Thursday, June 26, 2008

Square Enix Recreates FFIV Splendor

Dark Knight and Red Wings Commander Cecil with his crew aboard their airship from the SNES (left) and DS versions.

Originally released in the US as Final Fantasy II, the fourth title in the series is getting a DS makeover with a graphical overhaul and many enhancements. Final Fantasy IV is one of the more highly regarded FF titles, as it made its debut on the SNES with a sweeping story, new Active Time Battle combat system, amazing music score, and impressive graphics. The game’s original release and subsequent localization was met with many roadblocks, as game difficulty, edits, script changes, censors, and other changes were made. While some of these issues were resolved in subsequent re-releases for the original PlayStation and Game Boy Advance, the new DS remake is getting a complete overhaul. Three quarters of the script was left out of the original game, so some of this content will be worked in through new scenes and flashbacks. With the game running on the FFIII DS engine as well as a slew of new features and additions, this looks to be the definitive version of the game.

Cecil Harvey and girlfriend Rosa Farrell.

Final Fantasy IV takes place on Earth with an Overworld mostly populated by various human character classes and a rocky, magma Underworld filled with dwarves. They live with races from the planet’s two moons, the humming-speak Hummingway and the wizard-like Lunarians. The story begins with the Dark Knight Cecil as he commands the kingdom of Baron’s Red Wings, their army of airships. Ordered to seize the planet’s four elemental Crystals, he gradually uncovers a plot by the evil Golbez as his childhood friend Kain, lover Rosa, and other warriors join him throughout the adventure. FFIV’s wonderful character-driven story is what caught the attention of many gamers. As the first game in the series to really exhibit the amazing gameplay, story, and presentation that Final Fantasy is known for, it holds significance especially for those who played before FFVII popularized the genre into the mainstream. The DS version looks to only magnify the game’s presentation with its 3D upgrade, FMV cutscenes, and its seemingly solid English voice acting. The fact that they managed to fit all of this on a single DS ROM card is truly amazing.

While gameplay retains the original ATB system, some additions were made. The Augment System was added to allow character-specific abilities to be learned to other characters as well as full command-menu customization. Standard control inputs are preserved, but there are optional stylus inputs as well. A new summon monster mini-game, New Game Plus mode, Namingway sidequests, a bestiary, and a music/video player have all been added with the new scenes and story segments. Small changes, like viewing the party leader’s thoughts on the current story are nice touches. They have also added personality and uniqueness to each location, which they couldn’t do in the original because of space limitations. Compared to the size of the DS version of FFIII, Final Fantasy IV is a much bigger game. While FFIII DS developer, Matrix Software is handling the game, original members of the SNES FFIV development team are also supervising the project.

Although FFVI still remains my favorite game in the series, I can’t wait to see what all this new Final Fantasy IV will have to offer. The enthralling story will be amazing to see in its reworked fashion, with new flashbacks and scenes looking to only enhance the experience. The lush graphical design and new game features also make this feel like a worthy re-release rather than a cheap ploy to gain sales. With a scheduled US release date of July 22 and European date of September 26, it can’t come soon enough. For those that are impatient, especially those in Europe having to wait even longer, importing is always an option. If you’ve been turned off by classic 2D RPGs, perhaps the new DS version of Final Fantasy IV will change your mind.

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