Final Fantasy IV DS: Second Thoughts
By Zach Patterson Monday, 26 Jan 2009

A couple months ago, Sherv went over the newly released Final Fantasy IV remake for DS and discussed some of the differences and what he liked and disliked about it. Well, I could have just as easily left a reply in that post detailing my experience with the game, but instead I had a few things I wanted to address.

First, I want to reiterate that Final Fantasy IV, in whatever form you choose to play it, is a fun game, and one of the best in the series. However, there are parts of the remake in which I really thought added to the game, and many points that simply added nothing, or the addition was not welcome.

Let’s get this out of the way first. This game, in no way, shape or form, needed to remade or released again, especially so soon. The game was released originally in the US in 1991. The translation was poor and the gameplay wasn’t the same as the original version, so it made a lot of sense to re-release it in 2001 on the Playstation with a new translation. Later, in 2005, I was excited to hear that the with enhanced graphics, new side quests, new dungeons, and a brand new, superior translation. Then, I was somewhat less excited about the prospect of 2008 holding another version of this game, with 3D graphics, another retranslation, cutscenes with voice acting, and some altered story sequences and battles.

I understand why Final Fantasy III was remade, as I remarked in the Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles review. For one, it gave Nintendo DS owners all of the first six Final Fantasy games on the go, plus the Tactics offshoots and other releases. Plus, that game was never released in the US and was originally for the NES, so understandably some updating would need to be done in order to be able to market it to the modern age audience. For Final Fantasy IV, I find myself looking at it the same way as Rondo of Blood in the PSP collection. The original game has been released here (for the CV game, it was in the same UMD; for FFIV, it was 3 years earlier on GBA), and while the 3D graphics are decent eye candy at first, in the end they are unnecessary and a hollow update. There’s little point to it. Sure, it makes for some gripping cutscenes when paired with some above average voice acting, but these are still largely the same sequences from the original game. Additionally, the game does seem to run slower in general and lag in areas, signs that the game can’t always keep up with the 3D engine. So while it’s nice to see the original cast all prettied up for the DS, I don’t think it was worth updating it for that reason.

Nice looking, but ultimately not worth it.

Then there is the new stuff. The augment system is complicated, under-explained, and mostly cumbersome and useless. You can get some wonderful abilities from it if you know exactly what you are doing (i.e. reading directly from a strategy guide), but for the intrepid wanderer like myself, I found myself at the end of the game missing critical abilities for my black and white mages that could have made the ending so much easier…except they were lost via the augment system. It doesn’t explain the abilities that are dropped, who might be ideal for each one, or what else it might be able to become. In short, it’s a tacky, ill-conceived addition to the game. The touch screen minigames in Fat Chocobo are actually ok. They feel like Chocobo Tales reject mini-games, but they are fun to kill time with for a few minutes. It’s just a shame they are not really contributing towards anything. You have the new summon Whyt for Rydia, which acts like a glorified Tamagotchi that you level up via the mini-games and change its appearance. It’s an interesting idea but Whyt never seems helpful and most of the time I completely forgot about him.

I mentioned it earlier, but the story here is essentially the same if you have played any version of it before. I will say that this might be the most satisfying to play from a story standpoint because it adds in lost scenes from the original script (some flashback scenes for Golbez and the main characters). Additionally, the acting

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is good and some scenes simply work way better in 3D, like Cid’s kamikaze scene, the burning of Mist, and the entire ending sequence. In the end, it leaves me liking the story even more, but it’s still the same thing, more or less. That’s good, but for a complete remake so close to the GBA remake, I guess I expected…more? With having the original creators oversee the project, my hope was to get a really expanded version of the plot and get to know all the characters a lot better through individual side quests, maybe some new towns, some allusions to the sequel they have released in Japan for cell phones…I don’t know. That’s just my opinion. A lot of it seemed like the same ol’, which didn’t inspire me to obsessively play it like I did when it was released for GBA.

You can add the audio to the things that really didn’t need a change either. It’s not bad, necessarily, but I can’t think of a single song that was improved in this version. Like Sherv, I wasn’t all that impressed.

The final issue I had with the game was the difficulty. This may sound like whining, but I don’t appreciate that they made the game harder, or how they made it harder in some instances. FFIV already provided a good challenge, and developer Matrix Software already made FFIII a beast to complete, so the choice to add difficulty spikes here really grinds my gears. If the game just required more grinding, I would suck it up and do that. That’s not the problem. The issue lies in the fact that enemies don’t just hit you; many of them also inflict status effects on you. Early in the game, it’s not a problem. Later, and in many boss fights (including several regular enemies in the final dungeon plus the final boss), your entire team will be hit with effects that will make you have to waste several turns trying to nurse your team back to normal status, in addition to healing the damage caused. On the final boss or blue dragons, well, this pretty much seals your death.

I don’t remember the original game ever having the enemies attack this frequently in a row (sometimes up to 3 times in a row without your team attacking once) and having so many status effects. The final boss takes about 15 minutes just to get to from the last save point (avoiding all fights and skipping the few cutscenes you can skip), and if you get hit with the wrong random attacks he whips out, well, you are dead. Start over. Try again. Sometimes you can last down to the end of his HP with your squad doing ok, and then he decided to up the frequency and potency of his attacks, essentially murdering your team unless you pull off some minor miracles and knock him down first. I’m sorry, this is just a shitty way to make a game more challenging and makes me not like it at all. I have never liked status effects in RPG’s, and this game borderline abuses them, especially in the final dungeon.

When putting all my thoughts together on this remake, I have decided that I really do not think it was necessary and it reeks of milking the faithful fans for another $40. Additionally, aside from some welcome story enhancements, the new additions to the game either are unneeded or detract from the original game. I was honestly liking the remake a lot during the early hours up through the underworld. As I approached the end and the moon, however, I began to really sour on it. I tried beating the end dungeon for hours and continually was killed by cheap random enemies who status effect’d me into oblivion. Once I found the ONE save point in the final gigantic dungeon, I yet again grew tired of the unskippable battle/story sequences you get stuck in near the end, and how they just took the final part of the game from being challenging and tough to cheap and frustrating. All that said, if you haven’t played the GBA remake and cannot find it, it’s worth giving the DS version a shot for players who haven’t played FFIV or haven’t played it in ages. But in almost every category aside from story, I would recommend the GBA version instead.

Give us some new games, Square-Enix. I think I’ve played Final Fantasy IV enough now to last me at least a decade or two.

One Response to “Final Fantasy IV DS: Second Thoughts”

  1. Zach Patterson Says:

    you know, i say i want new games from them, and yet I’m drooling over the recently announced FF Legend/Saga DS remake. i am weak, and Square-Enix knows this.

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