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I apparently just can't get enough of Final Fantasy 4j. I played the Complete Collection version of the game only a few months ago. But then I heard about a hack that changed the plot of the original to make Golbez playable, and I just couldn't resist. (Despite this being the seventh version of the game I've played: Original SNES, fan-translated SFC Hardtype, PS1, GBA, DS, PSP.)

This is a hack of the original Final Fantasy 2 for SNES (not even of FF4j--you specifically need to patch the US rom). It's been so many years and I've played so many remakes, I'd forgotten some of the things they've slowly added in, like ATB bars and B-button dashing.

It's interesting, as usually you see translation hacks of this game, and changes to things that are blatant from early on. There are a few translation differences, but they're mostly single lines here and there. Carrots are switched back to Greens, Lit spells are Bolt spells, Heal potions are Remedy potions; a few of the stranger dialogue choices are "improved"; that sort of thing. I suspect it's less about accurate translation and more just the hacker's personal preferences. (Especially since Yang's battlecry remains "ACHOO!")

The dummied out special commands (like Cecil's Dark Wave, Tellah's Remember) are back, as in all of the later remakes of the game. Several of them are glitchy--Edward's Heal ability claims he's casting Wall (but works), Rosa's Pray ability gives a message about storing attack power (but mostly does nothing). Cid actually got a new Throw ability added, plus special Wrench items to throw. Cecil learns more White spells than usual, and the dummied Safe, Shell and Dispel magic were all restored.

The contents of a few chests were changed, including putting the Goblin call spell (usually a rare drop) into a chest in the Watery Pass. Mt. Hobs has the Bomb call spell and an upgraded harp for Edward. Similarly, the availability of some equipment in stores was changed--Cecil's Black armor wasn't for sale in Fabul, but a set was in treasure chests in the left tower. (Also, the hidden treasure room had the Cocatric spell.) I wonder how much of that was just something that had bothered the hacker: The only dark knight in Fabul was the king, so why would the shop sell equipment for one? But the king's old stuff might be in a basement somewhere. Mt. Ordeals adds an Orhalcon knife for Palom, which casts Fire1 when used as an item.

The first major change happens when you reach Toroia, when the TwinHarp gives Edward the ability to "project his will" to you--that is, to rejoin the party while staying in bed. He comes in at level 5 with very low HP, but he hits like a truck with his Apollo Harp and there's new Scholar clothes in the store for him. There's a Nocturne Harp upgrade for him in Cave Magnes (which isn't really an upgrade, since the Apollo Harp seems to be hitting weak points), and also a Lilith Rod, which I don't think was there before. "Edward" stays in your party through the Tower of Zot, then the TwinHarp is broken when Golbez blasts Cecil, freeing up slots for both Kain and Rosa. (Rosa has a bow and arrows when she joins the party, which I don't recall always being the case.)

The chests in the Dwarf Castle have the Mage summon, a full set of armor upgrades for Yang, and a Flail for Rosa. The Flail is a new item, and appears to be ice-elemental, as it does extra damage to most denizens of the underworld.

The Tower of Bab-il is basically unchanged. Yang sacrifices himself, but then rather than jumping out of the airship, Cid throws a bomb ring down to seal the underworld, and rejoins the party. Edge, on the other hand, is no longer a playable character. Instead of his battle against Rubicant, we see Edge stumbling around injured after it. Rosa heals him up and he goes on his way. A chest guarded by MadOgres in the upper part of the Tower of Bab-il, which I think normally contains a Poison Axe, now contains a Power Hammer for Cid. The party catches up to Edge at the top of the tower, where he's been beaten by his monster-parents. The boss battles go as usual (with Edge injured and shouting from the sidelines, rather than fighting) and then Edge opts to go off exploring on his own rather than join the party. Cid gets lines in these scenes, and takes over Edge's job naming the Falcon.

When they get back to the Dwarf Castle, Edge is lying injured in the sickbed (instead of Cid), and Cid goads him into helping modify the Falcon. Edge then collapses into sleep afterwards. Also, the store inventory at Tomra is changed a bit, adding a MornStar weapon for Rosa.

For the second time, because I've basically been speedrunning, I made it to this segment of the game without Rosa knowing Float yet. I don't think I realized before my recent play-throughs of this game how much of a stumbling block the open segment of the underworld is, in terms of needing to grind. Because this version of it is particularly easy (between being based on an easy version, plus adding more party members to some segments and new weapons for everyone), it was particularly glaring.

The Sylph Cave adds a Titan Hammer for Cid (casts Quake when used as an item), a MageMash knife for Rydia (that massively increases her defense and has the Dancing Knife item effect), a Mist Rod for Rydia (casts Edge's Smoke spell), and a Zeus Gauntlet (which I think existed in the original but was a really rare drop). The Cave of Summoned Monsters has some edits to the shop list, and has a Defender Sword for Cecil or Kain that I don't recall if existed before.

The Sealed Cave has a Flandngo Sword for Cecil or Kain, and a Giant Hammer for Cid (which is weaker than the Titan Hammer and also casts Quake). At the end of the cave, you don't lose Kain--Golbez appears and tries to command Kain, but it doesn't work, so instead he blasts the whole party and takes the crystal.

