October 10, 2013

Minor Distraction: Final Fantasy IV

To make up for the complete lack of posting lately I'm going to introduce a new type of article tonight: Minor Distraction! Minor Distractions will function an awful lot like "That's A Wrap!" entries, except they will be few and far in between because they will feature games that I play passively, and usually on a handheld device.
First up: continuing with my backward saunter through the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy IV!
I have no idea when I began playing it, you can probably bet it was shortly after I finished FFV and VI, if anyone wants do dig up that article. To switch things up a bit I decided the play the DS remake for the first time.

warning: I tried to go easy on the spoilers, but I can't sugarcoat everything!

If you've been reading my site and/or following me on twitter, you likely know by now that I'm the RPG Queen, and I've got a lot of love for the Final Fantasy series in general, so I'll spare you the love letter and try to focus on key things here.
Chief among them: the reboot-ness of the game. I'm surprised and disappointed in the DS reboots of FF III and IV. III doesn't score a lot of points with me to begin with so I wasn't too heartbroken when I found the DS reboot of that to be lackluster, but I'm saddened that IV followed suit.
FFIV is by no means my favorite FF, in fact it ranks relatively low on my list (see Chronicles: FF), however, it has a lot of nostalgia points for me; I remember playing the original version on SNES many moons (tee hee) ago, and loving it for its growth (of the series) and its neat story. IV has some of the best plot twists and interesting concepts - i.e. the underworld and moon realms, things we hadn't really seen in previous FFs - and the way the villain is tied to the protagonist.
I appreciate that the reboots got a graphics makeover, but as graphics mean very little to me - and I enjoy the original version very much - this doesn't much add to the game's appeal for me.
There's nothing terribly new about the battle system. IV was the first games to solidify a lot of the principles that remained for all of the succeeding installments, so it's comforting to play with a familiar battle system.
I find IV's soundtrack to be one of the less profound in the series. I often wonder if that's one of the reasons I never warmed it as much as others. The music through the DS is tinny and bright, and I don't really mind turning it off completely and listening to something else while I play. Odd for me and an FF game...
I don't much care for the voice acting either. I find it a little too cheesy, and it detracts from the emotional moments in the game. It seems unnecessarily cartoon-y. If you're willing to overlook this though, you'll find that the characters in FFIV are very interesting! It was the first game in the series to really introduce many playable characters, and force you to switch up your team time and time again.
Cecil is a pretty intense guy. I find it interesting that they really don't reveal to you why he's the protagonist until the near-end of the game. But he keeps you busy, nonetheless! Kain is probably my favorite character. I should probably design an award for this, as I always pick one. Kain is usually my strongest and most useful guy, so it's a real pain in the ass that he constantly has to leave the party.

Rydia is pretty useless the first time 'round, but becomes an asset by the end of the game. And she has green hair, so that's a win. Rosa stinks. I don't care for her at all. She's always the weakest in my party - save for perhaps Fusoya, also useless - and apart from learning cure spells faster than everyone else, she plays a small part in most of my strategies. Palom and Porom are fun little buggers. You don't really get to spend a lot of time with them but they're fun to experiment with while you can. Tellah freaks me out. Edward is a worthless pansy. Edge is a ninja. Cid is Cid. Yang takes runner-up for favorite character. He's tough and super useful in battle. Half the time I strategize with Yang in my party, he ends up putting an end to the battle before my plan is really in motion. All in all a really diverse cast, which was fun and refreshing for its time, and still is.

FFIV has a pretty great plot. It's hindered by the fact that the game requires you to spend so much time leveling up, especially after each new member joins. You spend so much time grinding that you forget what's going on in the story and where exactly you're supposed to go next (especially when you're only picking the game up for an hour or two every week or so). But if you manage to hang onto it, it's a pretty eventful tale. Definitely the most enjoyable story to date at the time of its release, and thus why the game stays with me.
Apart from the constant upkeep of your party, the game is not otherwise overwhelmingly difficult. Older FFs are famous for having an impossible boss or two, but that's really a lot of the appeal of the game. I didn't run into too many tricky battles, and actually found some of the rare random enemies, like Behemoth, harder than the actual bosses.

The general controls of the game on DS irritated me quite a bit. After playing on consoles for so many years, I'm used to the bottom button being the input, top is menu, and right side is cancel, but the DS reverses the bottom and side. Furthermore, controlling the character with the D-Pad seemed a bit stiff to me, and it was difficult to run through some spots - particularly diagonals - and talk to people on an angle. And Cecil runs like a girl (I'd kill for his legs though!).
One fun thing I did like about the DS version is the use of the shoulder button as an input button. Grinding was made slightly less painful due to the fact that I could play with one hand. Multitasking, my friends!

FFIV was kind of the first "big" game in the series, so there are noticeably fewer side quests compared to the later games. I actually spent several hours running around trying to remember what else could be done, but apart from seeking out some summons and checking up on Yang, there really isn't much. Kind of a bummer, I find grinding a little more acceptable when I'm on a mission, rather than just running around aimlessly.
In the end, I prefer the original version to the DS reboot, but the game still has majesty. It was fun to revisit the story, but I'll return to SNES next time!

So this is my idea of a short blog. How about that. I'll choose my next Minor Distraction soon, so stay tuned!

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