One of the best things about tearing into a remake of a classic game is not just the satisfaction you get from embarking on an adventure that's stood the test of time. No, it's the contentment you get when you realize, halfway through the adventure, that the developers of today have lessons to learn from the past. Final Fantasy IV Advance is an absolute blast from beginning to end.
If you, like many, missed the game the first time around, you'll still be in for a sweet ride. The adventure picks up in the kingdom of Baron; its king is bent on claiming the world's powerful crystals for his own by any means possible. It sounds quaint, but the elements of subtle human drama injected by its conflicted hero, Cecil, and his cast of allies are what make the story interesting.
By today's multi-million dollar standards, the story is thin, but from a gameplay perspective it's always driving the action forward - you're never just mindlessly wandering the world trying to track down trinkets. There's always a very good reason to be seeking out the darkest dungeons and battling the evilest of enemies. That counts for a lot in an era where most RPGs seem to be secretly designed by FedEx as a subliminal recruitment tool. Go here, get thing. Go there. Repeat.
But what FFIV most clearly illustrates is what it takes to drive an RPG and make it interesting. It takes a pack of characters with interesting abilities, a battle system that takes advantage of them, and dungeons that are worth exploring. FFIV hits all of these marks easily. Each character has something that makes him or her different from the others. Almost every dungeon forces you to try something new, whether it's due to the design or the enemies, to get to the end.
The GBA isn't the most capable machine on the planet, especially in 2006. Still, FFIV
has been subtly improved from its original. It now fully taxes GBA's meager abilities. The developers, however, did introduce timing bugs into the Active Time Battle system that allow some characters to jump the queue, stalling others' attacks. This hurts, even if it doesn't make the game any harder or duller. Small mistakes can't wreck such a consistently pleasurable experience as FFIV
. With additional content that drastically increases the role of its large and likable cast, this is one RPG you'll have slotted into your GBA or DS for a long time coming.