Review by kristina kim

Reviewed: 03/21/06

A less than worthwhile trip back in time

Final Fantasy IV Advance harkens back to an age of games that remind us why videogames, as all things, tend to get better as time goes on. It's good for nostalgia purposes, for kids who remember that fateful day when the first great Role Playing Game was delivered to the states, with a scope unimaginable to most players at the time. The graphics and sounds wowed gamers as did the gameplay; the active time battle system made battles less tedious and more exciting. The storyline was less cut-and-dried as other games in the genre: your party members had changes of heart, died, left, came back, and ultimately, evolved throughout the game: not just in the story, but also in the way they played.

In this day and age, however, it seems little more than a novelty to play. It's great for everyone who wanted to take Final Fantasy IV on the go, but the target audience here is for everyone who missed it the first time around and wanted to see what all the fuss was about by nostalgic gaming publications claiming it to be one of the finest games ever. Then, you must consider that the game is almost pitifully weak in terms of plotting and is more of a chore to get through than anything. For it was crafted very much in the style of RPGs that were considered revolutionary nearly a decade ago. From the endless battles that are all the same and which require almost no strategy other than to correctly target the right enemy, to the unbalanced parties over which you have no control over the composition of and must make do with even in the most dire of situations. Exacerbating this problem is the hideously high random encounter rate that crosses the very fine line between grappling your attention and testing your patience.

Much has been made for the translation, as the original Super Nintendo version was a mish-mash of poor english translation due to budgetary restrictions, cultural boundaries, as well as Nintendo's own censorship policies. However, what you will find here is a story almost akin to what is studied in literary circles, but yet, of the kind of depth you will find in elementary reading. Mark Twain once said that a classic is something "everyone wants to have read, but no one wants to read", and rightly so; for everyone can praise and speak at length the quality of a classic, but it is probably done more in the interest of self-edification than earnest praise. It takes a staid and almost unforgiving heart to realize that to say that the story was harmed in translation is nothing more than an apologist's method of suggesting that this was a game that was destined for greatness and somewhere fell short due to the shortsightedness of an aloof corporate executive more concerned with making money (or even more tragic, to minimize the potential loss of). There's no plot point that makes sense that you can't see coming a mile away, and half of what is said is unnecessary when the classic "..." would do.

What is ultimately presented is a very linear adventure that involves little more than plodding through locales that could all be the same were it not for the color of the ground, fighting enemies that grow progressively stronger but not any smarter and requiring nothing more to beat than being at the right level. There is no customization to be had, merely that you remember to purchase equipment and supplies when the opportunity presents itself. The boss fights, something that should be used to create tension and drama, as well as providing a hefty challenge to the player, themselves are nothing more than exercises in tedium, in which your goal is not to outsmart the boss, but merely to outlast them.

There is, however, and audience here, sure to praise the game and raise it up as a worthwhile purchase; a trip down memory lane for everyone that was disappointed by the sluggish emulation of the Playstation version or wished to have the game to take with them on long trips. And for them, it's the greatest treat to have; the game does move by at a speed even greater than on the Super Nintendo and it's been streamlined to better fit portable play. But overall it does little more than show that games, like all things, age, and only some can be considered classics while others can only once ever shine in the limelight but cast a long shadow when put next to their contemporary brethren.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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