"spoon-y (adj.): Enamored in a silly or sentimental way."

In concept, remakes sound like a really great idea for any idea-pressed developer. There's minimal coding, minimal brainstorming and thought process, the ability to expand on a game that may need a little fix-up here and there, and most importantly there will always be a hardcore following willing to play this game. Unfortunately, many of those devout fans indulge in the new versions simply to disparage them, opting to instead promote the original by whining about the changes that the port brings about. Remakes are constantly harangued, discriminated against and otherwise maligned, and though they don't always represent creativity on the part of the developers, they don't get the respect they deserve.

Final Fantasy IV Advance, while falling victim to many of these ravages, still manages to be a faithful and enjoyable adapatation to the flagbearer of Final Fantasy's golden age. Because the game remains largely the same to its predecessor, this review will instead address some of the changes made by Square-Enix and some of the complaints that FFIV fans issue about it. For those who have been keeping up, there's been a war of attrition on the FFIV Advance message boards about several points of the game that seem tweaked or modified for the worse. Most of the complaints are actually valid, but not enough to totally destroy the enjoyment of the game. Let's sample a few of the purported negative aspects of this remake...

This game is too easy! Even FFIV Easytype was harder than this!

This complaint is one of the most universal. Many gamers have claimed that you can breeze through the game effortlessly, especially the beginning section of it, and the foes provide little to no challenge at all. Unless Square-Enix intentionally went in and changed the damage algorithms, however, I don't see any reason as to why this would be true. I can, however, offer two explanations:

a) The player, much more familiar with the workings of the game and where all the treasures are, knows when to train and how to deal with bosses. If you know the game in and out, a remake isn't going to offer you any new twists or challenges, optional dungeons notwithstanding. Perhaps you know to train for some difficult boss; perhaps you know just which Magus sister to kill so they can't perform the Delta attack. Regardless, I'm sure that some of the difficulty that the original presented waned with age and experience.

b) If you're playing this game on an emulator, as with many, the difficulty seriously diminishes. This is not only because of the unnatural advantages like save states, but also because battles take far less time with fast-forward and you're far less inclined to retreat from them. Face it: no one ever slogs through every single battle in an RPG, but simply by holding down one button you can frameskip and make things plenty faster. With this, your characters quickly attain far higher levels than they might on the SNES, and consequently the fights become easier.

This is not to say, however, that FFIV Advance is completely without challenge. There are still some fights in the first 50% of the game that can knock the unexpecting gamer for a loop (though the second half of the game is far harder). Regardless, some of the complaints about difficulty silly and invalid.

Ugh! The character portraits look like barf!

What's wrong with attempting a new graphical style for the game? Many graphics in the game, most notably the facial portraits for the characters, were modified, touched up or altogether redone. Monster sprites were sharpened in color and definition, the out-of-battle characters were changed a bit, and there was even some nifty Mode 7 added to the world map during flight sequences. The new face pictures, however, are widely contested. I will confess that some of them aren't always changed for the better (Rosa? Where is your nose?), but it's honestly not that big a deal. Plus, some of them actually look better, like Rydia and Edge. For the most part, the changes are on the positive side, except for they seem to lead to one new problem...

Why is there so much slowdown? The battles keep pausing! I hate this game!

FFIV Advance seems to be plagued by some sporadic slowing-down and skips during battle. This is undeniable, but like most of the translation quirks to the GBA, largely over-accounted for in its scope. Skips happen maybe once out of 20 battles, and they are rarely for longer than a second and a half. The slowdown is rarely present as well, mostly during airship scenes. It can get a little annoying, and is definitely an existent problem, but any gamer could live through it. Square-Enix was even kind enough to loan us a new running function in towns and other non-overworld locations, which cuts down the idle wandering time. Of course, it does shorten the length a little bit, but not having to plod around everywhere is a welcome boon.

Ultimately, the whining that many do about FFIV's newfound disadvantages is highly exaggerated. Any true fan of the game could find it within their heart to suspend these possible pitfalls and appreciate the game for all its new touches and the old charm that still lingers. Plus, it's portable now. How can you go wrong? In addition to the handheld boon, FFIV offers new life to a game entrenched in SNES history.

It is based around the Final Fantasy Chronicles script, which is a far more acceptable and coherent translation than its progenitor. Though there was a certain degree of charm to the original's quirky, mutilated script, I do enjoy coherent games, and thus the dialogue of the GBA incarnation is much appreciated. Some new development is even integrated, such as a backstory (however scant and optional) for Kain. Also like Final Fantasy Chronicles, the game adds in all the items that the American Easytype FFIV removed, though I must confess a lot of them aren't very helpful. Treasures like Golden Apples and Soma Drops are appreciated, but who the hell uses stuff like Bacchus's Cider anyway? (Cider. Heh. Come on, Square-Enix, you can say 'Wine'.) FFIV Advance even still more new items, what with the advent of the two new dungeons as well. We now have the 8-floor Cave of Trials, created for the sole purpose of getting items for characters you can newly switch into your party. Yes, you can now include the people who leave your merry adventuring crew at one point or another in your final battle party, such as Edward, the twins and Yang. (Sadly, Tellah is absent from this roster, as is FuSoYa.) Besides that, there's also the 50-floor Lunar Ruins, where you can get awesome new weapons for all of your characters. These add some new challenge and verve to a time-worn classic, and because they're 100% optional purists need not feel threatened by their presence.

All in all, Final Fantasy IV Advance is a moderately flawed but still enjoyable appendage to a SNES classic. Any fan could suspend themselves to see past the minor glitches in the gameplay and graphics and enjoy a fresh new rendition of one of their favorite games. This is a worthy successor to the original and a deserving part of the esteemed Final Fantasy lineage.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/19/05

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