Final Fantasy IV (Hands-On) (Nintendo DS) Preview

By Adam Riley 20.12.2007 7

The Final Fantasy games have been constantly remade over the years, with updates appearing across the WonderSwan, GBA and PSone. Now the process seems to have started all over again on the Nintendo DS, but this time with the 3D remodelling of older entries into the behemoth RPG franchise. Following the huge success of last year's first ever remake of III from the NES, which has sold in excess of two million copies worldwide, now comes Final Fantasy IV from the SNES, which has literally just launched over in Japan. But how does this new update fare? Join Cubed

The game starts off, just as Final Fantasy III did, with an amazingly detailed CG introductory sequence, except that this time it blasts across both screens for even longer than before and leaves you breathless at the end. It is apparent right from the off how the production values are considerably higher than in the remake of the third game. But this is not just because of the FMV sequences, as when you click 'New Game' the title screen fades and the game's story kicks in, with the impressively 3D modelled characters flying across the skies on an airship, all talking in high quality digitised Japanese. Then you are thrown straight into battle against two one-eyed flying creatures and the familiarity of the Final Fantasy heritage settles in, albeit now in glorious three dimensions. Statistics are shown on the lower screen, whilst the menu choices ('Fight', 'Item', and so on) appear at the top, along with the characters conducting battle.

Some may find it disappointing that friend and foe never make any direct contact with each other, still employing the age-old animation of slicing at thin air and then miraculously hurting the opponent, but the overall production quality is so high on the whole that this point becomes somewhat moot. Moving on, after this sequence of events, the game takes you through the next part of the story, however this is not voiced at all, unlike the lengthy intro section in another recent Japanese RPG, Bandai Namco's Tales of Innocence. In fact, it becomes apparent throughout the game that speech may have had a lot of thought put into it when it comes to quality of its sound and the actors chosen, but certainly not in terms of length of voiced script. However, the inclusion is still a vast improvement over the recent GBA edition's total lack of speech!

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IV (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Soon enough control is given over the main character and you quickly discover that movement can either be carried out by traditional d-pad controls or using the stylus. With the directional pad, the default speed is walking, with running being accessed by holding 'B'. Using the stylus, though, leads to non-stop running, which is preferable as the walking will likely be too slow for most people's tastes, but not as accurate when you want to talk to someone or check out a specific barrel nearby for potential hidden items. Something interesting to note is how the action button is mapped both the L and A buttons, meaning stylus users can easily talk with characters and interact with their surroundings no matter if they are left or right-handed

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IV (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Everything thoroughly impresses, even though the amount of speech so far appears to be considerably less than in Tales of Innocence (this might change further into the game, though, as this hands-on is only about five hours play). For now it seems Square Enix went for more CG scenes than talking sections, so it comes down to a matter of preference on whether one aspect replacing another is either good or bad. What is important is how the gameplay has been tweaked and for ease of navigation there is a handy little map on the lower screen allowing players to keep track of where they are heading, which is particularly useful in towns when searching for different stores and the Inn, but also for in dungeons. The reason being is there is a new idea that has basically been lifted from Tingle's RPG, whereby you are rewarded for searching through 100% of dungeon maps. Now, whilst it may sound like a pointless addition and one that many will merely skip, because of the very helpful nature of these little rewards, it will give you more impetus to have a nosey round a bit more and having a clear map on the lower screen does wonders for navigation.

