IV by IV

The two titles to your left (whose radiant beauty hails to me like an aurora borealis of audiovisual awesomeness), have always stood out to me as the Rosetta Stone for the Role Playing Game genre. Like many out there, Final Fantasy was the first RPG that I had ever played. When Final Fantasy II on the Super Nintendo became available in the local video rental store, it was a holy thing that I was not allowed to touch. No, my older brother and cousin were the ones who were in charge of the SNES in those days, and so it was they who played this game first. I was barely permitted to sit in the same room. It was for this reason, I knew it was a good game.

Of course I was able to re-rent it later and play it by myself, and this was when the game really got me in its relentless vice. I replayed the game several times in my youth on the SNES, Playstation 1 and yes even on the Game Boy Advance when it was released in my college days. Oh my, Final Fantasy IV Advance hit the spot with just the right amount of new features while still keeping everything intact that I loved. I think Square did it just right with that re-make. If you’ve read my blog before, you may already be aware that I bought the Nintendo DS remake when it came out in August. I’m sad to say having played it once through, that in my opinion this particular version does not live up to its past incarnations.

The opening cinematic was awesome, and in fact the graphics everywhere were a nice touch. The music was nicely done as well, though I’m disappointed that with all of the soundtracks they’ve made for FFIV, they did not include live instruments in the game. The re-translation of the story was also quite nice; the additional tidbits of story came off quite nice. The gameplay however was dreadfully poor.

The little bastard to the right also went a long way toward making the game less enjoyable. I could live without being able to change my characters names for the sake of the voice acting (which was shoddily recorded imo), however he also offers side-quests that directly harm the ability to enjoy the game. Very soon into the game, he offers you some empty maps of all the areas you will visit. Completing these maps will gain you some items. It will also mean that you will spend more time looking at the map than taking in the wonderful environment art that was made for the DS version of this game. He will also send you on a quest for pudding. I believe this is actually just psychological conditioning so that when you realizing that the only way to acquire the game’s best armor is to commit suicide on your social life — you will be less apt to run the game through a meat grinder. On the note of grinding, it seems like the developers of this game felt that the audience likes nothing but the tedium of random encounters.

It is entirely unnecessary to waste hours of your life looking for some pink tails to complete this game, but the New Game+ feature of the DS version will certainly bring out the OCD tendencies in you. This will partially be because this rare equipment will be the only thing that carries over into the New Game+. If you’re interested in the replay, you’ll want any advantage you can get against the needlessly difficult battles. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that strategy will be your ally in this game’s tougher battles: rather you will be forced to simply grind for levels to be able to survive random encounters. All too often I would encounter an enemy who would wipe me out before my characters had an opportunity to act. I spent as much time grinding my jaw in annoyance as grinding my levels.

All in all, if you have a Nintendo DS and have never played Final Fantasy IV, I would recommend picking up Final Fantasy IV Advance instead of the DS native version. The added features that made FFIVA really shine are missing from the DS version, and the added features in FFIVDS are in my opinion just not worth the price of admission.

The other shining beacon that you should hail to is Dragon Quest IV. One of the later games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Dragon Warrior IV is perhaps my all-time-favorite RPG and features a rather unique Chapter system with fun characters, a great story, and enthralling gameplay. I’m pleased to report that this classic game’s DS remake does not disappoint. Yes, the graphics have been improved and yes, the music has been … well it’s hard to say improved since I actually am rather fond of the original 8-bit sounds, however they did update the music and make it stereo. There is of course the perk that the opening screen features an orchestra (an enhancement that really could have nicely worked into the rest of the game as well). The development team made quite good use of the DS screens, spreading out the maps and menus nicely over the dual display. The environments are nice and lush and it’s interesting navigating around areas using both screens as one larger screen. For those who care, the touch screen in this game is only for looking. Personally I have no qualms about such matters, but you dear reader may.

I feel they really did an excellent treatment of this remake, and where FFIV’s tooth grindingly frustrating battles may force you to require dentures prematurely, I think they may have actually made Dragon Quest’s IV’s battles ever so slightly more easy. At least I think that in my youth this game required more grinding. At any rate, the battles are at an enjoyable difficulty that does not force you to spend hours walking in circles fighting monsters so that you can boost your speed up enough to not be instakilled against the monsters in the area where the next part of the plot is. An extra chapter was added as well with a little bit of bonus content for those who like to re-write history. Unfortunately the developers felt that North America didn’t deserve of the bonus content and so left out almost half of the script that had been developed for this game when porting to the English folk. While it is disappointing knowing that this stuff exists but not in any game I’ll ever get to play, it doesn’t really detract from the game since this content was not in the original to begin with.

My biggest gripe (a
nd thankfully a very small one) is that they appear to have performed some mako experiments on the game’s antagonist. I don’t know why that little sprite meant so much to me originally, but I do know that it held far more charm for me than the DS design. Aside from that, I think my only other complaint was the changes in the awards at the casino. All in all, some pretty minor complaints, and ones that bug me mostly due to nostalgia. Otherwise I would say that this game is excellently executed, and by no means do I regret the purchase. I enthusiastically await the remakes that are yet to come of Dragon Quest V, and VI. These two games complete the Zenithian Trilogy (of which DQIV is part one) and seeing as how they were never (authentically) available in North America I have yet to ever play them. In the meantime, I’ll have to just read the DQIV comics available in the Multimedia section of the DQIV site.