In early 2007, Nintendo and SquareEnix announced plans to revamp and re-release Final Fantasy IV for the Nintendo DS console. The Japanese release date has been tentatively set for late 2007; a North American release date has not yet been set. The new version is planned as part of the 20th anniversary of the Final Fantasy series and will be executed in much the same way as the DS remake of Final Fantasy III that was released earlier in 2007.
"But wait," you say. "How many times has Final Fantasy IV been remade or rereleased for different platforms now?" (Three in North America alone -- and that's just officially.) Previous re-releases -- particularly the version included in the Final Fantasy Chronicles for Playstation -- have been criticized for being the same game in a different package. Developers, however, promise that the upcoming DS remake will be dramatically different from others.
The game's entire interface will be different; rather than the 2D graphics and old-school battle screens of the original Final Fantasy games (I-VI), the game will feature the 3D environment first used in Final Fantasy VII. In this sense, it promises to be much like the FFIII remake with redesigned scenes, characters, enemies and locales while staying true to the original story. How?
- Members of the same development team who worked on the original FFIV (the one that was released in North America as Final Fantasy II) are working on this one.
- Developers who have spoken to the press have sworn up and down that the expanded capabilities of the DS will be put to good use with new features (more maps) and plot enhancements, but that the latter will, in fact, come from the parts of the plot that were sliced out of the original rather than out of thin air.
Word is that ¾ of the original plot was cut out of the final release -- and that's the original Japanese release. Even more wound up on the cutting room floor when the game was first released in North America due to the, shall we say, shoddy translation. Subsequent rereleases sought to reinstate a variety of these plot points, though the only way to do that without extensively coding extra scenes was to add and modify existing dialogue.
The basic, bare-bones plot we all know and love starts off like this:
Cecil Harvey, captain of Baron's Red Wings airship fleet, brings his crew to the island village of Mysidia and collects their elemental crystal by force while acting under the king's orders. He feels remorse for his actions and challenges the king, finding himself stripped of his command and sent to deliver an artifact to the remote village of Mist. He is accompanied by his lifelong best friend Kain Highwind, who is ordered to go with Cecil after he tries to defend him to the king. Their imminent departure worries Rosa Farrell, the white mage they've known since childhood and who sort of has it bad for Cecil.
The duo sets off, slays a dragon and makes it to the village, where they realize that the object they've been dispatched to deliver is intended to destroy the village. They try to rescue the little girl whose mother they've inadvertently killed by slaying the dragon, but she attacks them with strength beyond her years and causes an earthquake. The quake modifies the mountain range, making it impossible to get back to Baron on foot, and separates Cecil and Kain. Cecil comes to, alone with the girl. Seeing that she's hurt, he strives to get her to the nearby desert village of Kaipo so she can rest.
Upon arriving in Kaipo, he is attacked by Baronian guards who demand that he hand her over because the Summoners of Mist are too dangerous to be kept alive (according to the king). He refuses and defeats them, earning the girl's trust. The next day, he learns that Rosa has tried to follow him and has fallen ill with the dreaded sand fever, only curable with the Sand Ruby found in the lair of the Antlion. But the lair can only be accessed by members of the royal family of the nearby kingdom of Damcyan, and a strange old man is blocking the way through to the kingdom...
(There's more, of course, but to detail the entire story would take forever.)
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, what was skimmed over (or only mentioned in passing) in the original release was that the King of Baron took Cecil and Kain in as children, as they were both orphaned at a young age. Cecil knew nothing of his background, while Kain knew that his father had been a celebrated Dragoon (Dragon Knight) and sought to follow in his footsteps. Cecil was trained as a Dark Knight. The two grew up with Rosa, whose white mage mother was widowed by a Dark Knight while Rosa was very young.
This is a very basic and preliminary analysis, but those are just a few of the elements that found themselves left out of (or less prominent in) the initial English translations. Imagine the details that found themselves chopped right out!
The following sections of this writeup will deal with both confirmed and potential differences between the original version and the upcoming version. This means that there will be spoilers for the original plot. I'll update the section as more information on the new game becomes available.
The logo for the game has already been released. Whereas the original FFIV logo featured the title and the Yoshitaka Amano artwork depicting Kain, the new logo features Amano's rendition of Golbez. I'd take this to mean two things: whereas the original game focused heavily on Kain's character development (betrayal of his friends, feelings for Rosa, ultimate redemption and so on), the new game will contain more of a focus of Golbez's character development. In fact, the old game didn't really have much character development for Golbez apart from "He's evil! So very evil! Wait, he's not evil, he's been brainwashed and he's Cecil's brother." Once that last bit of information is revealed, he takes off for the moon with his uncle and is never heard from again. Zuh?
