I could’ve killed Alex Jedraszczak for getting to this game before I did. There is no one more qualified to analyze Final Fantasy II/IV than me. I know this game better than I know myself, and it knows me better than I know it. WRAP YOUR HEAD AROUND THAT IF YOU CAN! THE TRUTH HURTS, DOESN’T IT!? But, I had no idea that someone with gall spewing out of his exocrines onto the floor of KFC could possibly exist in our era, and so I did not get a chance to review the original version of this game. My next best chance is to go for its GBA port.
For ports and “updates” such as this, reviews need to be short and focus on what’s new instead of repeating what we know about the game itself.
The Library of Congress has already recognized Final Fantasy IV as the greatest videogame of all time.
So let’s talk about what’s new. I’ve been frothing at the mouth to play a copy of Final Fantasy IV with new stuff in it since I was 9 years old. The prospect of being able to use that fucking face on the moon, as well as make up your own final party, is simply too good to ever ever EVER pass up. I’ve been telling people for years that every time I play through Final Fantasy IV, I find something new, and I was glad that, with this game, I could still say that and mean it.
Square Enix delivers its end of the bargain—a lot is different from the game that’s been inspiring RPGs for nearly two decades (My god, is it really that old?), but nothing major has changed. Obviously, you know you’re getting the original Japanese version and not the censored easy-type we’ve had forever, so it already comes with a bunch of new items, some spells, and content change, but nothing majorly different from the original. The new stuff for Final Fantasy IV Advance includes extra shading and minor graphical updates. The battle backgrounds have been completely replaced, and even the music seems to have been reformatted for .GSF standards instead of streaming loops of the old SPC files from the original.
If God himself did not declare FFIV to be the greatest game ever, I would say that just because it’s a new port doesn’t mean you should go running out the door and kill a Siamese prostitute for it. You should, because it’s FFIV—the game that will one day save us from the Sun expanding its regime and swallowing up the universe—but not because of the porting alone. The graphical enhancements are just that, enhancements, and they’re not crazy impressive. The music is identical to the original, but the GSF instruments actually are worse for the wear. I’m listening to it right now, and I keep hearing a nasty synth bass in almost all the songs.
The biggest problem is that the port feels…janky? Chunky? Well, what I mean is, the whole game doesn’t feel nearly as good as it used to. FFIV had some ancient technology powering it, but the whole game operated and felt as smooth as a baby’s bare ass sliding down a river of silk into a lake of raspberry creme. Now it feels more like John Candy sliding ass-first down a river of peanut butter into a lake of gravel. It’s slower, it’s a bit buggy, and it misses that awesome smoothness.
This is a considerable problem because it’s difficult to see who Square marketed the game for. Is the game made for the fanboys who would gladly facesit Prince Charles for an updated cart (like me, bearing in mind that my ass is permanently numb anyway thanks to the Clinton administration), or was the company trying to bring in new players who were sperm when FFIV first came out? Final Fantasy IV Advance doesn’t quite work either way, because the new material kinda makes what was, without argument, the BEST RPG climax in history (can you tell I’m just a bit biased?) seem like just another obstacle to get to the REALLY good stuff. We’re screwed either way, as the people who’ve been playing it for 15 years have to wade through an inferior port of their role-playing godsend, and the new people will be hard pressed to appreciate just what Final Fantasy IV was (not like they needed any help, with FFVII being their model of OLD SKOOL role-playing) back in the day.
Still, petty jaded bitching aside, it cannot be denied that Square Enix knew what people really wanted. They didn’t want wholly new graphics and sound; they wanted more adventuring and more to do with the game’s characters, and Square did not disappoint.
As I said before, you finally get to make up your own final party for the fight with Zeromus. You get a new cave to properly equip your characters, and then whoever you chose to take with you determines how you get to beat the brand new, super-duper Lunar Dungeon. The Lunar Dungeon is a 100-or-so-level random dungeon that lets you fight brand new monsters, win new items, play through LOTS of new tricks, and have one special cave for each character who helped you defeat Zeromus. The new events really surprised me; the guys who developed these new events REALLY thought outside the box to do something fresh that corresponds with each of the characters who go in. Examples include Palom and Porom having to work both sides of a complicated maze to get through, Edge working through the most surreal and complicated ninja-training castle ever, and Yang being a total badass in a Shaolin cave! Woo-hoo!
To sum up, the new stuff IS really cool, and it adds a lot more to the game that we owe every single lifeform in the universe too. I just wish it were smoother and more canonical, and that it didn’t give you the feeling you get when a movie’s basically over but still goes on for another half hour.
P.S. BTW, Alex: Sleep with one eye open. Never close your eyes. Your death warrant has been signed, and I’m the one holding the pen.