Cid recruits Edge into helping attach the drill to the Falcon, then after the Big Whale is summoned, he opts to stay behind to gather everyone to help out. There's no wait for Kokkol to finish the Excalibur after giving him the Adamant, but his assistants don't seem to open a store, either. (I didn't do the fetch quest for the Spoon; I don't know if or how that was altered.) There's a Mirage Cane in the Lunar Path for Rosa; it casts Edge's Image spell. Cave Bahamut seems unchanged.

The Giant of Bab-il changes around chest contents, adding a Gungnir spear and full set of Genji armor for Kain, and a FireBute whip (that casts Edge's Flame spell) for Rydia. At the end, FoSoYa wakes up Golbez, and Edge comes to avenge his parents. FoSoYa, sensing his potential, takes him to the moon, not wanting Zemus to reassume control over Cecil and Golbez. They reconvene on the Big Whale. They discuss their backstory and desire to get back at Zemus, Kain and Golbez commisserate, and Golbez joins the party. (The scene where Rosa and Rydia are told to stay behind is removed.)

Golbez is listed as a Dark Knight. He has a Midnight Sword and a suit of Genji armor, he can use the DWave ability, and he learns all Black magic spells. The first sealed weapon is an Ebon Sword for him, and there's a set of Ebon armor for his use in the Lunar Underground (at least one piece of which absorbs fire). Kain's Dragon armor is now "Dragoon" armor, and Golbez's Shadow Dragon appears as a chest monster guarding a Dragoon Spear for Kain (which deals extra damage to dragons). I think chest monsters have been added guarding several of the special equipment items, but I'm not certain.

A monster called "Darkside" that uses the enemy Golbez sprite guards the final sealed weapon. Beating him releases Golbez's sealed memories (which doesn't appear to have a game effect) and gives you the Eternal Sword for him (which casts Comet when used as an item). The Ogopogo battle is moved to a spiked chest on the next floor; it guards the second Minerva Bustier. This also appears to be the only area of the game with map edits--basically, an extra floor of the Lunar Core tileset. The third floor includes a chest with a CallShop item, which calls a variant of the Hummingway store that also sells Artemis Arrows.

We finally see Edge's battle sprite in the final sequence, as he casts ninja magic and the W-Meteo with FoSoYa against Zemus. But being a "mere human", he can't use the Crystal. The prayer sequence goes as usual, and after the Zeromus fight, Golbez goes off with FoSoYa and the ending sequence is unchanged.

This feels like the hacker shares my childhood affection for this game, and wanted to add all the cool stuff from the later versions and the ability to play as Golbez into the version of the game he loved the most. It's tweaking the game to create an "alternate history", not any attempt to create a new game or significantly change the feel of the original. (My wife notes that, if I was going to do this kind of thing, isn't that exactly what I would do? Well, yes.)

This all makes me think (in the realm of video game remakes that will never happen) that what would be awesome would be a "branching path" version of FF4. At each major plot point, create options to follow the original plot or attempt to subvert it, which would change the order of events and the party composition at each point. Cecil and Kain choose not to go to Mist and instead desert in an airship. Cecil chooses not to get involved in Tellah's family drama and catches a boat to Fabul instead. Redesign the combat and level system to be faster and build the game like a visual novel, where the goal is less about dungeon-crawling and more about seeing all the varient plots.

Overall: For true FF4 lovers, this is a cute excuse to replay the original US SNES version with a bunch of twists added. If you've never played the game, the changes made to later versions did improve it more, and I'd probably recommend the GBA version as the best introduction.

Thanks!

Date: 2013-04-13 02:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mercyofcallouses.blogspot.com
Hi, I'm the guy who created the Golbez hack. I just wanted to say, first off, that I appreciate you taking the time not only to play the hack, but also to post this review. Thanks!

I'm sorry to hear about the bugs that you experienced with some of the commands. I haven't heard about this bug from other users, but I will do my best to isolate and correct the problem for the next release. If you happen to remember where the ROM came from, you might e-mail me and let me know. But no biggie if you don't remember.

Thanks again!

Just a few things

Date: 2013-04-23 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] darkphoenixff4
I dunno, maybe it's because I've played this game WAY too many times in my life, but just a few things:

1) Rosa normally has a GreatBow when she joins at the top of Zot, but no arrows. I never understood why myself, as you get a free GreatBow from the treasure stash in Troia normally.
2) The chest in the Tower of Bab-il normally contains an Ogrekiller.
3) The Zeus Gauntlet was indeed a rare drop in the original.
4) The Defender Sword was there in the original. I always give it to Kain, as Cecil gets the Lustrous Sword/Light Sword in the Cave of Eblan anyway.
5) The store in the Smithy opens after you beat the Giant, in both the original and the hack.
6) The stuff for Kain in the Giant is the stuff he'd normally come back with when he rejoins at the end.
7) Kain's armor was always "Dragoon" in the FF2us version.

Sorry, I guess I'm just a stickler for info about this game.

Re: Just a few things

Date: 2013-04-24 03:17 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] darkphoenixff4
By the way, I noticed you mention the Sealed Cave as being a major pain. I once thought so too, until I learned a rather useful secret that made the Trap Doors insanely easy to kill: that spell, Nth Dimension, they cast? Happens to be reflectable, and the Trap Doors don't have protection against instant death spells. It's easier to take advantage of in the GBA/PSP ports, because you can skip character turns, but even in the SNES version, it makes the Sealed Cave a piece of cake for the most part.

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