I played the hell out of Final Fantasy 4 when I was a kid, back on my old Super Nintendo. At the time, I was able to complete as much stuff as possible without (or with very limited) internet access, and in later years I went back and got all the secret stuff I missed out on -- things like the Adamant Armor, Dragon Whip, and the Glass Helm. It's one of my most heartily-recommended games from the 90s, for sure.
I just... can't get enthused by this re-release though. In recent years, we've seen direct ports of FF4 to the Playstation and Gameboy Advance, a 3D remake on the Nintendo DS, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years available as DLC on WiiWare and a few handheld platforms... and now this Complete Collection for the PSP, which basically includes all of the above (minus the 3D -- back to 2D.) At their hearts, they're still the same basic game over and over again... same story, which I'm OK with. The storyline exception is The After Years, which is of course a sequel. But the gameplay is... pretty stale, IMO. So stale that they've been adding an auto-combat system with the DS and PSP versions -- so the game can basically play itself while you sit there watching.
Now granted, I'm rather tired of the "random" enemy encounters of older FF games... and I have to admit, I don't know if anything's changed in newer FF chapters, as I haven't played anything since I lost interest in FF8. However, I really, really feel that if I'm going to go through the trouble of playing a classic FF game, the mechanics need to be updated to be less bloody boring
. Auto-combat doesn't cut the mustard for me -- it just takes the interactivity out of the game, turning it into a movie that I guide around with the D-pad between battle "cutscenes."
I wish, wish, wish that they would rebalance the gameplay in a way that allowed for a random encounter bar, like the one in the Ar tonelico and Atelier series. You fight 5, 10, 20 random encounters -- the bar empties -- no more random encounters until the next major story event, or until you leave the dungeon. Keep the overworld exploration... hell, have as many random encounters out there as usual. There just comes a time when you wish you could focus more on exploring an area, and less on being annoyed by random encounters that you KNOW you can own, you just need to sacrifice 30+ seconds to the Time Gods every 5-6 steps you take.
As for the combat system itself... heck, I dunno. They could borrow & improve combat systems from other games. Grandia 3 had a fun combat system -- what's not to like about launching a weakened enemy in the air and performing aerial combos with your other teammates? Ar tonelico 1 and 2 have very inspiring combat systems, too -- fight enemies with your vanguard characters, use your vanguards to block any damage from reaching your magic-users, and use your magic-users to either cast supporting magic for your allies or deal heavy magic damage to the enemies. (Still undecided on how I feel about AT3's combat system.)
I just... wish they'd do something. Something! It's okay to take a classic game and spice it up with newer, more fun mechanics. At least I think so; maybe it's just my RPG burnout speaking, though. What do you think?
(Watching a live gameplay stream of the new FF4 release here: http://www.justin.tv/dee_ehn