Reviewed: June 4, 2011
Released: April 19, 2011
I’m a huge fan of Square Enix’s epic Final Fantasy series. The franchise has the most memorable characters and stories and contains one of my favorite RPGs of all-time, Final Fantasy IV. While I first played this adventure on my SNES under the guise of Final Fantasy II, which I enjoyed for countless hours, the title has seen several re-release over the years on the PlayStation, Game Boy Advance and even the DS. But no version compares to the newly released Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection on the PlayStation Portable.|
Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection however doesn’t just come with an improved visual and sound aesthetic like many of the previous versions. Besides the core adventure Final Fantasy IV, you also get its episodic sequel Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (originally on WiiWare) and Final Fantasy IV –Interlude- that ties the above two together nicely. This is the first time I’ve played Final Fantasy IV since my SNES days back in 1991 but I remember the story as if it was yesterday.
For those that missed out on Final Fantasy IV in its previous forms then ill shed a little light on the matter at hand. The story follows Black Knight Cecil Harvey, captain of the Red Wings, who questions his king’s orders after committing rather heinous crimes against other kingdoms. His king’s response is the dismissal of Cecil’s position in the Red Wings and one final order. That final order causes Cecil to attempt to set things right and eventually saving the world with the help of a stellar cast of characters that includes summoner Rydia, dragoon Kain Highwind and many others along the way.
The gameplay of Final Fantasy IV is very traditional of the JRPGs of that time period, though this was the first in the series to introduce the Active Time Battle (or ATB) gauge which has been used in future titles. This gauge fills for each character and once it does you can input a command as attacking or using an item. This allows you to have a little control over your fight. If one character is ready to attack you can stall them and use someone else instead.
The rest of Final Fantasy IV is pretty straight forward in its design. Battles spawn randomly in the world and dungeons which brings back a bit of bittersweet sweet nostalgia. While things have changed in the RPG genre, I find that the old way of doing things is still perhaps my favorite. Sure the battles can get rough though at times if you one phoenix down shy and surviving on your last party member but that is half of the fun of the old school style.
Next up is the Interlude, which picks up a mere year after the events of the original game. Once again you step into the shoes of Cecil with many of the original cast in tow. This time Cecil dreams of one of the Crystal Chambers, Rydia and an unknown voice. Before he can see who it is he is awoken by Rosa. The now King Cecil sets off with Rosa to the newly rebuilt kingdom of Damcyan. Shortly after their arrival, they receive news that there is an attack at the nearby Mt. Hobbs. From there the adventure begins that eventually leads up to finding out that Rosa is pregnant. This little adventure only took me roughly three or so hours to complete and does a pretty descent job of explaining the opening act in The After Years.
The After Years released as WiiWare episodic in 2009 is comprised of 11 parts released over a period of time. The story starts off 17 years after the Interlude and in the first part of the main story we meet Ceodore, prince of Baron and son of Cecil and Rosa. A second moon appears in the sky and several key players notice it as well as a soft light emitting from the Crystals on the Blue Planet. The first three parts of this new adventure makes up the main story but there are several other tales that follow each of the other characters seen in the original game. The cool thing about these additional tales is that the player gets to see to see a deeper side of characters such as Edge the Ninja King and Edward the Bard and King of Damcyan.
The combat however gains a new take that is similar to the original but introduces some features that create some new experiences. The first and ultimately important addition is called “Age of the Moon” which alters the very way you go about fighting and the instances of certain monsters based on the lunar phase. This can be altered by sleeping at an inn and is necessary for a few story points.
The second addition is called the “Band” ability which allows two or more of the players to combine individual commands to create a single attack that is more powerful than the other two are alone. This consumes MP from all parties involved but the results are pretty cool all the same. There are certain Band combinations that you will learn as part of the story but many of them you will have to find out for yourself.
The graphics in Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection varies a bit between each segment of the adventure such as you can tell the difference in the character designs between the original game and the newer sequel material. The upgrades definitely help such as presenting the game in 16:9 resolution and cleaner and sharper environments. Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection may feature a new coat of painting but it still shows it's age which I have no problem with. Back then it was all about the story and less about how good it looked really and that's what makes this a rememberable RPG.
This review process also marks the first time that I had ever seen the visual style of The After Years. There is an 18 year gap between the original title and its sequel, though other than their graphical advancements these two titles could have been made at the same time. That is the quality and attention to detail that I expect from the folks at Square Enix. I also love the new CG movies, brought over from the DS version, that Square has been using for a lot of their works lately. These movies are nothing short of amazing and the beautifully detailed representations of some of my favorites characters is top notch.
The Final Fantasy series has always been known for its down right awesome scores and Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection is no different. The music is absolutely awesome and comes in two versions depending on your tastes. There is the original MIDI score that I know best and played a majority of this review with and will probably appeal more to the older audiences who purchase this. Then there is the new soundtrack arrangement that features much smoother flowing score that I think will appeal more to the current generations. Both scores also feature the iconic “fanfare” and peaceful title screen music that makes this series instantly recognizable from the moment the game starts up.
Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection is full of bonus goodies for the player willing to tackle this amazing collection. How could you not? Contained on this UMD disc is unlockable artwork by famed artist Yoshitaka Amano, both CG opening movies for Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, as well as both soundtrack versions that can be listened to independently from the game. You can even make your own 10-track playlists comprised of your favorite pieces if you want. As an added bonus, people who buy the UMD disc version will receive 5 little art cards featuring the main characters of the game. The best part of all is that the Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection only cost $30 dollars at most retailers which is awesome since I usually expect to pay more for a Square Enix title.
At the mere mention of the name Final Fantasy IV, I was all over the opportunity to review this game. This is one of my favorite Final Fantasy of all time and easily one of the greatest RPGs ever made. It has memorable characters, awesome music and a story that is truly exceptional. You would be crazy not to pick up the Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection for PSP. Doesn’t matter if you’ve played it a few times or a hundred, this is a RPG for the ages.