Review by Gbness
Some things are merely last resorts
Final Fantasy IV. It's a game which was released on the SNES in two different forms, and also the PSX, in which we may or may not have had previous experiences with. There are thus, obviously two different ways to approach it considering it was just released on the GBA: as a game or as a port. And I am one of those terribly unfortunate people who had played FFIV prior to the GBA, and when I did it wasn't called "Final Fantasy IV Easytype", otherwise this review score would be substantially higher. And as such I'm forced to rank FFIV as a port. Such a shame, that a good game goes through shoddy development.
We all know the story of Final Fantasy IV, which has remained untouched. However, the gameplay has undergone a huge makeover. First of all, battles are full of glitches, lag, and other issues. This is especially true in our infamous dragoon Kain. He gets the command Jump, does he not? With the concept of waiting one turn for him to perform a stronger attack? Let the man keep his skill, don't handicap it! In FFIV Advance, it's pretty much Kain uses Jump, waits one turn, then actually jumps, and then lands. Truly annoying, taking any use out of something as timeless as that. And Cecil, who was and is generally the strongest character on the team, tends to get three turns to any other character's one. Hell, sometimes he'll get a turn when his ATB gauge isn't even half full. Not much in the field of compensation for me.
The difficulty, as you may have deduced, has been dropped to the rock bottom. Enemies are slower, and also far, far weaker. Let me use the final boss as an example. I beat him in this game at a little over Level 50, with a lot of ease. In the hardtype version of the game, I was at Level 70 and had to utilize a clever tactic to make him easier. Why is he easier in this game? Because he's almost exactly half as fast as he was in the original, and while his Big Bang attack isn't really weakened that much, you can now EASILY heal all the damage from it and reduce him to the point in which he's no threat at all. While it almost sounds like I'm nitpicking about not having to level up, that's just an example. The same things holds true in almost all of the bosses. I know Square believes us Americans to have inferior gaming skill compared to the Japanese, but now I almost feel discriminated against.
Let me digress from that point and bring up one relatively good thing, though. In the original you were stuck with Cecil, Kain, Rosa, Rydia, and Edge for the final parts of the game and you couldn't change that. Now you can, allowing you to place Cid, Edward, Yang, Palom, and Porom in your group. I liked this idea quite a bit, but there are some problems in it. For one thing, you need to go up to the Hall of Prayers to do this. Why this couldn't be done on the menu is beyond my knowledge, but this can only happen quite late in the game anyway, and thus it's barely an issue. However, Yang is severely overpowered. He can do almost as much damage as Kain can with his Jump, with his mere Attack command. That seems a little odd; but ah well, whatever Square can do to make the game easier, unless it's a glitch that makes the game harder, they'll do it, right?
Now I'm sounding too hard on a classic game. Yeah, I'll admit it's Final Fantasy IV, and there are definitely some good things added to it. The main thing we have here is the addition of the Cave of Trials and the Lunar Ruins. The Cave of Trials serves as a regular, easy eight floor dungeon with five bosses, which drop five of the strongest weapons in the game for our five new characters. I have no problem with that at all, except it DOES add to the overall cheapness of Yang. The Lunar Ruins, despite being a randomized 50 floor dungeon which doesn't sound much like a thrill ride, is quite enjoyable. It has nine trials in it that serve to increase your characters' power, giving them improved commands so that Edward is usable, Cecil gets an even better ultimate weapon, etc. While I have some issues with the place itself, such as a certain floor which forces you to fight a very annoying enemy that escapes in a couple turns and counterattacks everything anyway, the Lunar Ruins is all in all, a very welcome addition.
And there are some welcome things that have been changed in this game as well. For example, instead of just a little sword icon and "Shadow" next to it, we now have "Shadow Blade". Very welcome, and it makes things easier to understand. There's also an Optimum Equip option, which I never used much but is another decent addition. However, one thing I would have liked to have changed was the item limit. Give us lazy people who never sell our crap in the very unlikely event it might ever have a future use a chance, ya? On another positive note, you've got character portraits used when they speak, and some minor translation issues fixed, and while I preferred the name Milon to Scarmiglione, these kinds of things are definitely welcomed. And of course, Square decided to be kind to us and leave in "You spoony bard", but we all knew that would need to happen, am I right?
Graphically, there's not really too much difference between this and the originals, but you do have to admit that the backgrounds are really crisp and clear. What's more, the character portraits have been changed, and most of them look fairly good. Rydia's has that new mature look around her; plus Cecil as a dark knight and Kain look badass enough. I don't care much for Cecil's paladin portrait though -- Square never was great at making a paladin look like a paladin. Which brings me to another point; I would think that Square would update the sprites at this point, since they look fairly deformed when you're comparing them to everything else that's been tweaked up here? Oh well, who cares. It's graphics.
As for the audio, the music has remained the same and also become more accessible with the bonus feature of the Music Player once the game has been beaten. The sound quality remains top notch on the GBA, and thus I have absolutely no problems with the music. It's the sound that caught my attention. Now tell me that I'm nitpicking, that I pay too much attention to details in video games and whatnot, but was I the only one who thought that the sounds were completely changed? And it's not for the better; I was perfectly fine with the way rods sounded in the original, why not up the difficulty instead of changing such minor things? I could swear entering battles sounded different, too. That just sounds like a pointless change to me.
We've arrived at yet another way that we can play Final Fantasy IV, which is without a doubt one of the better games you can play, with the original being a challenging game that offered quite an experience. If you want that full experience, I advise staying away from here. While the originals didn't have the ability to change party members, access additional dungeons, or have the extras of a bestiary and a music player, they offered the full pleasure of the game. A challenge, and one to satisfy yourself with. And I won't deny that Final Fantasy IV isn't the easiest game in the world to acquire, but if there is, then FFIV Advance should be merely a last resort of obtaining it. Just be prepared to breeze through the game without a challenge in the world.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
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