Retro Review: Final Fantasy IV Advance (GBA)

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Recently, I played Final Fantasy X-2, and I got a bad taste in my mouth. As such, I needed a palate cleanse and decided to replay Final Fantasy IV Advance on the Game Boy Advance. This is one of the many remakes of Final Fantasy IV, which was also the first Final Fantasy I ever played.

Years ago, I first picked up Final Fantasy IV (then called Final Fantasy II on the Super Nintendo, due to the second and third game not being released in the states originally), along with a copy of Chrono Trigger at a used game store. I was just getting into RPGs that weren’t Pokémon at the time, and got to see what they were all about. While I was new to turn based combat, I was fascinated that there was a way to play games that gave you time to make strategic decisions.

Final Fantasy IV was the first Final Fantasy game to have a hybrid of turn based and real-time action. Take too long to decide what to do, and the opponent will act as you decide what to do. This version has the ATB gauge (a meter that fills up to show who’s turn is ready) added to show you which character is about to act next. Essentially, the ATB gauge was invisible in the original, so this version still plays in a similar manner.

Another first for the Final Fantasy games found in Final Fantasy IV was the greater emphasis on story.  The game quickly catches your attention with Cecil, the dark knight of baron, coming back from looting a country and regretting his actions. Without giving too much away, this story is all about redemption, treachery, and how the whole cast is interconnected in a conflict that threatens the world. It should also be noted that this version has a cleaner translation than the original North American release, so none of the story beats are missed by awkward dialogue.

FFIVAdvanceScene
An early scene from Final Fantasy IV.

Also of note, this is the only Final Fantasy to have up to five party members fight in battle at once. Oddly, though, the story forces the player to switch to certain characters at certain points in the story, so you have to adapt your strategies based on who the game gives you. Starting with this edition, though, you can switch between some of the temporary characters very late in the game. Doing so gives you some advantages against some foes, although this version added some bonus dungeons to find better equipment for these characters.

FFIVAdvanceBattle
An early boss fight from Final Fantasy IV.

There are some scripted battles throughout the game that always have the same result every time, and the game moves forward even if you lose that fight. While somewhat awkward from a game design perspective, these moments have a theatrical effect, such as showing the player how powerful a foe might be.

Perhaps one of the weak points of this classic game is the limited character customization. Many RPG’s, especially nowadays, have more options to make your own version of a particular character. Alternatively, other games allow you to adjust their abilities in order to execute a unique strategy. In Final Fantasy IV, you can only change a character’s equipment, and since there is limited inventory space, you only equip stronger gear throughout pretty much the entire game.

FFIVAdvanceMenu
A sample menu from Final Fantasy IV.

On the other hand, this game’s dungeons are fun to explore, being roughly the right length by themselves, and are full of secret passages to find more treasure, which can help you out in the game’s many fights. However, the bonus dungeons in this version are too long in comparison, and added puzzles which the main game lacked. Some of these puzzles are better than others, as some are easy enough, while other puzzles are a nuisance to complete. They aren’t exactly difficult, but the worst offenders aren’t fun to play through.

Final Fantasy IV is a relatively simple RPG with a good story. Those new to RPGs or the Final Fantasy series, particularly those who like retro graphics, might want to start here. This is due to the game having very limited level grinding, and is balanced well enough that most players who grasp this type of gameplay well enough can smoothly run through the game, and that can be quite fun to do.

There are several versions of Final Fantasy IV. Here are the notes for the English releases:

Super Nintendo:

  • Original Graphics
  • Some actions are missing.
  • Poor translation.
  • partially based on the “easy version” of the game.

PlayStation:

  • Came with Chrono Trigger as part of Final Fantasy Chronicles.
  • New translation.
  • Has all actions.
  • Has a dash button.
  • A quick save feature.
  • Some tweaks from “easy version” are present.

Game Boy Advance:

  • Enhanced graphics.
  • clean translation.
  • ATB gauge.
  • Bonus dungeons.
  • Auto dash option.
  • Can swap party members.
  • Bestiary.

DS:

  • 3D graphics.
  • Lacks party swap.
  • Much harder.
  • Augment system (enhanced party customization).
  • New game plus.
  • Voice acting.
  • Mini games.
  • Bestiary.

PSP:

  • Titled Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection.
  • Enhanced graphics.
  • Has GBA additions.
  • Bestiary
  • Includes Final Fantasy IV: Interlude and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.

IOS/Android:

  • Same as the DS version.
  • Features an easy difficulty.

 Recommendations:

  • Keep an eye out for secrets everywhere, they make the game easier. Plus they are fun to find.
  • If you want this to feel like the original, then don’t swap characters until after beating the game.
  • Complete the first bonus dungeon first, then beat the game with each character.
  • Afterwards, complete the second bonus dungeon. Finish each character’s trial before getting to the end of this dungeon.
  • Some persistent players might want to complete the bestiary. Careful, some foes appear in areas you visit only once!
  • There is also an exceptionally rare and powerful piece of equipment. Only the most persistent players may want to get one for each character. 

Pros:

  • Retro graphics are somewhat updated. (Possible con based on if you like old style sprite work).
  • Epic soundtrack.
  • Simple but smooth gameplay progression.
  • limited need to level grind.
  • Touched up translation makes the story enjoyable.
  • Good dungeon design.
  • Bestiary tracks info on enemies defeated.

Cons:

  • Limited Customization options. (Most likely an issue for RPG veterans).
  • Game forces party makeup on you for most of the game.
  • Bonus dungeons are somewhat tedious.
  • Bestiary seems to have some missing info.
  • Must beat the game a least 3 times to find everything.

Verdict:

8.5/10 A great starter RPG

Final Fantasy IV is a good but somewhat dated game. Some of its limitations could lower its score to 7.9 for some players, while others might consider it a 8.6 at best. Those who hate RPGs or other turn based games might give it a lower score. Incidentally, the PSP version might be the best edition, but might be hard to find.


And that covers my review of Final Fantasy IV Advance. Did you like this game? Which version of this game is your favorite? Should I cover the DS version, which I have access to? Should I cover Final Fantasy IV: The After Years? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this review, then click that like button and share on social media. You can also subscribe via email or WordPress to keep up with That’s All Games. Until next time, have fun gaming!

5 thoughts on “Retro Review: Final Fantasy IV Advance (GBA)

    1. I would be happy to explore that version at some point in the future. I am on a slight final fantasy binge, but would prefer to play a different game before I play a remake of a game I just played. That being said, I will take this suggestion into consideration, and may cover it in a few months time, hopefully.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OK yeah, just curious; don’t burn yourself out playing the game all over again! I imagine you have plenty of Final Fantasy you are planning to play through; may I ask which you may go to next?

        Like

      2. I am working on different games right now, but had a hankering for final fantasy five, which should be the next retro review after I catch up on super Mario 3D all stars.

        Liked by 1 person

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