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Critical Reception: Square Enix's Final Fantasy IV

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Square Enix's Final Fantasy IV, a Nintendo DS remake that reviews alternately describe as "one fantastic role-playing title," and "needlessly redundant."

Danny Cowan, Blogger

July 23, 2008

6 Min Read

This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Square Enix's Final Fantasy IV, a Nintendo DS remake that reviews alternately describe as "one fantastic role-playing title," and "needlessly redundant." Originally released in Japan in 1991 (and followed shortly thereafter by a U.S. release as Final Fantasy II), Square Enix's Final Fantasy IV set a high early standard for 16-bit RPGs, and has remained a fan favorite in the years since. The remade Nintendo DS version of Final Fantasy IV releases in North America this week to a Metacritic-averaged score of 86 out of 100. Will Herring at GamePro gives Final Fantasy IV a Fun Factor rating of 4.75 out of 5. "Final Fantasy IV was a revolutionary entry into Square Enix's popular role-playing franchise," he begins. "It introduced the Active Time Battle system-now a staple of the series-a darker, more complex story and one of the most critically acclaimed Final Fantasy soundtracks to date." Herring finds that the experience remains enjoyable on the Nintendo DS. "Even though seventeen years have passed since the game first came out and even though there have been three separate ports already released," he says, "I'm happy to say that the Nintendo DS version of this classic RPG is still worth playing through from beginning to end." Final Fantasy IV's updated presentation is also noteworthy, according to Herring. "From the detailed cityscapes to the gorgeous Overworld, the environments are beautifully rendered and really show what the DS is capable of," he praises. "On the subject of sound, Final Fantasy IV's legendary composition has definitely withstood the test of time, with wonderfully remixed tracks that perfectly sets the tone for Cecil's epic adventure." Though Herring notes disappointment at the remake's lack of stylus controls, he feels that the rest of the experience will be enjoyable for a variety of audiences. "Ultimately, Final Fantasy IV remains the same epic experience it was seventeen years ago, and the DS's improvements are a welcome treat for fans of the series and newcomers to the franchise alike," he asserts. "Even if you aren't a huge Final Fantasy fan, this is still one fantastic role-playing title worth checking out." IGN's Mark Bozon rates FFIV at 8.7 out of 10, explaining that the remake emerges as both the definitive edition of Square Enix's classic RPG sequel and as one of the Nintendo DS's best overall titles. "Outside of Nintendo itself, SE has fueled the portable with more consistently strong software than any other company out there," Bozon explains, "and you can add yet another title to the list with Final Fantasy IV, as the game smashes FF3's offering from last year, and delivers what is hands-down the definitive version of FFIV across all platforms." Among the differences and improvements noted in the DS remake, Bozon notes that an overall increase in difficulty is made obvious within the game's initial hours. "Once things start to move along story-wise, things get very difficult, and FFIV quickly turns into a game designed specifically for the hardest of hardcore gamers," he says. This new difficulty never becomes insurmountable, however. "Interestingly enough though, the game isn't frustratingly hard like previous Final Fantasy games have been on other platforms," Bozon assures. "The days of 'two step random battles' seem to be gone, and rather than being difficult because it's overwhelming, it proved to be a tough game based on the strategic element of it all." A host of other improvements also prove helpful, according to Bozon. "The dungeon map system helps a tremendous amount, though it also had me wanting to stick around in caves rather than making mad dashes out of them," he writes. "Another nice addition is the new command bar, which can be edited so that specific spells and options are available right away, without going into the 'magic' area and then selecting them." In all, Bozon feels that this week's debuting FFIV remake should appeal to all RPG enthusiasts. "For fans, FFIV is an impressive resurrection to an awesome, pioneering RPG," he concludes. "For newcomers, you’re about to get a lesson in 'hardcore gaming 101,' but if you put in the time, and put up with the difficulty, you’ll have a chance to really 'get' what Final Fantasy is all about." Over at 1UP, Jeremy Parish gives Final Fantasy IV a rating of B, cautioning that the remake falls flat in certain aspects. "In a perfect world, that single, ultimate edition of the game would, in fact, be this high-end DS re-creation," he writes. "It really ought to be. All the elements for greatness are in place." Parish notes that problems lie in the DS remake's exclusive Augments system. "An Augment is effectively a secret skill that, once earned, can be given permanently to a single party member," he explains. "It's a nice way to expand the skills of the preset party members while retaining certain tactical options once temporary allies vanish forever." "Unfortunately," Parish counters, "Augments also cut right to the heart of what makes this version of FFIV less than definitive; they're a poor substitute for the solution proffered by Square Enix's last remake of this game, Final Fantasy IV Advance on the Game Boy Advance." Parish continues: "There, players were given the option to join up again with all but two of their former comrades and tackle the final dungeon (along with several bonus areas) with a completely flexible party. It was, in every way, a better approach than simply carrying over some of those forgotten characters' abilities -- especially since maxing out Augments is a maddeningly counterintuitive process." Though the Augments system is poorly executed, Parish still finds Final Fantasy IV on the Nintendo DS to be superior to the previously released Game Boy Advance version. "Despite sporting some minor visual tweaks over its 16-bit predecessor and offering a wealth of great late- and post-game bonus content, the GBA release was poorly programmed and suffered from some maddening glitches that screwed up the timing of the active-time battle system," he describes. "The DS remake not only cleans up those problems, it even goes an extra step by offering info on how quickly a character will execute a command." "So what's to be done with this version?" Parish asks. "It's not a bad little game -- it is, after all, an upgraded version of a 16-bit masterpiece -- but it's needlessly redundant for anyone who picked up FFIV Advance." Reviews universally praise the original version of Final Fantasy IV as a classic in its genre, though after playing through numerous rereleases over a short span of time, many question whether the latest DS revision is worth a purchase. While some feel that the release comes too soon after 2005's Final Fantasy IV Advance, others praise the game as a worthy playthrough for those in search of an upgraded take on a classic RPG.

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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