Final Fantasy IV Review
As stupid as it was, I used to be a smoker. It was and is a vile habit, which makes the difficulty some have in simply quitting even more baffling. Everyone who does manage to quit goes about it differently; some go cold turkey, others get patches or gum, etc. How did I drop the habit? I sat down and figured out how much I had spent on cigarettes since I started smoking at age 18. Then, I figured out how much I was spending every week, every month and every year. The numbers were just too large for me to continue and I quit right then and there.
As I was standing in line to buy the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV, a similar question occurred to me. How much have I spent over the years on remakes of older games (especially Square or SquareEnix titles), games I have already bought and finished at least once? I'm sure the figures would make my cigarette expenditures look like a high school kid's weekly paycheck from a fast food restaurant.
Even with that thought in my head, I chose to buy the newest version of Final Fantasy IV anyway. My lungs are now praying that spending money on an old Final Fantasy and/or SquareEnix game isn't as easy to justify as purchasing a pack of cigarettes. Unlike my past vice and many of the barely updated Final Fantasy re-releases, Final Fantasy IV on the DS is fulfilling, well worth my money (and yours as well) and, even though it was my FOURTH time buying the game, I still feel as though I made a purchase I wouldn't end up hating myself for in a few hours or days. With cigarettes, I knew what I was getting when I paid for a pack - bad breath, smelly clothes and the inability to climb even one flight of stairs without huffing and puffing. While I pretty much knew what I was getting when I bought this game, playing through to the end held one huge surprise - even with the original version's 20th anniversary just over the horizon, Final Fantasy IV not only holds its own against other modern DS RPGs, it surpasses nearly all of them.
The new DS version of Final Fantasy IV is the second DS remake of an old Final Fantasy title, with the previous one being Final Fantasy III. Unlike III, though, IV feels less like a torturous return to all the stuff that made so many NES and SNES RPGs simply unbearable and more like a definitive version of a truly classic game. IV was the first Final Fantasy game with a story worth following and characters that weren't completely one-dimensional. The previous three games in the series may have had a plot, but if it was there I must have missed it. Hell, in the very first Final Fantasy, the characters didn't even have names! IV changed the focus of the series from painful hours of level grinding to great storytelling and more-often-than-not compelling and believable characters. Without IV kicking off the narrative aspects of the series, we would have never seen games like Final Fantasy VI, VII and IX. So not only is IV a great game, it's actually a rather important landmark in video game history.
Since IV is, at its core, a remake of a very old and very well known game, I won't bother to go into the story. If you are the one guy who never got around to playing this game, all you need to know is that the story is fairly good (its no VI, though) and easy to follow. What I should tell you, though, is that SquareEnix has done with IV what I wished they had done with III; instead of just concentrating on updating the port's graphics, they also fleshed out the already complex storyline with new dialogue, actual voice over and a few new areas and tasks. The DS version is truly the best IV ever released, whereas III was only just the prettiest version of that game; it was near identical to all the previous versions, just with a 3D touch up.
I also won't be spending much time on the graphics and sound either. The voice over is good, the 3D characters and enemies look great and, of course, the cinematics are made even more unbelievable by the fact that you'll be watching them on the relatively weak (graphically) Nintendo DS. There are a few questionable aspects to the game's sound, such as the truly bizarre "entering battle" noise (it sounds like the audio department was staring down a deadline and instead of putting in the effort to find an appropriate tone, they just mashed the keys on an old Casio synthesizer and went with that), but the graphics are top notch. Final Fantasy IV is truly exceptional in the audio/visual department.