|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Matrix Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jul. 21, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
April 29, 2008 - Three years ago Square Enix released Final Fantasy IV (FFIV) on the Game Boy Advance (GBA). This was a remaking of the Super Famicon classic RPG of the same name. Now the Nintendo DS - current handheld juggernaut - gets its own version of what many consider to be the seminal game in the long-running Final Fantasy series. If you're wondering why FFIV is deserving of yet another remake, join me for a brief look back.
The fourth installment in the FF series brought many new, groundbreaking elements to role-play gaming at large. FFIV was the first RPG to institute the Active Time Battle (ATB) system - a hybrid system combining elements of both turn-based battling and action RPGs. The first three games in the FF series were strictly turn-based fare, and players could take as long as they liked to map out strategies for defeating foes. However, FFIV brought a sense of urgency to battles, and fans were greatly appreciative of this new, more interactive RPG style. Additionally, the game took Final Fantasy stories out of the realm of subtlety and into the world of depth. FFIV was the first game of the series to explore its characters and plot with a depth comparable to that of a great novel.
FFIV puts you in the boots of dark knight Cecil; he's the captain of the royal airship squad, The Red Wings. Cecil is charged by his king to seek out and retrieve all of the world's magic crystals, but the king's methods cause Cecil to question his loyalty. Rebuked and demoted by His Highness, Cecil is then sent out on a fool's errand to hunt down a great beast in the nearby Valley of Mist. It is then the true adventure begins.
But why remake the game so soon after its GBA release? According to a recent article in Nintendo Power magazine, Matrix - an in-house development team for Square Enix - expressed an interest in giving this game one more shot at the limelight (Nintendo Power, May 2008). Considering FFIV's gameplay and story still stand the test of time - the game maintaining its place as one of the most relevant RPGs around - along with the impressive reconstruction of the visuals and fine-tuning of the various gameplay elements, story, and plot, it perhaps makes more sense to remake this game now (on DS) than ever before.
Matrix is the team also responsible for bringing us the DS remake of the "real" Final Fantasy III in 2006. This was a game previously unreleased outside of Japan, and the DS remake was the first, viable opportunity for U.S. fans to experience this lost chapter in the series. The developers did a bang-up job of translating the classic RPG for today's audiences. The 3D graphics were, for the DS, breathtaking, and the entire production had a great, cinematic flair.
Matrix is taking a similar approach in its remaking of FFIV, and the entire game is getting the full, red-carpet treatment, with respect to its look, sound, and presentation. Like FFIII for the DS, FFIV will be leaving its 2D trappings behind in lieu of a new, fully realized 3D world. However, we can expect to see better use of both DS screens this time around, a marked criticism of the FFIII remake, which mostly stuck to just one screen for the duration of the adventure. In FFIV, most of the action will take place on the DS' top screen, with the touch screen housing character info during battles and a map of dungeons while exploring. The map, in particular, is a very welcome addition to this game. Players will now find it easier than ever to explore the treacherous dungeons of what is known to be one of the most challenging Final Fantasy games to date. Additionally, we'll be treated to some tasty voice work, something not all too common in any DS game. The developers will also be tinkering with some actual gameplay elements, making less relevant characters more useful this time around, as well as hammering out areas of the story the team felt didn't quite work in previous iterations of the game.
Haven't played Final Fantasy IV before? Well, that's okay. You won't need to have played any previous games in the series to find your feet with this remake. For those unfamiliar, the Final Fantasy games are generally unrelated in terms of story (with a few exceptions and spin-off games), so any RPG fan can jump right in and go on a grand adventure.
The remaking of Final Fantasy IV for the DS is being led by its original creator, Takashi Tokita, and will feature a soundtrack by famed composer Nobuo Uematsu. Yes, FFIV was already remade not too long ago on the GBA, as well as seeing past releases on the PlayStation, Super Famicon, Super NES, and WonderSwan Color, but new and long-time fans alike should find something worth checking out in this latest DS iteration. Square Enix never skimps on the glitz and glamour, and FFIV for the DS is sure to be another blockbuster showing from the publisher.
CCC Freelance Writer