Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection Review
By now, you’ve probably already played Final Fantasy IV at least once. Whether it was back on the SNES when it was called Final Fantasy II, or any of the recent remakes or re-releases, most have had at least one good chance of catching up on the game that is so fondly remembered by so many. To date, the remake on the DS has been considered the “best” new version, with updated graphics, new features and some streamlined gameplay, but it left out the Wii-exclusive The After Years and completely new Interlude, two mini-RPGs that mimic the look of the original while following the lives of the characters beyond IV’s final curtain. Square Enix has combined all three titles into one complete package, but does this new version of the classic game measure up? And more importantly, is this enough of an excuse to play through a 40+ hour RPG yet again?
Well, maybe. Final Fantasy IV is presented here in its second best showing to date. Unlike the rather recent Nintendo DS remake, The Complete Collection looks like the original 16-bit title; the new artwork and 3D modeled characters and areas have been dropped in favor simple-by-today’s-standards sprites and animation. In all honesty, this feels like a big step backwards. The DS remake was a thing of beauty; a classic game recreated for today’s visual standards while keeping the beloved story exactly in place. The Complete Collection’s version feels more like a cleaned-up port than a new experience, and those who loved the DS remake will be completely deflated by this version. It is worth noting, however, that the DS version’s CG cutscenes are included in this version, but again, it doesn’t feel like enough. I’m all for retro style and classic gaming, but Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection simply can’t unring the bell put in place by a far-superior remake.
No matter your feelings on the original game’s new visuals, the real draw for most gamers will be The After Years and Interlude. Why? Well, you don’t actually need to play FFIV on this disc to access the new (or half-new, if you’re a Wii owner who already played The After Years) episodes, and I imagine a lot of those who have already played FFIV multiple times will jump on that option. The trouble is, to put it plainly, neither of the FFIV sequels/spin-offs are all that interesting.
Since the events of Interlude take place (almost) immediately after FFIV, we will start there. This mini-RPG (if you go slow, there is about 10 hours worth of gameplay in this one) follows Cain, Rosa and the rest through another battle, this time with an imposter posing as friend and teammate, Rydia. This all-new quest ties FFIV to The After Years nicely, but the events feel tacked-on and don’t represent a true sequel to the original.
The other “new” game included is The After Years, a game that has been available on the Wii as an episodic download for some time now. This one follows Cain and Rosa’s son, Ceodore, through a series of events that has players revisiting a lot of areas from FFIV and meeting up with a few of the characters we all know and love. The new faces introduced, however, aren’t all that interesting, but fans will be delighted with the handful of cameos by the classic characters and the somewhat updated battle system. The After Years can be an interesting window into the future of the FFIV bunch, but its episodic nature makes it feel choppy and uneven. As with Interlude, The After Years comes off as a half-sequel, one that never feels completely necessary, and is more fan service than actual game, kind of like Final Fantasy X-2 or Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
Viewed as whole package, this is the most comprehensive Final Fantasy IV experience to date, but the younger gamers, the ones most likely to be FFIV virgins, may want to take pause before running to the store just because the box has the words “Final” and “Fantasy” on it. FFIV is a decidedly old-school RPG, and that brings to the table a handful of gameplay elements that may alienate those who weren’t around for the 8- and 16-bit eras. Random battles hound each and every step you take, goals are vague and character interaction is very limited by today’s standards. The game also requires a good bit of level grinding if you want to pass the more difficult dungeons toward the end, and that process is going to seem extremely tedious to gamers who haven’t seen it in modern titles. FFIV is still a great game after all these years, and without the graphical upgrade in the DS version, I could see some passing on this title altogether. They shouldn’t, but it’s going to happen.
As I write this, I keep coming back to The Complete Collection’s biggest issue: the visual backpeddling on the original. As a champion of the “graphics don’t equal gameplay” school of thought, I kind of hate myself for placing such emphasis on this flaw. Imagine playing Super Mario Galaxy and having someone tell you that the original Super Mario Bros. is being re-released. Seeing those 8-bit graphics would come as a shock, and that is exactly what happened here. The two extra mini-RPGs just aren’t enough to garner a recommendation over the still-available DS version, which makes the whole package feel totally unnecessary. That said, FFIV is still one of the best RPGs of all time, and if you STILL haven’t played it and don’t own a DS, now is your chance. Even without the graphical update, the greatness of the game shines through and is one of those that everyone should play before they die.
Final Rating: 75%.