Final Fantasy, a name that has become ingrained into the minds and hearts of gamers, never has a series of games gained such high critical success again and again and built up their own individual fan bases. Square-Enix began re-releasing their much loved Fantasy's in the late nineties with ports of the original two games to the wonderswan and the original PlayStation, most recently the third Fantasy was finally released outside Japan for the Nintendo DS with a complete facelift. Now Final Fantasy 4 has undergone the DS treatment and features voiced over cut scenes and 3D graphics but does it rekindle feelings of nostalgia or make you run for the hills, read on to find out.
Final Fantasy 4 tells the story of Cecil, a dark knight of baron and captain of the mighty red wings who when ordered to steal 4 powerful crystals from peaceful settlements around the world begins to doubt his King. He brings his concerns to the King himself who dismisses him from his duties and sends Cecil on a somewhat menial mission but when the mission goes badly he's forced to look more closely at himself and the world around him. The story is still very much as the original with only grammar and translation hiccups corrected.
As with the original game this port begins with Cecil and his crew returning from one of their crystal heists and reflecting on the journey, the scene is beautifully animated in full 3D with some better than average voiceovers though the character models are a little blocky and the textures pixelated, it does not detract from the over all look of the game. With the game being 3D it's allowed for greater diversity in camera angles, making all the scenes feel new and very fresh.
After some chit chat your ship is attacked and so begins your first battle. The interface for battles has changed from the touch screen menus from the Final Fantasy 3 port to a more traditional D-pad control scheme which although at first seems like a setback from the more hands-on approach from it's DS predecessor it becomes apparent very quickly that the more traditional control system is far more suited in retaining the nostalgic appeal of the game. However this does not mean the touch screen is completely forgotten, within the game all the main detail (character models, scenery etc.) are displayed on the top screen with dungeon/map's displayed on the bottom screen. Moving your character can be done with either the D-pad or the touch screen, the only problem I've found with using the bottom screen is that in order to move the character you have to touch anywhere around bottom screen which can block the actual dungeon map from view.
The battles themselves are shown in the traditional Final Fantasy manner with your party on the right hand side and the enemies on the left, HP/MP stats are displayed on the bottom screen making the top screen seem uncluttered and giving it an almost cinematic appearance. The stats are presented as single numbers, much like FF8 and FF9 which can be a pain to keep fully topped up without any form of health bar for quick reference. For the most part the battles are quick and the random enemy encounters seem less frequent than in other Final Fantasy's though this can be a pain when you need to level up your levels quickly and walking around for up to half a minute at times trying to just to get into a random encounter can be tedious.
One of the main complaints with Final Fantasy 3 was the sheer amount of level grinding involved, literally every time you went to a new area you'd need to level grind a few levels just to survive, thankfully FF4 DS is more forgiving with level grinding only really needed if you want to completely over power the enemies in a mass of particle effects, saying that if you choose to play the game without level grinding you'll soon find out that the game is very difficult and will constantly keep you on your feet.
The game has been given the 3D polygon makeover just as its predecessor, the character style resembles that of a Japanese anime and all the character models though blocky look crisp and sharp. At first the dungeons seem very detailed and diverse but they quickly start to look very similar and stale with only the colours of the walls changing to give any form of difference between one and another.
The sound has been given a complete overhaul with all the music being redone with more realistic sounding instruments as opposed to the synth sounds from the SNES original. All the music tracks are punchier and convey much more emotion which helps to give a real sense of grandeur and coalesce with the story. For the first time Final Fantasy 4 has been given the voice over treatment which as said before is above average, the voice samples are crisp and without any signs of compression.
This game is a traditional RPG and very little has been changed in that respect, saving the game is restricted to the world map and save points. This wouldn't be such an issue if the dungeons didn't take up to an hour at times to complete, which, if your looking for a pick up and play game to take to work then this is most certainly not for you, but if you're looking for a game to engross in while away on business or on holiday then I can't recommend this game enough, it has an intriguing plot, solid controls and a music score
The game has been given a rather hefty facelift and it's shown in the presentation of both the visual and audio departments, the graphics may not be the best the system can produce but do the job very well, avoid if you're looking for a pickup and play game.