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Final Fantasy IV (PC) artwork

Final Fantasy IV (PC) review


"A somewhat lackluster mobile-port-to-PC disappointed, but it’s easy to overlook design choices when everything else is so solid."


Honour Bound
My first introduction to this story was on the Super Nintendo, released as Final Fantasy II in North America all the way back in 1991. The original release bears mentioning because the original translation gave us phrases like “You spoony bard!” which are so ubiquitous that they’re included in this version.

I didn’t play the game for the political intrigue – at the age of fourteen I didn’t care about any of that. The charm and emotional impact of the original are what drive sales, there’s no escape from that. Matrix had the unenviable task of delivering to our nostalgia without compromise or neglect. Did they succeed? Let’s find out.

We begin with an overhead view of a small wing of airships and a rousing theme by Nobou Uematsu. During the introduction, Captain Cecil Harvey and crew reflect on the abuse of military superiority. They ask, “Why do we steal from those who don’t fight back?”

His men are concerned with matters of honour, and that becomes a central theme as Cecil is dismissed from his post to hunt the summoned monsters of the misty valley. Joined by the cool headed Dragoon, Kain Highwind, you travel through the lands assaulted by the Red Wings Cecil once led. As you progress, you join forces with a host of characters with their own motivations and losses.

The Unloved Port?
Nobou Uemtasu’s no-frills soundtrack hits you where you live, but Nobou’s updated music for the DS/Mobile port leaves a somewhat mixed impression. Orchestral samples are nuanced, subtle and gorgeous, borrowing some influence from the lesser known Celtic Moon album. Unfortunately, the FM synthesized bass and drums grate against the lush orchestral instruments.

This is the beginning of some troubling choices made by Matrix/Square-Enix for the Mobile/PC version. When comparing cutscenes to combat and the overworld, graphics are a mixed bag of smooth polygon assets and low resolution textures. Absolutely everything is zoomed in and the low detail level is painfully obvious on large, high resolution displays.

Final Fantasy launchers have had a rocky past, with either unwanted or unavailable features. Final Fantasy X provided loads of graphics options, whereas FFVI allows you to choose between fullscreen and resolution settings. Nothing more. This is a product of an engine that has low system requirements, so really, what is there to configure?

Low polygon characters are forgivable, as the style is consistent. Regrettably, the game’s framerates (yes, more than one) has suffered scrutiny over its usage of game logic bound presentation. Overworld and cutscenes are presented at 30 frames per second, and all combat at 15fps. You read that right. We’re going to firmly blame the mobile version for that faux pas and move right along.

Something New, Something Borrowed, Something .. Whyt?
All is not same story and recognizable boss patterns in this update. FFVI accompanies its 3D overhaul with spiced up combat and customization features in the form of one-time-use “Augments”. That’s your cue that SE is aware that the genre has matured over the last thirty years.

Spoiler(s)! Player controlled characters die in FFVI, so just in the event you believe it all began with Chrono Trigger, that just is not so, sonny. These are plot deaths which in FFVI render character specific Augments like “Auto-Potion”, “Kick”, “Dualcast”, and so forth. These can be applied to one character, and up to three play-throughs enable you to mix and match for some potentially game breaking results.

For instance, giving Cecil “Counter” and “Draw Attacks” turns him into a devastating melee powerhouse, especially near end game when he receives his most powerful weapons. You can spend weeks exploring Augment combinations, if you have the time and patience. Some Augments you’ll only acquire after the first play through, and others by returning to previously inaccessible locations.

That’s right, you’re encouraged to explore, and rewarded I would say, almost aggressively. Whilst exploring dungeons, a percent counter will mark your map-filling progress until you reach 100%. It’s a nice reward for exploration and can be useful when you’re running low on items if you’re playing it frugal.

The Augment system takes an unremarkable, arguably platform inconsiderate port and makes it compelling. If you’re caught up in the story, you’re going to want to see it through. Not all new features are as much fun, though. Rydia. our resident summoner of classical cuteness is given a new summon “Whyt” which is a multiplayer geared monster rearing mini-game type distraction.

So if you don’t mind grinding some mini games, using up some of those Augments and drawing a face, you might beat down some online buddies for bragging rights. Seriously. Ah yes, the highly forgettable PVP summon combat. That is a thing... that is nearly totally pointless.

I admit outright I have no time or interest in pursuing it, especially because developing a high rank summon means paying with Augments that can cut off access to more powerful Augments later on. You can easily overlook Whyt without detriment to the main game, though it is nice to have an extra “toy” to play with if you are interested.

Performance Issues
There was a bit of a kerfuffle about the new cutscenes and voice acting. It’s much the same as seeing a character on screen that you’ve read about and imagined and the joy or letdown you feel when they either got it right or missed the mark. There’s no way to please everyone, but there’s no doubting the quality of the production.

Visually cutscenes are dynamically lit, well animated and solidly acted. In a phrase, the voice work is not great, but it is solid. It does the job, and that’s fine. You may want more, or you may appreciate their brevity. I was startled by some character designs and costumes, but they are faithful interpretations of Yoshitaka Amano’s lavish, hand painted designs and you grow accustomed to them. At least, I did. Sort of.

Tellah dresses like that and he calls Edward a spoony bard?

The translation is scaled back from the GBA’s middle age themed dialogue into something easier to digest. That may bother you a lot, but coming from a charmingly translated SNES release, it communicates an old world feel without layering on the detail ala Final Fantasy XIII. Ivalice this is not, and I felt it makes more sense to have more down to earth dialogue for the scenario.

Is it Worth the Price?
I debated purchasing this release for two years, with both the GBA and DS editions already in my library. The purchase decision was determined by access. I don’t own a functioning PS3 (funny story about a self-desoldiering motherboard), so I can emulate it, or grab this version. On a time budget, immediacy matters more than ever, and Square-Enix accounted for this by porting a version with low-to-no system requirements.

It was a good move. This game has high replayability with interesting customization features to explore. Yes, you’re out to save the world, but is a fine introduction to this genre and exists in a comfort zone of easy access. You may want to wait for a sale, but the price isn’t too much to ask for 40+hours you can easily sink into this well loved tale.

4/5

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (October 03, 2016)

Once upon a time Asteroids was all he ever needed. Over twenty years later poor optimization still ceases to faze him. Remember kids: bandwidth isn't the answer. Fun is.

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