Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Final Fantasy IV (DS)

Final Fantasy IV (FFIV) for the Nintendo DS handheld system is unique because of its complete 3D polygon overhaul. I must start off by stating that I had never beat FFIV before until I played through the DS version of the game. I had tried playing it before on the PS1 but never got too far. Considering many, many people have already beaten FFIV in some form or another, I will not be holding back on spoilers in this analysis.

I have never played FFIII, so I don't know exactly what Squaresoft had in mind at the time when working on FFIV. But I do know the result is a well made, challenging RPG that lacks a bit in story development. Yet by the end of the game you have traveled to so many locations and defeated your antagonists that the story feels larger than what is written. It is that experience that makes this Final Fantasy so special.

As for this release, FFIV DS was developed by Matrix Software and published by Square Enix. Nothing wrong with that, as members from the original team helped to supervise production. Personally, they did a great job with rendering the game in 3D, as it almost has a PS1-era feel in the graphics. Some of my favorite Final Fantasy's come from that generation, so FFIV DS felt right at home. Also, it's worth mentioning that additional story line has been added to the DS version of the game. This is apparently because when FFIV was originally released on the Super Nintendo, large sections of the script were cut out due to text limitations.

Let's have a look at what Matrix Software did with FFIV (sorry about the watermark on these first 3 images):

First we have Cecil standing outside a completely rendered 3D Baron.

Cecil takes a stroll in town.

The top and bottom screens of a battle on the Nintendo DS.

As you can see, all of the environments are in 3D, including the nice backgrounds that appear during a battle. But just for fun, take a look at this comparison screenshot between old and new.

Cool huh? The battle system is Active Time Battle (ATB), meaning enemies will attack you at will so you need to be on your feet at all times. An auto-battle feature has been added but I think this feature is lame. It's nice to constantly think and plan your battles out, so why would you want to use auto-battle? I read up on some interesting gameplay techniques, and some people prefer to assign very specific abilities to their characters and use auto-battle as a further strategy in gameplay.

Field battles aren't too difficult until the end of the game where the final dungeon is a huge pain in the ass. Some boss battles still remind me of the pain! The Dark Elf and Dr. Lugae battles were some of the worst. I will never forget all of my characters falling and having only Cecil alive to fight the Dark Elf. Hermes sandals to caste haste on myself, heal, attack, attack again if I'm lucky, heal, attack, etc. Eventually I won and it was such a glorious moment that I clapped! Alright enough of that... Basically, any boss battle that seems too hard means you need to level up some and try again. Taking 30 minutes to an hour of training is usually all it took for me to blow through a formerly difficult boss. Speaking of levels, by the end of the game my main party was kickass:

Cecil - 88
Kain - 82
Rydia - 87
Edge - 84
Rosa - 87

The areas where this theory doesn't hold up are the final dungeon and the king's lair where Bahamut idly waits. At this point it comes down to searching out superior equipment, most of which comes from the final dungeon on the moon itself. Crystal armor, dragon armor, special Masamune and Muramasa blades for Edge, Ragnarok for Cecil, Holy Lance for Kain, and status-nullifying Ribbons round out some awesome loot. With these items equipped the moon is a piece of yummy pie! Oh yeah, also having Rydia's Bahamut summon is a really good idea. 9999 damage helps A LOT in this game.

A large and important addition to FFIV DS are augment abilities. These are abilities that can be inherited or found within the game's world. In basic terms they are abilities commonly found in other RPG's such as auto-potion and multicast. Augments are a neat addition to the game, but I wish they were explained a little bit better. Characters can only learn an ability once, and then you need to equip that ability. What frustrates me is the way in which you attain a large number of augments in the game. Characters such as Yang, Palom, Porom, Tellah, Edward, Cid, and Fusoya require that you give them a certain number of already available augments in order for them to give you augments in return. Some of the best augments in the game are acquired this way, including Phoenix, dualcast, multicast, focus, darkness, cry, and counter. I wish I knew from the start about this system of getting augments... it would have been very helpful later on!

