Final Fantasy IV DS release date is July 22, 2008. Developer interview tells of new additions

Final Fantasy IV for GameBoy AdvanceSquare Enix announced the release date of the completely re-envisioned Final Fantasy IV for Nintendo DS in America is July 22nd, 2008. The game features full 3D graphics, fully-voiced dramatic cutscenes, and added content.

The team that brought Final Fantasy III to Nintendo DS comes together once again to breathe new life into a classic that broke convention and introduced a wide array of innovations to the RPG genre. With its groundbreaking Active Time Battle (ATB) system and an engrossing, character-driven plot, Final Fantasy IV was a stunning step forward for role-playing games when it was originally released for the Super NES in 1991. A new generation of gamers will now have the opportunity to experience a legend reborn.

The latest issue of the American gaming magazine Nintendo Power (NP) did an interview with the game’s developers at Square Enix. What follows is the most interesting info (about the added content and such). Talking about the game are: Tomoya Asano, producer of Final Fantasy III (FF3) and Final Fantasy IV (FF4) for the DS and Takashi Tokita, director/writer of the original Final Fantasy IV, co-director of Chrono Trigger, and director of Final Fantasy IV for the DS.

* There are some new story scenes fleshing out Golbez, but most of the story still follows the original narrative closely

* Tokita: despite adding 3D graphics and voices, they didn’t want to tinker with the story too much because it could upset fans of the original. So instead they focused on trying to better bring their original vision to life.

Final Fantasy III for DS* Asano: addressed every criticism of FF3 — shortened loading times, more detailed characters, wider set of abilities, elaborate summoning sequences, larger ally/monster battle parties, better use of second screen.

* In battle, the lower screen displays enemy info, status conditions/buffs, turn order, and weapon stats to keep the top battle screen free of clutter

* Out of battle, lower screen has a dungeon automap feature. If you map a dungeon 100%, you’ll get a reward.

* Asano: big issue is the FF4 Advance port a few years ago. But the remake was “made with the players of that version in mind.” Thinks fans of the original will be more likely to appreciate the upgraded visuals and, more importantly, the huge gameplay overhauls and difficulty boost.

* Asano: we boosted the difficulty to account for augments. Also, bosses are all rebalanced to play tricks on people who memorized how to win the fights in the original game, so don’t go in expecting to do things the same way.

* Augments were created because FF4’s class-specific roles for party members didn’t allow players to customize their party at all. In FF4 Advance, they just let you switch your party around at the end, but Asano didn’t like that much because it messed with the story and you could only do it at the very end of the game.

* Augments allow characters to permanently learn new abilities. Originally it was for allowing leaving characters to transfer their skills, but expanded out to allow you to learn new abilities by furthering story subplots. Examples given include going back to the place where Edward met with Anna in Kaipo after the fight.

* Useless abilities from the original (such as Cry, Pray, and everything affiliated with the godawful Edward) have been changed significantly to make them more useful.

* This is by far the most difficult version of FF4.

* Tokita: “I don’t think that simply lowering the difficulty makes a game appeal to casual audiences. Being challenged makes the experience rewarding.”

* New autobattle system: assign a single action for each character, and in autobattle mode, they’ll repeatedly carry out that move.

* No Lunar Ruins from FF4 Advance, but there is a New Game+ with additional augments and new optional bosses

* Tokita: RPGs these days are too drawn out and lose their storytelling focuses. FF4 is disciplined and engaging.

* In the English version, summons are called eidolons. Nice treat for FF9 fans.

* Tokita: my influences in creating such a story-driven RPG with FF4 were Final Fantasy II and Dragon Quest II. Wanted to combine the best elements of the three prior games in the series.

* Tokita: it’s true, only used about 25% of the original scenario due to cart space limitations. But it was a good thing because we refined that 25% and put a lot of thought into it and let the players imagine a lot.

* Tokita: no, I don’t want to do anything new with Chrono. I want to work on original stuff, not just sequels and remakes (and yes, he acknowledges the irony).

* NP notes the ability to make impressive DS games on a limited budget and asks if there’s any chance of Square making new games in the same style…
Asano: “the concept of making these good old-school RPGs with present-day technology seems to be going over quite well, and I don’t think there’s any reason for us to limit ourselves to remakes. We’ve put together an incredibly talented team with a lot of know-how through the process of developing FF3 and FF4, so I think that is a definitely possibility for us in the future.”

* NP notes that FF4 was made by only 14 people and asks if there’s still room for projects like that today…
Tokita: I don’t think the size or scope of a game is an issue. […] There are a lot of small devevelopment teams like that in North America doing quite well right now. I’m currently working on an unannounced title that’s being developed on a scale no different than that of the original FF4, and I hope North American gamers will give it a try.

Recap of the interview thanks to ethelred.