Review by Menji
"Overlooked by the general public and praised by those that gave it a chance"
Often in the shadows of the other Final Fantasies, FF4 (FF2 in the US) is a game vastly overlooked. I use to be the one who looked down at this game, until recently. I decided to give it another try, and was hooked instantly. There's something different about this game that no other Final Fantasy does. It's not just one thing; it's a bunch of things grouped into one thing. There's a great detail of depth to each character; they seem so different from another yet destined to be with each other. Or maybe it's the fact that characters are actually killed in this game unlike every other Final Fantasy out there.
Whatever it may be, you're opened to a series of airships known to the world as The Red Wings who are lead by are hero, Cecil. Cecil and his crew are sent to retrieve the crystal of water although the crew dislikes the idea of stealing from innocent people. Cecil explains the crystal is essential for the prosperity of Baron. Besides, the King decided that the people might discover the secret of the crystal. Upon returning to Baron, Cecil gives the crystal to the king but asks why they must take from such innocent people. Fearing that Cecil does not trust him, the King dismisses Cecil of the command of the Red Wings and sends him on an errand to the city of Mist. As Cecil is leaving, he encounters his good friend Kain, who joins him on his little errand. That night Cecil meets up with another friend who happens to be a white wizard, Rosa. Cecil complains about how something is wrong with the king and that he needs to be stopped. Rosa tells him not complain about it but do something! The next morning, Cecil and Kain embark on their errand to Mist with a package from the king. They discuss how this stealing from innocent villagers is wrong and that they must stop it. But before they can figure out a solution, a monster appears and requests that they leave now or it'll be forced to attack. They decide they must continue and slay the monster. After the monster is defeated, they arrive in the village of Mist. Only to find out that the package they had been sent to deliver is actually firebomb that destroys the town! Confused and saddened, Cecil discovers a girl who had been victim of this dreaded explosion who realizes that they are the ones that did this and with her anger, attacks! Thus embarking on the journey of Final Fantasy II!
Right off the bat you'll notice that the visuals are anything but pretty. The only time they do look good is in battle; otherwise it's a nightmare to look at. The world map in general doesn't look too appetizing either. It's a pity that this game didn't have the prettier visuals as in FF6 or any other RPG for the SNES. It's one of the few problems with this game.
Like any Final Fantasy game, the music scores and gameplay are easily the best part of this game. They were able to include a variety of spells and summons that were never too powerful. And they were easily obtained without doing too much leveling to achieve or too crazy of a side quest. Each character you receive throughout the journey has his or her own specialty allowing every character to be useful in the game. FF4 does earn its bragging rights for being the only game in the series to use a whopping five characters at once. This does have its ups and downs; one bonus is that you really only have up to five characters with you at one time. You're never gonna have other characters that you manually switch into your party like newer FF's. What does this mean though? Well, it does take a long time to get to each character and have them attack. Especially if you really want to use just one character and end the fight quickly you're gonna have to wait through all your other characters to the one you want. They also force a front and back row thing on you. It's required that you have an equally spaced front and back character for every roster slot. It's a bit confusing to explain but you'll quickly learn what I'm saying when you play.
Purchasing new weapons and armor could've been made much easier. It doesn't help you one bit when you're asking yourself if you should lay down 10000 gold for a helmet if you don't even know if it's better than the one you have on. Yes, that's right, the only thing they tell you is if the character you have can or cannot equip it. You have to gamble your money and pray that it's better than what you have on or you will have just wasted a good portion of your money. This is really one of the last FF's that include bows but they're implemented in a great way. You get all types of great bows throughout the game and then you can choose from an assortment of arrows that are also obtained in just about in every dungeon. But here's the catch, it actually keeps track of your arrows. I've never heard of such thing in an RPG, so this caught me by surprise and awe. Although the worst thing they decided to do you was this; if wanted to cure yourself with a spell or item, you could use it to cure once and then it would take you back to the menu. So you'd have to go back and choose it again and then heal and repeat. This got extremely annoying after the first few times I realized it and it'll surely annoy you as well. The rest of the gameplay is superb as well, all the other abilities, spells, and summons are cool to use and provide a different assortment of spells and summons than most of the FF's.
Aside from the great gameplay and story, FF4 really shines with it's collection of music scores. Some of the most underrated and under appreciated songs are included in this game and they really put the excitement into the game. The airship theme song is among my favorites and the other being a beautiful melody that is played whenever there is sorrow in the game. And it's not just those two that are great, each and every song that's played fits the surrounding amazingly. When you're traversing the world map, you feel like you're walking along those blades of grass. If you're stuck in the darkest depths of a cave, you gain a sense of fear.
As you travel the world on your journey, you'll visit each and every village the game has to offer. And my, what great villages they have to offer. None of the villages appear, as replicas of another. The villagers are different and obviously say different things. Some villages have pigs, minis, frogs, and dancers as their villagers. While this may seem crazy to you, it actually works out in this mystical fantasy of a world. It's too bad that they don't include the pig and frog in current FF's, it would be funny and different to see.
FF4 a marvelous game, filled with an excellent story, awesome cast of characters and villains and is loaded with more surprises than a jack-in-the box. It's short but the experience is an absolute joy. Don't let the sub-par graphics turn you away because this is truly one of those gameplay over graphics games.
All in all, the game can be completed and all side-quests done in about 15 hours. Not to long of a game nor is there much to do after that. It's a definite must-play for any RPG fan out there and can easily be found included in Final Fantasy Chronicles, although I must recommend the SNES version over that. You will always be anxious to play and find out what happens next every moment throughout the game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/21/06, Updated 08/21/06
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