Review by LordShibas
"Oh Cecil, How You Have Aged"
In order to quell my aversions for the remakes of Final Fantasy IV on the GBA and the DS, I decided to go back and play the SNES original that launched my interest into the Final Fantasy series, many, many years ago. You see, Final Fantasy IV holds a special significance to me. It was the first Final Fantasy game that I ever played. It may not be my favorite Final Fantasy game, but it's a game that I will always remember for the rest of my life.
I grew up with the Phantasy Star and Shining Force games, but Final Fantasy IV was an entirely different endeavor, and I have played through it countless times. Even though the game has not aged all that well, I was still able to enjoy it once again, and remember why I was such a fan of the game back in the day.
This game originally appeared on the SNES as Final Fantasy II in the US, but it was really Final Fantasy IV, and I will refer to it as Final Fantasy IV in my review.
Final Fantasy IV follows the story of a Knight from the Kingdom of Baron named Cecil. After being disbanded from his post for questioning his king's questionable motives, he starts out on a journey that will have a few uncanny resemblances to the first Final Fantasy game. He will be searching for the crystals to save the world, and he will fight a dominant evil with the synergy of his party of friends he makes along the way.
It's an old school, turn based RPG that doesn't really excel in any certain area, but the game is brought together with a nice presentation and some memorable characters. For those of you that have never played this game, but have played Final Fantasy VI, you're probably not going to find much substance here. Final Fantasy VI is pretty much a superior game in every foreseeable way, but Final Fantasy IV does have a certain simplistic charm that can captivate you if you look past some of its shortcomings.
Since I have not played this game in years, I must say that the translation of the story is not as good as I remember, in fact, it's sometimes quite awful. There are blatant misspelled words, truncated names for characters, and jumbled words that run into each other, forming an obtusely written story that can sometimes be hard to follow, or take seriously. You will often be forced to use your inferences to figure out what to do next.
During the game, you will be forced into random battles very frequently, and you will have the standard fighting options. Fighting, Magic, Summoning, and a few other character specific traits that allow you to use a bit of strategy in the battles. Despite being an old game, it really does have a wide assortment of magic spells for the player to play with, and finding magical exploits for enemies is half of the fun.
While some games age like fine wine, some games kind of sit stagnant and remain identical to the memories you have in your mind. Final Fantasy IV is one of those games that remains the same. It is just as entertaining as it once was, but it's very easy to point out the multiple faults that the game has. Most of them don't ruin the game, but they are undeniable.
Compared to Square's own graphical juggernaut that is Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy IV simply looks dated and childish in comparison. I was willing to look past the comparisons and enjoy the game for what it was, but I can't really condone giving this game a higher score for graphics.
The environments are bland and lack detail, the character models look goofy, and the sprites are pixelated like crazy. My displeasure with the graphics was expedited by the pathetic special effects too. Your summons seem like lifeless puppets, magics have no transparencies, and the game is full of sprite swaps for enemies and spells.
Now a few good things about the graphics. The overall graphical style fits well with the general premise of the game. I really didn't like the way the characters from Final Fantasy IV were redrawn in the DS version. I was much more comfortable with the short, squatty character style in the SNES version of the game than the aborted fetus look of the characters in the DS version. Needless to say, it sure was nice to see Cecil, Kain, and the rest of the characters looking like they used to.
Some of the enemies were also nicely drawn, and despite not having any animations, many of the bosses still maintain a dominant presence. The Four Elemental Fiends produced some nail biting moments during my childhood, and I was ecstatic to be fighting them again.
If you are looking for a SNES game that pushes the limits of the system then seek out Final Fantasy VI, but Final Fantasy IV has a certain graphical charm of its own that makes it enticing.
Sounds and Music 7/10
Final Fantasy IV's soundtrack is pretty good, but there are not very many tracks and most of them sound rather basic. I hate to draw another comparison to Final Fantasy VI, but the soundtrack in Final Fantasy VI blows this game away with three times the amount of tracks and much clearer audio.
I rather enjoyed the sound effects in the game, and any Final Fantasy fanatic will pick up on the reused sound effects from previous Final Fantasy games.
If I had reviewed this game about ten years ago, I would have given the story an 8 or a 9, but now, I can't justify giving the story anything over a 7. Unraveling the mysteries of Final Fantasy IV can be rewarding, but the hackneyed story is not as impeccable as you may remember. Characters often have incredibly cheesy and stupid responses to certain situations, and the translation is embarrassingly bad at times.
However, it's hard to deny how impressive the breadth of the story is. When the story starts out, it simply focuses on Cecil and his dealings with the Kingdom of Baron, but the life altering events that he goes through are very intriguing. Cecil will fight his inner dark side, struggle to maintain friendships with his party members, and conclusively fight a battle on the Moon to save the entire planet. The story does have some incredible moments, but it's often ruined by the poor translation.
Anyone who has played a Final Fantasy game prior to Final Fantasy IV should know what to expect. It's a standard, turn based RPG with only a few novelties to set it apart from other games in the series.
The wide range of spells is a big plus for the game, and finding out which magics are effective against certain enemies requires some trial and error. It's a very simple, but rewarding magic system that makes the otherwise standard combat a bit more interesting. Discovering that your Weak spell allows you to take out some of the more difficult enemies in the game in two hits will quickly throw the battles in your favor, and will drive you to further explore the magic system.
On the down side of the magic system, the casting times for some of the more powerful spells almost render them useless, and will force you to strike a balance between damage and casting time.
The overworld doesn't have many locations compared to modern RPGs, but there are three maps total to explore, including an entire underground world, and the Moon. The fact that you will get many different airships in the game really helps the exploratory nature of the game, and while the events are somewhat linear, there are some side quests that can be completed whenever you want to.
There isn't really much to say about the gameplay. It's pretty solid, but don't expect anything ground breaking.
Longevity and Re-Playability 7/10
Final Fantasy IV is a pretty short game, and it's on the easy side. I was able to complete the game in under 20 hours with all of the side quests completed, but I did have prior knowledge of the game. Since the game is so short, it's a fun game to go through again, but it will pretty much be the same thing over again. There is little room for anything new during a second play through.
Despite my negative points that I highlighted in my review, I still consider Final Fantasy IV to be a required RPG game. It may be a bit old school and it may lack in variety, but it's a solid experience from start to finish. Someone looking to explore the early years of the Final Fantasy series needs to play this game. It's a part of RPG gaming history.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 07/15/09
Game Release: Final Fantasy II (US, 11/23/91)
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