Review by Mrtrouble3

Reviewed: 12/21/05

Different in good and bad ways, but at the end of the day, winds up being the same old story

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Breakthrough can be a loaded word. With the Final Fantasy Series, even the remakes, a breakthrough feature has to be added at some point, if not, something is wrong. We have seen it with every new release and with every remake. When Final Fantasy VI (formerly Final Fantasy III in the US) was rereleased for the Playstation, it had added features, such as bestiaries, a complete listing of what could be won in the colosseum, among other things. When Final Fantasy was remade for the Playstation, an easy type was added, along with new "boss fight" battle music. When Final Fantasy was released again for the Gameboy advance, bonus dunegons were added. And, of course, battle systems and other forms of gameplay get changed with every Final Fantasy.

The only title to not go through a complete or gross makeover was Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II US). The first release in 1991 was dubbed the "easy type" version. This version appealed more to the younger crowd of those who were not teenagers or adults yet. I should know; I was 9 years old when it was released. When the title was re-released in 2001 under Final Fantasy Anthology (which included Chrono Trigger, which also had special features) it was released as the "hard type:" The form that reflected the original; original dialogue, original difficulty, original everything. Was there a bestiary? No. Were there CGI movies? There were all of two, and those lasted no more than two minutes. The game was simply too good to require all of that. All fans really wanted was the game, in it's original form. That, apparently was good enough for Square-Enix as well.

So four years pass, and now it's time for Final Fantasy IV to go Portable. And it was also time for Final Fantasy IV to be seen as a "breakthrough" title. So things were added. These changes, however, were absolutely necessary to improve the quality of the game. It was long overdue, in fact. These additions should have been made 4 years ago.

These changes include the opportunity to change characters in the end of the game instead of having to use the characters given to the player, which greatly enhances the replay value of the game, which originally was the worst of any Final Fantasy title. Square Enix has also stuck to the secret dungeons that were influxed in the Final Fantasy I and II: Dawn of Souls title. These secret dungeons include an 8 level dungeon where players can get special weapons and armor for the now switchable players, and a 50 level dungeon where players can gain special abilities and items for the playable characters. These two features make the gaming experience of Final Fantasy IV advance a breath of fresh air even to someone who has finished both versions of the game several times. Included in the changes were also the standard Music player and bestiary.

Now here comes the not so good part: The part that made me question the perfection of Final Fantasy IV advance. First, there are lots of lagging in the battles, sometimes the field screens, and most noticably, when riding an airship. Although they are miniscule, they do take away from the total enjoyment of the game.

Also, it looks like the difficulty and dialogue have changed yet again. In the other two releases, the player was able to see the characters' hit points and maximum hit points. Well, that has been replaced with the time gauge, which has actually been consistently running in the battle systems since Final Fantasy VI. I am not a fan of this; I found it very convenient that I could see my players' maximum hit points during an encounter. Is there an option to switch between the gauge and maximum hit points. No, and that is not good. Also, it seems like the elements of the easy typer version have been brought back, as the players have generally more opportunities to attack than the enemy. It is not as easy as the 1991 version, but definitely not as painfully difficult as the 2001 version.

Final Fantasy IV advance definitely gives fans of the series yet another option to relive memories of an innovative game once again, but this time with a much improved replay value. It is worth getting, even if you already have the 1991 and 2001 versions. Fans that are new to the series should seriously consider getting this as well, for the newer Final Fantasy titles (save Final Fantasy IX) do not represent the series very well at all. Final Fantasy IV in any form, however, does represent the series very well.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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