Believe it or not, there was a time when Square-Enix (or Squaresoft, as they were known at the time) was on top of the role-playing world. It’s difficult to pick a starting point for the company’s well-respected and perhaps legendary reign, but perhaps it began after the release of the original Final Fantasy. Maybe Squaresoft only started to gain real momentum with later installments in the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom era. But regardless of your analysis, it goes without saying that Final Fantasy IV is a classic that deserves your nostalgic attention. That’s why you might want to pick up the Complete Collection for the PSP this month; it includes both the original game and the WiiWare pseudo-sequel, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.
The latter continued the story of FFIV, focusing on the son of Cecil and Rosa, Ceodore. If you never got a chance to play this game on the Wii (or as a mobile production, released only in Japan), you can check out an all-new story and classic, old-school gameplay. To refresh your memory, you can always start with the original title, which is a remake of the Super Famicom version; it’s the Japanese version, though, so the difficulty will be higher. Once finished, leap 17 years ahead to “The Interlude,” a special section of 10-12 hours for this PSP collection that bridges the gap between FFIV and The After Years. This portion of the story begins in Damcyan, where Edward has rebuilt the castle and the world is in a state of general celebration.
Obviously, the situation downgrades to the point where another hero is required in the follow-up plot. In terms of overhauled graphics, we’ll get spruced-up visuals for all three of the storylines in question; character and enemy designs have been upgraded, and the PSP should be able to give the colorful FFIV palette a certain sheen. Another cool feature involves the sound: you can either stick with the original SNES soundtrack, or you can switch to the enhanced version that came with the Nintendo DS remake. Although this isn’t quite the same thing as choosing between English and Japanese voices, it’s still nice to have, and helps to solidify this as a “complete” collection. As for the gameplay, nothing has changed so you don’t have to worry about your favorite turn-based style giving way to brainless hack ‘n slash.
If you’ve been bewailing the loss of traditional RPG fare and consider FFIV to be one of your favorite games, this is a must-have. If you only dabbled in the FF series prior to the PlayStation era and never got a chance to play some of these sprite-filled gems, perhaps now is the time to sample the old-fashioned goodness. The game boasts some memorable characters, a great story, and the addition of The After Years is a clear-cut bonus for anybody, long-time fan or new initiate. Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection arrives for Sony’s portable on April 19, so if you’ve got a trip coming up or you’ve been looking to give your PSP more love, this should be a solid option. Hey, did anyone else forget what The Magus Sisters looked like in those days…?
4/4/2011 Ben Dutka