Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Final Fantasy 4 Review

    In my quest to play every Final Fantasy game, I found my myself with a weird gap; I’ve played Final Fantasy 3 and Final Fantasies 5 - 12. To remedy this, I picked up the Android version of Final Fantasy 4 which is based on the DS remake of the SNES game. While Square Enix has a questionable history with mobile ports, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this one worked out quite
    well for me.

    My observations as I completed yet another quest to gather some magic crystals and
    defeat another dark lord:
    • When going into a DS remake of a Super Nintendo game, fully-voiced cutscenes are not something I was expecting to encounter. Yet, this game makes fairly frequent use of them for major story moments and character introductions. Keeping the technical limitations of the original hardware in mind, I was impressed with how well-directed these scenes were. The voice acting was not quite as impressive, but still decent.
    • Regarding the plot itself, I liked the love triangle and the hero’s quest for redemption. While all the traditional high-fantasy elements are also there (dragons, magical artifacts, etc), FF4’s inclusion of this extra layer of character development was probably pretty revolutionary storytelling for its time. The game handles themes of loss, jealousy, and forgiveness surprisingly well for a game of its age.
    • Final Fantasy 4’s combat is a very simple turn-based system with minimal ability to customize your characters or party. This version of the game features an “Augment” system that allows the player to assign one extra skill to each character, but to me, this felt very much like an after-thought.
    • The boss battles are where this game’s combat gets to shine. Many of the bosses have some sort of puzzle-like trick to exposing their weaknesses. I really appreciated that brute force alone was often not enough to get the job done. Sometimes the boss battles would feature dialog or brief cutscenes that would advance the story amidst the action. I’m thinking was probably a novel concept back in 1992.
    • The game's plot causes your party composition to change abruptly throughout the adventure. Every time I got a well-balanced team together, something would happen that would cause me to lose my strong characters in exchange for weak ones. There is a particular focus on magic-users for much of the game that doesn't mesh well with the strategies I typically use in Final Fantasy games. On one hand, this kept me on my toes, on the other, it slowed down my ability to progress through the campaign.
    • I know some old-school Final Fantasy fans turn their noses up at it, but I liked this remake’s use of polygonal graphics. The character models do a good job of merging the designs in Yoshitaka Amano’s original concept drawings with the 3D chibi style of DS RPGs. A side effect of this is that sometimes there would be childish-looking characters (especially NPCs) in skimpy outfits. I could have done without this, but if you're into scantily clad low polygon models, this is the game for you.
    • Something I especially appreciated about the graphics in this version of FF4, was the battle animations for the bosses. Even when it's the player's turn, the enemies continue moving around and observing these animations can often provide hints about enemy weaknesses. Some of the boss character models are pretty goofy looking, however.
    • While the boss battles, character designs, and cut scenes all received an overhaul in this remake, the dungeons are decidedly still old school. Most of the dungeons are quite long and have high random encounter rates. This tried my patience at times.
    • The mobile port features some helpful quality of life (QoL) upgrades. One of these upgrades is that the menu screen shows your characters' inner thoughts; these thought bubbles provide useful hints and flavor text (this feature may have also existed in the DS version). The other upgrade is an auto-checkpoint system that kept me from losing progress when a random enemy would get a lucky critical hit. Unfortunately, the quality of life upgrades are not universally applied as there are no checkpoints between consecutive bosses and pre-boss cutscenes have to be rewatched before each attempt.
    • As far as Square Enix games go, this one has a fairly generic-sounding soundtrack. However, there are a few major themes that stand out. The vocal track at the end of the game was a nice addition as well.
    •  Overall, this was a surprisingly good mobile port and the QoL additions (auto-checkpoint, cloud saves, etc) were welcome upgrades. Some of the concessions that had to be made to adapt the DS's interface to a mobile screen were a bit clunky (e.g. transparent overlays to display the DS's second screen info) but got the job done. The Android version ran very smoothly on my device though it would occasionally freeze when minimizing the game to switch to another app. However, the auto-checkpoint system kept me from suffering setbacks when this would happen.
    I came away from Final Fantasy 4 with an appreciation for the fact that this is where the franchise found its footing. The characters, themes, systems, and melodrama that define Final Fantasy all coalesced together with this entry. As a player in 2018 who has already played most of the other installments in the series, this game's beats felt largely familiar and some of the remnants of the old school design where a bit of a drag, but the game still regularly put on a smile on my face regardless. I would recommend this version of Final Fantasy 4 to newcomers of there series and long-time fans alike.

    Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Completion Time: 32 hours, 18 minutes (main campaign and most side quests)

    If you'd like to pick up a copy of this game and while supporting this blog, the Android and DS versions of this game are available via the following Amazon affiliate links:
    Final Fantasy 4 - Nintendo DS
    Final Fantasy 4 - Android



    3 comments:

    1. Are there any particular Kind of stories do you like in video games?

      I can always give you recommendations for your playlist, if you are interested?

      I can even email you some fan translated JRPGs?

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      Replies
      1. Hi, Garben! Thanks for reading and commenting on my post! I like a variety of types of game stories, science fiction, fantasy, steam punk, humor, tragedy, time travel, and sometimes even psychological horror. Right now my queue is quite full and there are two major events coming up for me (E3 and the Four Job Fiesta) that will be occupying my time. Thus, I probably won't be able to fit in any new RPGs just yet that aren't already on my agenda. That being said, I'm always glad to hear some suggestions to consider for the future, so feel free provide whatever recommendations you'd like!

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      2. Sure.

        Are there any things you like in turn based strategy? Story elements are included.

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