Once out on the actual over-world, just as in towns and villages, players will find they are not able to freely rotate the camera, yet fortunately it is pulled back far enough to allow a good view of your entire surroundings, negating any possible issue. Also, the main character on view can be switched simply by tapping 'Y', just in case you get fed up of Cecil and prefer to see Kane dashing about at the start of the game, for instance. Running is a possibility on the World Map as well now, which tied with the lower random encounter rate, definitely makes for easier traversing of the sprawling landscapes. Talking of enemy battling, there is a nice little feature called 'Auto Battle', which you can activate in mid-battle by tapping 'X' and it allows you to put the DS down, walk off and make a cup of tea whilst your team continues to dish out the damage to enemies. Clearly it would not be wise to do such a thing in pivotal fights, but for easy-to-win bouts that may last thirty seconds to a minute-plus, it gives you that extra little bit of freedom. Also, tapping 'Y' during a fight lets you switch to another player whose attack bar has filled up as well, which is permits useful strategy techniques in cases where you need to use a healing character before attacking and so on.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IV (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Battle pacing does seem a tiny bit slower than before, although thankfully this minor change is not noticeable enough to detract from enjoying the game, and anyway, fights are much tougher than before, so you extra time to plan out your method of attack will sometimes come as satisfying. Together with this is the very pleasing inclusion of how when you choose a particular type of recovery magic, the cursor automatically goes to the appropriate person, saving you a modicum of time in sometimes stressful situations (for example, the one with lowest energy will be automatically selected if using 'heal', or the one that is poisoned if using 'antidote'). Other than the changes mentioned, though, old school fans will find that this is still a true Final Fantasy through-and-through, with aspects such as items being stored in jars and boxes around villages, Active Time Battle scenarios, a peaceful, melodic soundtrack and a core sense of style that many other lower-rated RPGs lack. Whilst many of you will have played this before, either in the Final Fantasy Anthology pack on PSone or the GBA edition (or even the original SNES game and WonderSwan remake, perhaps?), this adds a whole new angle to the world and promises to be a massive hit for Square Enix and a joy to play through again for long-term fans.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IV (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Final Thoughts

This is the same old Final Fantasy IV that you played on the GBA in essence, but the totally revamped graphics, updated soundtrack, little extra gameplay tweaks, considerably fluffed out storyline and other pleasing additions that make this look like being the definitive edition of the classic SNES game. Square Enix has gone overboard to ensure this remake far out-sparkles the Final Fantasy III DS remake and appears to have certainly succeeded. Let us just hope for a speedy translation now...

Developer

Matrix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (3 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I've got a question. See I'm not very good at RPGs and Final Fantasy III really was just too much for me. Will I be able to play this?

here's hoping for a quick u.s. release some time next year as well =b and to the person before me, if you're not that good in rpgs then u should always level up if you lose in battles to get stronger, as is the general rule. I've played FF 4 since it was called Final Fantasy II on the SNES back in the 90s. The game is overall amazing and can't wait to REPLAY it yet again. lol

Guest 20.12.2007#3

They actually improved the game, so it seems. Those battle updates sound great, even the lower random encounter rate.
Also good to see you can still switch between your team members on the map, although Rosa will probably not look as good as in the original on the SNES. :-p

I want to know though how often the 'surprised!' attack happens on the moon and in Sylph's cave. The latter just had the annoying toad witch but the moon had those infuriating Acolytes.

Play some more 'Raz and write a sequel. Smilie

So far I'm finding this update FAR more difficult than the GBA edition, which is certainly a good thing, I reckon.

Bart, do you mean when your team has to face the enemy with their backs turned? That seems to happen quite often, annoyingly! :sarcy:

By the way, the cut-scene sequences are directed VERY well indeed and are, in many cases, much more developed than ever before. You can tell large sectors of the original script that had to be left out of the SNES game have returned. It feels far more 'complete' now.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses
Guest 21.12.2007#5

That's what I meant yeah. Seems like a cheap way to increase the difficulty.
Can you tell us some more about the music? Are there new songs for instance? (for example in the new cutscenes)

It's a random effect, and at this early stage it's not too bad. If its frequency increases later in the game, though, then I agree it'd be a cheap tactic. But hey, hardcore RPG folk should just see it as a welcomed challenge Smilie

As for music, the team has tried to stick to the formula of the SNES game as much as possible to maintain authenticity for fans. Matrix did bring Nobuo Uematsu in to make sure they were keeping the right 'feel', though, so the result is impressive. Compositions are different, but the music is so far pretty much the same as the SNES game. The quality could have been better, though. I'm surprised, but apparently Uematsu stated the DS has trouble with bass, which is why some tunes sound weak. I don't agree, though, as I've played other DS games that handle bass perfectly fine...I've got some MP3 examples, so I'll upload them soon and post a Quick News.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

More difficult than the GBA version?! ^^;;

I won't be able to cope! *has a nervous breakdown*

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