With the unexpected rise in the number of HD re-releases and remakes of certain games, it got me thinking about one of my favorite games for the SNES and how many re-releases and enhanced ports it had over the years. The game I'm referring to is Final Fantasy IV, one of the better games in the series. One particular remastering of it especially stood out due to how much effort was put into it, so I'll point out the differences from the original release on the SNES and its updated remake on the Nintendo DS and see which one is better worth your hard earned cash.
When the game was first released on the SNES back in 1991, it was considered quite the step up from the previous Final Fantasy game(s) released on the NES a year (or so) prior. It had a great art style that really set the tone for how the game was going to play, how the story would play out, and the overall feel and color of the environments that you would traverse. It was quite impressive for a 16-bit game that could only display around 256 colors at a time.
Now the DS version released in late 2007 was much different as it has fully polygonal characters, enemies, and environments which made everything feel much more alive and vibrant. Plus it allowed for much more detailed character animation which was shown quite prominently from the game's many dancers scattered around the world's many towns and kingdoms (I'm quite partial to the City of Troia myself). Overall, the DS version a much better visual treat than the SNES version.
If Final Fantasy's spinoff series Theatrhythm has shown anything, then the music is just as iconic as everything else in the game. The music in the SNES version is especially good, ranging from atmospheric, to intense, to melancholy and even climactic. It certainly does its job considering the hardware limitations imposed by the console's specifications.
The DS version however is honestly not much different. Aside from having some slightly better audio files for the game's midi tracks, the music is virtually identical. There are a couple of songs in the game where the music is noticeably higher quality than its SNES counterpart (Most noticeably Fabul Castle) which is I guess a pretty nice bonus if you happen to remember what the orginal sounded like. All in all, I'd say the DS version wins this category, but not by much.
Because of the SNES's strict hardware limitations, some corners were cut when this Japanese RPG was translated into English. As such, many lines of dialog had to be simplified, changed or even censored before it was released for a western audience. One such censored line was, "You spoony bard!" which was spoken by the sage, Tellah when he was trying to kill the bard, Edward. This line had reached an unusually high amount of fan support and had survived even into the many remakes of the game.
Now because the DS had a much more memory, a more accurate and faithful translation of the original story could be used in the game allowing for a much better understanding of the plot which was also accompanied by cut-scenes with stellar voice acting. In addition to this, more of the story that had been left on the cutting room floor during the SNES version's development period was able to be re-added allowing for even more back story to be told on the game's antagonist, Golbez. Gonna have to give the scoring point to the DS version here.
As with most Final Fantasy games, gameplay is mostly just customization, strategizing your attacks and memorizing how certain enemies react to certain actions. However, when the game was released in other territories for the first time, the difficulty was dumbed down to make it more accessible for American and European audiences. Many items and pieces of equipment were boosted in strength and several enemies had their power cut so they would be easier to defeat. It worked, but it also made the strategy kind of dull and uninspired.
Now if you want a REAL challenge, the DS version is where it's at. The enemies are much more threatening and items and characters can actually be customized further to better suit your needs. The boss battles are also require much more thought involved as well as many of them either counter half of what you throw at them, or they they are immune to everything else. Also, exclusive to the DS version are special side missions with Namingway, and a special little Eidolon that you can also customize and have fight in place of your summoner, Rydia. This Eidolon can be trained to become stronger through minigames that are played with the touch screen and can also be used in a special one-on-one battle mode with another player a la Pokemon. The DS version is definitely the way to go here.
The DS version is hands down the winner of this contest. It just has so much more to offer than the original and it really shows. While the SNES version has a special place in my heart, it just can't hold a candle to this exceptionally well made remake. Plus, since it is a DS game, it can be played on 3DS systems without any problem. Don't have a 3DS either? Well there is also a PC version available that is basically the same version as the DS one, minus the special Eidolon and the associated minigames. Not really a big loss, but I like to have my games with as much content as possible. Maybe you do too, who knows? But until then, I'll see you next time.