E3: Final Fantasy IV impressions

[05.18.01] » New localization respects, revitalizes classic.

    Squaresoft had the new PSX localization of Final Fantasy IV on display, and after extensive hands-on play time, we can confirm that it is definitely a cut above the mediocre translation that Final Fantasy V received. The U.S. producer told us that while the game has been rewritten nearly from start to finish, the translators are all fans of the original game and have kept its dialogue and many famous lines in mind during the relocalization. In general, the dialogue is clean, grammatically correct, and much clearer; but famous lines such as "You spoony bard!" have survived into the next generation intact.

    The new localization gives the characters a much stronger sense of self and personal responsibility for their actions. The Redwings wonder outloud about the morality of their actions ("I mean, orders are orders, but killing innocent people to get the crystals?"). Cecil more actively defies the King's orders. Cid also expresses anger at the slaughter of the Mysidians ("Hell if I'm gonna let him use my airships as killin' machines!"). Cecil and Kain are shocked and horrified by the destruction of Mist village by the "BombRing" the King had them deliver ("My God! This is it? This is why he sent us!?" Kain believes that (by the King's orders) Rydia should be killed, but Cecil implores him to disobey. Whether lines have been rewritten entirely or merely slightly tweak, the characters seem more multi-dimensional than ever before.

    Other changes we noted include the Mist Dragon's dialogue being in all capital letters ("GO BACK."), and Kain's friendly admonishment when Cecil refuses ("Confident bastard, aren't you?"). We also played briefly through a later sequence in the game--if you're hoping to play the game for the first time with this rerelease, you may want to skip to the beginning of the next paragraph. The Fiend of Earth is still named Milon (there simply weren't enough characters for Scarmiglione, though the localizers were aware of his "proper" name). Once he is defeated, Cecil confronts his Dark Knight self and becomes a Paladin ("Some fight for law. Some fight for justice. What will you fight for?")

    As previously announced, this is the "Hardtype" version of Final Fantasy IV, and has some gameplay differences from the original Gameplay changes include the hiding of "secret" passages, additional curative items, and the implementation of new techniques. Ones we used included Cecil's "Dark" (an energy wave) and Palom's "Bluff" (a "concentrate" technique that increases his magic power). Edward's new move doesn't make him any more useful; he splits the effects of a single potion between the different party members, giving each character an insignificant amount of extra HP. The U.S. version has the same slightly long load times and awkwardly sampled music of the Japanese version, though neither was particularly noticeable on the show floor.

    What was a simple shovelware "port" in Japan has become much more significant in its stateside release. This isn't an attempt to cash in on Final Fantasy's heritage, but a restoration of a classic to never-before-seen brilliance. As the first company ever to relocalize a title for the U.S. market, Square should be commended for its dedication to its series' history. Both longtime fans and series newcomers should find much to enjoy in this modernized classic.

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