I mentioned earlier that the story isn't very strong, but as a whole it comes together nicely and it feels as if you've been on a grand adventure. What I mean by this is the quickly cut pieces of dialogue that occur after a character dies or something really bad happens. Anna's death, Tellah's death, Yang's supposed death, etc. Although Anna's death is explored more with Edward and his cowardly story line. In Final Fantasy IV we are taken from the surface of the planet across mountains, deserts, and oceans to the underworld and to the moon. Crazy I tell ya! Who would've thought I would be fighting up on the moon in order to save the planet? Well I guess FFVII and VIII had us go in space but that's another story...

Our main characters are presented fairly well with Cecil, Rosa, Kain, and Rydia coming out on top. I understand that Edge is part of the main party in the end, but he's a pain in the ass kid who's also a NINJA. So yeah, no wonder he stays in the party. Cecil and Rosa like to get it on like donkey kong (oops copyright) and Kain gets jealous along the way.

Cecil and Rosa before they get it on. Although Cecil won't get anywhere with all that armor on.

"Darkness" inside Kain's heart takes over and the main antagonist Golbez uses him as his pawn. Cecil sort of expresses sadness for destroying at least two villages, but makes up for it all by burying his past and becoming a paladin.

At this point he is reborn, maybe like Gandalf, and uses white magic and gets super cool bonuses when using Holy weapons. Rosa plays the role of getting captured and so we need to go save her because she and Cecil are in love. Yay! Rydia has her own cool story where she falls off a boat at age 6 (or something), presumably dies, finds her way to the land of summons and ages rapidly because that happens when you hang out with Leviathan. And when she comes back she's at least 16 (or something), and although none of the characters come out and say it (Cid and Edge, I'm talking about you!) we all know they think she's a hottie.

Just sayin'...

As for our main character Cecil, we learn Golbez is actually his brother and their father was a Lunarian, meaning they're from the moon! Golbez realizes he was being controlled by Zemus, a Lunarian that was sealed away by the 8 mighty crystals of the world to prevent destruction and such. So they team up in the end and take him out! The ending is fairly nice with a wedding and all, but Kain still has issues with Rosa and Cecil hooking up. He seems to try and distract himself by stating he will become a better Dragoon than his father, which I have no clue where that came from but hey it's motivation...

Sometime in the recent future Square released a sequel of sorts called The After Years, where Cecil and Rosa have a son and events unfold and such. It was released on the PSP in a Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection package but I currently do not have a PSP. I'm not sure if FFIV really warrants a sequel, but it's cool nonetheless.

Final Fantasy IV is a fun, traditional RPG with a classic story that takes you far enough to fight on the moon. Having never gotten very far in FFIV in the past, it was simply a treat to be able to play through the story on the DS with 3D graphics. I can guarantee that this release will bring joy to those who played the original game all those years ago, feeding on the nostalgia factor. Although I didn't have such a feeling of nostalgia, it now almost feels nostalgic having played it; familiar story, characters, music. And let me tell you, Uematsu's score is well done and I'm so happy to have learned where particular themes come from. Theme of Love, Rydia's Theme, Troian Beauty, etc. are all beautiful without a doubt. I highly suggest checking out the Celtic Moon release of FFIV music. The DS version of the game has its own special recording of the original sound track.

I would recommend Final Fantasy IV DS to anyone who loves traditional RPG's and the Final Fantasy series, both to those who have played and who haven't played FFIV in the past. The 3D overhaul, cutscenes, and additional story elements make up for purchasing a game that has already been rereleased. Fortunately, none of them boast a fully rendered environment like this one.

Title: Final Fantasy IV DS
Developer: Matrix Software, Square Enix
Genre: Japanese Role-Playing Game
Year: 2007
Platform: Nintendo DS (played on Nintendo 3DS)
Completion: Played through FFIV DS in 50 hours, 40 minutes. Leveled all final party members to mid and upper 80's. Gained extra equipment and completed some sidequests.

- Jared C.

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