It’s time for another Square remake! Yep, this time they’ve brought back Cecil, Kain, and of course Rydia for a reunion on your Playstation Portable! But there’s more, this collection also includes the rather limited release sequel known as ‘The After Years’ and a never before seen segment entitled ‘Interlude’ to help bridge the gap between FF4 and FF4:The After Years.
So let’s break this review up by game:
Final Fantasy 4
It’s the same final fantasy 4 that, let’s face it, we all love. Hailed as one of the best JRPG’s in history, and it’s every bit as good now as it ever was. Since almost everyone has played FF4 I’m not going to do a full review of it here, just going to do a brief comparison to the other versions.
From the SNES version there have been a lot of graphical upgrades done, making it look clean, polished, and refined to near-perfection for the style they’re using. If I’m not mistaken, it’s even cleaned up a bit from the DS version, but I can’t be sure if it’s just the screen size and quality or if it’s actually been upscaled at all. And some of the spells have been upgraded dramatically to really make the impact evident – Leviathan and Meteor are perfect examples of this. I won’t spoil the effect, but trust me when I say it’s a huge improvement over the older versions of these abilities. The music is all the same music you remember, from the iconic ‘Prelude’ to the renowned ‘Theme of Love’ – all upscaled to the new capacities of the hardware but still very recognizable. The game also offers you the option to play the original versions instead of the remastered versions which is an awesome perk.
As to content, the game is a very similar version to the DS version containing the original difficulty of the Japanese version, the special abilities that so many characters lost in the US SNES version (such as Dark Knight Cecil’s ‘Darkness’ and Rosa’s ‘Pray’ abilities), and the ability to change party members at the end of the game – with many of the bugs such as Yang’s HP bug fixed.
The lunar dungeon is also present, which wasn’t there in the SNES version.
Overall, I had more fun with this version than I did with the DS version, and I consider this to be the definitive version of the Final Fantasy 4 game.
Final Fantasy 4 – Interlude
The Interlude is only a few hours long, and is probably the only part of this collection that really disappoints. The story is definitely teased during it, but there isn’t really enough content to make it feel worth it on its own, even as a downloadable title.
The gameplay is literally identical to FF4 with none of the extras added to ‘The After Years’ present, but it does play well.
Overall, as a part of the whole package, it’s a nice addition, but it really isn’t all that necessary or valuable on its own.
Final Fantasy 4: The After Years
Now, this is my first exposure to ‘The After Years’ despite it’s being available on some other platforms prior to this. The After Years is broken out into a ton of different chapters with most of the chapters each being focused on developing a different character’s story. The game takes place several years after the end of Final Fantasy IV, and one of the key characters is Cecil and Rosa’s son.
The game features a vast cast of characters, with limited characters in each chapter and the entire cast becoming available for the finale. The cast includes everyone, except Tellah, who was in the first game as well as numerous extras. There are so many characters, that even in such a long title none of them – except the core few – receive little to no story time or development. It was an unfortunate side effect of what could have been a great addition.
The gameplay is basically typical Final Fantasy gameplay, with a few changes. Certain characters have special attacks they can perform if they’re in the party together, and a few unique mechanics that never really feel that impactful.
The game’s story is absurd, and in a lot of ways spoiled what was one of my favourite game stories of all time. The new characters don’t fit that well into the mix, and some of the old characters are developed in weird ways. The one exception is Kain, who finally gets to have his story be told.
As a final note, the game’s final dungeon is very long and the boss I believe to be the end boss is drastically stronger than anything previous. While most of the game is somewhat interesting from a gameplay perspective, the final boss simply stalls the game into a grindfest while you grind out 10-30 levels to get characters high enough to take it. Not finishing this boss is the reason why this review was delayed so long – I was going to wait until I finished but eventually just moved on and stopped playing.
The collection is probably the best way to play Final Fantasy IV, assuming you don’t have a Super Nintendo hooked up to a CRT TV sitting at home. The rest of the collection isn’t anything spectacular, but the original is just as good as it always was and in some ways better.
I want to apologize for the delay in getting this review out. I’ve had it sitting mostly completed in my drafts for over a year now, I just kept forgetting about it. I figured, even if it isn’t up to my current standards of writing I should at least finish it and get it out for you guys to enjoy, so I polished it a bit and now it’s ready.