The game interface, as mentioned, will be one of the major differences. It is expected that though the music and sound will be remastered, it will remain true to the original. Square is holding a contest that will choose a vocalist to sing a new version of the Theme of Love, rearranged by composer Nobuo Uematsu himself.
This is pure speculation, but my guess would be that we'll find out more about the following:
- Crystals: We find out so little about the elemental crystals, apart from the fact that collecting them all is integral to taking over the world. How? Why?
- Cecil: Our hero's background is not explained too well. He's an orphan. He's half-Lunarian. He's related to the guy you think is the main villain for 90 per cent of the game. I'm betting on a more in-depth description of that.
- Edward: While it's hinted at in some of the previous releases, most notably in the way he randomly poses as a bard and tours the countryside with his harp, the original book that accompanied the initial Japanese release of FFIV states very clearly that Edward is uncomfortable with his royal lineage. It would make sense to find out why.
- Golbez: Um, everything. Most notably, why is he so easily brainwashed and used for evil while his brother Cecil is not?
- Kain: So we know that he had it bad for Rosa and the fact that she'd rather be with Cecil has driven Kain to mad jealousy. I also anticipate that we'll learn a whole lot more about his father.
- Mysidian Legend: A video that's been circulating seems (I don't speak Japanese) to feature Cecil and Rosa discussing the Mysidian Legend. There has absolutely GOT to be more to this than "Hey, I went to Mount Ordeals like you said and this fell out of the sky!" "ZOMG, it's the Mysidian Legend! Hello, chosen one!" UPDATE: After seeing a version of the video with subtitles, it's clear that they are talking about Mysidia and not the legend. Nonetheless, why shouldn't we find out more about the legend?
- Porom and Palom: There has to be a reason why two five-year-olds can be such good mages. And where the hell are their parents?
- Rosa: "Rosa became a white mage to be of help," one of Baron's white mages tells Cecil in the original FFII/IV. "Don't worry her!" I'd expect more of her background to become widely known, particularly the idea that her father was a Dark Knight like Cecil. The previous releases also suggest that Rosa's mother doesn't like Cecil too much. Is it because she worries that he's endangering her only daughter, or does she see too much of her late husband in him? Or does Cecil just have bad breath?
- Rydia: Apparently her village rejoiced for weeks after her birth as she was recognized as a Summoner of considerable talent at birth. What's the deal with that? And why do Summoned Monster royalty treat her so well?
- Tellah: When we first meet Tellah, he is known to be a sage of great repute but doesn't seem to know too many spells. Apparently his miraculous "remembering" on Mount Ordeals makes up for some embarrassing incident in his past wherein he just plum "forgot" them. The guide says his daughter, Anna, never knew of his previous life as a great wizard. There's got to be something juicy there. Part of me hopes it's a sex scandal. What? What?
I, a FFIV fan since the age of six, am beyond excited. At the same time, I'm also prepared to be terribly disappointed. "Why mess with a good thing?" my brain asks, thinking of the classic video game remakes such as Super Mario All-Stars that used new technology to their advantage without really messing with the spirit of the game. I'm encouraged by the number of original developers who are working on this, as I'm sure a lot of fans are. At the same time, I never got into the 3D Final Fantasy games because they were so drastically different from the games with which I grew up. I do think knowing the basic story and what's supposed to happen (generally, given all the supposed additions we're supposed to be getting) might help me get the hang of it.
I do know, however, that it just won't be the same if one of the changes involves cutting "you spoony bard!"
As I mentioned, I'll update this writeup once more information becomes available and then once I finally get my hands on this thing.
Update Nov. 22, 2007: Square Enix has announced a release date for the soundtrack: January 2008. It will be on two CDs and come with a supplementary DVD.
Update Jan. 2, 2008: The game has been released in Japan to excellent reviews, and sales surpassed 300,000 in the first week. Search "Final Fantasy IV DS" on YouTube and you'll find a number of videos from fans with the Japanese version. From what I can tell, it looks very, very true to the original -- but in 3D! I quiver with excitement!
An international release date HAS BEEN SET for July 2008. Yours truly may just line up for a game release, if necessary, for the first time in her life.
FFIV DS makes excellent use of the new technology available to it, though the jury is out on the use of voice acting. The Kain voice is dark and ominous, even though the character is supposed to be the same age (or very, very close to it) as Cecil. Furthermore, the advent of voice acting means that some of us are now essentially being informed that we've been pronouncing things improperly in our heads for years. Cecil is, apparently, Seh-cil, even though he'll always be Cee-cil to me. Furthermore, it is apparently canon to pronounce Rydia Rid-ia and Yang Yah-ng. I can deal with this, because the game is just that damn skippy.