A sudden bout of illness has made normal activity difficult again, so I've had more time than usual to mash buttons. My play-through of the port of the DS reboot of Final Fantasy IV has taken me right up to the foot of the tower of Babil (gotta love the dwarfs!). Earlier meditations in this series can be found here and here.
I have to say that I like the way that characters pop into and out of the story. I always felt weird leaving characters behind in FFVII. In FFIV, there's a plot excuse for why a character suddenly joins or leaves the party. I've already mentioned in a prior post that this forces a player to keep adjusting their tactics as the composition of the party (and their respective skills) changes. It also means that when characters rejoin the party, they may do so at higher or lower levels than the other characters and thus make game play more challenging and unpredictable than it would be otherwise. Finally, not all characters increase their stats as they go up a level. Tellah, the sage, loses speed and other stats the more levels he goes up as a nod to the fact that he's an elderly man. What this means on a practical level is that I have to consider my tactics more carefully than in FFVI, FFVI, or Chrono Trigger. It also means that my party dies much more frequently.
On the level of story, I'm continuing to enjoy things. The variety of locations and characters is much more complex and feels more organically united than in FFVII though it's not quite as much so as FFVI. I particularly like the Dark Elf in his Lodestone Cavern and the Dwarf Kingdom in the underworld. Everything feels distinct as if it had an existence of its own. None of the towns or castles scream "we needed something to go here" (see Kalm in FFVII). Nor are there any locations so far that are coherent and interesting, but feel like they belong in a different game (see Cosmo Canyon in FFVII). All the character plot-lines continue to interweave as we see Cecil taken back to Mysidia to receive mercy and help and to liberate Baron. Edward's story continues even though he's not allowed to rejoin the company and Kain also continues to develop as a a character while he's away. Even though Rosa's tied to a post (geesh), her pity for Kain helps keep him sympathetic even as he turns traitor. One story complaint I had is that Golbez's seeming immortality isn't sufficiently explained. How badly did Tellah's "Meteo" hurt him? Why didn't he die when the party overcame him in the Dwarf Crystal Room? Oh, and why is he twice as tall as everyone else? It seems like they could at least have him fall over when Tellah blasts him and maybe explain what spell he's using to stay alive after Cecil, Rydia, and Co. paste him. Oh well. That's nit-picking.
So there you go. I have some more thought jumbling round inside my head, but they'll have to wait for another post, maybe of the "final thoughts" variety.