It’s been around on iOS for a while, but Android only saw the port of Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy VI on June 4 2013. Priced accordingly (for Square-Enix) at 10.99, the question is whether or not a port of a port is worth that kind of money. You can get a lot of decent PC games priced at 10.99, so is a crudely ported version with Nintendo DS graphics worthy of the spend?
Well, Final Fantasy IV is certainly a better release than Final Fantasy III – which now costs half as much as it did on release. It has some voice acting thrown in to cut-scenes, and slightly higher resolution textures and effects in some areas. It still looks like a DS game, with notoriously blocky player characters and textures on all the heroes, but that doesn’t stop it being a fully fledged, fantastic RPG experience on mobiles where others have failed.
You play as Cecil, a trusted and loyal knight made aware of the evil that his king orders when a nearby town is flattened, leaving a woman dead without her mother. As it turns out, the world is under the influence of Golbez, who, naturally for the series, wants to gain control over the worlds crystals to unlock their power for himself. This is Final Fantasy formulaic, in more ways than just the story. Any fan of Final Fantasy, however knows it’s the subtle variations in story and characters that make these experiences unique from eachother. Final Fantasy IV does have some memorable characters, and certainly some memorable moments for them.
This is a classic battle between light and dark, good and evil, and the story isn’t particularly complex – although it does differ from some of the other earlier games in that around half way through the game, you’re sent into the underworld where a new, fiery world map is revealed, with all new enemies and allies such as Dwarves. The world map is simplistic in what there is to explore, but it’s not without its secrets and quirks. You can find the classic Chocobo forests, and quirky villages that require a little exploration.
Graphically Final Fantasy IV doesn’t make use of the current mobile architecture, but it is an almost straight port of the DS version released years earlier. The port, however, is near perfect, with the screen taking advantage of the entire 16:9 aspect ratio, at your highest resolution. Towns, characters, and armour and weapons are all varied, and whatever you’re wearing in battle is visually represented with its own models and skins. Things do look very blocky, but there’s never a moment where it necessarily breaks immersion.
The audio, too, has a retro aesthetic without trying too hard to raise the nostalgia brow. All of the music is recorded electronically, so don’t expect any live Nobuo Uematsu tracks by an orchestra, but it’s reminiscent of any Final Fantasy game before the popular 3D consoles. Item, magic, combat, towns, and the game world all have their own sounds and themes, and with headphones on it all adds up to an intriguing level of emotion for a DS port on a non-gaming device.
The battle system is much more focused compared to III. Love it or hate it, there’s no jobs selection for your characters this time round, but that makes narrative sense, because the story pushes strategic changes and adaptations on you to keep things interesting. Cecil, for instance, learns Paladin skills at a certain point in the game giving him white magic abilities. Tellah, too, has the ability to ‘recall’ some of the most powerful spells in the game, because, as the narrative goes, he forgot his prior grandeur. Yang, a monk, is able to charge his attacks to unleash one might blow – but this takes three turns to charge.
Rosa has the ability to ‘pray’, which gives the party a small amount of mana and HP, and has rescued the group more times than I’d like to admit. Kain can jump, taking himself out of the party for a while, until he lands his blow. Edward can charm a constant buff that heals the party over time. Rydia can summon Eidolon’s, or ‘GF’, for fans of Final Fantasy VIII. All the favorites are back, such as Shiva and Ifrit, with some I’m not sure I’ve seen before.
Final Fantasy IV remains one of the most tactically rich of the games in the series, and almost none of the boss battles are about taking as little damage as you can, and dishing out as much as you can. For all of the bosses, you’ve to figure out how to kill them – what their weaknesses are, or in which order to take them out. A good example is the boss above. To kill the sisters, you’ve to take them out from left, to right, and then the one in the middle before she resurrects the others. Other bosses feature similar tactics, such as fighting Golbez who has the ability to change ‘focus’, absorbing certain elemental damages into health.
Final Fantasy IV is certainly a hard game, but it’s not unfair. There’s almost no grinding necessary to complete it, but you’ll find yourself beating each boss only on the skin of your teeth. Saving isn’t a problem though, as this one quicksaves upon entry of any new cave or area. There is, however, the classical save on the world map and on save points, where you can also use a Cottage or Tent to replenish your party’s health.
Whilst the story is merely acceptable (it’s one of the better crystal based stories), these Final Fantasy re-releases feel a little bit like Final Fantasy Mini’s. They all follow the same dynamic, and they all share a very similar story and classical fantasy theme. They are of course ports of the Famicon games, and nothing has been changed too harshly, but I’m not unaffected by the shared dynamic, which is problematic in long play sessions. For instance, the entire game is basically: go from castle, to town, to cave, to boss, to castle, to town, to cave, etc,. The story flows well and the combat is genuinely turn based gold, but anyone looking for something wildly different, or surprising, might want to look somewhere else.
The extra voice work, cut-scenes, and graphical tweaks go some ways to justify the 10.99 cost on the Play store, but Final Fantasy IV will be a little too crude in more ways than one for a lot of people looking for a rich RPG experience. It’s not really rich in RPG, but it is rich in turn based strategy combat. Is it worth 10.99? There’s no other RPG on the market that rivals it for finesse or content quality, and clocking in at over 20 hours for my completion, there is a lot of value for your money. It’s addictive, charming, and reminds me why Final Fantasy was one of my favorite game series of all time.