Rydia: Still Awesome.
I hadn't planned on playing through FFIV DS again immediately after finishing it; after all, I'm a busy girl. But, after finally beating the game the other day and starting over, I quickly realized that FFIV DS may have the most perfect New Game + system ever. While trying to figure out just what it was about FFIV DS that makes the second playthrough so damned good, I got to thinking about the role of New Game + in general.
New Game +: Your Party with Added Steamrolling Functionality
I've written quite a few times about how much Chrono Trigger blew me away, but most of that awe is reserved for the first playthrough; I've still only completed it once. In theory the fact that you can play through indefinitely and keep getting different endings is fascinating, but in practice it has some limitations. Immediately upon starting NG+, I was bored by the tendency of my party to absolutely annihilate all opposition. Sure, it's fun to steamroll over enemies that gave you some trouble the first time around, but it's fun in the same way that Game Genie was fun for about five minutes after taking it out of the box. You're essentially playing God mode, for hours, until you get to the end of the game again.
In FFIV DS, you lose your levels and stats. Let me repeat that: you lose your levels and stats.
You also lose your whole inventory, (barring a few especially rare items, most of which I personally never got in the first place.) In essence, everything that would make the second playthrough too easy is unceremoniously taken away from you. You have to wonder: How can this be a NG+?
FFIV DS: Strategic Magic
You keep two main things for all subsequent playthroughs: augments, and map completion. Augments are bonus abilities that you can give to your characters, and map completion is comprised of two things: map completion percentage, and the actual view of the dungeon maps on the lower DS screen. This means the following:
1. You have different strategies available to you from the start of the game, since whatever strategic decisions you made concerning character customization have carried over.
2. Most of the dungeons on the second playthrough come pre-mapped, meaning you tend to go through them much faster.
For example, though Cecil was set back to level 10 at the beginning of NG+, he still had all of the special abilities he had at the end of the first playthrough-- Counter, Draw Attacks, HP+50%, etc. This meant that while he was a lot stronger right out of the gate, he still had beginning stats and equipment, so he wasn't terribly over-powered. Furthermore, since having the dungeons pre-mapped means that I blow through them at twice the speed, my party is under-leveled. This means that while I have greater strategic resources available, I'm facing the bosses a good 5-10 levels lower than I was initially, if not more.
Another feature added for this version, auto-battle, presents a game-within-a-game in NG+. Originally auto-battle was only good for the easiest random encounters; trying to use it in difficult dungeons was suicide. However, in NG+, it's possible to set up a customized auto-battle system that works fairly reliably for every area. I was able to mostly auto-battle my way through the Tower of Zot, something I absolutely could not have done the first time.
Whyt: Still useless!
The only complaint I have thus far is that Whyt, Rydia's summon whom you can train in several mini-games, doesn't keep his training. Whyt is normally pretty useless, and having the time spent in training carry over would actually make him worth summoning, at least during the earlier parts of NG+. I suppose it would be kind of broken if child-Rydia could summon a fully-trained Whyt (with the ability to cast Flare) an hour into the game, but having nothing carry over makes it seem like the time I spent on those tedious mini-games was wasted. I think the idea of a bonus, trainable summoned creature for the game was a good idea, but this feature could have been designed better. The prohibitively high MP cost of summoning him early in the game would have provided enough of a drawback to keep things from getting too unbalanced; as it stands, he's 50MP's worth of fluffy uselessness.
While I am essentially playing the same game again, it's like playing the game from a different angle as opposed to just playing the game on super-ultra-easy mode. This is true replay value, since I really am replaying the game-- not just holding down the confirm button while my party of demi-gods steamrolls their way through all and sundry. If games are going to continue to offer NG+, this is what I think we all want: an experience that really is new in some way, not just the same thing with added ennui.
LOOK WHO CAME: