keskiviikko 29. syyskuuta 2010

REVIEW - Final Fantasy V Advance (2006)

Genre(s): RPG
Released: 2006
Available on: GBA
Developer(s): Square Enix, TOSE
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1

Final Fantasy V is second only to Final Fantasy III when it comes to the most obscure titles in one of the biggest video game franchises in the world. It is a great game, however; it's incredibly fun to play, even if the story doesn't meet the standard set by Final Fantasy IV. Seven years after its original Japanese release, the game was finally released in the U.S. on the Sony PlayStation in 1999. Us Europeans had to wait to get our hands on this innovative title for three more years. In 2006, the game was released internationally for the second time on the Game Boy Advance, as an essential part of the Final Fantasy Advance series. That's where I stepped in, to take my first trip with Final Fantasy V since a fan translation of the Japanese version on the ROM circuit, introduced in 1997 - and I must say, that I've never enjoyed the game this much. Final Fantasy V Advance might just be the most essential Final Fantasy Advance release due to the original game's obscurity and the fine quality of the port.

Godspeed and all that whatnot!

Galuf still rules...
The elemental crystals of the world have begun failing and shattering, one by one, for reasons unknown. Princess Lenna of Tycoon attempts to track down her missing father who's sworn an oath to protect the crystals at all costs, only to be ambushed in a forest by a group of wild monsters. She's saved by a young traveller named Bartz, who's come to investigate a fallen meteor. They meet an amnesiac old man named Galuf and a while later, a pirate captain named Faris. Despite of this foursome's initial reluctance to work together, they soon find themselves to be the chosen ones to take on the evil the crystals protect the world against.

...Cid still doesn't. His portrait's way cooler
than his sprite, though.
I have already pointed out the generic plot of the game more times than it's really necessary, and also briefly noted its exceptional surreality. However, the official translation of the game makes the story a little bit more interesting to follow. The story itself remains the same, but the characters are fleshed out a little more. I liked the the fan translation, and this official game proves the fans were definitely on the right track; some lines are even identical to those of the fan translation, but at the same time, it smooths out many mistakes. Context is delivered better, and the actual meaning of some of the most riddling dialogue comes to light with the addition of just two or three keywords. Galuf's sarcastic jokes, which found their target in even the fan translation, are even better, and since Nintendo's policies have become more rational over the decades, not much from the original game is censored - the game is pretty much identical to the game Sakaguchi & Co. originally created, translated to English and the handheld environment marvellously. If you never thought to read a line like "If you're not gonna dress up like a girl - you should, though, no need to hide such assets..." in a Nintendo game, get familiar with Final Fantasy V Advance. And yeah, you'll still get a lap dance if you know where to go.

Hah. The rewritten dialogue is funny and
compensates for the lack of a good storyline.
As opposed to the previous games in the Advance series, Final Fantasy V is more of a re-release or a port than an actual remake. It makes perfect sense, 'cause some people are experiencing the game for the first time, not expecting radical graphical changes or whatnot. The traditional opening cutscene has been added, but besides that, as well as some newly rendered backgrounds and general clean-up, the graphics are pretty much identical to the Super Famicom version. Same goes for the sound. The marvellous soundtrack is just slightly remixed, very faithful to the original drive, as opposed to the reworked and rearranged Final Fantasy IV soundtrack which sounded awful.

Well, sir, it's been a long journey and it'll
probably be my last anyway, so a blowjob
would suffice.
When it comes to the gameplay, the changes are also quite artificial. Enemies, items, weapons and equipment have been renamed, some minor re-localizations are found in other areas as well. Some people have criticized Faris' piratey accent which wasn't part of the original script, but I personally think it works for the character. After all, she was raised by pirates and has lived with them for all her life - why wouldn't she speak like one? Everything crucial to the gameplay was in place in the original game, so Square Enix and TOSE didn't have much to go on here when they began to think about ways to enhance Final Fantasy V. Well, besides the very minor graphical tweaks and the obviously important new translation, there are the bestiary and Quicksave function made familiar by the previous Advance games, a music player, and of course, a new extra hard dungeon, the Sealed Temple.

Yet another subliminal reference to marijuana.
The most important addition to this version of the game is the inclusion of four new Jobs: Necromancer, Cannoneer, Gladiator and Oracle. Some of the original game's Jobs have been tweaked as well, firstly in name: for quick examples, Caller has been renamed Summoner, and Monster Trainer is now known as Beastmaster. Some abilities have new names as well, Mystic Knight's MagicSwd is now Spellblade. On my account, a very important tweak has been made to Thief's Steal / Capture ability; in the original game, you were lucky to be able to steal something other than regular Potions from enemies. Being able to steal essential items didn't really come along until Final Fantasy VI came out. This version is a looter's heaven; you can steal powerful weapons and equipment from many standard enemies, which makes Thief an essential Job to have. For example, in the Tower of Walse in the first world, you can steal a Mythril Sword from an Ice Soldier, virtually no problem at all, and at that point in the game, a Mythril Sword is about +10 in Strength in relation to any weapon your Knight might carry at that point.

Gilgamesh made his debut in Final Fantasy V,
and has appeared in some capacity in four
main series games released since.
As always, I've intentionally saved a little pros and cons up until now, this time mostly cons. Besides the benefits of the official translation and an user interface that is easier to read, use and comprehend, Final Fantasy V Advance isn't really a different experience from the original game in practice. Jobs take forever to level up, as will your party's experience from level 30 onwards. Since it takes so long to really see the results of lengthy periods of just walking around and fighting hordes and hordes of impressive monsters, there are a few two- or three-hour gaps throughout the game during which you'd just want it all to end. Of course you could just change everyone's Job all the time and keep on hoarding the lesser abilities they grant you, but I don't think the game was meant to be played that way. Besides, I personally find some of the Jobs utterly useless, such as Beastmaster - and on an equally personal note, I'll never feel comfortable playing as a Bard. I had enough of that particular class in Final Fantasy IV. What's great is that the game doesn't have any points in which you would absolutely NEED someone to manage and level up a specific Job - except for maybe White Mage, but I doubt anyone'll leave home without one; the possibilities for customization are very impressive.

Ghido's arrogant sarcasm is so funny I simply
cannot hate the guy, even if he's just a damn
turtle.
Another thing that really bothers me about the game, as a person rather than a player, is that the game is really illogical. I'm not talking about the plot or its threads involving possessed books or non-sensical ancient technology, I'm talking about the dungeons. I've never cared too much for mazes that have a random encounter coming your way every two seconds, but in this game, dimensional design and architecture, and some consequences are totally whacked. Even if you clearly see a route leading you somewhere, it isn't absolutely certain it's the right way to go to get to that particular destination. These are puzzling hallways of trial and error instead of real mazes. Speaking of the consequence part, I still don't get the fire-powered ship dungeon in the first third of the game. First of all, why would an ancient crystal shrine be connected to a state-of-the-art ship? Isn't it a little awkward to haul around? And how in the hell does the party suddenly just end up in the Karnak castle prison after falling through the floor of this particular shrine?

Tell me why I have to be a powerslave...
Here's something that I just forgot to mention before, but something that is quite a notable nuisance. You can't upgrade Job Commands; for example, you can't replace Steal with Capture (or Mug), you need to assign Mug as a special ability even for a Thief, and you have room for just one of those abilities. Steal becomes totally irrelevant and painful to use once you gain Mug, and you just can't get rid of it if you're playing as a Thief, attempting to master the Job. On top of all, there's probably a host of abilities from other Jobs you would like to replace the old Steal with, but you can only replace Mug with something else. Square took note of this, among other similar peeves, when they made the next two games. I think they should've fixed this version of the game just a little, by letting the player assign two special abilities instead of just one; one command ability and one auto-ability or perk. I reckon it wouldn't have eased up the game too much; some experts in self-buffing might disagree.

Sing lali-ho, the dwarves are back!
Second to last, let's talk about money. At first, it seems you're getting more loads of it than you could possibly carry. However, in the later stages of the game, all prices soar, and rewards for battles well done largely consist of just EXP and/or AP. You will have to resort to selling your excessive equipment if you want to purchase every spell, weapon, piece of armor and accessory available. What's difficult about it is that you have to be extra careful; some equipment might be obsolete to one Job, but essential to the next. For example, I made the mistake (in the original game) of selling all my old stuff when I began the quest for the legendary weapons. As luck would have it, I was also nearing a Master class for each Job I had assigned at that time. I changed Jobs, and soon found myself in the middle of a dungeon with no equipment at all. It's not utterly impossible to still survive, and you can easily get out of dungeons by assigning one of your guys as a Time Mage and using the Teleport spell, and from there, enter any town you've lately visited and stock up on equipment, but I just thought to point this out.

Gogo, one of the Final Fantasy universe's
greatest mysteries - still studied by hardcore
fans of the franchise.
Finally, let's return to the plot and what I personally find the lowest and highest point in it. This is a series of spoilers, so just skip ahead if you feel the need to. What I consider to be the lowest point in the plot is the whole character of Krile. Right after she's properly introduced, it's obvious what the character's true purpose in the endgame is. She's constantly saving your ass, and with the Dawn Warriors dying or otherwise getting incapacitated one by one, it's perfectly clear that as sad as it is, Galuf's gonna leave the party for good at some point, and get replaced by the 14-year old wondergirl. Overall, the game's a little short on true surprises - like Faris is Lenna's missing sister Sarisa, "SHOCKING!" - but the whole thing with Krile is perhaps the most lame "surprise". You're just waiting for it to happen, and when it finally does, you're both frustrated, at how long it took to happen after seeing the obvious for the last dozen of hours, and angry, due to losing the best character in the game and getting an annoying brat in return. The highest point of the plot in my view is the character of Exdeath. Finally, a Final Fantasy villain who's there from the start (well, almost) and right up until the end as the sole, most evil motherfucker on the planet. He has powerful henchmen, some of which are more powerful than the man himself, but they're just that - henchmen - and not some make-believe main villains like Golbez in the previous game. Exdeath's well developed and deserves the hate we feel for him. Definitely one of the most underrated villains in the series - and he alone gives the otherwise thin storyline a fine boost. The script teases the introduction of a new villain before bringing Exdeath back into the fray during the final third of the game - in a rather corny way, I might add - but luckily, he remains the prime evil. Ghido the sage is another excellent character that should've been introduced a bit earlier on in the game.

