Review by PizzaDude371

"The beginning of a golden age for Squaresoft RPGs"

-Intro-

The Final Fantasy series has grown from a single 8-bit RPG meant to be the swan song for Hironobu Sakaguchi to one of the most important franchises in video game history, and in doing so, it has made Square Enix what they are today. In a way, it has made RPGs what they are today. The series had success on its first three games on the NES/Famicom, yet I don't think it truly became great and cemented its legacy until this game came out.

Final Fantasy IV is actually only the second Final Fantasy released in America, hence the marketing idea of releasing it as Final Fantasy II. As the game's true title is Final Fantasy IV, that is how I will refer to it for the remainder of the review. The game was released in the late months of 1991, which made it the first big name RPG release for the Super Nintendo. FFIV was met with an immense amount of popularity in Japan, and was very popular in the U.S. as well. It was a huge step forward for the Final Fantasy series, as it was the first game to implement a somewhat complex storyline and character development. There was also a large amount of innovations made gameplay-wise as well, such as the ubiquitous ATB system. The game still has a large fanbase today, and is hailed by many as one the better classic RPGs out there.

Well, that's all well and good, but is the game still fun to play today? The answer to that my friend is indeedilydoo. Final Fantasy IV is a great RPG that excels in nearly every category that makes an RPG. Time to elaborate on this, I suppose.

-Gameplay-

Good old school fun right here. Final Fantasy IV is a turn-based RPG that has random battles and menu-based commands. Aside from the battles, there are other elements of gameplay such as buying equipment, traveling on the map, conversing with NPCs, and other things of that nature. Like most old school RPGs, this game can become a real challenge at some parts, and the random battles are enough to keep the player on their toes.

The battle system of Final Fantasy IV consists of the usual commands, such as Fight, Item, and running from battle. Each character also has their own unique commands that correspond the their class. For example, Rosa, the white mage, has the white magic ability that consists of healing spells, which are learned at certain level ups. In this game, the characters' classes are set in and unchangeable, unlike FF3j and FFV. Some of your characters will solely be using the Fight command, while others will resort to using magic nearly every turn. It is also worth noting that there are a total of five characters to use in battle at a time, unlike the previous games that only allowed four. It switches characters in and out of your party similarly to FF2j, in that you get certain characters only temporarily and you end with a final five that are outside of your control. FFIV also introduced the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, which is a real-time (yet still turn-based) battle system in which the characters speed determines how quickly their action bar fills up, and once it does fill up, they can perform an action. However, in this game, you cannot see the character's bar charging up, unlike in subsequent FF games. This became a staple in the Final Fantasy series, and something similar can be seen in many of Square's turn-based RPGs throughout the years. The battle system is fairly simple when put into perspective, however, it is still a lot of fun and innovative to boot.

Also, in an attempt to add replay value to the game, Squaresoft made an immense amount of items obtained only through enemy drops. Some of the best equipment of the game is only obtained through item drops. After you kill an enemy, you have a chance of receiving an item after the battle. Some of these drops occur very rarely and it can take a very long time to get the item desired. Most of the time you will find that the item you are trying to get is not worth the time needed to get it, so it may be best that you only receive the rare enemy drop items by accident and not worry about them otherwise. Unless of course you want to be hardcore and collect every item in the game.

There are a few side quests in Final Fantasy IV, each one consisting of either optional dungeons, extra equipment and items, or merely as devices to provide optional character development. The control in the game is solid, with no problems. However, there aren't too many Final Fantasies without good control, am I right or am I right.

On the whole, Final Fantasy IV is a very fun game to play. It may not be as deep as some of the other games in the series in terms of gameplay, but it still has held up surprisingly well throughout the years and remains one of the best in the series. It feels like a very pure FF experience that isn't bogged down by boring sections or long animations or other things that plague later installments.

-Story-

The storyline of Final Fantasy IV is perhaps its strongest aspect. In fact, its story is arguably the best of the classic-style FF's. The story begins with a dark knight named Cecil who, with his friend Kain, is ordered to deliver a package to a town called Mist. When they arrive at the town, they find that the package was a bomb, and that it destroyed the entire village. This makes Cecil rethink his ways and eventually rebels against the Baron Kingdom. In Cecil's quest, he is joined by his girlfriend, a survivor from the town of Mist, a ninja, a wise mage, and many other characters to take down the four elemental fiends and the sinister Golbez. Final Fantasy IV's storyline was revolutionary for its time. This game was made during a time when stories were considered only compliments to video games and were usually never considered an important aspect of a game. FFIV changed that by having one of the first great stories in an RPG. The game created a deep and involving tale that focused on character development, which was never seen before. It helped establish its legacy by having themes and plot devices that were mirrored in many RPG stories later on. This is why FFIV has become such a huge milestone in RPGs. While its gameplay is still very good, it is its storyline that has allowed it to gain the reputation that it has today.

