My first experience with Final Fantasy IV actually was not the original game. I never played this particular entry in the storied franchise until the Nintendo DS iteration came out. After playing through it yet again on the PSP, as well as its sequel, The After Story, I have to say – screw 3D polygon models and all the fancy remade visuals, the original 2D version is so much better.
I won’t go into details about the story, the characters or the combat of Final Fantasy IV. The game has been around for 20 years, we know all this stuff already, and nothing major has changed. It’s hard to criticize something that has been doing these things – both with the cliché story elements and the “outdated” battle mechanics – long before most games in the genre were. We can’t really attach the same stigma to it as we can a similar genre title developed now. Although, I will say that the game mechanics themselves hold up so much better than other tried-and-true RPGs from that era, like the earlier Dragon Quest titles.
For those who are familiar with the original FFIV, you know the franchise back then was a bit more difficult than it is now, and that still stands here. Although, I frankly found some encounters in both the interlude and The After Years a bit more tiring. That can be good or bad, depending how you want to look at it.
That being said, of course the game has some “old school RPG” annoyances that most gamers will balk at today. Chief among these is that it seems every time you take a step you’re getting yourself into a random battle. This is just how it was. That doesn’t make it right, by any means, but these things have not changed. It is also a bit awkward to control with the PSP’s thumb-stick, because the game is designed with a “tile” mentality, in that you either move your character up, down, left or right, not diagonally in any direction. I found the D-pad much more comfortable, even though it’s rare I use it for character control in games these days.
What I will talk about in more depth is the collection as a whole. Without a doubt, this is the definitive collection for everything Final Fantasy IV, all collected together conveniently on one UMD disc. You have the original title with slightly enhanced visuals (no polygonal crap, thankyouverymuch), full CG cut scenes and enhanced music, first of all. Add to that Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, a sequel to the original title which takes place 20 years later. The After Years was originally released on mobile devices in Japan in an episodic format and eventually came stateside via the Wii’s Virtual Console.
Finally, we have a short and linear (OMG I said the “L” word!) interlude title, which is only included in this PSP version (see, it’s “complete”, just like the title says). This game will take you roughly eight hours to play through and bridges the gap between both of the full-sized games, filling in story details, giving you updates on the characters and all manner of interesting little tidbits that any fan of this particular game is going to drool all over.
The best thing about all this is the price point of $29.99. If you bought FFIV and The After Years episodic pieces on Virtual Console separately, it would cost you quite a bit more. Yet, SquareEnix has seen fit to have mercy on our souls and give us all this great content for under $30.
One of the interesting additions added in The After Years is dealing with moon cycles. Depending on the cycle of the moon, various effects are in play on the characters and their opponents in battle, which can either benefit or hamper your efforts. On the one hand, this does add a bit more depth to the standard ATB system we’ve all come to know. On the other hand, it’s an extra pain in the behind and adds an extra layer of strategy to think about and deal with during battle. Depending on the type of RPG fan you are, you’ll either love it or hate it. I, personally, wasn’t too fond of the new mechanic.
The music in FFIV:TCC is outstanding and rivals that of modern games. I kid you not, I would put Nobuo Uematsu’s score in this title up against any modern, big-budget, HD title and it can easily stand its ground. That was true back then, and it’s even more true and more amazing today. There are even new tracks in The After Years that you may not have heard, so if you’re a fan of early Final Fantasy music, definitely pay attention to that aspect of the game.
It’s true, this game has been remade and re-released numerous times over the years. I haven’t played them all, but from what I’ve seen, this collection is indeed the definitive one. Those of us who grew up on RPGs like this will enjoy the updated 2D visuals that remain true to the original yet retain that old-school elegance. We tend to give SquareEnix a rough time for their emphasis on remaking and re-releasing games, but when they’re done this well, I actually have no problems with it. Definitely a worthy addition to any PSP owner’s collection, if for nothing but to relive the glory days of the franchise and revisit an amazing world with amazing, memorable characters.
- Game: Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection
- Platform Reviewed: PSP
- Developer: SquareEnix
- Publisher: SquareEnix
- Release Date: April 19, 2011
- MSRP: $29.99
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.