Final Fantasy IV is without a shadow of a doubt the best of Square Enix's latest hand-held remakes. Originally released in 1991 on the Super Nintendo, it is to this day praised for its emotional narrative and epic plot with one of the best combat systems a Final Fantasy has seen. On the Nintendo DS, the core turn-based gameplay remains much the same but it’s the graphics and some minor flourishes that make it earn its title as a remake. Despite the lack of changes to the core game, Final Fantasy IV is as engaging as it ever was.
The story goes that a once just king has become maddened and is on a campaign to secure a collection of mystical crystals and - as you'd expect - destroy the world. I guess it's just what bad dudes wanna do. Though this will sound all too familiar to Final Fantasy vets, things are mixed up by the lead hero not being a whiny brat - he's actually a celebrated warrior whose internal conflict between loyalty to his king and doing what's right drives the narrative with more originality than most all Final Fantasy games.
The most noticeable change to the original is its jump to 3D. While the game does look great - though only marginally better than this year's excellent Ring of Fates - the art style is somewhat jarring. The game intro is a sublime CG intro with mature, humanly proportioned characters, but when you get into the game everyone is peg legged and big headed. Though it's nothing to make you switch off your DS over, it still feels like a bad choice, especially given how un-kiddy this Final Fantasy really is. It worked for Ring of Fates, and it works here too, but just not as well.
The game's difficulty raised a few eyebrows when it was released in Japan earlier this year and again when it hit North America. Thankfully, the cries are largely unfounded. Yes, Final Fantasy IV is hard, but it's not unforgiving. In most cases all you'll need to do is grind or explore for a few minutes to be able to face a boss or challenge you're having a hard time with.
The game is a success thanks to what has remained unchanged. Though we're now 3D and have some wonderful cinematics, this is still the Final Fantasy IV you fell for in 1991. And for those who have yet to fall for the classic, this is a good place to start.