Final Fantasy IV: DS Remake – Review
In a move that most did not anticipate Square-enix decided to remake Final Fantasy IV. Unlike so many of its other so-called remakes, this game actually incorporated enormous changes to its graphics and sound, enhancing (or perhaps reducing, depending on your point of view) the game’s value. This is a distinct contrast to a lot of other ports (not remakes per se) which kept the game mechanics the same but added huge, optional dungeons. I’ll take this opportunity to say what I think of Square-enix’s venture into true the remaking of Final Fantasy IV.
The first difference you’ll notice is the graphics. In a fashion similar to FFVII (and some games after it) the game uses a 3D graphic to display the characters. In some cases this is done to an excellent effect, as with Edge and Kain. Some of the other characters however (most notably Cecil) look washed-out and almost ugly. More effort should have been put into the polish of these characters, especially the characters who remain on-screen for so long. That said, the facial expressions (such as when Cecil narrowed his eyes while facing himself) add a dimension to the game that could not be had otherwise.
After that you’ll probably be surprised at hearing the characters actually speaking. For those of us (like me) who always imagined how these characters talked it is a sheer delight to finally hear the sound of their voices. The anger in Edge’s voice while facing Rubicante, the determination in young Rydia, the heavy tone of Kain…despite it taking me aback at first, I found myself enjoying this, as it made me feel closer to the characters. Like with the graphics, it added another layer to the game.
The game was supposed to have more backstory and such, but this is an area where the game failed to deliver. The story itself is enhanced by the upgraded graphics, voice-acting and such, but it is not expanded upon except in a few scenes and these scenes themselves did not really do anything for the plot. It is a shame, since learning more about Kain’s history would have been particularly enjoyable. Or how Cecil and Rosa got together. Or more about Rydia and her mother. It was such a tease by Square-enix, and one that was left unfulfilled.
One of the other places that Square-enix did deliver though, was the augment system. By cleverly giving the right augments to the right character before they leave the party a gamer could have a team with the most powerful abilities at the end. Imagine Rydia with Bluff + Dual Cast or Cecil with Counter + Kick. You can even carry them over to the next play-throughs (only two more times, however). It can be truly game-breaking, though apparently the game designers thought of that and made sure to limit how many augments you could have active to five at a time (including the mandatory Item). This made for some wonderful customization and strategy.
And strategy is something you’re going to need in this game. To go along with the upgraded graphics and such, Square-enix upgraded the difficulty to almost mind-blowingly hard at times. You can’t coast along most of the major battles, and some will have you seriously weighing your options before diving in. This is a refreshing change since a lot of the games in the Final Fantasy series get justifiably blasted for being too easy. This game in particular was dumbed down in the original and to have it ramped up for the gamer it is both a blessing and a curse. But mostly a blessing since part of the game’s charm is knowing when to attack, when to defend, when to get out the good magic and when to run like hell.
Another part I feel that FFIV: DS slips is the optional stuff that most remakes have. While other remakes are full of new adventures, bigger dungeons and a slew of tough monsters, this game only offers two WEAPON-like optional bosses: Proto-Babil and Greyon. They do give you quite a go of it, though, and you won’t mash your way through it. I had my characters at maximum level with a bunch of top notch abilities equipped and both still wiped the floor with me. So you can get more gaming time with collecting the augments, getting the rare tails, etc. in order to get a good time-sink…but what’s the point? The battle themselves are fun but all the grinding would put one off from it (like it did me).
Like with the Complete Collection whether you’ll enjoy this is more personal preference. If more story and more dungeons was what you were after, this won’t do it for you. But the sheer level of connectivity to the characters through voice-acting, upgraded graphics and the limited additional backstory makes it feel like this was how FFIV: DS was envisioned to be. Because in the end characters is one of the biggest attractions of a game, and in this, this version of Final Fantasy IV is not surpassed by any other port or remake.
Again I’ll kill for a remake of Final Fantasy VI in this fashion. Or Final Fantasy V. Say what you will of Square-enix but they know how to scratch that nostalgic itch. And they’ll be there again, waiting with another fun remake of our golden-oldies (or one can hope!).