Final Fantasy IV Advance | Retro Review | Game Boy Advance - TheFamicast.com: Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!

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Monday, October 11, 2021

Final Fantasy IV Advance | Retro Review | Game Boy Advance

Final Fantasy IV is one of those classic games that almost every RPG fan has taken for a spin at some point in their lives. Whether it be on the Super Nintendo back in the day, Wonderswan (really?!), PSP or mobile, there are definitely a lot of ways to get into the game. If you’ve been away from the game for a long time, you may be wondering if it still holds up to this day. Well, slight spoiler here, but yes it does, and I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the Game Boy Advance version of Final Fantasy IV and why you can’t go wrong picking this version of the game up in this retro review. 

Story
The story of Final Fantasy IV is a bit dated by today’s RPG standards, but if you look at the game in the context of when it was released (originally on the SNES/SFC), there are quite a few aspects that were certainly ahead of its time. The overall arc is about redemption and friendship, something that most of us can relate to at least in some respect. Following the Dark Knight Cecil as he leads the fleet from military superpower Baron, we quickly learn that things are not as they seem. Cecil is distressed for having to carry out numerous atrocities in the name of the king. So much so that he’s branded a traitor and then basically has to go on the run. 

Along the way, you’ll run into a number of different characters that have their own motivations and personalities. Although their reasons are different, they all come together in their goal of taking out the big bad, Golbez, and come together as a group of friends that genuinely care about each other. Of course, by today’s standards, the story beats can be a bit abrupt, but I still feel that you can definitely get what Square was going for here. In the context of the time, things still hold up. Not only that, but I really felt that there was a great variety of locations to visit and some interesting NPCs to come across throughout the adventure. 
On a personal note, and probably like you, this isn’t my first time playing this game. I played the North American Final Fantasy II back in the day on the Super Nintendo, borrowing a cart from my friend back in the late 90s. At the time, I cousin’t make it through to the end. I made it as far as the Return to Baron only to be roasted by Baigan. I don’t remember what exactly was holding me back, either. Since then, I’ve tried to go back to the game with the Playstation version (in Final Fantasy Chronicles) and then of course this Game Boy Advance version of the game. It wasn’t until this current run through that I finally beat the game. 

The Game Boy Advance iteration of has a few extras not found in previous entries. The script here has been revamped to more closely reflect that original Japanese. Character portraits are now available in dialog boxes, you have the ability to swap characters in and out of your party (later in the game) and can even tackle a bonus dungeon. 

Gameplay
I think this goes without saying, but Final Fantasy IV Advance is a turn based RPG. This time around, Square (Enix) implemented the Active Time Battle (ATB) System. Again, you probably already know this, but just in case, a timing element is introduced here to choose your actions. Unlike the SNES and PlayStation versions of the game, the Game Boy Advance version actually shows this gauge in real time, giving the player a clear indication of when they are able to perform their next action. 
While basic this day and age, I’m a pretty big fan of the battle system in FFIV. The variety of attacks, some specific to certain characters, magic, summons and other special abilities are well done. They really give each character a bit of a different feeling even though you are primarily just controlling what they do through menu options. 

Some quality of life improvements were made here as well. The PlayStation version of FFIV from Final Fantasy Chronicles introduced the ability to run with by holding the cancel button while in towns and/or dungeons. This is still here, but you now have the ability in the Configuration menu to basically make it so you’re always running OR only run when pressing B. Traveling the overworld here can be pretty slow going, but once you get one of the handful of vehicles/Chocobo, things speed up quite a bit. 
A Quick Save function is also available in FFIV Advance. Outside of battle, you are able to save anywhere in the game. Once initiated, your current play session closes and you are brought back to the main menu. When you load the Quick Save file, the temporary save goes away and you pick up where you left off. While this might sound kind of pointless to some, I found it to come in handy. For my most recent play through, I was playing on a DS Lite. With no sleep mode in the game, this was pretty useful if I didn’t have time to get to a proper save point. 

Visuals, Performance & Audio
The visuals here are very true to the original Super Nintendo version of the game. The colors, sprites and environments look pretty good, especially when you’re playing on a smaller screen. The audio here is also pretty awesome with some of the most memorable tracks from the Final Fantasy series. By and large, things on the audio and visual front in this version are pretty solid. 

FFIV on the Game Boy Advance is not without issues. Being (more or less) a port of the previously released Wonderswan version of the game, some things were just simply not optimized for the Game Boy Advance hardware. There are times when the game slows down, particularly in battles. While this usually wasn’t a problem, it can get a bit annoying when you’re in intense fights. There are also times when your characters might have their turn skipped over, or a character might have two attacks in a row. It’s definitely odd, and when you’re in the heat of battle it can really ruin some strategies that you’re trying to implement.
Most of the these performance issues are only present in the North American version and the first release of the game in Japan. Square Enix did release an updated version of the game in Japan that fixed most, if not all, of the issues present in the game. This is dubbed the “E4 Version” of the game, which is indicated by a stamp that appears on the front of the cart. The European version of FFIV was based on this. Additionally, the version that is found on the Wii U Virtual Console in Japan is also the “E4” version of the game. 

Collector’s Corner
For all of you collectors out there, today we’re going to take a look at a few FFIV Advance related items. I do have the super cool Final Fantasy IV Game Boy Micro, but if you want to see more about that, i would suggest checking out my video/article dedicated to that. As for the game itself, there are some pretty obvious differences between the Japanese and Western packaging. In line with the Super Famicom release, the box art here is simple, white and features both Cecil and Kain on the front. Overall, it looks super classy and is really in line with the mode modern Final Fantasy packaging of the games that released in Japan around the era. My version here is the “E3” version, or the version that still has the bugs. The “E4” version is a bit hard to find and even when you do, it can be quite expensive. 

That’s not to say that the western box art is bad by any stretch of the imagination. It might look a bit familiar if you’ve just seen the Game Boy Micro packaging, because it uses the same exact image. While I prefer the Japanese box art for the game, I still do like the illustrations used here that feature Cecil, Kain and Rosa alongside the logo. 

Conclusion
It’s been great re-visiting Final Fantasy IV and clearing the game for the first time. It has definitely been a long time coming for me, and these old RPGs can really take you back to a time when RPGs (and maybe life in general) were a little bit simpler. I think at this point, no matter what platform you’re playing the game on, you can’t go wrong. If you’re wanting to play it on a Nintendo platform, (at the time of this recording) this is your best bet. There are some performance issues that pop up here and there, but the story, while somewhat dated, helped set that standard for what kind of storytelling was possible in RPGs and video games as a whole. 


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