No matter how much I criticize the plot, I still simply can't find anything horribly wrong with the gameplay itself. Of course I could go on and on about missing tweaks and features that were introduced in the later games, but that's just bad journalism. Final Fantasy V Advance is still a fun and challenging game, even moreso than its source title thanks to the clean-up, standard to the Advance series, and the inclusion of the Sealed Temple dungeon. Final Fantasy VI Advance is the best game in the Advance series since the game is just such a glorious masterpiece in any form you could imagine it in, but this one is most likely the most important title in the series, due to the original game's obscurity and its vast Job system, which has to be experienced in practice by every Final Fantasy fan at least once.

Graphics : 8.7
Sound : 9.1
Playability : 8.4
Challenge : 9.0
Overall : 8.6


Trivia

GameRankings: 82.45%

maanantai 27. syyskuuta 2010

REVIEW - Final Fantasy V (1992)

Genre(s): RPG
Released: 1992
Available on: SNES
Developer(s): Square
Publisher(s): Square
Players: 1

Final Fantasy IV unleashed a J-RPG phenomenon - under the false moniker Final Fantasy II - in North America in 1991. In December 1992, Final Fantasy V was released in Japan. Plans were, of course, to release the anticipated sequel to the most critically acclaimed RPG title at that time as Final Fantasy III in North America. However, North American testers found the game too hard to comprehend for casual gamers, and it was rejected from the U.S. market. Some time after the release of Final Fantasy VI (as Final Fantasy III), a new possibility to ship the game as Final Fantasy Extreme came to light, but it never happened. After one more failed attempt to release the game, for the PC, a group of furious fans came together as RPGe and translated the game to English themselves, publishing their work on the ROM circuit. Final Fantasy V is indeed one of the most complex games of its time, but perfectly accessible to devoted role-playing fans. The storyline is one of the weakest in the series, but the game itself is quite underrated in terms of gameplay, and in my view, solely due to its obscurity to non-Japanese consumers.

So much fuss over some jewelry... again

The elemental crystals of the world have begun failing and shattering, one by one, for reasons unknown. Princess Lenna of Tycoon attempts to track down her missing father who's sworn an oath to protect the crystals at all costs, only to be ambushed in a forest by a group of wild monsters. She's saved by a young traveller named Butz, who's come to investigate a fallen meteor. They meet an amnesiac old man named Galuf and a while later, a pirate captain named Faris. Despite of this foursome's initial reluctance to work together, they soon find themselves to be the chosen ones to take on the evil the crystals protect the world against.

I'm the king of the woooooorld!!
In script, the developers once again take a step back to the days when crystals and Warriors of Light were the two primary storyboard elements that defined Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy V was the last game in the series to utilize this age-old story for many years to come, and it can easily be seen why. It was clear that Final Fantasy was going to be a long, long series of games; it would stay alive as long as fans were interested in it. How many story-based games can you create using the very same formula of crystals and warriors sworn to protect the world for one reason or another, just changing the setting radically? Not many, if you want to create a good story each time. Final Fantasy IV was phenomenally scripted. Not only does Final Fantasy V have a generic plot, but the writers tried too hard to create an in-depth story to it within a margin of a few months - it leaves us with a mess that looks like it's going to take off on a few occasions, but it never doesn't. Despite a couple of interesting characters, Final Fantasy V is a rare kind of post-IV Final Fantasy game; one that you'll just most likely run through, without stopping to reflect on the storyline on too many occasions. Well, that can be fun as well, and I'm bound to tell you why sooner or later.

Later, since first I have to take a moment to reflect on what's been my favourite subject so far in my Final Fantasy marathon, and will be, right up until Final Fantasy VII: the translation. I'm not sure if this is the "official" translation made by RPGe in 1997. Probably not, since this work's far from completion, lower than beta; very glitchy. Dialogue during battles is still in Kanji, as well as the names of enemy attacks, and Yes / No boxes. Conversation in general overflows the given space in the dialogue boxes, obscuring whole words. Some random NPC dialogue is missing completely, even some crucial to your progress. As far as the translatory quality itself is concerned, I must say that RPGe (or whoever did it) did a great job, better than Square's own guys with the previous game - although that isn't much of a compliment. The game is not exactly explicit like the original version of Final Fantasy IV was, but there are some suggestive elements in it. The translators have cleverly made it so that the dialogue tells adults quite clearly what's going on, but in a way younger players wouldn't understand it, or would understand it differently. This, Nintendo, THIS is how you manage things, not by botching everything, including the story itself. I seriously would've loved to see what Nintendo would've done to the lap dancers. Or the "huge, shocking scene" - on Nintendo's account, I reckon - that reveals Faris to be a woman. A North American localization would've had her smuggling puppies in her shirt or something, and kept her as a man - but referred to her as a woman in a traditionally inconsistent way.

Whitesnake? AWESOME!
Graphically Final Fantasy's fifth take is a huge improvement over the last game. The 16-bit colour palette is fully utilized. The animated backgrounds are developed a little further, the shading rocks and the sprites look a little more lively. There's a certain rough edge to the game, and the dungeons are a little bland in look, but all in all, the game is a reasonable treat to look at. We're clearly on the way towards the epic proportions and all-around genius graphical design of Final Fantasy VI.

The music, oh how I'd love to bash it after the near-perfect soundtrack of Final Fantasy IV. However, Final Fantasy V sounds awesome; the music's underrated, for the same reasons as the whole game - it just isn't known that well. First of all, the battle theme in the game is better than the one in IV. In general, the music's a bit more folk-oriented than ever before, and I simply love folk music. The towns are a little bigger and more complex than before and you'll be hearing some songs play for lengthy periods of time, that's a bit of a drag, but there's nothing too annoying, and there's even stuff that has directly influenced material from the first 3D generation of the Final Fantasy series. Very sufficient.

There are only five playable characters in the game as opposed to the large cast of 12 in the previous game, and you'll be controlling four of them during most of the game. The main character, traveller Butz Klauser was wisely renamed Bartz for obvious reasons (to me, at least) when they finally shipped this game out of Japan years later. Let's just leave the fact that "Butts" turned to something that rhymes with "Farts". He's sort of a faceless main character - his backstory does unfold during the first ten hours, depending on the player's personal will to explore, but it really doesn't evoke any special emotions. Lenna is more of a standout main character, since as a member of the royal family of Tycoon, she handles most of the talking to representatives of foreign nations. Galuf and Faris are my two favourite characters in the whole game. Galuf is responsible for the best jokes, he's that sort of an old man, and Faris is just cool. A hot pirate. How much more can you ask for? I'll not spill the beans on the fifth playable character, instead I'll turn to the Final Fantasy stalwart Cid, who makes an appearance as an elderly engineer. It's interesting to note that up until Final Fantasy VI, Cid was portrayed consistently as an older version of his previous self, until his character was completely rebooted in Final Fantasy VII as the airship captain in his thirties we all love. I always expect a lot from the different incarnations of Cid because of that very same guy, and I must say this game's Cid is not one of my favourites. He sulks in self-pity and his nerdy nature a bit too much to be true to his name. Kind of like headmaster Cid in Final Fantasy VIII, but in a different way.

Feel like having three lap dances... at once?
The Job system introduced in Final Fantasy III is implemented and radically reworked on in Final Fantasy V, and it serves as the sole basis for the gameplay. There's a whopping amount of 22 Jobs the player can learn and master. These include the traditional Jobs, or classes: Knight, Red Mage, Black Mage, White Mage, Thief and Monk. New traditionals are introduced in the form of Blue Mage (a mage that can learn enemies' attacks) and Samurai (a master swordsman), there are numerous Jobs carried over from the classes of the few previous games such as Caller and Bard, and finally there are many one-offs such as Monster Trainer and Berserker. All of the most important special abilities granted by these Jobs were carried over in one form or another to future games. The widely popular Job system itself was implemented later in Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV Online, as well as many non-canonical titles or spin-offs, and on my account, it's one of the greatest gameplay innovations in RPG history - AND, easy to comprehend. I don't know what the hell was going on in the testers' minds, if anything, when they declared this game to be too hard to understand for anyone except the Japanese. Maybe getting testers whose IQ is bigger than the size of their shoes would help.