And yes, the story is very good, even by today's standards. There is enough plot twists and emotional scenes to satisfy anyone, even if it does get a bit corny at times. However, the storyline was almost ruined when it was released in the U.S. The translation for the game was absolutely terrible, with grammatical flaws, awkward sentences, and other embarrassing mistakes that clearly made the Japanese script a hundred times better than the U.S.'s.

The cast of Final Fantasy IV is well-varied and interesting, however they do suffer from the same flaw that many early RPGs suffer from. And that is that pretty much all of them have bland personalities and poor characterization. A large part of this can be blamed on the translation, however. This isn't too big of a problem, as the character development was excellent for its time. The protagonist, Cecil, developed more than any other character, and not just internally, but externally as well. Kain and Rydia also develop well, yet there are a few characters that do not develop very much, due to limited time with them. Overall, excellent and iconic characters to further improve upon the already excellent story.

-Music and Sound Effects-

Every Final Fantasy game that I have played has had an excellent soundtrack, so why should Final Fantasy IV be any different? And that's right, it isn't different, as it has one of the best soundtracks among the SNES library. It seems impossible that Nobuo Uematsu has been able to be so consistently good with his music in the series, but somehow he does it. My favorite song of the game would be “Within the Giant”, which is a theme played in a couple of dungeons that is absolutely amazing. The battle theme and boss themes were also very good, which is important in a game with so many battles. Also, the final battle tune is one of the better ones in the series.

The sound effects are solid, though nothing to get excited about. There are distinct sounds for attacking with each type of weapon, and there is distinct sounds for each type of spell. None of these sounds could be considered annoying, and each does what they intended to do very well.

-Graphics-

The graphics are the weakest point of the game, as they have not aged as well as the story and gameplay. Final Fantasy IV was made at the beginning of the SNES's lifespan, which means it may have been impressive at the time of its release, but now it has been completely surpassed. This is not to say that the graphics are bad, though. Outside of battle, the character sprites do not have a lot of detail, but in battle they look a lot better. Some of the backgrounds could be considered somewhat bland, while others look fairly nice. It did accommodate some of the new technology of the hardware, for instance it used the SNES “Mode 7” effect for airship flight. This was probably impressive for its time, but today it will go most likely go unnoticed.

One thing I liked was the in-game artwork of the characters in the menu screen. The only character whose art I didn't particularly like was Rosa's, as she looked rather masculine. The enemy designs were fairly creative, although the game used the same enemies throughout the games and changed only their colors, which many games do. The animation in battle was done fairly well, as some spells look pretty cool. Each character also has a normal stance, attacking stance, spell-casting stance, and other things to be expected. The graphics, all in all, are solid, but haven't aged as well as the other parts of the game.

-Challenge, Length, and Replay-

FFIV is a fairly challenging game, although most of the time it isn't too hard. Some bosses (Rubicante) and some dungeons (dark elf cave) are very tough, but overall it isn't too much of a challenge. I would say that the challenge is around medium. The American version of FFIV is actually the easy-type version of the game, so apparently the original Japanese version is harder.

The game is actually fairly short, as it only takes around 18-22 hours with all side quests excluding item drops completed. It may not be as long as some of the other RPGs of its time, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. By that I mean that there is very little padding or filler in the game. If you want to go for item drops, you can add at least 4-5 hours to the total time.

The replay value is slightly above average, as there is a few side quests to do and there is also the item drops to consider. However, there isn't any customization with the characters and nothing new happens on the second play through, which hurts the overall replay value of the game.

-Summary-

Gameplay – 9/10 (great)
Story – 10/10 (excellent)
Music/Sound – 9/10 (great)
Graphics – 6/10 (fair)
Overall – 9/10 (great)

-Final Words-

Well, there it is. Final Fantasy IV will always be a true classic. As of posting this review, there are four ways I know of to play this game. One is the SNES version, two is the PSX version, three is the GBA version, and four is the Virtual Console version. I've heard that the GBA and PSX versions are inferior, so stick with either the SNES or Virtual Console. There is also a 3D remake of it for the DS that may be worth checking out.

FFIV was a turning point in the series. Gone were the days when characters were lifeless and plots were as thin as paper. This was probably the most important game in the development of the series, and it was coincidentally one of the best. Actually, it is my least favorite of the SNES FF trilogy, but that is some ridiculously hard competition. FFIV may have a sub-par English translation and outdated graphics, but it is still an excellent game due to its its innovative style of battling, revolutionary storyline, and wonderful soundtrack. So go ahead, play the game, and experience the true essence of the Final Fantasy series and classic RPGs in general.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/16/07, Updated 07/07/11

Game Release: Final Fantasy II (US, 11/23/91)


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