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I've read that the DS version of Final Fantasy IV is significantly more difficult than the newer PSP version. Why is this so? (I haven't played either game, and I have no experience with any previous version of this game.)

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Final Fantasy 4 on the SNES originally came in two flavors - the one for Japan, and the one for the US. The Japanese version had several things about it that were more difficult, including the fact that you couldn't buy "Ether" potions in shops that could restore your MP. I believe the fights were also quite a bit harder.

The US version (released as Final Fantasy 2 in the US) was made "easier" to appeal to the perceived not-as-hardcore US gamer. They also made a few changes to it, notably removing any references to religion ("Holy" is just called "White") and removing any direct references to death.

Whenever Square Enix ports FF4, it's kind of random which version they opt to port, and they tend to make tweaks and other changes to the game as they go. The DS version is closer to the original Japanese difficulty, while the PSP appears to take a page from the US SNES version.

The DS version was also a complete 3D remake of the game, with all-new 3D models and environments. It was a complete engine overhaul for the DS's limited 3D capabilities. I believe they also changed the script significantly, since the original English SNES version is widely acknowledged as having been very poorly translated.

The PSP version appears to retain the 16-bit visuals of the original game, which probably means it's closer to an emulated version of an updated SNES ROM than the DS version. This would also jive with a previous re-release of FF4, which was part of a compilation with Chrono Trigger called Final Fantasy Chronicles on the original PlayStation.

The PSP version also contains Final Fantasy 4: The After Years which was an episodic "sequel" released on the Wii in the US in 2009.

The history of Final Fantasy 4 and all of its various ports is quite a bit longer, and I've omitted details (such as the Easytype version and the GBA port, etc). If you're interested in reading more about it, I'd suggest the FF4 article on the Final Fantasy Wikia.

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"Whenever SquareEnix ports a version, they kind of just reach into a bag and decide which version they're going to port." Not quite: The Final Fantasy (I) remakes have been mostly cumulative as the target platform moved from the WonderSwan to the PS1 to the GBA to the PSP. –  DragonLord Dec 7 '11 at 1:17
    
I meant "ports final fantasy 4." As you've noted, the difficulty between the DS and PSP versions is quite different, for no discernible reason. I think the Playstation 1 version was the original Japanese difficulty, and the GBA one was the US difficulty perhaps? It's been a while. I didn't find it to be that hard, honestly. A bit more grindy perhaps, but the changes didn't seem that major. –  agent86 Dec 7 '11 at 1:33
    
I am well aware of the "You spoony bard!" translation issue. (It's technically correct, but doesn't make sense in context.) –  DragonLord Dec 7 '11 at 1:39
    
IMO the best port to date is actually the GBA version - it has a ton of extra content that I'm baffled didn't make it into the DS version. –  Shinrai Jan 13 '12 at 17:03
    
@Shinrai: counterpoint: most of that extra content is garbage, and FF4 with a custom party is blasphemy. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 8 '13 at 23:54
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Based on my own personal experience as I have played all versions including the original Final Fantasy IV on the SNES, the PSP version is much closer to it in terms of difficulty while the DS versions pushes WELL beyond that. Even the mist dragon in the DS version poses quite a challenge while it was still kind of a push-over in the Japanese SNES version.

Another dead giveaway that the PSP version was based off the JP Final Fantasy IV is that you get all the JP exclusive abilities (e.g. Dark Wave), you can't see any of the secret passageways whereas you could in the original SNES North American version (as part of "making things easier"), and Ethers aren't sold in any shops.

So yeah, pick your choice. 3D graphics, actual voice acting, and an incredibly high difficulty on the DS or improved 2D visuals and something that closely resembles the original Final Fantasy IV on the PSP (although like Final Fantasy II PSP port (as in the Japanese FF2 that was originally on the NES), the rate you get ambushed and back attacked is a LOT higher than before and your inventory space is actually VERY limited too). For an easy as pie experience, there's the GBA version which WAS dumbed down like the SNES NA port while maintaining some of the features of the original JP FF4.

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"incredibly high difficulty": I'm playing the Android version in Hard mode, which matches the DS version in difficulty, and aside from the bosses, the game isn't too difficult for me. Yes, some bosses do require very tight play. When I fought Leviathan, Rosa had to cast Curaja right from the start while Cecil casted Shell. Then I had to revive and heal any KO'd characters, with very tight timing (like having Anna omnicast Curaga, then having someone else use a Phoenix Down halfway into the charge time). –  DragonLord Jul 15 '13 at 4:15
    
(continued from previous comment) All of this had to be done before any attacks could be made, and I had to have Rosa and Cecil cast more healing spells in advance and in a staggered fashion while attacks were made so that I could keep up with Leviathan's attacks. Yes, it can get hard, but it isn't obviously so to someone with more than a decade of JRPG experience (one of my first JRPGs was Pokémon Crystal). –  DragonLord Jul 15 '13 at 4:41
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DS:

Better/higher difficulty (enemies higher stats and last longer than 2 turns, and they also counter a lot), script, balance, 2 bonus bosses, 3D/cinematic presentation.

PSP:

Party switching, 2 bonus dungeons, 2D/classic presentation. You can basically complete it on auto-battle. The PSP version also includes Interlude (it's short) and The After Years (it's like it's own game), the mobile/WiiWare followup to FF4. It's more or less a port of the GBA version. Pickup the PSP version if you haven't played it.

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