So, how does the Job system work, exactly? You start off with a group of "freelancers", who can wield any type of weapons and armour. About an hour and a couple of dungeons into the game, you are granted certain elemental power that creates the first six Jobs: Knight, Monk, Thief, Black Mage, White Mage and Blue Mage. You can classify your characters in any way you wish; I initially chose Knight for Butz, White Mage for Lenna, Black Mage for Galuf and of course, Thief for Faris. Now as you go fighting around the world, you'll not just garner in experience points, but also ability points, also known as AP. Gather a certain amount of AP, and you'll get yourself a new ability which is determined by your Job. For example, Thief has Steal / Capture, all the mages have several skill levels to their own type of magic, and Knight has Protect. Once you hit the master level, which varies between Jobs, but is clearly indicated, you'll probably want to switch Jobs for that character. You'll probably be thinking why in the hell should you just ditch a White Mage from the fray, especially as the going gets tougher. Not to worry. For example, if Lenna is assigned as your White Mage and you want to appoint her as your Caller, but are worried about not having a healer, you can simply change her Job, and then choose one special ability from ALL abilities you have managed to teach that character so far. So just change her Job to Caller, then choose White from the ability list to make it her special ability and enable her to use white magic. Master the white magic, first, though, it pays off. It's all that simple, and neat! Each time you change Jobs or your special ability, your weapons and armour are automatically optimized. So point me the guy who said this game was too hard and tedious for the non-Japanese to play! Personally, as far as gameplay goes, I think the game plays out better than Final Fantasy IV, the Job system is just so darn excellent. It's just too bad that the story and characters have nothing on the drama and epic feel of the previous game. Frankly, it feels like mockery of the whole franchise at its worst. It takes its toll on the playability.

Even the smallest threads of storyline are not
that logical... like this library full of books
possessed by demons.
Outside the confines of the Job system, the game continues to impress in terms of gameplay. The minimap is finally here; you need to find the world map, but after you do, you're free to use the map any time you wish by just pressing Y. You will need no more cryptic codes, or white magic to see the world. You will have many different methods of transportation, and actually, during the first third of the game, your main device for transportation will change after almost every quest. Dragons can't fly over mountains - for some very odd reason - and ships have a weird tendency to get devoured by whirlpools. Like in Final Fantasy IV, there are three different worlds to explore, accessible as the storyline progresses. So much juice, so thin story. Go figure, but it still raises gameplay value by quite a bit... as well as the amount of essential playing hours as opposed to just constant EXP mayhem or backtracking. This time, there are many sidequests, most of which are there to bless you with a rare item, weapon, piece of equipment, or even a new summonable creature for your troubles. Not to forget rare magic! The magic shops return, but this time, you need to buy or find a mana item just once, and everyone who meets the criteria to learn it, learns it immediately. Some really crucial spells can't be bought anywhere. That's why I suggest that you take your time to explore the game, but be careful.

Final Fantasy V is a very non-linear game for its time, and that's why you absolutely CAN make mistakes and wander off to places you really should avoid from a 10-mile radius. Running from battles that seem hopeless from the start is very advisable, and nearly mandatory. Fleeing is still hard, but this time, the Ninja has an ability that speeds up the party's escape. There are actually many Job-based abilities that fix a lot of the mistakes or "bugs" in the previous games, or bring in features that should've been there from the start, such as the ability to dash (Thief). Getting back to the non-linearity of the game, it also has many, many locations more than any of the Final Fantasy games that came before it. Villages, towns, castles, deserts, all around and over the map. There's still a lot of empty space, but this time you're very likely to find at least something at the end of long cavities, besides endless random encounters.

The Active Time Battle system is tweaked and for the first time, you can keep track of whose turn is coming up with the addition of each character's time bar. At the same time, it makes a very practical difference to the use of time-based magic. Previously, a spell like Haste didn't make much hell of a difference, since every member of the party had his or her turn, consistently and in fair order. In this game, a character spellbound by Haste can have two or even three turns in a row, depending on the speed and agility of the rest of the party. Cure spells or items are no longer used at all if the target is already K.O.'ed, the caster just loses a turn, which is a remarkable fix in my opinion.

This was the last game in the series to use generic names for weapons and equipment, for example Mythril Sword -> Mithril, with a sword icon on the left. The menu, however, is designed better than ever, and it shows specific stats for each piece of equipment, and you can clearly see the comparisons between two similar pieces of equipment. On top of all, the equipment has a neat hierarchy system. Everything's "organized" randomly in the inventory until you manually sort it out, but in the Equipment menu, the all-around best weapons and armour are always at the top, easily accessible. There's also a group of icons next to each Job, indicating which weapons and pieces of equipment a person of that class can use. Once again: if North Americans understood everything there was to Final Fantasy IV, how in the HELL couldn't they understand a game that makes things this simple and comfortable? Also, keep in mind, that the fan translation aside, this is indeed the Japanese version of the game; it's supposed to be the hardest version around.

For some reason, I feel like killing.
Well, even disregarding the possibility of wandering off and getting your ass kicked before you can utter the word "cat", Final Fantasy V is a long and challenging game. It starts off all nice and easy, and continues to be nice and easy as long as you keep on following the main path, but at some point, you WILL feel the need to sidestep, and/or level up. You shouldn't trust Final Fantasy V any more than any other Final Fantasy game. They trick you into believing you're absolutely ready for what's to come, even in the end of the game. The same thing happens in this game. I personally suggest you concentrate on gathering EXP and AP, leveling up your characters as well as their Jobs, and get familiar with the sidequests and what they have to offer. You're in for many, many, many hours of bad storytelling, but essential gameplay.

The ultimate question is which feat motivates YOU to play a Final Fantasy game: storytelling, or gameplay? In my personal opinion, to create an ultimate Final Fantasy game you need both to support each other, a perfect symbiosis. Storytelling affects gameplay, and gameplay affects storytelling in turn. It's perfectly clear that making this game a treat to play was what the developers worked on, but it took them a while to realize that they needed a story like that of Final Fantasy IV to support that basic playability and keep a number of players motivated. So, even if the overall rating given according to this point of view doesn't quite spell out a marvellous, must-have game, Final Fantasy V is at least a must-PLAY game. It made a difference of its own; its influence on the series' future is undeniable.

Graphics : 8.5
Sound : 9.1
Playability : 8.2
Challenge : 9.0
Overall : 8.4


Trivia

GameRankings: 66.25%

The game was re-released for the Sony PlayStation as a stand-alone title in 1998, this time also in the U.S.. In 2002, the game was finally released in Europe, as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology. The game was re-released for the Game Boy Advance in 2006.

Moogles make their first appearance since Final Fantasy III. They have appeared in some capacity in every Final Fantasy game since.

Bosses Atomos, Gilgamesh, Shinryu and Omega appear in Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, as bosses in the exclusive Lifespring Grotto dungeon, as well as guardians of the Crystals of the True Moon in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.

Butz Klauser (localized Bartz Klauser, voiced by Jason Spisak) and Exdeath (voiced by Gerald C. Rivers) are rivals in Square Enix's all-star anniversary game Dissidia - Final Fantasy, released on the PSP in 2008.

REVIEW - Final Fantasy IV Advance (2005)

Genre(s): RPG
Released: 2005
Available on: GBA
Developer(s): Square Enix, TOSE
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1


"Coooc coooc!" "The giant's intimidated!" "You spoony bard!" "HE went on the Blue Planet and GAVE BIRTH to you, Cecil!" "Death only fueled Zemus' hatred!" I can picture a montage of the North American version of Final Fantasy IV in fancy, artistic black and white, with "Theme of Love" playing in the background, but I can't think of a way to cover up all of its artificial mistakes all the way to its U.S. title. The game is a definite milestone in the history of role-playing, but I think we can all agree on the awful quality of the English translation, made by a Japanese guy of all possible choices. Well, in 2004, Square and TOSE began to bring back the first two trilogies in the Final Fantasy series, minus Final Fantasy III that was still left as it was and didn't see a remake, or a non-Japanese release, at that, for a few more years. They started out with the critically praised release of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls; in 2005, it was time to bring back the game that truly revolutionized Japanese console role-playing as we know it... as well as English language. Final Fantasy IV is back, rewritten and mechanically enhanced to meet today's standards. Unlike the Dawn of Souls bundle, Final Fantasy IV retains its difficulty level, and some additional challenge is brought in by an unlockable extra hard dungeon for enthusiasts, as well as a superboss dungeon added to the main game. So, is it good? What do you think? Of course it is. It comes with some price, but it's Final Fantasy IV, presented as what it was meant to be.

Backtracking to the darkness, and then to light again

Baron is the most powerful military nation in the world, and its formerly noble king has suddenly taken it upon himself to enforce his rule by assigning his elite forces, the Red Wings, to rob other regions of the world of their precious elemental crystals. Cecil Harvey, a dark knight and the captain of the Red Wings, does not know what the crystals exist for, but he has his fill of the king's brutal greed and stands up against him, getting demoted in the process. The king then sends Cecil and his best friend, the dark dragoon Kain, to deliver a ring to a nearby village inhabited by Callers, people graced with the amazing talent of summoning phantom beasts of the underground. Unbeknownst to both men, the ring contains a fire spell potent enough to burn the village down. A child named Rydia survives, and in her sorrow and anger, she summons a creature that splits the earth beneath the two friends. Out of guilt for killing her mother, Cecil takes Rydia with him to grant the little girl a new chance at life. However, as it turns out, it is Cecil himself who is on his way to a whole new life. It is time for the dark knight of Baron to truly redeem himself and boldly rise against the true evil threatening the whole planet.

"Short work"? "Back safe"? Come on, Cid.
You've been here before.
First and foremost, without further due: the plot, and the way it is presented to us. Phenomenal. Kisses, hugs, and then a few more kisses to whoever rewrote the whole dialogue to uncover everything that used to be so cryptic, and senseless. Some old lines have been left in, but just as beloved in-jokes. I just finished the original Final Fantasy IV for the very first time in my life (Zeromus is no pushover, by the way), and I was certain that when I'd take on this version right on its heels, I would be tired of it after an hour, if I lasted even that long. I still had, not just the localization, but the game's most frustrating dungeons drilling a hole in my skull from the inside, as well as my near two hour showdown with the final boss. After playing for, say, 15 minutes, I was hooked again, because it's clear from the very start that this game tells the story of Final Fantasy IV about a million times better than the original. The characters are way more consistent in their emotional displays, they speak like "normal" human beings, and even all the bits of dialogue that have been removed altogether are paid back in full with some supplemental dialogue, that helps in developing the plot further and closer to the epic drama Sakaguchi intended to present when he made this game. I find myself not caring for the severe censorship anymore; maybe I never did, I just wanted to see a version of Final Fantasy IV that made sense. And here it is. Besides, the censorship policies are a little different than they were 14 years back, luckily so.

