system works you can have one of your players being skipped over repeatedly by other players having their bar ready. For instance if you are deciding a command for player 2 and player 1 charges his bar first and player 3 charges his bar next, the game will skip over to player 3 a lot of times instead of player 1. Imagine having that chained where another player ready's up his bar. Pretty soon you find player 1 being skipped over 5 or 6 times. It gets very annoying when you need to preform a vital move and don't have a lot of time to act before you are dead.
There are though some good sides to the gameplay still intact. For one thing leveling is still very easy to do, I didn't find myself leveling a lot, and when I needed to, it went by quite quickly. The difficulty in this game is not so easy, but not so hard either. You would find yourself struggling a little bit on monsters for lack of healing, and then when you get up to bosses it would be a relatively easy fight (save for a few bosses). These mechanics were what made the game still made it fun to play, though the flaws in the battle system made it a hair ripper throughout.
The graphics department got some changes. For one thing the character portraits were changed. A few of them looked pretty decent, but for Cecil's especially, wow, that looked absolutely horrible. The art designers made him look like a girl pretty much with his "second" sprite. For the most part the graphics in general stayed the same, with the battle system being slightly fine tuned like it was in the Wonderswan port. It looks a bit better, but nothing that you would gawk at. Also there were a few backgrounds added from what I remember in the original game, but I could be wrong in that aspect. Overall, graphics were pretty solid for its time, and on the GBA it looks nice and crisp. You can definitely enjoy a 16-bit style of a game even in 2006, it's something that grows on you and never leaves you.
The sound/music department for the most part was well done. The music has always been something I enjoyed while playing FFIV. The music was done very carefully and composed beautifully. One of my favorite tracks "Into the Giant" is in this game, and I can't stop listening to it. There were hardly any changes to the music in the port from the original, so if you music fans were worried about that, don't be. On the other hand, a few of the sound effects were changed in the port. Personally, a few of them like the entering battle sound, the "error" sound, and jump sound were all much better in the original than they are in the port, but some might beg to differ. It's not a huge con, just something I found to be a little disappointing, but I'll get over it.
Translation side, SE did a much better job translating this port than they did the original. A few of our favorites for the nostalgic fans are in there, such as the ever so popular "You Spoony Bard!". The script in general though is a lot better and much easier to understand. A downside to this (in my opinion, others may disagree) is that they translated the spells to fit the style of Final Fantasy spells seen today. Instead of seeing the classic fire1 2 3 and cure 1 2 3 4 and the ever so popular meteo, we now see fire, fira, fireaga, and cure, cura, curaga and curaja, and meteor. A few of us were bummed, but again it's something we will get over. We'll trade that in for a better translation any day.
For the extras exclusive to the port, this is where I feel SE really didn't focus enough on. Yes there are 2 extra dungeons and yes we can finally change characters at the end of the game. However there just isn't enough content still in my opinion. At the time of its creation the length of the game wasn't too bad. In today's terms however, it's a pretty short game. I think SE needed to expand the game much more, the Lunar Ruins was relatively short for a supposed "50 floor dungeon". Also the cave of trials was interesting, but not really that long either, so after beating those 2 dungeons, what's next to do? You can probably spend 20-30 hours beating the lunar ruins and cave of trials and getting all you need for all your characters. I really think SE could have done a better job with adding more things, even possibly extending the main plot with some unexpected twists. If you go straight through the game without leveling, you'll be probably in your late 40s or early 50s level wise by the time you get to the end boss. There's definitely room to add an extra few places to explore and still require some time to level. Also the lunar ruins could have been more in depth instead of the "floors" we saw. Most of those 50 floors were quite short and not even that challenging (especially when leveled). The trials in those ruins were done well though for the most part.
As a BIG Final Fantasy IV fan, I was expecting a lot coming into this release. Maybe I was expecting too much, for when I finished the game, I felt disappointed. However if there is one thing that has no excuse, it is the apparent bugs in the battle system. SE should have spent more time QA testing the game instead of trying to rush it off into release before Christmas. I hope SE chooses to spend more time fine tuning their future ports otherwise most people will probably try to avoid the ports instead of buying the classics and relishing in the beauty that the originals are.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 01/31/06
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