First and foremost, here are the elements that, in my opinion, make a good game.
FEEL: The feel of a game. How immersed the player feels when he is playing, this concerns the graphics, the storyline, the music and anything else that captivates whoever is gaming. That gives life to the environment and the characters that the game introduces to you. (I go about the story as if I have no idea who the protagonist is prior to playing the game)
DIFFICULTY CURVE: Personally, I like it when I am under the impression that the game has control over me, that every action I take is a risk taken to understand or to teach myself something about this mysterious entity that is the world I have been sucked into. Trial and error makes success that much more rewarding to me, like I have done something right and it was more than just pressing a series of buttons, it was analyzing a situation and adapting to it. Also, it is the difference between having the game tell you something or teach you through its gameplay. Here is an example to further illustrate what I mean by this: You have been descending deeper into this mysterious cave for hours now. You are lying down, biting your lip and it seems like hours since you last were given the opportunity to save. Your stock of recovery items is still considerable and the quality of your armor and weaponry, unrivaled. A boss fight is coming, you are ready. A cutscene follows and an epic battle begins. Fingers quickly mashing buttons, spells, swords and shields clash in a desperate struggle for survival. "Any second now, this monster will fall, he has to". But, just as you ponder this, the malevolent twenty ton behemoth unleashes an onslaught of lightning bolts, effectively knocking out all the members of your party. All but one. There stands, or kneels rather, alone amongst his fallen brethren, your protégé, the character upon whom you bestowed your name at the start of the game. Breathing heavily he charges forward. No! The attack command had already been given! Johnnyboy17 could not be called back. Blinded by revenge, he stuck furiously with his sword, yielding no results other than confirming his inevitable demise. Unscathed, the foe initiated a counter attack dealing lethal damage. There you are, you know it, you are dead. But it is YOUR fault. It didn't happen because the game failed to prepare you for a difficult boss battle, no. YOU were the one who was in control of your characters. The game didn't possess you and force you to use abilities that were ineffective. You did that dumb sh_t by yourself Einstein. But now, you know. You know not to make that same mistake again and you won't. See, you weren't told what to do, you were taught and that is the beauty of a good game.
DIVERSITY OR REPLAY VALUE: After choosing between choice A and Choice B, it is the ability to make the player wonder if he made the best decision, making such a player curious enough to willingly revisit certain areas of the game. This can mean anything from using a certain weapon over another to choosing an attribute to upgrade or even using an item such as a potion instead of opting to conserve such an item. A good example of what I consider "Diversity" is a game that offers you side quests of some sort. (Tasks that aren't mandatory or prerequisites for "beating the game".)
GAMEPLAY: The experience of playing the game, explained a bit more meticulously as well as a summary of the criteria listed above.
BONUS: Balancing +/- The subtractions or addictions to the overall score don't necessarily reflect how I feel about the topic itself. I.E: If I list my favorite element in the game as the graphics, the score can be +1 or +5 regardless of how great I think these graphics are. I use this section to balance the overall score as I put emphasis on certain aspects that have probably already affected this score. *If an element is "lacking", this doesn't necessarily mean that I will attribute a low score to the section it belongs to. (I.E.: Older consoles have lower video potential.) Having said that, I rate the graphics on how they improve the overall experience of gameplay and if they properly "set the mood". (I.E.2: A quick paced stressful series of low notes as background music in a peaceful happy colourful town, would probably get a low score, the feel of it, is wrong.)
Score calculation: Feel(/40) = Graphics (/20) / 2 + Music (/20) / 2 + Story (/20)
Difficulty curve (/20)
Diversity/Replay value (/10) = Diversity/Replay value (/20) /2
Favorite/least favorite elements in the game (-5 to +5) = Favorite (0 to +5) + Least favorite (-5 to 0)
Satisfaction/Expectations (-5 to +5)
40 or less Not worth either the time or the money
40-50 Had potential, but something went way wrong.
50-60 Around average
60-70 slightly above average.
70-80* What I consider a good game.
80-85 Great, highly recommend.
85-90 Instant classic.
90-95 All time favorites
95 and up The pinnacle of video game evolution.
*I generally expect games that I buy (seeing as I know what genres I like to play pretty well) to be in this category.
FINAL FANTASY IV (VGR) The Final Fantasy IV in this review is a remake that first appeared in 1991 on the NES console. Many remakes have been made since. The game grew in popularity significantly because of its unexpected difficulty. There is a indescribable "retro feeling" when playing the Final Fantasy IV. A lot of games have this and I think it tends to be overlooked. To better its predecessors, the forth installment of the series involves a more sizable plethora of elements that need to be efficiently understood and utilized to avoid getting obliterated by the powerful enemies that can be found in the game, while still managing to keep the story and graphics above average. SUMMARY:
The Hero, Cecil, captain of the red wings, is a loyal knight of Baron. Until he begins questioning the orders of his king, that is. A once noble man, who took him under his wing as an infant when he had no place to go. Declared a traitor, he sets off on a quest where he dedicates a lot of his time to self renewal, seeking also to understand the sudden change of heart of his adoptive father. Meeting friend and foe along the way, this journey of Cecil's is a long and dangerous one. Using the turn based "Wait" system, this is Role Playing at its best. Equipped with stunning 3D graphics, with hired voice actors and sinister plot twists, fans of the genre are bound to get their money's worth. There is a indescribable "retro feeling" when playing the Final Fantasy IV. A lot of games have this and I think it tends to be overlooked.
