Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection

Final Fantasy Four-ever

The complete collection lives up to its name, somehow adding more to a 20 year old classic.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: July 11, 2011
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I'm not going to go into great details surrounding the mechanics of the game. It is, after all, still essentially the same 20 year old game and if you are desperate for more details, just find any of the hundreds of existing reviews. Suffice it to say, Final Fantasy IV is the first of the traditional Square RPGs, so it features an overland map with towns and dungeons, tons and tons of random encounters, and a rotating cast of characters who come and go from your party. Yes, there is an airship, and it is run by Sid (or is it Cid?). This was the first appearance of the famous Active Time Battle system, and you still use Fenix/Phoenix Down to revive people. There are chocobos, summons, and summoned chocobos. If you don't know how an old school Final Fantasy game plays by this point, you probably aren't going to want to learn now.


So how about the story? How does that hold up after all these years? Isn't that what we play Final Fantasy for anyway? To see what angst-ridden protagonists will have to do to save the world? Of course it is! Truly, the story is probably the most memorable thing from Final Fantasy IV. No, it won't win any awards and it will probably induce a groan or two, but it can stake a claim as one of the first (if not THE first) to move the JRPG genre into serious storytelling, rife with emotion and mature situations. Your hero, Cecil, is faced with a lot of difficult scenarios fraught with moral dilemmas revolving around the ideas of duty and desperation. As people join and leave the party, we are treated to individual stories that can be sad or uplifting, all of which intertwine with the focal battle between Cecil and his former friend Kain as they try and stop the plan of Golbez. Things predictably get pretty crazy and the story gets pretty "out there" both literally and figuratively, but you can see the groundwork being laid for all the deep pathos of future Final Fantasy games.

More than even the story, the music is also legendary. Nobuo Uematsu has said that the process of creating this soundtrack was excruciating, and legend says he spent many, many sleepless nights in his office, slaving away to perfect the score. This was the first Final Fantasy score to get multiple releases on its own, and was the first to get the now standard "piano" composition release. So to be clear, Final Fantasy IV set the standard for quite some time for the gameplay, story and music that the series was known for over the next two decades. From a historic perspective, few games can match the influence of Final Fantasy IV.

Does that mean it is a great game that you should play? Probably not. It's always nostalgic to go back and see where the modern favorites got their start, but much like going back to play Wolfenstein 3D to see how FPSs evolved, you'll play for a bit and then realize that even if things are roughly built around the same idea, they have progressed a lot since then, and the old ways have a LOT of nagging little issues that aren't so easy to ignore for the modern gamer. I probably spent close to 100 hours working through all 3 parts of the Final Fantasy IV story, and after the first dozen random encounters as I tried to make my way from one town to another, I had about enough of random encounters. Too bad that happened in the first 20 minutes of playing the game. Cue thousands more of these encounters, playing out roughly the same way thanks to the simplistic combat model, and you remember why games like Earthbound and the newer Persona games have more appeal. You don't HAVE to fight something every dozen steps if you don't want to. That's a real killer.

Bottom line… this is a great collection that stands as the best version of Final Fantasy IV made yet. Unfortunately, if this is something you care about, you've probably already played the original to death, and found a way to play The After Years. The inclusion of Interlude is great, and you can certainly play that as a stand-alone game, but there isn't that much to it, and I doubt it would justify the cost of entry for most gamers. If you somehow haven't played this game yet, then it is pretty likely that the old-school quirks of the game will dissuade you from slogging through the entire experience. This is a love-letter type release that is great fanservice to the diehards who will grab anything with the Final Fantasy name on it, but as a modern game to entice people who haven't played before… well it just feels OLD.
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The Verdict
6.5

A very tough game to rate. As a historical piece, it is practically unparalleled. As a modern game, it is rife with issues that would never be tolerated. In the end, it is a great addition for fans and collectors, but of very little value to new gamers.

8.0Graphics:

Really fantastic updated graphics that are still firmly rooted in the 16-bit era, only with that amazing sharpness only modern systems can provide. The inclusion of some CG cutscenes spices things up.

8.5Sound:

The score is still fantastic after all these years, and remains powerful and emotive to this day. It's been punched up a bit for this release, which only makes the orchestral feel all the more beautiful. Outside of the music, there isn't much to say.

9.5Control:

Yeah, well, it's a JRPG. Moving around works great, selecting menus works great. What did you expect?

5.0Gameplay:

The great failing. No matter how you slice it, this style has gotten pretty stale. It worked great for JRPGs for two whole eras, but no one want to run through infinite random battles and make a few token menu selections for hundreds of hours anymore.