The one thing that I find the most crucial about the new localization is that the characters are developed properly. Whereas they originally shouted out irrelevancies or just plain stupid things, or repeated some other character's name over and over again in different tones, they use all that time to make their true opinions on the state of things heard, as well as tell a little more about themselves, serving themselves a great favour as characters. Those who are playing Final Fantasy IV for the first time get the privilege of knowing more or less important plot details right off the bat: it is explained why Kain is a dragoon instead of a dark knight like his best friend Cecil, but still pledges loyalty to the king. It is also revealed right away that Cecil and Rosa's relationship is indeed romantic and has been for a long time; Rosa even became a white mage just to take care of her significant other. It is also explained a hell of a lot better that Rydia's mother doesn't actually die in the fire, she dies because Kain and Cecil kill her assigned phantom beast just before they arrive in the Village of Mist. These kinds of small tweaks alone make Final Fantasy IV Advance so much more comfortable to play than the original U.S. version of the game... but about 60%-70% of my feelings towards the game still lie in the depths of actual gameplay.

"Coooc"? No, it's "Kweh". And Kweh here's
gonna kick your ass.
The graphics have not been enhanced as much as one would immediately think after seeing the new opening cutscene. Everything from sprites to facial portraits - which appear during choice dialogue as well, like in the Dawn of Souls version of Final Fantasy II - and environments are smoothed out with a larger palette, triple buffering, and enhanced shading. Some of the portraits have been completely redrawn, or remodelled from their original look. Kain looks quite interesting... like in "woke up after the worst lizards of my life at 6 a.m. and was late for work" type of interesting, but all in all, they look quite cool. The font used for everything besides general dialogue is extremely weird, though - very thin, narrow and hard to make out from the small screen. The musical score is partly recomposed - which practically means that it's just layered differently, and it's a bit more diverse-sounding, so don't wipe your ass on the theory, purists. Wipe your ass on the quality of the music instead. It's indeed true that I actually enjoyed the original songs a lot better. The battle theme, as well as the traditional Final Fantasy fanfare, sound like they're played with off-key horns through a bent, hollow pipe. It's annoying, and just think about how many times you're going to hear these two songs during the course of the game. Unbelievable. First, they absolutely nailed Final Fantasy II's soundtrack, but when it comes to something that was originally ready to be released on a CD, even in its original 16-bit form, they suddenly started to suck. Well, the music itself doesn't "suck", that's for sure, just the remix, but sound is still by far the biggest element of disappointment in this version of the game.

To review the basic gameplay elements of Final Fantasy IV, I advise you to refer to the original game's review. I don't find it very ideal to go over everything about the game again, just the good enhancements and modifications they made to it, as well as some annoying things remaining, and unfortunately, a few notable glitches - mmm, glitches. The first thing you'll probably notice is that almost all of the items have different, long names (as do enemies, spells and equipment), and there are more of them, for example Heal has been changed to Remedy, and it's quite a rare item, whereas in the original game it was the only item you could use to heal any status effect and therefore, a very common one; this time, each status effect has its own corresponding healing item. Mallet for Mini, Antidote for Poison, Echo Herbs for Silence and so on, including my clever favourite: Diet Food for Piggy. The menu is no longer a mess. It's still surprisingly hard to manage the front and back row, but the inventory is no longer limited, items stack automatically, and whether you're buying equipment or changing it, it's clearly indicated if the weapon, armor or accessory you're examining is stronger or weaker than your current piece. An addition to the main menu is brought in, a feature called Quicksave, which isn't a reliable way to save the game. You should only use it if you must quit the game in a hurry. It's a temporary memory file that is erased after you load it once, so saving on a five minute interval like in Dawn of Souls is no longer an option; the actual Save Points still exist. There's an in-game bestiary found in Configuration as well, like in every remade Final Fantasy game since the late 90's.

For the love of God, WHY?
The classes haven't changed much except in name. Final Fantasy X introduced the term "Summoner" properly, and this much better word replaces Rydia's old class "Caller". "Next caller!" "Hi, this is Pete from Minnesota..." All of the characters do have "new" abilities, though, carried over from the original Japanese game. Cecil's D.Knight form is granted a special command of it's own, Dark, which unleashes a special attack on all enemies. Very useful against those annoying Goblins in the beginning of the game - however, it reduces Cecil's HP by 30, possibly hinting that Mr. Harvey was never intended to be a Dark Knight. Even Edward, as annoying as he still is, has a Heal ability, which makes him a tad more useful in battle than before. After a certain point in the storyline, you can switch party members manually this time around; between those that are still alive or otherwise capable of joining the fight, of course. Playing the original game, I found myself missing this feature, but then figured the original party which you used to beat the original game is pretty much irreplaceable, so it doesn't have much use on my account. One more, lengthy sidequest for mega-powered weapons is added into the mix, and it can be accessed right after the same point you can change party members for the first time. An extra hard dungeon in the vein of those in Dawn of Souls, labelled Lunar Ruins, is accessible after Zeromus' defeat.

The ATB has changed to a more modern form, with time bars. Now a spell like Haste really makes a difference unlike in the original, and you can always keep track of whose turn is coming up. You can also change the Battle Mode to Active if you wish, which of course means that enemies will attack even if you're still browsing for the best method of attack, or an item to use. Setting it to Wait or Active is everyone's own business. Some dig the mother, some the daughter. Or both. The battles are just as challenging as they were in the original. Constant physical attacks may have worked in Dawn of Souls, but not in this game. Every enemy has a distinctive weakness, which is very cool. However, the battles in the U.S. version of the game feature the most glitches - mmm, glitches. They were indeed fixed in subsequent releases. Some characters are randomly granted two attacks in a row, which is actually a glitch that works for the player's benefit, of course. On the other side of this coin we have a minor lag between commands and their execution, which doesn't bother me since at least I personally suffered - that's SUFFERED - of the lag in the original, it wasn't this minor. There are two glitches that I do find annoying, and you might also be able to imagine how annoying it is that long-range weapons work on random. Rosa is by all means an archer, and she's in for the most part of the later half of the game. About 60% of her attacks simply won't work, and you'll find yourself wasting buckets of fine arrows. Even the attacks that work are weak. I've checked: this is a severe glitch, not some inane way to raise the difficulty level of the game. The second thing is, that it's hard to control fast-paced battles. For example, if you try to attack all targets instead of just one with any spell, the digital pad randomly locks up and during a hasty fight set to Active, you can't be sure if you nailed all the targets or just one. This lock-up also affects menu browsing, and flying airships.

Yep. I still fuckin' hate that spoony bard.
Well, that's about it for the notable changes, if we don't take into account the ability to run instead of tread slowly through dungeons and cities, and the disposal of big training houses on the behalf of small tutorial rooms located in basements of some other houses. Like in all the other remade Final Fantasy games, there are many minor modifications made to names, numbers, enemies' attributes and so on, which I'm sure die-hard players will pick up on the go.

Like I said, the game itself is not any easier or harder than before. It's a bit more dynamic, so if I absolutely have to compare the game to the original, I'd say it's a bit easier. However, the extra dungeons are not to be taken lightly, and they have to be considered parts of the game, so then again, the game would seem a bit harder due to the fact that you can still actually break some bones just by cringing upon entering the Lunar Subterrane, feeling a little too confident about yourself, and especially when you uncover the secret terror of what fighting the big cheese of the game is like. Then again, Zeromus can't necessarily be classified as a difficult boss, more like a puzzle. However, this little nitpicking won't help you a whole lot if you lose to him.

Final Fantasy IV Advance
is the excellent game in the greatest form I've played it in; probably not ultimate, though, since I have a personal issue with handheld games, and the almost same version of the translation is available for the PlayStation. I can't punish the game for all of its glitches, since most of they're only present in its first version - that's right, the game was released in the U.S. first, how generous of the Japanese. However, the worst glitch, the long range fuckery, remains. The presentation of the story is so much better and the user interface is so much less of a mess than in the original game. Purists might have some sort of a beef with me over the rating and how it compares to that of the original, and I absolutely don't care, but I must criticize the music myself, so I guess I'm not ALL alone in the midst of those bloodhounds.

Graphics : 8.0
Sound : 8.0
Playability : 8.9
Challenge : 8.3
Overall : 8.8

Trivia


GameRankings: 83.24%

REVIEW - Final Fantasy IV (1991)

Don't believe the lies: Take 1.
Genre(s): RPG
Released: 1991
Available on: SNES, Virtual Console
Developer(s): Square
Publisher(s): Square
Players: 1


1991 saw the first of two most important turns in Final Fantasy's existence, as the series was carried over to the 16-bit era and brought back to the United States with the release of Final Fantasy IV, only a year after the much delayed U.S. release of the first Final Fantasy game. Since the two previous games hadn't yet seen release in the U.S., and were not about to for over a decade, the game was awkwardly renamed Final Fantasy II -  rendering two games that had a big part in redefining the series unknown to all except the most hardcore role-playing enthusiasts. Despite all the artificial, numerical confusion, Final Fantasy IV turned out to be an excellent sum of all games that came before it and later, a standard for the series' development in several ways.

