Final Fantasy IV - Completed By John Blanco
My first official guest review!!!!
I was a latecomer to the Final Fantasy series. It started when I played Final Fantasy I in early 2006. I never was much into RPG's as a kid, but have grown to love them as a quasi-adult.
After playing Final Fantasy I + II (Dawn if Souls), I had some questions about what the big hubaloo was about. Final Fantasy IV Advance, however, showed me.
FF IV Advance is my favorite FF adventure to date. It's the first title that really integrated a cohesive storyline alongside the usual great turn-based game action.
The game's lead hero is Cecil, a man of mysterious origin who is ousted from Baron's Red Wing army when their missions become a bit too tyrannical for his tastes. His questioning of the King leads to his ouster, and upon finding out who is behind the change in strategy, decides to overthrow Golbez, his sworn enemy.
The game ran me about 25 hours. As opposed to the "on your own" game play of the first title in the series, this game featured a lot of in-game cut scenes. The story flowed nicely, with characters mixing in and out of the party -- characters that would really grow on you.
The redone graphics for the GBA version are clean and the sound and music are much improved over the early GBA titles. Anything is better, anyway, compared to the repetitive music of the first two games.
Along with improvements in aesthetics, the game was far more difficult. I found myself going to the walkthrough more frequently, about 5 times total. Sometimes, I was a putz, but other times it was very difficult to determine what to do next -- no hints, just explore.
Exploration is a sort of double-edged sword with the FF series. The random battles make the mere act of walking around frustrating if you're not in any mood to fight. Additionally, after the fight ends, you are oftentimes puzzled as to what direction you had just come from. It's this hesitation to spend hours exploring a small area, because of the attacks, which led me to the walkthrough to save some time.
The other side of the argument is that the exploration SHOULD lead to more battles as this allows you to be leveling up. I believe this caused my stonewalling later when I couldn't advance because my weak party.
Later in the game, when you advance to the Moon, the enemy difficulty ratchets up severely. I spent hours leveling up, but despite the improvements the battles were still very difficult all the way through the rest of the game. Be prepared with lots of power up items, and make sure you are leveled up quite a bit before tackling the Moon.
The final dungeon was the most difficult of all because of the length and ferocity of the enemies. The Behemoths and Wicked Masks were such a tough hill to climb. There was no easy way to fight them, and they were a drain on health and especially magic. I spent most of my hours in this final push sweating bullets, hoping I could find a save point where I could stop and sleep in my cottage. :-)
Not to give away the ending, but you'll find yourself shitting a brick when you barely make it to the final boss, only to realize you didn't get that save point you'd hoped for!!
Overall, I give this game 8.5/10. The game was great, but sometimes leaves you a bit lost as to what to do next. I believe my problem is that the previous games could be finished in 20 hours and were pretty straightforward. I think it's time to start treating these games like 40-50 hour adventures where your approach is more like an online RPG -- seeking out quests in non-linear fashion and enjoying your opportunities to level up.
I can't wait for FF III for DS! I'm now prepared!