Final Fantasy IV Hands-On
We take a look at the upcoming remake of Final Fantasy IV and examine the differences between it and the original.
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Final Fantasy IV (originally known as Final Fantasy II in the US) has seen a number of rereleases throughout the years, the most recent of them appearing on the GBA as Final Fantasy IV Advance. However, not content with mere ports, Square Enix has decided to completely remake this epic adventure from the ground up similarly to what they did with Final Fantasy III. The end result is a fully 3D game that looks better than ever and includes several new gameplay features such as voice acting, but is still unmistakably Final Fantasy IV.
FFIV tells the tale of Cecil, the Lord Captain of the Red Wings of the kingdom of Baron. As a youth, Cecil was taken in by the king of Baron, who raised him to be a just and honorable knight. However, that same kindhearted mentor has suddenly transformed into a cold and power-hungry tyrant, and Cecil begins to doubt the righteousness of his actions. On orders from his king, Cecil leads Baron's air force in a surprise strike against the friendly city of Mysidia to steal their sacred crystal, and torn between his honor and his duty, he openly questions his king's motives. Displeased by his lord captain's lack of faith, the king strips Cecil of his command and orders him to travel to the village of Mist, where he is to deliver a ring to its elders. This simple errand kicks off a world-spanning journey of redemption for Cecil, and along the way he is embroiled in a battle for the fate of the entire world.
The shift to three dimensions has not only allowed for a far more accurate sense of depth and spatial awareness in buildings and dungeons, but has also made for a more cinematic style of storytelling. Whereas in the original version all conversation was conducted in static dialogue boxes, much of the story is told through in-game cutscenes in the remake, many of which feature voice acting. In addition, everything has been completely retranslated again, removing the hit-or-miss pop-culture references added to Final Fantasy IV Advance and making it feel far more accurate and authentic.
There have also been a number of changes to the characters that join your party. Cecil's Darkness class ability, for example, no longer strikes every enemy onscreen with a powerful wave of energy--instead it's become a buff that enchants his blade with the Shadow element and allows him to strike for double damage at the cost of some of his own HP with each hit. Rydia, a young Summoner who joins with Cecil early on, has had a slightly more radical change. She has her own dedicated summoned monster (which are now known as Eidolons) named Whyt that can be called upon to take her place on the battlefield.
Whyt is the same level as Rydia, and he can be customized to your preferences in a number of ways by conversing with the Fat Chocobo, who previously served as just a caretaker for extra items. Fat Chocobo lets you equip Whyt with up to five spells or abilities from among any currently available in your party, such as Cecil's Darkness. You can also customize Whyt's appearance by drawing him a new face or selecting from costumes unlocked throughout the course of the game for him to wear, level up his individual stats by playing minigames (including a Brain Age-style math challenge), and even battle against a friend's Whyt through a local wireless connection. When summoned, Whyt takes Rydia's place and fights for her for several turns, though he can't be directly controlled and instead randomly uses the spells and abilities he's been equipped with. Be warned, however: If Whyt goes down for the count, Rydia does as well.
Other new features are introduced through the helpful Namingway, a Moogle that originally allowed you to rename your characters but is now wont to try out a number of different careers (and names) as you progress through the game. One of the jobs he tries out is cartography, and, referring to himself as Mappingway, he gives you a magic map that fills out areas you've explored in dungeons and rewards you with bonus items whenever you completely investigate an area.
Final Fantasy IV will be released on the Nintendo DS in the US on July 22. Be sure to check back then for our final thoughts and review.