From darkness to light

Seems these guys have been huffing on the
POT OF RECOVERY...
Baron is the most powerful kingdom in the world, and its formerly noble king has suddenly taken it upon himself to enforce his rule by assigning his elite forces, the Red Wings, to rob other regions of the world of their precious elemental crystals. Cecil Harvey, a dark knight and the captain of the Red Wings, does not know what the crystals exist for, but he has his fill of the king's brutal greed and stands up against him, getting demoted in the process. The king then sends Cecil and his best friend, the dark dragoon Kain, to deliver a package to a nearby village inhabited by Callers, people graced with the amazing talent of summoning. Unbeknownst to both men, the package contains a fire spell potent enough to burn the village down. A child named Rydia survives, and in her sorrow and anger, she summons a creature that splits the earth beneath the two friends. Out of guilt for killing her parents, Cecil takes Rydia with him to grant the little girl a new chance at life. However, as it turns out, it is Cecil himself who is on his way to a whole new life. It is time for the dark knight of Baron to truly redeem himself and boldly rise against the true evil threatening the whole planet.

Excuse me... COCKTRIC? I knew the translators
were high, but they were also hilariously
ignorant.
Explaining Final Fantasy IV's plot in a simple way after dealing with the relatively thin storylines of the previous games is like humping a cheese slicer: interesting, but damn painful. The story we have here is a character-driven masterpiece, totally different from every game that came before it - ANY game. Actually the first thing I want to talk about is the plot, since many people have noted not just the game's awful grammar, but the dialogue's severe inconsistency, and even all the utter lies that come out of the mouths of NPC's, such as totally wrong directions. These are all facts, I agree. The characters are described as "shallow" and "uncaring". Yes, they would seem that way. The game was made to raise questions, emotions and care for the characters. So, why do playable characters just say something along the lines of "oh, crap" when they witness a friend's demise and sulk a little, while a "death theme" plays in the background, and then carry on, hardly ever mentioning those who passed again? I have heard many theories such as that Nintendo of America didn't want players to attach to mere video game characters like they would to real people, but there's simply no excuse for everything mentioned in this paragraph, and that particular excuse simply doesn't work when "northwest" is suddenly "southeast", or that Tellah is suddenly Edward's father instead of Anna's. The translators fucked up. Spank you very much for the inconsistencies, the irrelevancies, the senseless and probably unintentionally hilarious localizations; check out some of the screenshots. At this time we didn't even have Ted Woolsey to blame - he was actually advised to study Final Fantasy IV when he got hired by Square, to ensure this kind of mockery would never take place again, how about that?! The presentation of the story and some distinctive humane qualities of the characters go to waste. "Okey dokey!", proclaims prince Edge in delight, right after being forced to kill his own parents. It's not just the translation, either. The game was torn to pieces by American censorship altogether, not even the simple element of death got past the censors in full. I somewhat understand dropping (badly) pixelated strippers, but I don't understand why important storyline threads that would've helped to refine certain characters were dropped. Space limitations? Fuck you.

Well, of course it is! This is a Final Fantasy
game!
Like I said, as far as the story goes and disregarding its North American style of presentation for now, Final Fantasy IV was the first game to be based on a dramatic, complex storyline of this scale. There's an unprecedented amount of 12 playable characters, who all have a strict, unchangeable class, but in turn, a unique backstory to why exactly they're fighting the good fight. It's clear that Square originally wanted this game to be a whole new beginning to the Final Fantasy saga. Many storyline threads and recurring elements return from the previous games, to unite as one 16-bit mammoth. Of course, first and foremost, we have Cid, who's a playable character this time around, and chocobos. We have a touch of traditional dwarven/elven mythologies, elemental crystals held by four Fiends, dark knights and light warriors, from the first game and Final Fantasy III. There's a small hint of the real Final Fantasy II's theme of rebellion, and that particular game has clearly been used as the main influence on the general values of storytelling. If the North American version of the game wasn't such a watered down lint of fluff, it would be one quite damn brutal, and sad game... in a positive way, of course.

Enough with all of this chatter about the cons of its localization, let's talk about Final Fantasy IV as a game. What's it like? How are the characters like? How does Final Fantasy IV manage to expand and enhance the basic gameplay experience of J-RPG's that came before it? Why exactly is Final Fantasy IV called one of the greatest role-playing games of our time? I hope to answer most of these questions, and more, right now.

Final Fantasy IV was released in Japan on July 15th, 1991, 15 months after the release of Final Fantasy III, and 9 months after the launch of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. In very early stages of production, Final Fantasy IV was planned to be released as the last Final Fantasy game for the NES, but it was very soon clear to them that the project they were working on was something only the 16-bit could handle. Enter Mode 7 for airships, and a handful of animated backgrounds. Enter a further developed menu design, easier on both the eyes and the mind, and impressive detail in character sprites, which also have an impact on the already unique enemy design. Everyone I know says the game is ugly as sin. Yeah, well, it is. But then again, think of all the different visual material Square had to work on here, for their FIRST 16-bit title. And don't go telling me most of it looks like an NES game. I hate that. And it doesn't. Just compare everything on show to Final Fantasy III and try saying that to my face again. For a game its size and date of release, Final Fantasy IV looks sufficient. Not pretty, but sufficient.

Just one example of the U.S. localization's
severe inconsistencies with the plot.
I'm really not sure if I should even get started with the game's musical score. Let's see, now. Final Fantasy IV was one of the first games to have its own, well known soundtrack CD. Actually, there are three of them. Japanese schools teach kids to play songs from the game. The whole concept of Nobuo Uematsu performing live is based on how this game made music a truly essential part of a good video game. Uematsu has called writing this particular soundtrack one of the most exhausting, but massively rewarding tasks of his career. All these wikifacts aside, the music of Final Fantasy IV is phenomenal. Not my favourite collection of tunes in the series - as a matter of fact, now that I mentioned it, I don't really have one - but a fine mix of epic march music, silly showtunes and beautiful keyboard compositions nonetheless.

To get back to the story and the characters, now completely placing the localization aside, I must say Final Fantasy IV is a huge leap forward from the first trilogy of games; even Final Fantasy II which was the only game to even resemble a character-driven, branching story. Cecil is by all means the main character of the story, he's not just one member of the group. The whole story revolves around this man's journey from darkness to light, and all the personal challenges and tragedies he has to face to become a better person and fulfill his true purpose in life. He is without a doubt one of my favourite characters in the Final Fantasy universe. It's more than clichéd to say something like this, but I see a lot of me in Cecil for different reasons I'd like to keep to myself. On the complete opposite side of this here cavalcade stands Edward Chris von Muir, the prince of Damcyan who drives me crazy in storyline and gameplay alike. This "spoony bard", as he's called by another character in one of the only instances of good fluffy localization, likes to cry. A lot. And also automatically run away from battles in an untimely case of critical HP, even more. He's, without a doubt, one of the most annoying characters in the Final Fantasy universe. In the between, we have the twin mages Palom and Porom, the ninja prince Edge, the dragoon Kain, the caller/black mage Rydia, the white mage Rosa and chief engineer Cid, and three other characters who all have their major parts in how this grand scheme finally unfolds.

That's it. I want the same stuff the translators
had. Weren't they supposed to make the game
LESS explicit?
All of the characters indeed have their own classes, which change during the storyline in a couple of cases, but unlike in previous Final Fantasy games, the player can't manually change a character's class or job. Of course it is well taken care of in the storyline that the player always has the most balanced group needed to execute different tasks, by the introduction of new characters. You usually travel in a group of five at the most, but there are some situations on the first half of the game which Cecil has to deal with on his own. Very often a member of the party leaves to manage other business, or even dies (oops), or whatnot, but usually, a substitute for him or her is found in a jiffy, from a class fitting the next quest. Naturally, the final journey is made by five party members, who you cannot change at any point. The identities of these individuals, and their personal agendas, are for you to find out for yourself.

Each character class has its own chain of commands apart from Fight and Item - except for Cecil's initial D.Knight, which has no additional commands at all. For example, Rydia has Call, which she uses to summon creatures of the underground to aid the party in battle. Edward has Sing, which he uses to inflict different negative status effects on enemies - as well as Hide/Show, which can be used to manually remove the faggot from battle before he effectively does it himself. Edge has Dart, which enables him to throw extra weapons and items at enemies, Sneak which enables him to steal items from enemies, and Ninja, which is a list of special physical and magical moves becoming of the class.

Final Fantasy IV introduces the concept of sidequests... sort of. In later games, it has become a standard to include as many secrets as humanly possible. Hard ones, even so hard that they're plain stupid, such as the hunt for the Excalibur II in the otherwise magnificent Final Fantasy IX; who the hell wants to speedrun an RPG for a weapon that you have no actual use for? Or the Zodiac Spear in Final Fantasy XII; who would ever leave even one treasure chest unopened in an RPG in hopes of getting one damn rare weapon? You get the idea. Well, in Final Fantasy IV, the few locations for taking a break from the story are easy to find or even in plain sight, and they're pretty much the kind of stuff you must do to level up enough and see the game to its surreal end. The world maps are still quite plain even in all of their king-sized glory. Did I pluralize the word "map"? Yes, I did. Final Fantasy IV was the first Final Fantasy game to include multiple world maps. Believe me, the game's still quite big even if the amount of different locations is nothing compared to the complex, thoroughly inhabited lands from Final Fantasy VI onwards. The minimap's still beyond a cryptic puzzle; the old "Square code" is replaced by having to use the white spell Sight to see it, but you don't need it. It's all clearly laid out, and even the Mode 7 sequences manage not to fuck up your vision on the earth below.