STORY: A classic "good versus evil" storyline, like the Final Fantasy series is famous for. The main character is shrouded in existentialism, embarks on a quest and is joined by other individuals as he endeavors. Original storyline and unexpected plot twists can be expected, a tad cliché, but I like it that way. "What is just?" or "Am I doing the right thing?" are constant personal dilemmas that the protagonist and his seemingly benevolent acolytes deal with. The characters are much more opinionated and behavior detailed than the ones that inhabit Final Fantasy IV's prequels in my opinion. They are numerous and brilliantly come together in the stereotypical quest to purge evil. 16/20
GRAPHICS: Despite the misleading intro video which has graphics that are simply amazing for a handheld console, the all new 3D aspect of the remake greatly enhances the feel of the classic famicom and gba versions. The hidden paths are complemented with this new design: you often stumble across a door or passage that could easily have remained unnoticed, simply because the overview is slightly more of a sideway view than your typical retro RPG. This helps in the creation of blind spots that appear to contain tangible walls at first glance. However, at times the pathing can be quite bad and often you think you can access certain areas, but rocks or grass bushes create an invisible blockade. This is unsettling at first, but the awesome gameplay and storyline easily compensate for this minor flaw. As for the attack animations, they are nothing out of the ordinary, but my expectations were as such and I don't think it matters much. Although, there are neat little cutscenes when casting certain spells which are quite detailed. The game developers opted to use the same text font that was used in the original version, which helped maintain a somewhat "retro feel" to the remake, something that I found brilliant.
MUSIC AND SOUNDS: Simply marvelous, enticing. The voices in the cutscenes are very distinctive and they really portray the character's emotions, assisting the game in bringing heroes and villains to life. The background music ranges from dark and apocalyptic to happy and colorful. Even the in-battle music and sound effects are impressive. When slow is cast on its target, for example, the effect is felt through the slowly deepening pitch of a motor-like humming sound.
17/20 8.5 (17/20 / 2) + 7.5 (15/20 / 2) + 16 (16/20) =
FEEL SCORE -32/40-
AT FIRST GLANCE: Final Fantasy IV quickly matches you against mildly powerful foes and you are forced to find ways to overcome them. Because you possess a fairly limited set of abilities, stocking up on potions and priorizing defense over offense is the first thing you are taught.
UPON COMPLETION: I was surprised at how tactical the battles got. A turn based RPG is usually fairly limited in the tactical department. This is best portrayed through the boss fights. Instead of having a set weakness to fire, ice, etc. Some of these more dangerous opponents require some reasoning to overcome. Casting healing spells on your enemy, harmful spells on your allies and even willingly striking a member of your party, can be expected.
I tend to rarely use items in turn based RPGs, unless they are truly needed. During my experience of Final Fantasy IV, the difficulty caused me to reach out in an attempt to grasp at anything that could help me succeed at that particular point in time.
I conclude that the game is hard, in a near perfect way.
DIFFICULTY CURVE SCORE -18/20-
DIVERSITY: I find that Final Fantasy games have always been considerably linear. The riveting storyline, detailed graphics and addictive nature have been good to overshadow this. In this instalment, some of the apparel that you get your hands on enables you to turn almost any character into a physically defensive or offensive one. The possibilities are still somewhat limited, but I was quite satisfied nonetheless. Where the game best expresses its diversity is in the plethora of items and spells that are acquired throughout its progress. Because of the more than reputable difficulty that you encounter, these spells and items are useful and at times very situational.
REPLAY VALUE: A new game can be started after defeating the final boss where a few extra items are available, some abilities are kept and some near-impossible bosses can be challenged. This can be done twice on one save but it basically means playing through the game once more with slightly stronger characters and it doesn't add that much to the depth of the game itself.
Overall, the game is pretty diversified for its genre, considerably more than the original version.
14/20 -> 7/10 (14/20 /2)
DIVERSITY / REPLAY VALUE SCORE - 7/10 -
Addictive. I was firmly grasping my DS, eyes wide open, biting my nails for the most part of the game. For a game that doesn't require you to backtrack, to do so felt good, I still got minor rewards frequently that enhanced my characters making it that much more rewarding to finish off a boss using everything at my disposal to do so. Not much more to say here since most has already been mentioned. Overall, just awesome.
GAMEPLAY SCORE -25/30-
FEEL SCORE -32/40- +
DIFFICULTY CURVE SCORE -18/20- +
DIVERSITY / REPLAY VALUE SCORE - 7/10 - +
GAMEPLAY SCORE -25/30-
DIFFICULTY: I know I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. The difficulty brings everything in this game together. +2
LEAST FAVORITE ELEMENT: "MINOR STORY INCONSISTENCIES"
-CONTAINS POTENTIAL SPOILERS-
Some of the characters get caught in situations where death is an inevitability and survive. I understand that this happens in many, many games, but it is really senseless here. A certain character, having no special powers whatsoever literally blows himself up with a bomb, seals a hole that has a good hundred meters in diameter and survives... What? There are other examples as well.
-END OF POTENTIAL SPOILERS-
EXPECTATIONS: Way beyond my expectations, which were pretty high.
BONUS BALANCE: +2
82/100 + 2
FINAL SCORE: - 84/100 -