A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this role-playing game isn't appropriate for younger children. Little about the game is explicit -- there's no blood, sex, or strong language -- but there's plenty of fighting, some female characters wear revealing clothing, and alcohol is occasionally referenced in dialogue and signage. All of that said, the game's primary concern is its complex adult themes, which include love, loyalty, betrayal, and redemption. Early in the game, the primary character unwittingly destroys a peaceful village, then rescues a small child from the ruins. He dwells on this tragedy for much of the game. Parents will need to gauge their children's ability to grasp and deal with such subjects.
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What's it about?
FINAL FANTASY IV is a remake of a classic role-playing game released in 1991. The original was adored by fans of the genre for its mature, thought provoking narrative and flawed, believable characters; rarities in a gaming landscape that, at the time, was filled with simplistic stories that featured one-dimensional heroes and villains. These beloved qualities remain intact in the new version, and are enhanced by some of the most beautiful graphics to yet grace the DS, including 3-D models and a few brief but stunning computer animated movies. What's more, Square Enix has made subtle improvements to the character growth and battle systems, and added a few new mini-games that make heavy use of the touch screen. Also new is multi-card wireless play, which allows two players to pit trained magical beasts called eidolons against one another.
Is it any good?
The most refreshing thing about Final Fantasy IV is that it makes no bones about being a traditional Japanese role-playing game. Most modern games in the genre try to differentiate themselves by offering new-fangled (and often needlessly complex) means of growing characters and managing combat, but this classic RPG harkens back to a simpler time, when all players had to do in battle was choose an attack or an item, and character administration involved little more than watching stats increase with experience. To be sure, the remake does have a few modern contrivances -- such as "augments" which can bestow powerful attacks and the ability to automatically use healing potions -- but the majority of the game is devoutly old-school, and proud of it.
Despite its simplicity, Final Fantasy IV is far from easy. Enemies are challenging enough that even seasoned players will find themselves replaying many boss battles. And, thanks to the wide variety of magic spells, physical strikes, and summoned creatures, there is enough strategy here to keep us from mindlessly tapping the attack from one battle to the next. However, players aren't likely to remember the game's battles so much as they will its tragic and often heart wrenching story, which sees a knight unwittingly commit terrible atrocities, then spend the rest of the game trying to atone for his crimes. Final Fantasy IV represented the pinnacle of video game storytelling when it was originally released, and its narrative has stood the test of time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about duty versus ethics. If someone in authority told you to do something you knew to be morally wrong, would you still do it? How important is loyalty, and under what circumstances can it be sacrificed? Those familiar with earlier iterations of this classic game can also discuss the differences between the original and this remake. Do the improved visuals and updated battle mechanics make the game better? If so, what does this say about video games as a medium? Does ever-improving technology make older games less relevant?
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