Here we go! Thanks, little dude. It's funny,
though, that the dwarves are actually taller
than our sprites.
There are more treasure chests on the field and secret rooms than in the three previous games combined, but they never really contain anything that special - many basic curative items or varied amounts of money, but scarcely new equipment. The list of different equipment in Final Fantasy IV is relatively short as it is. More emphasis is placed on experience level and natural strength granted by one's class, and the use of magic, rather than fancy weaponry. One of the main quests in the game is even based on being able to let go of your strongest weapons and equipment, and going for softer and lighter materials instead. Mages and other characters with magical talent learn new spells by simply leveling up. No more planning, no more organizing, no more of those damn Spell Charges ever again. Just let it flow. 

Certain types of weapons, armour and accessories can be equipped to certain classes only, just like before. The first situation in which you have the opportunity to change gear is where in my mind, the game breaks its biggest flaw. The menu is still a mess, even if it seems to look and play out a lot better than ever before at first. In the stores, you aren't shown how many weapons or armour of a certain type, like Short(sword), you already own or whether it's stronger or weaker than the piece of equipment currently equipped, just the characters who can wield it. Unless you want to pay your ass sore for all the shit on sale, you need to keep double- and triple-checking your inventory, and your active equipment. The stronger-weaker comparisons don't even show on the menu when you're sorting through all your crap, you simply need to test it by equipping it and keeping a tight eye on the numbers indicating changes in your strength, defense and magic.  You can't use more than one item or one spell from the menu at a time. Simply curing some severely wounded party member on the field, regardless of the method, takes time and patience. Same items gained on different occasions - let's say you buy 10 Cure1's, then get 10 Cure1's more in the next dungeon - don't stack, unless you take a small break to stack them manually. Your inventory's limited, so you have to manually discard your belongings from time to time, sell them or give them to a rare Big-Chocobo for safe keeping. How rare is a Big-Chocobo? Well, I remember encountering the first one about seven hours into the game, a second one another seven hours later and the third one while travelling to my final destination. That rare.

How'd you like my foot up your ass?
The battles have undergone one of the most important breakthroughs in the history of console role-playing: Active Time Battle, henceforth known as ATB. No more will you be planning all your moves in advance, your party members and the enemies take turns according to each member's speed, which practically means the marching order is totally random in most battles; if you're ambushed, all of the enemies will be granted a blow each. If you manage to take the enemy by surprise, you get a similar turn to assign duties to each of your party members. The enemies can also attack from the back, which initially reverses your party's formation, lowering your defense, and allows enemies to attack first. ATB guarantees more dynamic battles with a fast tempo, although some specific commands, like any magic spells, take horribly long from your party members to execute. Sometimes they drive you crazy, since there are so many enemies impervious to physical attacks. You just need to take that ass handed to you, and wait. Sometimes they work too late, and you'll end up using a Cure spell or item on an already K.O.'d member - and this kind of error still consumes MP, or the item. It's still a bit flawed... but a step into the right direction.

Dude. Your parents are real ugly.
I've already gone over the most major pros and cons of the game, but a few more things need to be said. I know Final Fantasy IV and every other official Final Fantasy game better than the contents of my pockets, except for the experimental MMO Final Fantasy XI. Every Final Fantasy game has its minor or major downs, and each one influences another game in the series. There's always a sense of past, present and future. Here's a little segment concentrating on minor downs I, for some reason, like to call Past, Present and Future. Past: people still have the tendency to get in your way, all the time. In addition, you need to backtrack your way out of lengthy dungeons on a few occasions despite having both the Warp and Exit spells at hand. Present: it's not only the localization, but I feel important characters, both playable and non-playable, like Kain and Golbez, were left undeveloped on the behalf of going on and on about a spittoon like Edward and his undying love for his dead girlfriend. Future: related to the Present - there's no real, well developed villain, someone you learn to hate or love during the first hours of play and continue to hate or love 'til the very last moments of the game, the final confrontation. Everyone's possessed by someone, and finally you end up fighting "the alpha demon" whose existence you had no clue about until the last few hours of gameplay, and who has no alliance with the previous would-bes. Ring a bell? Correct answer: Final Fantasy VIII. However, as far as quality of the rest of the storyline goes, I think it's wrong to even mention that game in comparison to Final Fantasy IV.

You can change the field sprite at any time by
pressing the L and R buttons. A cool little
feature.
In spite of its downright puzzling and at its worst extremely frustrating final dungeon and boss, Final Fantasy IV is not a hard game; it takes roughly 25 to 30 hours to complete to the hilt. Leveling up during the first five hours isn't forced upon the player, nor is it even necessary, since Cecil goes back to LV1 in any case after those five or so hours. After that, you're free to level up and there's not really a single dungeon in the game that would require you to conduct some excessive kick-ass on the world map; leveling up is quite automatic as you proceed through the dungeons. EXP comes in large amounts, and since it splits between the whole party, you can always bend the rules a bit and kill everyone else in your own party to buff up your character of choice with 10,000 EXP in a fight that would normally grant 2,000 EXP for each member. Money is not an object at all, you just have to keep some track of what and how much you buy. By far, only the few sidequests, one in particular, have the potential of giving you true hell besides the mentioned final dungeon, and with high experience levels, you shouldn't have any problems with them either. The challenge of the final hours is largely based on a maze-like, lengthy dungeon filled with the worst monsters you can possibly face in the whole game, just one save point, and the infamously lethal final boss, whose humble lair is something like an hour away from the single save point.

It's hell to read, but heaven to follow. Final Fantasy IV started a whole new age for the Final Fantasy series, and it was followed by several of the best video games of all time; the series was a constantly progressing masterpiece as long as it stood up to the standards partly set right here, in this very game. If you haven't experienced Final Fantasy IV, you don't know what a pure Japanese RPG is. It has its flaws, but it's still the most impressive role-playing game of its time.

Graphics : 6.8
Sound : 9.5
Playability : 8.8
Challenge : 8.0
Overall : 8.7

Trivia


GameRankings: 89.39%

Nintendo Power ranks Final Fantasy IV #28 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

The game was re-released for the Sony PlayStation as a stand-alone title in early 1997. This version of the game was released in a bundle named Final Fantasy Collection, with similar enhanced re-releases of Final Fantasy V and VI, two years later. Another two years later, the game was released in another bundle named Final Fantasy Chronicles, with the unrelated Chrono Trigger. In 2002, the game was finally released in Europe, as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology. The game was remade for the Game Boy Advance, with a much improved localization in 2005, and again for the Nintendo DS in 2007.

A direct English translation of the game would make Final Fantasy IV the most explicit game in the series, as the Japanese version includes several verbal references to sex, as well as words that translate to "fuck" and "whore" in English. Also, numerous graphical changes were made to the attires of female sprites, that of the enemies as well as NPC's on the field. All direct notions to death and religion were removed, as well as Kain and Zemus' in-depth backstories. Edge's ultimate Dart item "Cleaver" was changed to "Spoon" in an example of the general, toned down violence of the North American localization.

The debut of recurring summon creatures Ifrit and Ramuh, who are known as Jinn and Indra, respectively.

The original Japanese version included a secret programmers' room, a penthouse, in which the party could communicate with the programmers of the game. The room was cut entirely from the North American version due to a porn magazine which could be found there. The basic concept of a secret programmers' room was used again as a secret ending in Chrono Trigger.

Cecil Harvey (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal) and Golbez (voiced by Peter Beckman) are rivals in Square Enix's all-star anniversary game Dissidia - Final Fantasy, released on the PSP in 2008.

The game spawned a direct sequel named Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (a.k.a. Return of the Moon), released on Japanese mobile phones in 2008, and internationally as WiiWare in 2009.

REVIEW - Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls (2004)

Genre(s): RPG / Compilation
Released: 2004
Available on: GBA
Developer(s): Square Enix, TOSE
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1


In 1997, Square's flagship RPG series Final Fantasy finally rose to international fame with the release of the dystopian cyberpunk masterpiece Final Fantasy VII. Casual European gamers who ignored all gaming press wondered what exactly happened to the first six games, or if the "VII" was just some sort of weird promotional stunt. As the truth about the existence and utter brilliance of some of the previous titles in the series unfolded, and all the confusion of the past with them, people began to demand reissues of the previous six games. After two compilations and one stand-alone reissue for the Sony PlayStation, which were intended to be once again released only in Japan and North America for some odd reason, but finally shipped to Europe as well, Square - now merged with Enix - inked a deal with Nintendo concerning the enhanced re-releases of every pre-VII Final Fantasy game, with the exception of the still obscure Final Fantasy III, for the Game Boy Advance. The first release in this series of handheld remakes was Dawn of Souls, the first two games of this magnificent series in one essential role-playing package. Both games are influenced by earlier remakes, but include enough exclusive features to be called the ultimate forms of their source materials. Ever wondered what the first Final Fantasy game would be with decent gameplay worthy of its name? Or what Final Fantasy II's even like? Welcome to the dawn of souls!

Reborn to rock

Yep, that's us. Where's our fancy tour bus?
FINAL FANTASY

The elemental powers of the world have failed. An old sage's prophecy tells of four Warriors of Light, who will emerge to save the world in a time of darkness. 400 years after the first elemental orb went dark, these four Warriors with different talents arrive to the Kingdom of Cornelia, to begin their mission of restoring the world.

There are two things I'd like to mention right off the bat. Even though I decided to split this review into two, there's one personal statement that rings true to both games: they're the exact same games as all of you purists so love. Only the execution of good ideas is a lot better in the case of the first game, and its few concrete alterations to the gameplay experience are only for the better. The second thing is that I've never played Final Fantasy Origins, the only previous I+II remake available in my region, even though a friend of mine has it, so don't bug me about everything that I'll personally point out as new stuff.

