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It has been nearly 20 years since Final Fantasy IV captured the hearts of role-playing fans everywhere. At the time, it presented players with an epic, unparalleled adventure, complete with a great story, memorable characters, and that classic turn-based combat that turned us all into tacticians. It was a far cry from all those side-scrolling action games, after all. FFIV first returned in Final Fantasy Chronicles for the original PlayStation, and a sequel – The After Years – came to the Wii back in 2009. It featured a different combat mechanic but it was still fun and now, both titles have come to the PSP in the Complete Collection , which also boasts a brand new episode entitled, Final Fantasy IV: Interlude .

As you might expect, it’s difficult to assign a graphics score to a sprite-based revisiting in 2011, and the slicker visuals found in The After Years don’t make it much easier. We can always consider the new CGI sequences that add a whole lot of next-gen spit and polish to the presentation but for the most part, we’re grading a slightly upgraded version of a two decade-old game. Maybe it’s best to say this- the hardcore fans likely know exactly what to expect, while any newcomers will probably laugh at the antiquity and marvel at how far games have come. For the record, this is definitely the cleanest, most accomplished FFIV you’ve ever seen. No, it doesn’t look like anything today but it’s not supposed to.

The sound is absolutely fantastic, because we get the option of choosing the original soundtrack in all its old-school glory or the fresh arrangement. The latter isn’t a complete departure; it’s actually a beautiful combination of new and old; it somehow retains all the nostalgia of the initial music while still sprucing up the orchestral quality. Obviously, there are no voices but the fans don’t expect them, and the effects are standard traditional FF fare. I think I’m hearing some effects I never heard before, though, and it seems as if the combat audio is crisper and sharper, even in comparison to the Chronicles version. Overall, it’s a really beautiful piece of sound work, all the more so because we’re talking about an older format. This is the type of sound that RPG fans really appreciate!

I really shouldn’t have to explain the gameplay. It should be common knowledge. In fact, I don’t care how old you are or what you prefer; if you’re not familiar with traditional turn-based systems, the GMRTP (Gamers Must Respect The Past) committee will revoke your hardcore gamer membership. Seriously. They’ll show up at your house, take your gamer card, and tie you to a recliner while you are educated in the ways of the golden age. …okay, okay, that’s just too elitist-sounding and I retract it. The point is, as if you didn’t already know, the Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection will really only cater to the original fans. You know, those of us who first played it in the SNES days. Anybody else probably shouldn’t bother, unfortunately.

To be fair and accurate, here’s a brief gameplay synopsis- you control a party of up to five members, and you will explore a world map (yeah, remember that thing?), forests, dungeons, and towns from a top-down perspective. This was before such games included “diagonals;” in other words, you can only move up, down, left and right. Now, this is the lone old-fashioned aspect of this game that may prove irritating; it just doesn’t hold up well over time, and I found myself continually overshooting treasure chests and doors. It just feels a little clunky, even though I know this is exactly the way it always used to be; honestly, I wouldn’t mind if they had implemented the sprite mechanics of Lunar . You know, just for a slightly more accessible feel.

The rest is exactly what you would expect, with the exception of The After Years : this takes place almost twenty years after the events of FFIV and centers on Cecil’s son, Theodore. The offspring of Cecil and Rosa, Theodore isn’t a bad main character, but we’ll use many different characters in this sequel (some you’ll know; others are new) and there’s a gameplay difference. It’s still similar to FFIV, but the system known as “Band,” along with a strength and weakness element, infuses that old-school style with a little something extra. I like it quite a bit, even if I question how much those new features actually change the core gameplay. Basically, this is great for the turn-based lovers, and that’s that.

You’ll also unlock plenty of new stuff as you go along, and if you’ve played FFIV recently for some strange reason, you can either start with The Interlude or The After Years . As for longevity, I always overestimate the length of older FFs in my head; for instance, I always think FFVII is a 40-hour adventure when it really isn’t. Maybe I only thought that because in doing absolutely everything (beating both WEAPONs, getting a Gold Chocobo and all the Materia mastered, etc.), my time came to 50 or 60 hours, and I just assumed the main quest wasn’t much shorter. But you can fly through that game in 20-25 hours without a problem, and FFIV isn’t much different. But with the new additions, this Collection is awesome.

Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection is exactly what the long-time followers desire, even if the control shows its age and The After Years isn’t the timeless classic FFIV will always be. The sound, and especially the new music arrangement, is excellent, the story and characters are just timeless, the old-school palette has been shined and refined to within an inch of its old-fashioned life, and the turn-based, ATB combat never skips a beat. It never did then and it doesn’t now. This is a no-brainer for anyone who claims to be a fan of FFIV and indeed, anyone who has been a Final Fantasy follower for a long time. No, it probably won’t be interesting for anyone who finds such a presentation archaic and boring, but as I said…it isn’t for you.

It’s for us .

The Good: Slick, refined presentation of old-school graphics. Unbelievable sound and music. Longevity (thanks to three separate FFIV stories) is fantastic. Story and characters stand up well over time. Final Fantasy fans well served.

The Bad: Likely won’t appeal to those who “weren’t there” in 1991. Old control unfortunately shows its age. The After Years isn’t as amazing as one might think.

The Ugly: Ugly…? Here? Impossible.