"If you missed Final Fantasy IV the first time like myself, than stop waiting and go pick this up now."

Final Fantasy IV: Advance is the Game Boy Advance update of 1992's Final Fantasy II. For those unfamiliar with the early years of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy IV was released as the fourth game in the series in Japan, hence the IV. However when it came to North America the only previous Final Fantasy game was, well... Final Fantasy. Therefore Squaresoft clearly would have rathered to release there best Final Fantasy yet as the next Final Fantasy in North America, hence the name Final Fantasy II, as to have less confusion. Nowadays many people believe they would have been better off keeping Final Fantasy IV titled Final Fantasy IV in North America, as there has now sprung more confusion than they obviously tried to avoid with all the releases of the earlier games being localized in North America, and bearing their true numbers.

Final Fantasy IV, while being about 15 years old, still has one of the most engaging RPG story lines in any RPG. While all the characters are not as developed as some may have hoped for each character is endearing enough and has an intriguing personality and story. Including several memorable characters, such as Cecil, Kain and Tellah, the vengeful wizard, who is hell-bent on destroying Final Fantasy IV's main antagonist Golbez. The story begins with the main character Cecil as he attacks nearby kingdoms, stealing their crystals in the name of the King of Baron, Cecil's kingdom. Upon Cecil's return from his latest mission, he begins to question the King's motives and if he is really doing the right thing. Cecil is relinquished from his status as the leader of the Red Wings at that very moment. Cecil's best friend and rival Kain appears to defend Cecil's position, and they both find themselves un-trusted by the King and tasked with a new mission to assure their loyalty to Baron.

Final Fantasy IV has ended up sharing its central theme with later Final Fantasies, with the common theme of one rising up against an evil empire for great justice and to become a true and noble hero. Cecil goes through an amazing journey, and comes to terms with himself and his own being and experiences several major changes during the adventure. Simply put, fans of Final Fantasy and role playing in general will not be disappointed with Final Fantasy IV's story.

As anyone would expect from a 15 year old game Final Fantasy IV has some "old school" tendencies, most noticeably being the way the battles take place. Such as when you use the attack function your character does not actually walk up and hit the enemy, they simply step forward and swing their weapon in an attacking motion. It may be a little strange at first for anyone who has never played a game like this before but suffice to say it works.

The general length of the game is about 20 hours and took me around 26 hours without doing the 50 level dungeon which unlocks after the game has been completed. FFIV plays out like most other RPGs you have played where you go around on the world map from village to village collecting items, buying new equipment, meeting new characters and so on and so forth. What makes FFIV so great is the shear quality of the adventure. Perhaps it is solely because I am a fan of the series but FFIV truly is a great gameplay experience.

The random battles themselves, unlike many other RPGs are actually quite challenging, especially later on in the game. The boss battles are also quite unique and very hard. Each character has a set class that cannot be changed, and they all contribute to the battle in their own respective way. For instance Cecil, the Dark Knight, is solely a melee character, along with Kain his friend who is also a melee fighter. Than you have characters like Rosa who is a pure white mage, and Rydia, who can use black magic and summon creatures like Titan and Odin.

Graphically Final Fantasy IV has been improved upon heavily from its SNES counterpart, but could have used a larger facelift on the GBA. It feels somewhat as a slightly upgraded FFIV rather than an overhaul which is could have used in a few places. While not bad that it stays true to its original form updated the battle graphics would have proven to not be very challenging, or making the enemies animated, instead of being still, yet very impressive looking images.

The world map alone looks much better than the world map in the original, and the character portraits have all been redrawn. Most of them are highly superior to the SNES drawings except a few changes made to some characters are a little questionable.

Final Fantasy IV simply put has one of the best soundtracks in any Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy has always been known for the series composer Nobuo Uematsu's wonderful compositions but his work in Final Fantasy IV is quite exceptional and phenomenal. The prelude, the main theme, and the battle theme are all examples of such memorable and wonderful compositions. And while some of them are not very long and loop quite often, the songs are so wonderfully composed you will not care that you have heard the same song for the 100th time.

While not as long as some of the newer Final Fantasy games Final Fantasy IV is approximately 20-30 hours long and is a complete joy ride the entire time. There are tons and tons of characters to play as, many different sidequests and one large and enjoyable adventure to be found. Once completing the game a 50 level dungeon is unlocked with superior items and equipment and many other challenges. Also as an amazing and completely unexpected bonus is the entire sound track which is unlocked complete with its own built in music player. The soundtrack along with the extra dungeon are simply wonderful additions to an already amazing package.

Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 7
Sound: 10
Value: 9
Tilt: 10

Overall: 9.1
Final Fantasy IV is an amazing game, while it comes quite late to the Game Boy Advance; it was definitely worth the wait. Whether or not you have played Final Fantasy IV prior to this release, the GBA version of the game is definitely worth a look. Final Fantasy IV: Advance is strongly recommended to fans of the Final Fantasy series and newcomers alike.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/27/06

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