The battles are arranged a "little" better.
What they did to Final Fantasy, graphically, is something I never thought Square would have the desire or the needed energy to. We've seen minor changes take place in the past: we've seen the rendered cutscenes on games that have otherwise been direct ports of their source games. We haven't seen this before, not on this scale: a fleshed out world from which the legend of Final Fantasy began, totally renovated according to the standards of Final Fantasy VI. For the most part, we're talking about tearing the original game apart pixel by pixel, and replacing it with a full, blooming palette of colour and animation. The remastered and partly recomposed music might not manifest into the best soundtrack in Final Fantasy history, but it is damn good.

The reason this review is split into two is, of course, since the first game and Final Fantasy II are so different games from each other, and I gave both the original games kind of a vague touch, knowing that I'd return to them with this remade bundle. In this review, I am more willing to go deeper into the gameplay of both games instead of just saying if it sucks or not; Dawn of Souls gives people the chance to see the games as they really are. Like I said, they're the exact same games. The graphics are better, a small sum of old peeves (like the "Nothing here." dialogue box whenever you search any empty space) are removed, but for the most part, the first Final Fantasy game suffers from the same gameplay problems as ever before - the difference is that in this version, one is willing to learn how to cope with those problems and the ways to come out as a winner, and finally be able to say "I beat the hardest Final Fantasy game ever". Well, or an admittedly very easy version of it... but it offers up challenge in certain areas.

We are those who feed on punks like you
for breakfast.
Let's re-review the basics of the game, and at the same time, you can personally pick up some aesthetic differences between the original game and the Dawn of Souls version. You control four Warriors of Light on their journey to restore power to the world's four main elements by destroying the four Fiends disrupting them, and finally their spiritual leader Chaos. Your journey begins from the kingdom of Cornelia, in which you have to save princess Sarah from the deranged Dark Knight Garland to prove your worth to the king and make it to the shore of the next continent with his help. Throughout the rest of the game, you need to assist several different factions, communities and singular NPC's with their personal problems - such as find a potion strong enough to awaken a comatose elven king who has possession of a mystic key you oh so want, and nitro powder to the dwarves of Draygor, so they could blow open a canal for you to travel through on your ship. It might not be clear at first since the game's still pretty cryptic, but absolutely every quest and errand you do in this game has an important effect on your progress. There are no sidequests, and very few weapon and money related secrets, most of which are on the game's first half. As you can see, Final Fantasy started out as a generic fantasy story with princesses, elves, dwarves and dragons; it took some time before Sakaguchi created a whole new kind of fantasy universe around these games. Yet, like I've said before in regards to the original game: I have no beef with the story, it's good in its simplicity and personally, I'm amazed at how much Sakaguchi could squeeze into one NES game. Double the story and all the different locations, and complexed gameplay with the still extra capacity to include an airship. Kinda makes you feel the original game was really impressive, doesn't it?

The still sealed entrance to one of the new
dungeons, Lifespring Grotto.
The original game is impressive, technically. In terms of gameplay and presentation, it's something completely different. I think we can all agree on the dialogue; the dialogue in the original game was horrible, cryptic and 80% of the time, completely irrelevant. There was one person amidst all those large towns of pixels who you needed to find and talk to, to MAYBE be able to deduce where you should go. Well, this version includes some inside jokes, some are rewritten while some are left just as they were - such as the infamous line "I, Garland, will knock you all down!" - but indeed, the annoying "Nothing here." box is completely eliminated and most of the relevant dialogue is completely rewritten. It's actually fun to talk to people this time around. They basically say the same things, but no words are capitalized, like "ORB" and "KEY" in the original, the flow of the conversation is notably better and at times, it's really the kind of classy dialogue that makes the game feel like it's part of this great series in terms of presentation. Of course it's still a bit distracting that your own four characters are robotic henchmen with no ability to talk or even a will of their own, but I think this version gives even them a bit more personality through other people's perception of them. As you will see right after you start the game, almost all of the locations and enemies in the game have new names. And yes, they're much better. At least I think "Crazy Horse" has tons of more street cred than "MADPONY". And a new name like "Elfheim" makes "ElfLand" sound a little less like a very weird theme park.

You start off by selecting your four characters, your very own Warriors of Light, who you can classify and name as you please, this time with six letters instead of the original's four. The class names are changed a bit, and some slight changes have been made to each class' attributes: Monk (formerly Black Belt) and Thief are way more useful in combat than they were before, while Red Mage is now literally a tweener between a Black and White Mage: his spells, be they white or black, don't do as much damage as they would when used by the two primary mages. It takes forever to teach Red Mage the best spells around, and he can't learn them all anyway, not even after he gets promoted to the Master class of Red Wizard. He's actually quite efficient in physical combat instead, as well. The mana system's severely changed, for the better at that. You are still able to teach your mage three different spells according to a certain spell level - which increases along each fifth EXP level - but the Spell Charges, which limit your use of a certain spell to a set number of times, are now replaced with the more common and by all means, more comfortable MP system.

"Shit"?
A standard kingdom in the game consists of a stronghold and a town. With one or two exceptions, the towns have a chapel - which I'll return to in a bit to get something out of my system - stores for weapons and armor, stores for both black and white magic, and an item shop. The stores still have a little pricing problem. With the way more dynamic battles, it shouldn't be too hard to raise the money needed for all the stuff in the game, but the ill logic is still there; regular items cost much more than weapons and armor, most of the time. Hell, they cost more than some of the most important mana in the beginning of the game. Like I hinted, in this game it isn't a problem in the same way it was in the original in which a battle against one or two Goblins could take 10 to 15 minutes with all those misses. In this game, the misses don't occur as often, and besides, the tempo of the battles is a LOT faster, even though they play out pretty much the same way. Well, more of the battles soon enough, but the chapel. Oooh, I'd like to take a trip back here to a game called ActRaiser. I guess Mega Man 2 and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest could be mentioned, too. Back then, Nintendo of America had some sort of problem with religious references, which I've dealt with in the past - I have often said that their code regarding the removal of religious references only seemed to affect ANTI-religious references. Castlevania II had this huge white cross symbolizing a church, and inside, the priest healed all your wounds in a second. Mega Man 2 had the Yellow Devil, soon to be renamed the Rock Monster. When ActRaiser came out, I guess Nintendo had no other choice but to change God's name to Master, since they already renamed Satan to Tanzra. ActRaiser is still the most religiously censored game in history, and it really brought the exclusion of religious references in Nintendo games to light. Well, guess what we have here? A church, in which the priest resurrects any fallen party member in just a jiffy with the help of two angels. Oh, here we go again, huh? Actually no: we have enemies like Hellhound, Winged Devil, and a new bonus dungeon called Hellfire Chasm. Publishers of the game: Nintendo. Props, man. Props. They've finally stopped thinking they're making every one of their games for 5-year olds - although, even those kids know (better than some adults, in fact) what is heaven and what is hell, what's a God and what's a Devil. A crock of bullshit, but great material for fantasy games, as it has turned out in the past.

The battles have indeed gone through the most bit of renovation. In look, they're nearly identical to the interface in Final Fantasy VI. In practice, it's the same as in the original game, only a lot faster and way more forgiving; the "Ineffective" attacks have been eliminated completely. Instead of trying to hit an already downed enemy, the attacker switches his target automatically to the nearest live one, like he should. Also, like I already said, missing a target is relatively rare. Battles that took you a tedious 20 minutes to win in the original game, now take about ten times less. That also reflects on the amount of random encounters, which is near-ridiculous, your bankroll and the amount of EXP you're able to gather, and ultimately through all this, the difficulty level of the game. Expensive items and exceptionally dangerous handicaps like Stone still have an unwanted effect on the game's difficulty level during the first half of the game, but by the end of the game you're so rich and buffed up you're practically unstoppable. Deadly enemies from the original, like the Elemental guardians and the four Fiends are done in with just a few standard attacks, and you don't even have to intentionally work on your experience, random encounters occur that often and I'm sure all of you who have played the original game still remember what kind of ridiculous mazes await you in the dungeons. Just trying to struggle through them and perhaps find a few treasures along the way pretty much guarantees victory as an enemy or nine of them appear on your every third step.

Look, babe. You're hot and all, but those
arms have gotta go.
What's worst about the dungeons is that up until you get the Exit spell, which is not too soon, I can assure you, you have to backtrack your way out of them. There are no shortcuts in the true dungeons of the game; to my memory, you're automatically transported out of the Temple of Fiends (now called Chaos Shrine) in the very beginning of the game after saving princess Sarah, and that's not even a real dungeon before it expands in the very end of the game. Every real dungeon in the game has a dozen branching paths and three to five floors to be dealt with. It's not very fun to keep fighting the same easy (or annoying - here's looking at you, Cockatrice) enemies over and over again, even the flow of EXP loses its meaning at some point. Probably the worst part of the game in my opinion was the Cavern of Earth (Earth Cave in the original). Originally, you enter the Cavern to kill a vampire terrorizing a nearby village and get the Star Ruby. The gem is then fed to a golem guarding a passage to the abode of an old sage. Well, this old sage gives you a staff, and then tells you to go BACK to the Cavern, back to the bottom floor where you killed the vampire, and take a few steps beyond to activate a stone slab with the staff, and descend even deeper into the Cavern. Why in the hell couldn't I have done this all at once? Is it so important to prolong the game and come up with artificial ways to add more hours into the total playtime? Now I know where the constant backtracking of Final Fantasy XII originated.

Yay, a promotion! And all I needed was the
rotting tail of a dead rat.
The world map's also a peeve. You can't sail or use a canoe without bumping into enemies, and the world map's a kind of a maze in itself, filled with empty spaces. Very often you find yourself searching for some small location while random encounters keep distracting you and making you lose your way. Up until you get the airship, not a moment too soon, navigating the world map is extremely hard. There's no minimap system of any kind. You have a map, accessible via punching in the infamous "secret code" anywhere in the world that shows your current location and most of the places you're able to enter, but it's incredibly hard and tedious to use to your actual advantage. If you're playing the game on an emulator, I have a good tip for you: google a world map and stick it to the background as you're playing. Very useful, much more useful than the in-game map.

