This game is a remake of Final Fantasy 4 on the SNES for the DS systems. In this game, many of the series trademark mechanics and story themes come into place. The tone shifts from lighthearted to a darker and somewhat somber mature story. It is also more complex and the characters are more layered than in previous games. Kain, despite his reputation as a dark knight, is actually modest, loyal and kind to his friends, and his low key nature is a very notable aspect of his personality.
Final Fantasy 4 like many Final Fantasy games, is set in the same universe but it has its own story and lore separate from other games. The remake adds and expands on the original story and fills in any plot holes found in the original game. Some new cutscenes are also added. In the 3DS remake, a new feature is added called Augments which allows you to share many other special abilities from your party members. You can find and unlock as much augments as you wish but only four can be selected at a time.
This game story is about revenge and redemption. It focuses on the dark knight Cecil who finds himself caught up in a mysterious conspiracy that lies behind gruesome events that are happening. Kain feels extremely remorseful for what has happened and he sets out to stop his former king from carrying out more violence.
Kain and Cecil were following orders from their king but after a mission goes wrong, it is up to them to stop the perpetrators and the real mastermind to prevent further bloodshed. They eventually learn that a sorcerer named Golbez who works for the king, is planning to use mysterious powerful crystals to destroy the world.
The story is very engaging from start to finish and this was one of the first rpg games in general to include complex storytelling. Characters are more fleshed out as it shows Kain transforming from a dark knight, into a hero. He slowly goes from villain to champion.
The graphics are very good for its time on the DS system and the art and character models were very highly detailed. CGI cutscenes are excellent quality and even today, still look very impressive. The controls are mainly straightforward and easy to learn and does a good job replicating the SNES version.
The voice acting (surprise) is serviceable and it does help convey the emotions through this dark story and it makes cutscenes more emotionally powerful. The active time battle system is introduced in this game and can now be seen in many Final Fantasy games like Final Fantasy, 8, 7 and 10. It was also included in Chrono Trigger.
The enemies come in many different kinds and they are more dangerous than in the original version. Combat is turn based like in the previous games but it is also given elements of real time combat as well. It is much faster paced than previous titles as well. Hit points display how much damage you dealt or how much you have sustained in combat as in FF3. Enemies can now attack freely during combat instead of waiting for the party to attack. The number of enemies you fight have also been increased and sometimes you have to select which wave of enemy to fight in combat during later parts in the game. You have to wait for your meter to use a command then you can choose which command you want to use. Like in previous games, if you are lucky you can strike first before the enemies can attack your party and the reverse can happen to you as well.
Summons make a return in this game and you can also level up your summons by taking part in mini games that help increase their stats like strength or defense. You can even set an auto battle mode where your party members attack freely with just one certain command but it is not guaranteed that you will win at all. When your party members die and you have no phoenix down to revive them, then its game over.
The party system is increased by 5 in this game. You can change different party members at any time by pressing Y so you can control them. Party members have their own strengths and weakness such as a more magic based ally, while skilled in dealing more damage in magic. is vulnerable to enemy attacks. White magic is used for defensive tactics while black magic is for more offensive tactics.
The combat is very challenging and quick thinking and planning ahead is highly recommended. You have to move your characters frequently in combat as well. Having a more powerful party member at front will help you more than a weakened party member that should remain in the back. Each of the party members has their own special abilities that are quite powerful. Cecil uses the power of darkness causing massive damage but in exchange half of his health drops per each. Kain can use a high jump to cause massive damage to a select enemy.
Boss fights require quick thinking and you cannot just use the same attacks all of the time. You have time your attacks carefully in certain boss fights or else you may not even cause damage to them. You can run in most situations by pressing r and after a few seconds you escape.
Defeating enemies in combat will award you XP, Gil and Items. The places you visit has shops to purchase many different items and an inn to rest where all status aliments from combat will go away. As you progress through the game, you unlock more different special abilities to use and also increase your stats such as strength or defense.
Job changing happens in the game at certain parts of the story where a few of your party members can be able to select certain jobs like the Paladin for Cecil. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages and they also have their own special set of ablities exclusive to the party members.
Dual wielding makes a return in the game. You can also unequip accessories and armor, weapons and more from your allies when they leave you later. Keep in mind some weapons and armor are exclusive to certain members of your party.
You can now have more variety of spells without having to sacrifice one or the other due to the level limit of how much spells you can carry. As you progress, you can find more powerful spells for you and your party members. There is plenty of items like weapons and armor to discover or purchase. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses so it is prudent to know your armoury.
The world is very large for a DS game and the locations are quite unique from each other. One town is based off Middle East design and another town is based off Eastern Asian designs. This feature helped differentiate each town from another in the 3D remake. You can travel across through various means like riding an airship or through chocobo. More locations of the world open up as you advance through the story.
Dungeon maps are a new feature in this game and exploring the map completely will award you various different items to help you on your journey. Every area is a surprise and danger is around in every corner. There are hazards exclusive to certain dungeons. Objectives are told through hints in the game in the characters inner monologue. This does somewhat help the previous error in Final Fantasy 3.
Plenty of new and extra content has been added to this game. The mistranslations are so bad its unintentionally hilarious especially in one scene where Tellah calls a bard “You spoony bard!” But the overall script is a fairly decent English translation. The dancers that you see from town to town return and they still have that weird dancing animation that’s limited but entertaining.
It somewhat alleviated the missing checkpoint save system in Final Fantasy 3 if you go to a special magical ring in dungeons, you can use the tent to heal up and to save before heading on to fighting a boss. This also prevents you from being attacked as long as you stay in the ring.
The musical score in the game is a remix of the original and it was very good and the quality of audio is a step up as well. New dungeons and enemies are added in the remake. There is also a new game plus which you can unlock after beating the game in one playthrough. If you find the music player, you can rewatch cutscenes and also look through the beastiary to find tips on how to defeat enemies.
Grinding sessions are not that long and games points system is more balanced and fair. Mini games are a new feature in the remake and they are touch screen based. They can help you increase the stats of your party members and summons.
Backtracking is monotonous and can be frustrating. Random encounters can be very frequent when you least expect them and is unprepared. Blacksmith are still separated one for armor and one for weapons instead of just being merged into one. This is was one of the major stepping stone to many games to come within future Final Fantasy games and future Square Enix ips overall.
Final Fantasy 4 is a refreshing remake of the original and improved and added to create superior gaming experience. This is one of the best entry in the series adding new and improved gameplay mechanics while keeping the original story intact. Fans of the franchise will enjoy this game and I recommend it highly.
It’s a 5 out of 5 stars.