Are the bonus additions and the new translation worth a purchase?
I remember being excited for months prior to Final Fantasy II (IV in Japan) being released in the U.S. I read magazine upon magazine looking at screens of the first U.S. installment since the original for the NES. When I heard it was coming to the GBA, some of that nostalgia returned.
Final Fantasy IV Advance is your typical turn based RPG, in which your party of characters fights random battles against creatures dealing a certain amount of damage, trying to reduce their hit points to zero. The story starts off with the main character, Cecil, stealing one of the world’s magic crystals, a deed for which he begins to question his morals and his king’s judgment. He becomes relieved of command for talking back to the king and sets out on a quest to return all of the crystals to the world. The story is full of love, betrayal, light, and dark, and it spans the entire planet and beyond.
Final Fantasy IV Advance is a fairly accurate port of the original for the Super Nintendo, but with many subtle changes and some rather nice enhancements that just help the game progress faster. One key enhancement is the translation from the Japanese version; the plot makes infinitely more sense, which allows for a more interesting story. There is even slang (“Leave it to the Cidster!”) and mild swearing in this translation. Other text “enhancements” include item and magic name changes such as: Cure1, Cure2, and Cure3 to Cure, Cura, and Curaga.
Final Fantasy IV Advance includes a Bestiary and a Music Player. The Bestiary allows you to see each enemy that has been fought, see all of its stats, and more importantly – how many you’ve killed of each. The Music Player lets you listen to each track as it was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, but they sound different than the originals, due to the differences in GBA and SNES sound hardware. A nice feature of the player is a small visualizer of the song playing. Now you can listen to “Hello! Fat Chocobo!” on the go.
One huge improvement is that anytime you're not on the world map, walking speed is increased dramatically, making exploring dungeons tolerable and not tedious. While I'm on the issue of speed, the menu system both in battle and in the character menu seems somewhat slow to respond. There is a large delay between when a button is pressed and when it can be pressed again, so curing the party with potions can be slow.
The graphics are more or less the same. Veterans of FFII will recognize a few differences when flying in the airship, character images in the menu, and when attacked for battle. The color depth on backgrounds, characters, and monsters has been increased due to the ability to display more colors on the GBA hardware.
The biggest addition to the game is the Lunar Ruins, a new dungeon that is created when the game is finished. It is a multi-floored dungeon with a unique trial for each one of your characters. The only stipulation is that each character has to be in your party when the game is beaten in order to unlock the door to their respective trial. Therefore beating the game multiple times with a different party of characters will be in your future. The trials are typically side quests, with Kain’s side quest being a long addition to the story. In order to declare the trial over, “Lunar” versions of enemies you have fought before must be defeated, most being summoned monsters (Bahamut or Ramuh) or other bosses. The reward for winning is either the best weapon or the best armor in the game for that character.
Defeating Zeromus is not as difficult as one would expect with the characters that were not used for most of the game, because as your main party gains levels so do all the characters whom are waiting on the sidelines. Just remember not to sell a stronger harp or sell that extra armor as these characters still have the weaker armor and weapons from last you left them. This was my mistake with Edward who despite being on level 70 had 3000HP and hit for 400 when Cecil was hitting for 6000.
Think you have what it takes to make your way through the Lunar Ruins? Your characters by the time you reach the ruins should be pretty high on the level scale, assuming running is not in your playbook. You will also get a lot of help from the multitude of elixirs and megalixirs found throughout the ruins.
The very last floor of the Lunar Ruins contains a showdown between you and the “Easy Game” version of Zeromus from the Japanese version of Final Fantasy IV. The fight can be difficult, depending on your party, but it is no match for a fight with a certain dragon found in the Lunar Ruins. This creature comes with its own wizard who warns you to “Run for your life.”
Final Fantasy IV Advance is much like I remembered. Playing it is fun and quick, but the Lunar Ruins are tedious and are a task for completionists only. The biggest disappointment is the lack of a bonus ending for completing the Lunar Ruins, but fans of the game and/or series will still appreciate the added content.