I am a huge ***damn Final Fantasy IV fan; haven’t you noticed? I owe nothing short of my life and love to this simple and intimidatingly deep game (17 years later, I’m STILL finding new stuff about it). I literally believe God talks to me through this game, and I don’t give a shit what you think about that. I prayed for many years to see more and more of this game come to life for me, and since two years ago, my prayers have been answered.
All that said, I was then surprisingly skeptical when I heard a complete remake of the game was going to be produced. I’ve far grown out of the idea that new material produced some 15 years later will capture the magic of the original. It’s a stinging irony for me to be pessimistic about a game that created optimism within me. But I made a God-given vow to purchase anything with the words FINAL FANTASY IV (in that order, although VI is also privileged to that), so I bit down hard and decided to get through it.
FFIV DS was famously touted to have the “75% of stuff that was cut out” put back in. Square never really gave us a great idea of what that meant. More dungeons? Characters? Events? Dialogue? That was a great way to attract someone like me in when the graphics completely sucked me OUT of the experience. Really, does Matrix Software think these pre-N64 polygons work? I’d rather take those fucking Caramelldansen graphics over these. And then there’s that weird “augment” system that lets you gain the abilities of your former comrades, a strange idea when the whole game and character system is built off of characters with set skills. Such a curious beast this game was turning out to be. We didn’t know if it would work, or if it would blow. There was only one way to find out.
Late July, I had it. I beat it two days ago as of writing. A month went into playing it. For the first 98% of the game, it was exactly, sadly, what I expected.
Matrix Software makes a solid FF, but only a few steps above TOSE’s work. Absolutely nothing about their work rises to the level FF deserves. It’s playable, but c’mon—is that it? What about magic? What about drawing me in?
As I suspected, the graphics blow totally. Matrix’s redesigns of graphics and monsters and locations are almost intolerable. But in typical FFIV contrast, there is another side to this coin. The graphics blow, but the in-game cinematics are actually pretty good, and that opening movie…wow. I didn’t know a DS could do that. The in-game text is just as conflicted, with a lot of good lines (including admission from the writer himself that he kept Edward being a SPOONY BARD to please fans) and a lot of medieval garbage that doesn’t look right or make sense. The soundtrack is a hack job, with little improvement and some missing elements (you can barely hear the harp in the overworld theme! You should be shitting your pants in anger as you read that!). And guess what: By the end of the game, you’ll be shouting “Where’s the fucking 75% you owe me, Matrix!?”
Well, nothing in the game is different. There are no new characters or events or dungeons through the main game, but how you GET through the game is new. All the numbers and balances are completely new. You get very little GIL this time around. The enemies are a lot stronger and smarter (a welcome change of pace, because I can just breeze through FFIV now) and, thankfully, Matrix also made many characters a lot more useful, like early Tellah, and Edward. Yang’s kick is also a lot more useful. However, other characters who were once badass, like Edge and FuSoYa, have lost some. The whole game is completely whacked out, for better and worse. I’ll give Matrix credit for making up some great challenging boss battles (just wait until you fight Dr. Lugae), but by the Sealed Cave, they took it way too far. At least it turns out those augments are actually pretty useful if you put them on the right people at the right time.
For minigames, you have a FUBAR new summon monster for Rydia that lets you build up his stats. I didn’t play with this too much, but I kinda liked what I saw—interesting. There’s also brand new WEAPON-style bosses; I didn’t touch them yet. I couldn’t tell you anything about the voice acting, because I turned it off immediately.
So, up through the Giant of Babil, even though I was playing an interesting remix of my favorite game ever, I wasn’t too happy. Lost countless times, and for what? A game with zero charm. Where’s the 75% you owe me, Matrix? Where’s the magic?
And then something happened. I confronted Golbez in the Giant, and something new came in. A new scene where I got to play as Golbez and see what really happened. It didn’t answer much, but it got me playing again. And I made the effort—getting through that final dungeon is now a pain worse than death, but I did it. The ending plays the same as before but with one small change. I won’t tell you what that change is, but it strikes me that this game is not wrought with conflict but with irony, and so it’s fittingly ironic that in a game that was once touted as having 75% percent stuff put back in, only one small change would make the real difference.
I almost cried at the ending. That one small change completely made shifting through this game worth it. The rest of the ending was not changed, a wise choice on their part.
The magic had returned.