Released in 1991 in Japan, Final Fantasy IV is considered a landmark in RPG’s. It’s considered one of the first RPG’s to have a story-driven and complex plot. The original US release on SNES confused gamers, as it’s called Final Fantasy II, because it was the second FF game to come to the US. Despite being completely butchered in the localization process, it was also praised. Though now in retrospect, and after several more faithful ports, it’s kind of frowned upon. In 2008 a 3D overhaul was released on the DS. Along with new visuals, this has many surprise updates, and this version is what this review will be on.
You play as Cecil Harvey, captain of the Red Wings, and the game begins as you return from the city of Mysidia after stealing their water crystal. Disturbed by the actions he just committed, he voiced his concern to his king, and the infuriated king removes Cecil’s rank and sends him off. His close friend Kain Highwind speaks up for him, and the king gives them both an order, to deliver a ring to the village of summoners.
The next morning Cecil and Kain head off to the village, and when they finally make it, they realize that the ring contained a spell that then destroys the entire village. Cecil realize the farce and then proceeds to do what he can to find out what’s wrong with his country.
This game is the first appearance of the Active Time Battle system that the series would continue to use for several installments. It’s largely a turn-based battle system, but with a timer to make it more similar to a real-time battle system where you have to act in real time to make decisions. There’s two gameplay options regarding this: there’s active and wait. Active is the full extent of the system where scrolling through the menus waste time, while wait pauses the battle during the menu screens. The SNES versions of FF4 do not show a time meter, but later installments, including this one, have a bar like the later games.
A new feature specific to this version is the augment system, where you can find augments lying around the game and you can give your characters extra abilities.
Another addition to this game is the increased difficulty level. Square wanted to surprise veteran fans by not only increasing the difficulty, but also changing the strategies needed to kill some of the bosses. While this does make the game more challenging, but it also increases amount of grinding done in the game. The bosses have increased stats and you have higher level requirements, but at the same time they forgot to give you more experience in battle. So later on in the game when you have to grind 3 or 4 levels, it takes ages.
This game uses the same engine as the DS remake of Final Fantasy III, but they learned from the previous game that they needed to utilize the second screen more, so it’s no longer just left black through much of the game. The graphics are updated from FFIII, so it’s not like the Dragon Quest remakes where they look exactly the same. The 3D graphics do breathe a lot of life into the game, finally seeing more detailed characters than the previous versions is definitely a plus.
List most FF games, the soundtrack is very well done, and the DS sounds a lot better than the old 16 bit versions of the SNES versions.
Final Fantasy IV is a great game, though while some aspects of the game haven’t aged really well in the SNES versions, the DS does spice it up to keep it relevant. Though the enhanced difficulty can get annoying, and grinding can be a massive pain, but if you can shovel through the bad parts, there’s a very enjoyable game underneath.