|Dev: Square Enix|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: April 19, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes|
As for The After Years, it adds two major gameplay elements to the system. The Band system allows two characters who share a special bond to execute a powerful combination attack. This is a neat way to expand the storyline into the gameplay itself, as characters who grow closer through their adventures are able to learn new Band attacks. The other major gameplay element is that there are four phases of the moon, which change every thirty minutes of gameplay and whenever a character rests. Every phase of the moon strengthens one aspect of combat and weakens another. For example, during the Full Moon, physical attacks (for both players and monsters) are weakened by fifty percent while black magic is strengthened by fifty percent. Unfortunately, the moon phases feel like a tacked-on annoyance rather than a tactical addition to gameplay, prompting little more than the purchase of a large number of tents so that the player can sleep past a phase that is detrimental to their party composition. Other than these additions, The After Years plays identically to Final Fantasy IV but with an extended cast of characters, as the player will be able to choose between twenty-two characters for their five-member party by the last couple scenarios.
The game's controls work fine, though movement feels better when using the D-Pad than it does with the analog stick, which can feel a bit slippery. Battle commands can be entered quickly and efficiently most of the time, though the spell lists get a bit long when the character reach a high level, and certain actions such as using a staff in battle could have used a shortcut. Running away from the game's random battles is thankfully easy to do, because the random encounter level in the dungeons can be frustrating. Sometimes moving through a dungeon feels just right, while other times there appears to be a random encounter every other step, or even a chain of three encounters over three steps, always seeming to happen when the player is just trying to get back to a rest point. Yes, a rest point, for unfortunately the player can only save freely on the overworld map. There is no excuse these days for a portable game to lack a save-anywhere or suspend-save feature, even if it is a port of an older game.
Graphics and sound are the two areas where FFIV Complete Collection really shines. While the DS version rendered the game in blocky 3D, Complete Collection features new hi-res 2D graphics. While the game's locations look nice enough for tileset graphics, the sprites and character artwork are the real stars of the show. The monster sprites look fabulous, and the character sprites are crisp and detailed. The character portraits that appear during dialogue also look very nice, though it would have been nice to see a few different versions of the portraits that showed the appropriate emotions on the characters' faces. It's especially fun to see the character portraits in The After Years, which show how the passage of time has affected the various characters. In the end, the hi-res 2D graphics are a superior way to experience the game, lending the world a great deal more authenticity, color, and character than the 3D graphics on the DS.
The sound in Final Fantasy IV is also superb, especially via headphones. The musical soundtrack features excellent, lush arrangements of traditional Final Fantasy tunes. The player can also choose to listen to the original Game Boy Advance soundtrack, but why would anybody do that when the new soundtrack sounds so good? The sound effects are also meaty, especially when the summoner Rydia brings forth one of her eidolons. The crackling of Ifrit's flame and the earth being rent as Titan crashes through it sound real, and make the summoning sequences worthwhile. Sadly, there is no voice acting in the game at all, as some quality voiceovers could have added emotional impact to the story.
All things considered, Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection stands as the best-yet version of Final Fantasy IV. The original game's charm and classic gameplay are preserved intact, without the addition of needless complications that were given to the game's DS version. Even if a few of those classic gameplay elements such as the random encounter rate can be frustrating, the ATB system is genuinely fun and is flexible enough that almost any gamer can set it to a rate that's comfortable for them. The graphics and sound are excellent, the character designs charming and effective, and The After Years provides many hours of additional story and gameplay. Anybody who enjoys classic Japanese RPGs and isn't sick of Final Fantasy IV will be happy to play through this version, and it should absolutely be the first choice of any gamer who is looking to play Final Fantasy IV for the first time.
CCC Contributing Writer