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    Review- Final Fantasy IV DS
    Friday, 10 October 2008
    Remakes. They seem to be everywhere these days with companies looking to draw on their rich heritage and bring their old classics to the new generation. Or, taking a more cynical view, remakes are seen as companies being low on inspiration and looking to make some quick cash by repackaging their old material. Final Fantasy IV is undoubtedly a classic game and where better than the DS, with its booming RPG market, to unleash the game once more upon us.

    Even with a passing interest in gaming you will have at least heard of the Final Fantasy series. The series was always known by gamers worldwide, but were something of a rarity in the west due to some games in the series not making it out of Japan. Back in the day, FF IV was in fact known as FF II in the west but since the release of FF VII, the numbering of the games became standardised worldwide. Now, if that has made you are unsure whether you played FF IV before or not this should clear it up for you: it’s the one with Cecil and Golbez. Fans of Final Fantasy often highlight this fourth entry as being the best of them all- it blew peoples minds back when it first released on the Snes, so is it all just nostalgia, or is FF IV worthy of this remake?

    The game opens with some gorgeous (though not perfectly compressed) FMV with music that will tug at your heartstrings if you are an FF IV veteran. Beginning a new game, you play as Cecil the Dark Knight of Baron. Cecil has always been the most loyal of servants to his king, however recently he has began to question the king’s motives more and more. I won’t go into the details of the story, but as you can guess, things spiral out of control leaving the fate of the county and world in your hands. The adventure is a lengthy one, however it plays out deceptively rapidly as the story is well segmented and always driving you forward. You always know where to go next whether you have played FF IV in the past or not.

    Unlike FF III, there is no job system. Each character has their own specialities and areas of expertise meaning your party will always be diverse, leaving you to worry about little more than levelling them up- which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As in FF III you would have spent a hefty amount of time levelling up each character as well as each individual job, meaning the game became a huge grind. In comparison, FF IV is much more focused. You have Cecil who will be your “tank” and others who will be your white mage, black mage, etc, which allows each character to have their own role and play their very deliberate parts in the story. In battle you line up with a maximum of five party members (split between being front and backline) and rather than being strictly turn based, battles are played out in the groundbreaking and acclaimed ATB system. With active time battle, everyone has their own bars that fill up before they can take their turn, making for something that’s more engaging than your standard turn based affair. To add extra spice to proceedings, FF IV is an RPG that is less about power levelling and more about utilising good tactics in battle- a lot of the time, if a boss beats you, the answer is not simply to spend time grinding but to adjust your approach to the battle.

    So with FF IV already being available on GBA, is there any point to pick up the DS one? Well, yes I would have to say there is. The DS game has sufficient additions to warrant your time and money and I’d even go as far as to say it’s the ultimate version off FF IV on the market. Sadly, the extra content added to the end of the GBA port is missing, but FF IV includes Augments, an all new (and incredibly charming!) Namingway sidequest, an auto battle feature as well as possibly one of the best New Game + features in any game yet.

    Augments are one-time abilities that you receive when characters leave the party or can be found in certain locations. They are difficult to find and as for the ones you do uncover, seeing as when equipped they cannot be removed, you will find it rather daunting as to whether you should actually assign them or not. Through the augments you will gain such abilities as counter, darkness and a variety of others. They allow for some extra customisation and are fun to play around with, but it would be nice if you could remove them if you do find a particular ability would be better suited to someone else.

    Auto-battle allows you to give each character a preset move which they will continually use when you enable auto-battle, which can be turned on or off with a press of the X button. Auto-battle is most useful for random battling where you would normally just be attacking your way through with little need to think, if you just sit back and allow auto-battle to take you through the boss fights then you will be decimated. It’s a good feature, which will save you from hammering the A button as you slash your way through random battles in the field.

    The New Game + feature encourages you to play through the game three times in order to get the most out of it. You carry your Augments over allowing you to have certain abilities from the get-go. Even if you normally find yourself playing through your games once and then shelving them, Final Fantasy IV on DS will genuinely coax you back for more.

    What is a letdown is that while Square-Enix said there was a lot of the game left on the cutting room floor back in the nineties, the additional story content in this remake is negligible. You will notice some scenes here and there that are new, but on the whole this is basically the same FF IV as it always was. On the plus side, the story while not being as impacting as it was on the Snes, it is still good enough to make you want to keep playing. New players will find it clichéd, but you should keep in mind that FF IV was one of the games that set the standards for how a strong story could be delivered in games. At key junctures, the major scenes are played out as voice acted cutscenes. The voice acting is in general of a fine standard- however Kain’s voice is a lot deeper than personally I ever imagined it to be.

    Musically, the title is also top notch. The stars were truly in alignment when FF IV originally came out because Nubuo Uematsu’s soundtrack is one of the most recognisable in the whole FF series, with Theme of Love even becoming part of the Japanese curriculum.

    When all is said and done, FF IV is worth playing by everyone. Veterans will simply adore this trip down memory lane, and will enjoy toying with the Augments as well as spotting new scenes. Newbies will also find a lot to enjoy with this remake. It may seem fairly archaic if you have been brought up on more recent RPGs, but with a 3D make over, the game can be enjoyed by today’s DS playing generation. Heck, its even worth trying FF IV out if you have played and dislike proper turnbased RPGs- the ATB system keeps things more interactive, so its worth having a go before you dismiss FF IV as just another boring RPG.

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    posted by darksnowman @ 13:10  
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