Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection

Square-Enix's Final Fantasy IV is bound to set a Guinness World Record for "Most Ports and/or Remakes." There's the original Super Famicom version released in Japan in 1991. There's the Easytype version also released for the Super Famicom in Japan. There's the original North American release as Final Fantasy II, combining elements from the Japanese normal and easy types. There's the PlayStation port released as part of Final Fantasy Chronicles in North America. There's the Japan-exclusive WonderSwan Color version, featuring enhanced graphics. There's the Game Boy Advance port, based on the WonderSwan Color version.

Now comes the PlayStation Portable version of the game, although this iteration includes significant extra content in the form of the game's direct sequel, The After Years, originally released for Japanese mobile phones and WiiWare, not to mention an extra scenario, The Interlude, linking the two games. The compilation, Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection saw its Japanese and foreign release in 2011. Does the extra content make Final Fantasy IV worth playing again?

Final Fantasy IV introduced the franchise's tried-and-true Active Time Battle System, with the PSP version adding some new features such as the ability to switch between characters whose active time gauges are full without having them defend, not to mention an auto-battle mode that drastically increases combat speed and animations. The After Years adds combination attacks, which may be a tad difficult to discover unless they're part of the story (though they can actually be very useful), not to mention a lunar cycle that enhances certain ability types while simultaneously weakening other ability types that adds a semblance of strategy. A minor improvement in The After Years is that different types of arrows for bows are unlimited. The battle system works well for the most part, although there are definitely some flaws such as a schizophrenic encounter rate, and the inability to import data from the original Final Fantasy IV and retain things such as equipment and abilities.

Controls are mostly adequate, with an easy menu system, shopping, navigation, and whatnot in all three games, although there are some flaws such as the poor spacing of save points in Final Fantasy IV and the sometimes-poor direction on how to advance in FF4 and The After Years. Still, the PlayStation Portable's sleep mode prevents the games from being terrible on-the-go titles, and ultimately, interaction is more than adequate.

Story was a strong point in the original Final Fantasy IV and remains a strong point in the PSP version, not to mention The Interlude and The After Years, with an enjoyable cast of characters, solid translation with only some minor oddities and niggling changes such as Gilbert to Edward, and so forth. However, the extra story scenes part of the Nintendo DS version are absent, and there are some minor plot holes, not to mention a lack of backstory for the antagonists in all three games, although these luckily don't detract too much from an otherwise solid story in the collection.

Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack was also a strong point in prior incarnations of Final Fantasy IV, with the remixed tracks for the PlayStation Portable version being solid as well, with rousing themes such as the Star Wars-esque Red Wings theme and the theme of love. Granted, there are only about five or so original tracks in The After Years, and there is a problem with the current dungeon track resetting after each battle, but otherwise, the collection sounds great.

The two-dimensional character and monster art looks nice, as well, looking sharp on the PlayStation Portable, although enemies are inanimate and neither character sprites nor their characters' portraits show changing emotions. Still, the collection is largely easy on the eyes.

Finally, the original Final Fantasy IV takes about fifteen hours to complete, while The Interlude takes about two and The After Years takes about twenty-five, with things such as the extra dungeon in FF4 providing decent replayability. Ultimately, Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection is a worthwhile compilation, with most of its aspects being all-around solid, although many players are probably sick of FF4 and Square-Enix's apparent financial milking of the game. Despite this, whose sick of the original Final Fantasy IV can skip straight to The Interlude and The After Years, which provide experiences on par with the original FF4.

The Good:
+Solid ATB system with some interesting quirks.
+Great story with memorable characters.
+Nice soundtrack and beautiful 2-D art.

The Bad:
-Doesn't include extra content of DS version.
-Some poor direction on how to advance.
-Plenty recycling in The After Years

The Bottom Line:
A worthwhile collection.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 8/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: 40-60 Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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