Final Fantasy IV - Reader Review  

Advanced? Sort of.
by JuMeSyn

Oddly Lacking
25-30 hours


Rating definitions 

   The Game Boy Advance, friend to the listless game developer. For it is thanks to this platform’s uncanny ability to evoke the properties of yesteryear’s Super Nintendo Entertainment System that the prospective listless game developer is able to bring old titles to a new audience. In the case of an audience member’s having been granted the ability to play the putative title in its original form, the listless developer will include some token new content and name the title not merely a port, but more. Such a situation describes the development by Square Enix of Final Fantasy IV: Advance quite well: how coincidental….

   This being Final Fantasy IV in the main, its tale is probably known to most RPGamers. Those who have for whatever reason not sampled its intricacies will find Cecil the Dark Knight on a mission for his kingdom of Baron with his good friend Kain, when something goes quite literally postal (in the macabre sense of the late 90’s). From this Cecil will learn a little something about life and its preservation (in the form of Rydia, a girl he saves from the aftermath of the postal incident), a little something about love (in the form of his long-waiting girlfriend Rosa), and a lot about life-leeching loons and the people one runs into while fighting life-leeching loons.

White chocobos make for handy napkin substitutes after a hard day of random battles White chocobos make for handy napkin substitutes after a hard day of random battles

   The story isn’t terribly original nowadays but still holds up rather well, and circa 1991 was the best in the business. Helping things out is the use of a much better translation than what-was-then Final Fantasy II received. Without issuing massive spoilers to those who haven’t played the title, any further information is difficult to impart.

   Final Fantasy IV instituted the Active Time Battle system that would be used throughout the SNES and PS era by the series. As presumably few RPGamers have not encountered ATB a quick rundown of its points is all that need be done: characters and enemies do not take turns but depending upon agility and the time necessary to complete an assigned task are able to make a move in real time. The original did not allow the player to see the meter charging for each character; this has been changed for FFIV: Advance. FFIV also features up to five characters in battle simultaneously, the only time this was allowed during the Final Fantasy series. One irritation seems to result from FFIV: Advance being incompletely tested during its porting process. Semi-frequently the action will freeze in battle for no reason, and after perhaps 10-20 seconds resume. The music does not freeze, so the player will have to pay close attention or lose precious seconds of battle to enemy action.

   Challenge is oddly difficult to detect in FFIV: Advance. The port is supposedly based upon the original Hard Type FFIV in Japan, but this seems inaccurate as at no point during my play did it seem harder than the version the North American market received as Final Fantasy II. Money is easy to come upon and enemies die without being able to inflict disastrous damage upon the player, which seems incongruous to the idea of this being the hardest version of Final Fantasy IV.

No – no – noooooo!  We can’t take another version of Endless Love!  Stop it!!!!!! No – no – noooooo! We can’t take another version of Endless Love! Stop it!!!!!!

   Visuals are essentially unchanged from the original title, with the exception of redrawn character portraits. FFIV was an early SNES title so its visuals do not exactly challenge the GBA. Music is Nobuo Uematsu’s fine work – although the porting process seems to have made it tinnier and lower quality than the original. Sound effects are static – early SNES quality.

   Final Fantasy IV was never a particularly lengthy title, and with the ease of blasting through enemies in FFIV: Advance its length has been adversely affected. It is here that the only significant added content is inserted: where the final section of the game had one party makeup originally, the player can now change the party. This is significant in unlocking character-specific bonus areas once the game is beaten. These prove to be lengthy dungeon slogs, but they can stretch out the length of the title quite a bit and give some replay incentive. Oh, and a bestiary is present now, for players who feel like seeking out every enemy and killing it.

   Final Fantasy IV: Advance is a quality title, no question about it. The porting process did something unfortunate though. The unwanted drop in music quality and spooky pauses in battle make for a somewhat frustrating experience, and outweigh slightly the improved translation and additional content of this version. To someone who has never played FFIV this is still a worthy investment – but the hoped-for version that would be the best possible expression of FFIV has been lamentably denied to RPGamers.

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