Friday, October 14, 2011

Thirty Eight - Final Fantasy IV: Anniversary Edition

This time I borrowed a game from a friend by accident (really, I swears it), and knocked it out late yesterday evening. This might be a cop-out, since I think I've beaten this game seven or eight times but it was 100% a playthrough from this year, and the first time I've played this new version. The new PSP Complete Collection edition of my very first RPG: Final Fantasy IV.

Now, I say that I've finished this game, but I still have a game and a half ahead of me, not counting post-game. Explanation: FF IV: AE contains the main game (which I beat), all of the bonus sidequests post-game found in the GBA version (the latter of which I've just started), a full version of the FF IV sequel The After Years, and the interquel FF IV: Interlude (neither of which I haven't touched yet, but plan to very soon). Woo, parentheses.

Final Fantasy IV is a story about mastering one's inner darkness. Cecil, a Dark Knight who uses his darkness as a weapon, falls out of favor with his king for hesitating to obey questionable orders. After his next mission goes awry, Cecil uncovers a plot to steal the national treasures of multiple kingdoms of the world, and must redeem himself in the eyes of those he has wronged and cast his darkness aside to save the world. Along the way, Cecil is aided by several allies including his white mage girlfriend Rosa, the young summoner Rydia, and Kain, his dragoon best friend and one of the most popular Final Fantasy characters in history.

The game's plot and cast of characters are a major selling point of the game. The story has a clear arc that you can beat in under 20 hours if you're new (or well under 15 if you know what you're doing, like me), and has memorable scenes and several twists and turns. In the original version of FF IV, your party was never greater than five characters and the final team is always the same group; in the GBA and PSP versions five former party members that leave earlier in the game all return for the finale, allowing you to create a team of 5 from a choice of 10. The game also slips in a medium-sized new dungeon right when those characters re-join, with new armor and weapons for them hidden within.

Oh right, I should talk about the main game some more. This is the same classic Final Fantasy from 1991, but the sprites and monsters have never looked cleaner. They have the design adjustments from the DS version and Dissidia in place (Rydia's minidress, Cecil's less-garish color scheme), but now they're reflected in sprites that look unbelievable for an SNES game, which is a good thing since this is a PSP game. The spell animations are all redone, and look amazing, especially the higher-level black magic. I *hate* unskippable spell animations that are real damn long, but these are all nice and succint with the exception of a few summons.

The only changes to gameplay are minor and welcome - battle speed can be adjusted better, old vs. remixed music can be switched on or off, and there's a quick-save in addition to a normal save. That battle speed thing is also a fair difficulty setting - monsters will have turns MUCH more often than you do at the quicker levels. I was able to complete most of the game at the highest speed setting, but brought it down a few notches for certain late-game bosses that use countdowns. They'd launch their super-thing before I could get one full round in.

There is no new extra content outside what was added in the GBA version several years ago, but it's good stuff. In the endgame, the returning characters are solid: Yang's a fast, high-damage beast with high HP but low defenses, Cid is huge and powerful but slow, Palom and Porom are fair replacements for Rosa and Rydia (but I prefer the ladies), and Edward goes from being the worst character in the game to a very powerful one, with useful status skills, equipment with great elemental D, the highest speed in the game, and weapons that ANNIHILATE dragons and undead; Edward's only weakness is very low HP and a glass jaw against physical attacks. Not bad for a former laughingstock to fans. My favorite party is basically still the original five, but occasionally switching out Edge or Kain for Edward or Yang.

So that's about it. Complete Collection is the definitive version of Final Fantasy IV. Sure, it lacks the polygonal visuals and voice work of the DS version, but makes up for it by having the sexiest oldschool sprites I've ever seen, 100% of the GBA version's superior content, and new audio and menu extras that old fans like me will eat up. The After Years, regardless of whether it's good or not, is a welcome inclusion. Maybe it's because it was my first, but I'll always love FF IV.

Games Beaten: 2011 Edition

1. Mario vs. Donkey Kong
2. Primal Rage
3. Torchlight Hat Trick
4. Ghost Trick
5. Flower
6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
7. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
8. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
9. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
10. Tales of Eternia
11. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
12. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
13. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
14. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
15. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
16. Dragon Age: Origins
17. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
18. inFamous Evil Finish
20. inFamous 2 Good Finish
21. Big Bang Mini
22. Final Fight: Double Impact
23. Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
24. Cthulhu Saves the World
25. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
26. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
27. Disgaea Infinite
28. X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
29. Jeanne d'Arc
30. Dragon Age II
31. Jade Empire
32. Cthulhu's Angels
33. DeathSpank: Orphans of Justice
34. Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
35. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
36. Trine
37. Prince of Persia '08
38. Final Fantasy IV: Anniversary Edition


Next, I’m probably going to jump right into the next stage of FF IV Complete Collection, The After Years. I know it won’t be as good as the vanilla FF4, but I’m cool with that.

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