February 18, 2017

My Impressions of Final Fantasy IV Advance

Final Fantasy IV is a fantastic game, and Final Fantasy IV Advance is a fine port plagued by an unforgivable flaw.

Final Fantasy IV was released in North America as Final Fantasy II; the US port was modified to be an easier game. Enemies had fewer hit points and the characters had fewer abilities, like Cecil who didn’t have his Darkness attack.

Final Fantasy IV Advance is a port to the GameBoy Advance of Final Fantasy IV as it was in Japan. It features an improved translation (fans will be happy to know that “you spoony bard!” was retained), the simple 16-bit graphics are kept as-is, the music is slightly altered because of the different audio hardware, and a number of game-play bugs are fixed (note: play the European version, the US/Australia version has ATB-related bugs). The game has common quality-of-life features, such as dashing and quick saving. This version retains the role of the fat Chocobo as an item store; the GBA doesn’t lack the memory to store many items that the SNES did, but it’s cool that they kept a staple of the original.

On the surface, FF4A should have been the ultimate way to experience this franchise entry. Unfortunately, one issue makes playing this game a miserable experience: it has a ton of input lag.

When navigating the menus or entering actions during battles, players will notice a considerable delay between pressing a button and that command registering. For example, when healing my party with potions, there was a delay of a whole second between pressing the A button and the actual healing! But if this lag is annoying in the menu, it can be enraging during battle. Often, an input will be entirely discarded, and when that happens, a careless player may do an incorrect action (e.g., targetting a single enemy with magic rather than the whole formation, or selecting the wrong spell to cast.) The lag happens in both the menu and in battles (which account for the majority of game-play time) and this will certainly test the player’s nerves. I don’t understand how Square Enix’s QA could have missed such an obvious defect? And if they didn’t miss it, why was the game allowed to be released?

If you haven’t played Final Fantasy IV, try this version for 10-15 minutes; if you aren’t too annoyed with the input lag, then keep going, otherwise I recommend trying a fan translation ROM for the SNES.