Review by bluej33

"Role Playing at Its Finest!"

Ever since the world-famous franchise began more than 15 years ago, “Final Fantasy” has become synonymous with the term “role-playing games”. By offering incredible, emotional plots, addicting, innovative game play, a loveable cast of characters, and more customization you can shake a stick at, famed developer Square Enix has created among the most popular game series in video game history. Some gamers rolled their eyes when Square Enix announced the re-release of Final Fantasty IV back in 2005. Do we really need to relive every memorable gaming experience we've ever had the pleasure to have? Well, Square Enix thought so, and I, for one, am thrilled that they did.

Being a remake, Final Fantasy IV is the same basic game as the original, titled Final Fantasy II, released way back in 1991. As the story goes, Cecil, a Dark Knight of the country of Baron, is tricked by it's king into unleashing an explosive attack on an innocent enemy village. Racked by pains of guild and conscience, Cecil resolves to change his ways. Among the wreckage of the town, he finds a young girl with innate magical ability. Having tragically killed her parents, Cecil takes her under his wing as he begins the journey to banish his evil self and restore a warring world to peace.

Final Fantasy IV's plot stands out most because it is by no means cliched; when you compare it to new-generation RPGs on the market, you understand how truly creative and deep the writers for FFIV were. During Cecil's epic quest, he meets a colorful, perfectly-written cast of characters. From his would-be lover, Rosa, to an enigmatic, moody ninja named Edge, to his lifelong friend Kain, Cecil will never have to fight alone. Not only are the vast majority of the characters wickedly cool, but the writing and background for each character is expertly done. I can't honestly claim that I've ever felt emotionally touched by any video game characters before FFIV. The list of touching scenes goes on and on, but more than 18 months after completing the game, the one part I still remember is the scene between Edge and his parents (I won't spoil anything, but if you've played the game, you know what I'm talking about).

Progressing your way through FFIV's engrossing story takes place as it does in just about any 2D Final Fantasy game. As you work your way from town to town, you immerse yourself in a number of activities. Every town has something significant about it. Some will trigger new parts of the story, or will introduce new characters. Others offer the opportunity to engage in the game's enjoyable side-quests, allowing you to up your inventory or rare and useful weapons, armor, and items.

One of the best aspects of Final Fantasy games over the years is the huge amount of customization you get -- mainly in the form of weapons and accessories. Most characters are in a distinct, specialized class: Final Fantasy classics like White Mage, Black Mage, and Ninja, as well as different classes such as Paladin and Dragoon. Each of them, in addition to having some special, useful skill to use on the battlefield, also has a unique repertory of useable weapons. For example, Mages are limited to low-weight physical weapons such as staves and rods, but can use powerful offensive or defensive magic. On the other hand, the Paladin's magical abilities are quite limited, but he is able to perform incredibly powerful physical attacks.

The plot is quite possibly the single best aspect of the game, but the game play is what really pulls it all together. Once you've customized your fighting party and equipped your favorite weapons, you're ready to take on any foe. As is the staple of Final Fantasy games, enemies appear randomly on the map. However, if you're used to traditional boring turn-based fare, then you're in for a pleasant surprise with FFIV. In what is in my opinion the most innovative battle system ever created, Square presents a turn-based system with quite a twist. Next to each character's name, there's a small meter. This meter fills up in real time, based upon that character's speed stat. Once it is full, your character has the option to perform a variety of actions: perform an attack, cast a spell, use an item, flee, or bracing for an attack are all available for use, along with each person's character-specific ability.

But Final Fantasy IV offers a breath of fresh air in terms of more than just the game play. Any hard-core gamers out there will be happy to know that unlike current-day role playing games, FFIV offers what we can legitimately refer to as difficulty. Like any good game, the learning curve is mild; newcomers and Final Fantasy vets alike will have no trouble getting the hang of this game. After that, though, you're just along for the ride; the game builds up to a shockingly high difficulty level. Because of the perfect learning curve, though, you shouldn't have too much problem with it.

Another aspect worthy of note is that there is truly no need for level-grinding in Final Fantasy IV. Buckling down and gaining five levels every ten or so hours is certainly going to help you out, but it can still be beaten without going through this sometimes monotonous task. This fact is thanks largely to the game's battle system; because it is not simply taking turns, and there's actually somewhat of a reliance upon your skill, battles can be won even though it may appear that you are under-leveled.

Continuing the proud tradition of fantastic sound in the Final Fantasy franchise, FFIV offers terrific music throughout. The tunes are wonderfully synched with the rest of the game, and manage to exemplify all the epic action, plot twists, and emotion that the game itself contains. Graphically, though, Final Fantasy is not exactly impressive. It has SNES-era graphics, which is not exactly a bad thing. I, for one, and happy that the developers concentrated on recreating this beautiful gaming experience, rather than worrying, as may game designers do, on how the game looks.

Even if you played FFIV when it was originally released, there's still reason for you to purchase this game. Not only will you have the opportunity to play it on the go and without the burden of a bulky console, but there is also some new material. There are new character-specific dungeons that not only present more backstory for each character (which I guarantee you will come to love, each and every one of them), but they also present a huge challenge. This alone, at least for me, is enough to warrant another purchase.

Final Fantasy IV is easily the best RPG that I've ever played. Its plot is masterfully done, the game play is unique, addicting, and not at all boring, as is the mechanic of many other RPGs. The characters come to life thanks to the expert writing, the customization provides endless replay value, it's refreshingly difficult, and the music is beautifully synched to the game. The graphics are the single aspect of the game that will not blow you away; luckily, though, they by no means detract from the overall quality of the game. No matter who you are, no matter how good you are at RPGs, you need to own this game. In my opinion, it is hands down the best RPG ever made, and deserves a purchase by anyone who owns a GameBoy Advance.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/19/07, Updated 01/03/08

Game Release: Final Fantasy IV Advance (US, 12/12/05)

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