The "first" airship ride of the series.
Well, to return to the length of the game: thanks to the faster battles and just a little less cryptic clues of where you should go at all times to advance in the storyline, the game isn't that long, nor does it need to be. It's an experience. Moreover an experience fit for those people who really weren't into the original's gameplay. Like I already mentioned a few times, for the most part it's easy too. Of course, you can try your luck in four new dungeons which all feature a superboss or a few of them, on a cameo trip from the later Final Fantasy games. Those dungeons are in as the real challenge of this game. Also, you should take early note of the fact that you can save ANYWHERE except during battles. Tents, Cottages and Sleeping Bags can only be used on the map, but you can save the game on every step of your way if you want to. It took a while from me to sink this in, after having to pay for each save in the original game, and only in the confines of an inn. Now that was a nightmare. The game might be relatively easy, but relatively comfortable to play - that's what lies in the core of a good RPG.

Sorry. We don't speak French.
The first half of this bundle restored my respect for the very first game in the Final Fantasy series. It's been made to truly feel like a Final Fantasy game despite its thematic differences with the rest of the series, and the irrelevancy of true character development. Overall, it's one fine role-playing experience that might not suit everyone who actually hates the original game's ideas to the core, not just their execution like I do. Since the original Final Fantasy II is quite a good game in itself, disregarding the fact that it's a rare sight in these parts of the world for now, I think this particular remake is the real reason to invest in Dawn of Souls. On to Part 2 of this epic saga...

Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 9.0
Playability : 8.4
Challenge : 7.0
Overall : 8.3


----------

FINAL FANTASY II


After a failed attack resulting in the disappearance of their friend, three reckless teens grow desperate to prove their worth to a rebel princess to join her insurrection against the Dark Emperor.

The final trial of our rebel wannabes.
Graphically, Final Fantasy II is remodelled exactly the same as the first half of the Dawn of Souls bundle - it's the games themselves which are wholly different from each other. The sound department is the shizney. The soundtrack is, by far, one of the best of its time. The overworld theme and the standard battle theme which you'll be hearing for most of the game are both masterpieces, now remastered to their prime. Excellent work by Uematsu.

The original Final Fantasy II was, in my opinion, an amazing step forward from the first, critically acclaimed Final Fantasy game. I've always thought that Final Fantasy II was ignored by most fans just because it took Square such a long time to finally reveal the game to the international gaming community, and when that happened, the game was nearly 15 years old. How could a bulk of modern non-Japanese players already taken by such masterpieces as Final Fantasy VII, IX and X possibly be interested in an experimental 8-bit role-playing game, especially when some of them couldn't even sink in the existence of a real Final Fantasy II? Someone mentioned Final Fantasy IV, these people thought of that game as Final Fantasy II. Well, the record has been set straight since - better late than never - and some people took a true liking to Final Fantasy II after the release of Final Fantasy Origins and finally, this Dawn of Souls version. I took somewhat of a liking to the original game, especially in comparison to the very first game, but ironically, I enjoyed the first game more than Final Fantasy II in the case of Dawn of Souls.

What a dork!
The first game was a radically enhanced version of the original. I see the original game as nearly unplayable due to the horribly boring and more than constant random encounters, and endless mazes, and the obvious bad romance between these two. Also, the notably better dialogue and general clarity removed the original's most cryptic elements. Well, how about Final Fantasy II? It remains where it originally was. It's more like a pure audiovisual remaster of the original game than the same kind of reworked and enhanced version of it as the first half of Dawn of Souls is. This feeling of "same ol'" actually brings out the worst in the game that I never took note before, since the basic gameplay's so much better and more comfortable than in the original Final Fantasy. There are things that drag Final Fantasy II down - not exactly fatal, not too major, but annoyances that should've been cleverly cleaned out when they made this bundle, in the same way they cleaned most of the crap in Final Fantasy out.

The worst parts of the original game. Let me think. Well, I can't criticize the English translation, since the prototype swirling 'round in the sea of emulation was never meant to be made public in any way. Its countless errors have become somewhat of a joke in the gaming community, and I criticized them quite harshly myself in the review of the original game, but never let that affect the rating, of course not. The main things about the original game which I find the most difficult to stand are the fact you can't afford all the decent stuff you need - and I can't emphasize your actual NEED for the stuff enough - before hacking your eyes and thumbs to pieces on the vast battlefields of the world map, and constant backtracking brought on by strict linearity, which I intentionally left to be mentioned here.

The prices for items, equipment and mana are ridiculous, especially regular items which you'd normally have to rely on at some point, because as you probably well know by this time, "leveling up" isn't based on experience, but usage instead. In other words, you have to USE magic to be able to eventually raise your maximum MP. Max MP is one of the hardest numbers to raise in the whole game. Unlike in the quite simple remake of the first game, you absolutely need mana to advance. Well, let's say you're in a lengthy dungeon - thankfully, the dungeons are not nearly as long or maze-like the ones in Final Fantasy were, but there are just as many battles, on just about your every step a random encounter awaits - and you run out of MP. Normally, you would use an Ether, but Ethers cost 1,000-2,000 gil a piece, and they are very scarcely found on the field. Imagine getting stuck in the middle of a dungeon with two of your guys dead - no Phoenix Downs, no Ethers... you have the Teleport spell to get out of the dungeon immediately, you learned of its importance during the last game, but remember, you have no damn MP to be able to use it. My point is, in this game you have to be absolutely prepared, always. That means you have to fight practically all the time - not just against any enemies, but lucrative ones, wherever the hell they're to be found - watch what you buy, and... yes, one more thing. You shouldn't always go where you're told to travel.

One of the coolest renovations is that you
can wield two swords at once. Double that
with dashing swordmanship and you will
be a sure winner. Die, Icicle. Die.
The one-off key word system of Final Fantasy II is faithfully recreated. Actually so faithfully, that you need to keep repeating these key words to certain NPC's to know for certain where you should go next; more than often your main employer just reveals your ultimate destination, while some other bloke in some other place will tell you where you need to go and which key item you need to get to advance in your ultimate destination. If you don't run around like an idiot from town to town, and talk to just about everyone important about any new key words you learn or show them some stupid-ass items you just got, you will often find yourself paying big bucks to get to your ultimate goal on a mission, just to find that you can't proceed without a key item. You need to pay those big bucks a second time in a row to get back to your original starting point, go have that one conversation and then travel to another location to get that damn item, and once again pay that stupid fee to get where you've actually been going to for the last two or three hours, but got delayed by the fact that you just forgot to talk to some dude who you've talked to a million times during the course of the game, but he never said anything relevant before. Whew. Your employer also has some sort of trouble to give you multiple tasks; the completion of the simplest job requires you to return to your starting point in Altair (formerly Altea). That's backtracking if I've ever seen any.

One of the worst lines in any game. Ever.
"Guy speak beaver." The dialogue, now in decent English grammar, shows that the game isn't exactly masterfully written; it has some very high points, but it still retains a certain generic side in its storyline. I'm not a huge fan of any of the characters, with the exception of Cid, who made his debut in Final Fantasy II and has a tough persona that is somewhat reflected by his very best incarnation in Final Fantasy VII, who's also somewhat facially modelled after this version. The main party in Final Fantasy II consists of three people, but there are many side characters who stop by to fill the fourth slot left vacant by Leon (formerly Leonhart), who disappears in the beginning for most of the game's duration. This game is famous for killing off many major characters, and yes, not to necessarily spoil anything, some of these stand-ins kick the bucket as well, in less than spectacular scenes. The stories of these characters are expanded in an additional quest between them, exclusive to the Dawn of Souls version, which is kind of a cool and well managed story. Too bad my kinship to any of the characters isn't from the strongest end.

Look, guys! Joe & Mac!
Final Fantasy II isn't exactly a long game, nor is it still very difficult at least for the right sort of reasons. The self-buffing system still works, when it comes to physical attributes like HP, Strength and Stamina. It's kind of tedious to work on the effect of mana or anything related to it, since your physical abilities will prove more than sufficient in most standard fights; this prompts any logical player to use less mana and save it for later. Speaking of MP... one thing that I absolutely hated about the original game, but left unmentioned, returns: curative and defensive spells like Esuna and Protect can actually MISS, especially when used on low levels, on multiple targets, and they still consume just as much MP as any effective spell. How's that in relation to the ridiculous price of Ethers and the scarce nature of free ones I mentioned? It's shit. Those aiming to become regulars at inns to restore their HP and MP, and save money by not buying Cottages are not much better off; the inn fees are determined each time by the accumulative amount of your whole party's need for restoration in both HP and MP. I don't know if I've mentioned this to you guys, but everything in this game is FUCKIN' EXPENSIVE!

Final Fantasy II returns, and I want to make it clear to everyone one more time, that I don't hate the game. Absolutely not. In the reviews of the original games, I brought out the worst in Final Fantasy and the best in Final Fantasy II. Since the first Dawn of Souls game turned out so much better than its source title, I was kind of disappointed in this version of Final Fantasy II and thought it would actually make sense if I turned the tables here, completely, since I never really got to the bottom of things in the original game's review, I was so impressed by the game's better aspects in comparison to its predecessor. I like to consider this following conclusion my final verdict on Final Fantasy II, versions past and present. It's not a perfect game, but it's an unique experience every Final Fantasy fan should have once in their lives.

Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 9.7
Playability : 7.2
Challenge : 7.5
Overall : 7.3


Trivia

GameRankings: 80.02%

Nintendo Power ranks Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls #76 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.