Review by Ice Water
A port of a sweet game made by a group of slackers? Sounds like my kinda game.
Back in 1990 the USA finally received a taste on what Japan was holding out on us for a few years: Final Fantasy. The game was a unique RPG compared to most others, featuring the ability to choose your own party, and go out and do whatever the hell you wanted to for the most part, ultimately leading up to the final fight at the end. The game was pretty successful in America and people were awaiting the sequel.
At this time, the Super Nintendo was created, and people were starting to say to hell with the NES since the SNES was superior in every way. While people were doing this, the marketers in Squaresoft decided to pull a fast one on the American public. Seeing how the true sequel to Final Fantasy was made several years before the US release, Squaresoft figured that we would never know the difference and decided to give us the Fourth game in the series instead of the previous two, never to show their face in America until recent years. And thus Final Fantasy II was born.
Final Fantasy II came and grabbed the RPG lovers by the shirts and didn't let go. At least until they started hearing some of the dialog coming from the characters mouths and wondering why the hell they sound like childrens. Then after they stopped caring about that, they sat back and enjoyed the game as it was.
Now what the hell does this history lesson have to do with Final Fantasy IV Advance you may ask? Simple. Eventually America caught on to this fast one Squaresoft pulled off when Final Fantasy VII came out and everyone was asking 'what the hell happened to FF 4-6?!'. So Squaresoft eventually re-released the series on the Playstation (sans FFIII) and brought back everything that was taken out for the most part. As for the port of Final Fantasy IV, it turned out that Squaresoft had been holding back on us big time. New to the port was the ORIGINAL GAME complete with extra skills deemed too crappy to be used in our copy of FFII, as well as an increased difficulty deemed to difficult for our RPG players. Sure we can kick ass in Ninja Gaiden III with only five continues and horrendous bugs that make us lose half our entire life bar in one hit, but we sure as hell couldn't handle taking down the bosses in Final Fantasy IV at full HP.
So fast forward a few more years to a time when people were starting to lose hope on ever seeing a port of their favorite Final Fantasy on the Gameboy Advance like they wanted when the system first came out. All of a sudden, Square-Enix out of the blue announced that Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI would be coming to this bad boy pretty soon, and a buncha chaos emerged. Final Fantasy IV was then released a couple months later, with enhanced graphics, the original difficulty, and more extra features than you could shake a stick at.
So why the hell did this game get only a 7?
The story to this game is probably its strong point. As Cecil, leader of the Red Wings, you begin the game heading back to the kingdom of Baron to give the king the crystal that you and your homeboys stole from the town of Mysidia. After doing so, Cecil questions the actions of the attack and is demoted right there on the spot and forced to go with his buddy Kain to the town of Mist to deliver a ring. So the two head out on the road onto a quest of epic proportions. After reaching Mist, a buncha crazy stuff happens and the real meat of the story begins to unfold.
Like most good stories, this one sure as hell grabs you by the collar and doesn't let go for a good while. Unfortunately, being a story driven game and not allowing you to stray off the path but once in a while, the game may end quicker than you want it to.
Like every other Final Fantasy out there, the controls are a breeze to pick up. And since this is on the Gameboy, the controls are even simpler. Using the A button will allow you to confirm just about everything on any menu that you come across, and let you open up treasure chests on the screen in dungeons and stuff. Using the B button will allow you to cancel any menu or selection you may have chosen, allowing you to go back a screen. The B button can also be used to let your character run outside of battle to get around quicker. The Start button is used to open up your main menu outside of battle to allow you to use items, equip your team, change the order they're in, or even save your game. The L and R button on the over world/dungeon do nothing more than swap out whoever is the character represented as the leader of the group, but in battle they allow you to attempt to run away.
Now for the most important part of the game. Being the first RPG to incorporate the Active Time Battle system, Final Fantasy IV is a nice fresh breath of air for a change. No longer do you have your dudes attack, then the enemies, and so on and so forth like a good game of Pong. Now you can attack the enemies at any pace given that your character has the ability to input a command. Commands in battle vary from a simple attack, to complex black magic spells, to useless stuff such as the ability to attempt to run away easier (as if it wasn't easy enough already). Keeping with the traditional RPG fashion of 'kill them before they kill you', this game offers many a random battle encounter on a do or die basis. Fortunately if you're sick of fighting, you can simply hold down the top two buttons (L+R) and hopefully be able to get the hell out of dodge without losing too much cash. Do this too much though, and you won't gain necessary experience points to be able to get to the next level, thus preventing you from learning any new spells or getting better stats.
Unfortunately due to the 'improved' version of this game, the game throws in the ATB bar that was previously introduced in Final Fantasy V and used for the rest of the series. Sure it is helpful to know when your next characters turn is going to be, but in the process the slackers who programmed this in made a few mistakes. For starters, it now seems like the enemy gets in less turns than you do, and this is hella noticeable during the first few minutes in the game. Its not even uncommon to go through the first dungeon without taking a hit in this version, unless you mess around with the battle speed in the options menu. And occasionally, the ATB bar will screw up and allow a character to take double the turns, even if their bar is completely empty.
This ATB problem also affects the way that some characters use their attacks. Kain's Jump command for example used to just let Kain get up and get to jumpin' as soon as you put in the command. In this version, if you're flying through commands quickly without taking a pause, Kain will just sit there holding his fist up at the enemy and not do a damn thing. Major problem for the impatient player right here, seeing' how many people want things done as fast as possible. Despite this though, the battles are still pretty fun to play through.
Despite the slight bugs here, and many more that are still being discovered by people on the boards here, the game still delivers in the fun department, but only if you just don't give a damn for the most part. Granted, the slacker developers could have done a bit more than just port over the Japanese Wonderswan Color version of the game, but what are you gonna do?
Sounds and stuff
The original version of Final Fantasy IV (PSX or SNES, don't matter) had some of the best music to have been heard around 1991. Being a big step up from the original tunes on the NES (which weren't bad either), FFIV brought forth some great stuff that you'd be willing to listen to again later on your computer without the game actually playing. And then the game got ported to the Gameboy, which is pretty inferior to the SNES as seen in other ports like Super Mario World. Granted, the tunes didn't get screwed up too much, but there are a few places in the game were you will go "damn, I wish they didn't change that note". My words exactly when I heard the new sounds for the staff being used as a weapon. Ding-a-ling my ass, it should be a solid thwack instead when an enemy is being struck with a solid piece of metal.
But other than the common bastardization of SNES-to-Gameboy Advance sound effects and music, the tunes are pretty much the same as the original SNES version, and provided you can take a few slight changes every now and then the experience should be the same.
So what's the deal with the new crap put in here?
As mentioned before, this version of Final Fantasy IV has added in a buncha new stuff to keep the game fresh. Sadly, all of these features takes place before the original final dungeon so it'll be a good while before you can even take on any of this stuff but holding out until then will reward you greatly. Among new features not seen in any other version of FFIV are:
-the ability to change your party members
-a new dungeon containing new weapons for said members
-an even better new dungeon after the game is completed
-new challenges for each character after they are used in the final battle
-brand spankin' new optional bosses
-probably even more that I forgot!
Worth my thirty bucks?
The extra's themselves makes up for the fact that you're playing an inferior version of Final Fantasy IV, and is the sole reason why this game didn't receive a 4 instead of a 7. If you were a fan of the Playstation version of this game though, and don't give a damn about extra features, that is probably the version for you instead. But if you like the ability to play this anywhere you want without the need for the PS1 screen and car adapter, then you may as well get this version and enjoy the ride, as well as the awesome optional dungeons offered at the end. They're worth it.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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