Final Fantasy IV Advance Hands-On

We revisit one of the Super NES's role-playing classics with the upcoming remake of Final Fantasy IV on the GBA.

Final Fantasy IV is one of the lesser-known, though no less beloved, Final Fantasy titles. It was moderately popular when it was released in the US as Final Fantasy II on the SNES, but it wasn't until Final Fantasy VI, and obviously VII, that the series really blasted into the stratosphere and became one of the most popular names in video games the world over. Thanks to that popularity, Square Enix has seen fit to rerelease the game twice already in the past five years in the form of Final Fantasy Chronicles on the PlayStation, as well as a release on the WonderSwan Color. The game is about to make the jump to a fourth platform with Final Fantasy IV Advance, which is scheduled to be released this year.

Nintendo recently showed off the game at a press event, so we spent some time with it to see if anything had changed since we first played it almost 15 years ago on the SNES. And based on what we saw, we can say that it is a fairly straightforward port of the original. The story is completely intact, as are all of the characters. For those who haven't played previous versions of this game, we'll recap the story.

The game takes place in a fantasy world where technology and magic coexist, just like in every other Final Fantasy game. In the kingdom of Baron, an elite group of pilots known as the Red Wings have been ordered to attack peaceful nations throughout the land in search of four elemental crystals. Cecil Harvey is captain of the Red Wings, and when he begins to question the orders of the King he is booted out of the force. He and his friend Kain are ordered to deliver a package to a small village of summoners. On the way to the remote town, Cecil and Kain fight a bunch of monsters. They then make their way through a small cave where they end up encountering, and defeating, a Mist Dragon.

All your old friends--Cecil, Rosa, Kain, Golbez, and more--will be reappearing in miniature.

When they finally reach their destination, Cecil and Kain find out that the package they are carrying is in fact a trap set to destroy all the summoners in the village. They also find out that by killing the Mist Dragon, Cecil and Kain inadvertently killed the summoner who called the dragon. The summoner's daughter is rightly pissed, and she summons a Titan, which causes a devastating earthquake. Cecil wakes up with the girl, but Kain is nowhere to be found. So Cecil sets out on a journey with the young summoner in an attempt to make some sense of all the crazy stuff happening in the world. Thus begins a long journey rife with all the dramatic twists and turns you've come to expect from Final Fantasy games.

While playing through the intro and the first few scenes, we didn't see any shocking new changes, but the game has been updated since its debut. For one thing, the graphics have been improved, making the characters, enemies, and backgrounds appear sharper and much more detailed. There are also static character portraits accompanying the dialogue that add a nice touch to the overall presentation. The dialogue seems to be intact as well, broken translation and all. People who haven't played the game before might find the dialogue to be a bit unclear, but purists who have played before will probably relish the fact that the game stays true to its original form.

The battle system is as simple as ever, but it's functional and doesn't try to get too complicated, which should make it a great choice for an on-the-go role-playing game. It's also pretty lengthy, and you could easily sink 30 or 40 hours or more into it, which is a massive chunk of time for being a portable game. We only barely scratched the surface, and the only battles we were able to fight were quite simple. With Kain's jump command and Cecil's dark magic, we were easily able to defeat the Mist Dragon and any other enemies that got in our way. The battles played out at a quick pace, and most of the random encounters only lasted 30 seconds or less. The encounter rate is still fairly high, but that's to be expected from the early Final Fantasy games. Plus, it's a good way to buff your characters.

The graphics have been updated, but otherwise this is the same great role-playing adventure that first hit US shores nearly 15 years ago.

It looks like Final Fantasy IV Advance isn't messing with the classic game too much, which is a good thing. However, the graphical touch-ups give it a great look that rivals any other Game Boy Advance game. This will certainly please longtime fans of the series, as well as newcomers in search of a great role-playing game. Stay tuned for more details on Final Fantasy IV Advance before it ships this holiday season. You can also check out the recently posted trailer for the game in our video section on the gamespace.

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