When Final Fantasy IV was originally released on the SNES in 1991, it quickly became a hit. Unlike many of the other RPGs at the time, it boasted a large cast of characters that were tied into a deep and intriguing plot, and this helped elevate it above the crowd. In 2005, Final Fantasy IV finally made it to American shores as a GBA remake of the original game (previously known as Final Fantasy II in North America).
Now, three years after the Gameboy Advance remake, comes yet another reimagining of the game. Like Square Enix’s other Final Fantasy revisits, Final Fantasy IV has had its visuals overhauled to the point where it exceeds the standards of most Nintendo DS games. The real question though is whether or not the content stands true to the quality of the original game.
In Final Fantasy IV, players take control of Cecil, leader of the Red Wings. Cecil has lived his entire life watching over a group of elite soldiers in the servitude of the King of Baron. Then one day this mission changes: the government that Cecil has sworn to protect is falling into a dark evil. After yet another mission that leads to the destruction of an entire town, Cecil and his long-time friend Kain, leader of the Dragoons, abandon their pleasurable lives and escape from the Baron’s army. Needless to say, in true Square Enix fashion the story is compelling, gripping, and is the same as was in its original release.
Since Final Fantasy IV is a remake of the SNES version of the game, you’d expect to see some improvements in the game. Thankfully, a lot of changes have been made to the game, but none drastically different or detrimental. Though the story remains the same, practically everything else has been changed or modified. For starters, Square Enix has decided to take the original 2D game and transform it into 3D in order to take advantage of the DS’ power – this also includes some 3D cutscenes. While these in-game graphics look great, the cutscenes simply put them to shame; the only worthy descriptions a ‘beautiful’ for the graphics and 'magnificent' for the cutscenes.
Though the amazing graphics are the most evident upgrade to the DS version, it is by no means the only vastly improved feature. When you first start playing the game, you will be pleasantly shocked by how superb the game’s beautiful CG intro is, from the visual and audio standpoints. The intro lasts for about two and a half minutes and the best part about it is that the entire thing is completely voice-over (VO) supported – a feature present on many other parts of the game.
Besides the changes noted above, Final Fantasy IV has also had its gameplay tweaked a little. The DS version’s battles are slower than they were in the original, yet there is an option to adjust this: to pick up the pace a little bit, the player just cranks up the ‘battle speed’ option to 1, which is the fastest available. Having this feature means the game is suitable to both newcomers and seasoned veteran RPG players. Besides the pace of battles taking a hit, random encounters have also been reduced – enemies will occur less frequently in the DS version, thankfully.
Unlike the original Final Fantasy IV, this version boasts a new feature known as ‘Wayfarers Map’. Any time you’re in an undiscovered area, the map draws itself onto the bottom screen. As you explore the new terrain more of the map will become visible until every corner of it has been explored. Maps not only highlight important facilities such as shops, inns, and equipment stores in villages, but they also reward you for exploring dungeons completely: you’ll be presented with things such as potions, which are essential to your very survival.
Every Final Fantasy remake that has hit the Nintendo DS so far has improved upon its predecessor while at the same time retaining the original fun factor. Since these revisits have done very well in terms of sales, it was no surprise that Square Enix decided to take another stab at Final Fantasy IV. It also comes as no surprise that, like the original, Final Fantasy IV is a very challenging RPG that'll appeal to all fans of the genre: the graphics are superb, the soundtrack is great, and the gameplay is top-notch. When everything is said and done, this is a must-have RPG.