Final Fantasy IV Advance
When this revered fantasy epic first hit the Super NES (as Final Fantasy II) in 1991, it made an astonishing impact--most players had never experienced such an intricate, involving role-playing game without the aid of a dice bag. Fourteen years later, the adventure retains its appeal in portable form, and developer Square Enix wisely grafts some meaty new bits onto the quest to surprise returning fans. The game's advanced age does show through: FFIV's broad-strokes story line and shallow characters lack the nuanced depth of those in modern RPGs, but at least a reworked translation omits many of the original's groaners. Thankfully, the game's engaging battles, challenging dungeons, and plentiful secrets adamantly withstand the ravages of time. And FFvets will swoon over the enhanced graphics, nifty gameplay tweaks (bring whichever party members you want into the final dungeon!), and innovative (not to mention colossal) new bonus dungeons. Don't expect absolute perfection, though: Odd bouts of loading in the battle menu screens dampen your old-school RPG buzz a tad, but it's nothing unforgivable.
Few games have the same resonance with me as Final Fantasy IV-- I feel that it was the cornerstone of what made the Super NES great. It's simply my favorite Final Fantasy game, even 14 years on strikes an excellent balance between an interesting story--which is buoyed by the new, very readable translation--and entertaining gameplay. The battles are fast, and the characters have their own unique and appealing skills. The addition of a dash to the GBA version makes exploring snappy, and the redone graphics look great. This game set the tone for the Final Fantasy series for years to come. Very few GBA RPGs can hope to compare.
I'll agree that FF IV set the standard for subsequent Final Fantasy games, but between the dopey 1991 vintage translation and disappointingly brief quest, I've always considered it one of the least enjoyable entries in the series (sorry, Christian). But this new version has forced me to reconsider. The new script gives the plot much-needed cohesion while toning down the goofy melodrama, and the impressive bonus features double the game's length with seriously challenging dungeon crawling and a compelling new combat roster. The reworked graphics and music are classy, too. I could have done with a little more Dawn of Souls-style fan service (bosses from other games or whatever), and the slowdown during battles is annoying. Even so, it's a phenomenal portable RPG--bring on FF V and FF VI.