TGS 2007: Final Fantasy IV DS hands-on

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Many fans of Final Fantasy were pleased to hear that the fourth game in the series would recieve the “Final Fantasy III DS treatment”, and a 3D portable port was more than enough reason to be excited. Now that we’ve had a chance to get our hands on the remake at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, we can say that Final Fantasy IV DS is quite a bit more than just a FFIII DS treatment, and fans now have several more reasons to be excited.

First off, recent magazine screenshots do not do the title justice — Final Fantasy IV DS looks as good as you’d hope, and maybe even a bit better. The entire cast has undergone an extreme makeover, and all of your favorites have made the transition well. Cecil and Kain look impressive, Rydia is impossibly adorable, and Rosa is hotter than ever. If it wasn’t for the soundtrack, you could easily forget that Final Fantasy IV was originally a Super Nintendo game.

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Speaking of sound, although the soundtrack has only recieved a slight upgrade from the original soundtrack, key events and video are accompanied by spoken dialogue. It’s a nice touch, and along with the gorgeous pre-rendered video cutscenes, it leaves you wondering how they fit all of that content on a DS cartridge.

Square Enix has changed up the control scheme a bit. All of the action takes place on the top screen while the bottom is reserved for things like maps and stats. In the game’s overworld map mode, travel is shown on the top screen while the bottom displays a sattelite-style view of the world. Your party can be controlled via d-pad or the stylus, with your character moving in the direction you specify with the touchscreen.

Battles take place on the top screen while the bottom displays stats like hit points and active- time battle meters. Also, when an enemy is targeted, its vitals are also shown on the bottom screen under the party’s stats. The demo version we played did not support touchscreen control during battles, though we’re not sure if that will be the case in final versions.

The Final Fantasy IV DS Tokyo Game Show demo didn’t reveal any real changes to gameplay, although we heard earlier a few were in store. For the most part, this is still the turn-based role playing game that Square released back in 1991.

This demo was just enough to give us an idea of the visual changes applied to this classic RPG, and these changes seem like they’ll do a good job of complementing the rich tale that Final Fantasy IV weaves. The characters all have a sense of individuality now, which should help with the large and diverse cast of this story. Summon spells have also recieved an upgrade with full- on, epic Square-style cinematics — Shiva and Ifrit have never looked so good, and that’s saying a lot for a portable game. Magical spells and attacks and items have all undergone upgrades, making them stand out like never before. The towns, maps, and dungeons all seem famaliar, but now have a lot of visual depth and detail, making gameplay for veteran Final Fantasy fans feel like a deeper exploration.

Final Fantasy IV really deserves a visual upgrade, and this particular upgrade should serve its deep and involved storyline well. It really is so much more than a port — it’s a reimagining, and it’s obvious that Square Enix knows how much of a treasure this game is. With the game’s newfound visual appeal and focus on storyline, long-time fans and newcomers will see that Final Fantasy IV DS has truly recieved the royal treatment.

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