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Final Fantasy IV

The SNES release (1991) known in the U.S.A. as Final Fantasy II.

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The Final Fantasy to Make One of the Biggest Dents in the Series

  • Aug 7, 2009
Rating:
+5
When Final Fantasy IV came out in Japan, it was hailed as a masterpiece.  Coming around the time the Super Nintendo launched, Final Fantasy IV single-handedly changed the Final Fantasy name and the RPG industry as a whole because it included so much that at the time most people couldn't fathom.  Historically, Final Fantasy IV is perhaps one of the most significant titles in the series.  Like so many games, though, as Final Fantasy IV has aged, its historical significance is often forgotten because well, now EVERY RPG does what Final Fantasy IV began.  No really, a lot of what you see in RPGs now started with this very game. 

Final Fantasy IV was originally releaed in the United States as Final Fantasy II.  In Japan it had two different releases.  An "Easy Type" and a "Hard Type".  At the time of its release, Final Fantasy IV was considered one of the hardest RPGs of the time.  Final Fantasy IV "Hard Type" didn't actually get a release in the United States until it was released as Final Fantasy Chronicles along with Chrono Trigger.  When Final Fantasy IV came to the states as Final Fantasy II, the game was the easier version but it also took out a lot of things that were originally to be in Final Fantasy IV to begin with.  This means that most of us didn't experience the true essence of Final Fantasy IV until it was released in 2001.  The game then had another re-release on the Gameboy Advance, and after that another completely remastered release on the Nintendo DS.  Final Fantasy IV mostly stands tall because of its story, but there's quite a bit more Final Fantasy IV did do.  To be blunt: Final Fantasy IV set the tone for the 16-bit RPG era.

Final Fantasy IV is about a Dark Knight named Cecil who, after being sent on a mission to Mysidia, begins to wonder about the direction the Kingdom of Baron is headed.  The King is after something, but Cecil isn't sure what.  After questioning the King, Cecil is stripped of his rank and sent on a mission to small town to deliver a bomb ring.  When the ring turns out to destroy the village, all eyes are on Cecil and he realizes that the King he admired so much has become corrupt.  What then happens is Cecil's quest for redemption and finding out just what happened to the King of Baron.  As you might expect, there happens to be much more than meets the eye.  Cecil's quest will take him to the underworld and ultimately to the moon as he tries to stop evil forces from taking over the world.

Final Fantasy IV is mostly remembered these days because of its story.  It happens to be a very popular story with a lot of heart.  It was one of the first RPGs to really push its story.  And not just its story, but it's characters.  Before Final Fantasy IV a great deal of RPGs had one dimensional characters that had nothing more than a name... and sometimes not even that.  They lacked personality, development and emotion.  Final Fantasy IV changed all that by giving us a cast of characters who were not only likable, but were flawed, emotional and could be hurt emotionally.  The story is carried out through dialog exchanges between characters that come to life.  In short, Final Fantasy IV has a cast of characters that come alive.  We begin to feel for them.  Final Fantasy IV was also the first to show that as a result, characters could be allowed to explore their own emotions.  Within Final Fantasy IV we have characters who experience deep remorse, regret, friendship, betrayal and even love.  In terms of these themes, Final Fantasy IV has aged incredibly well.  Several RPG games still utilize these themes a great deal.  We can argue that this would've happened without Final Fantasy IV, but it can't be denied that Final Fantasy IV, in terms of these themes, has still managed to age really well. 

How did Final Fantasy IV change Final Fantasy, though?  By introducing the ATB battle system.  Before Final Fantasy was a simple turn based game.  Final Fantasy presented ATB which allowed battle to progress faster and keep players on their toes by forcing to be quick with their decisions because enemies no longer waited.  Your enemies are incredibly fast, which is perhaps where Final Fantasy IV gets its reputation for being so hard.  The ATB system can feel unbalanced in IV.  Future Final Fantasy outings mastered it.  Yet in Final Fantasy IV it still works.  

Each character also has their own abilities.  A lot of people like the "individual" approach to Final Fantasy.  On the other hand the idea of customization is very popular in RPG world.  Final Fantasy IV focuses a bit more on level grinding than actual customizatioin.  Characters who cast spells learn them by level.  Not much else.  It's still fun, however, because there's a hint of strategy that's really used to keep you on your toes.  Rosa has her healing spells and holy magic, Cecil and Kain are hard hitting characters and Rydia can summon.  Since everyone can't do everything, the importance of raising characters is much greater.  Final Fantasy IV is tough, but you do have a lot at your disposal.

On the Super Nintendo, Final Fantasy IV was a good looking game.  Particularly some of the battle animations.  On the DS it had a lot more style and even more character depth (not that that was needed).  While Final Fantasy IV changed the way stories were told in RPGs it didn't exactly make a huge dent in the graphics department.  At least not quite like Final Fantasy VI would just three years later or even games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.  The sprites are cute in those old school games, and the amount of emotion conveyed in them is still quite amazing.  On the Nintendo DS, though?  It's still one of the few games to come out on the DS in full 3-D.  In fact, Final Fantasy IV is among the best looking DS games you can buy simply because it shows just what you can do with the graphics engine of the DS.  For a system that has so many 3D capabilities, very few developers take advantage of it.  This is why Final Fantasy IV does make a dent graphically on the DS.  

Musically, most praise Final Fantasy IV for its amazing soundtrack.  Indeed, most of it is good.  Most.  There are some tracks that can grate on the nerves but luckily you don't hear them much.  The battle themes in particular, are really nice.  The DS version includes voice acting and the voice acting is quite good in and of itself. 

If you must choose a version to play, the Nintendo DS is a much harder game.  You get to experiment with customization but that doesn't mean the game is easy in any way, shape or form.  You'll get "augments" to give new commands to characters (imagine teaching Rosa "Dark" for example).  But it's not a huge change nor does it really feed the RPGer who loves custimization.  But it's still fun.  The Playstation release in 2001 is nice, but has a few problems in the loading times department (for saving, that is).  The GBA version is also nice, but the music sounds a little tinny at times.  Regardless, Final Fantasy IV is worth playing in some way.  Not just because it's a good RPG, but also because you can really start to see how the genre changed and just what Final Fantasy IV did for it.  

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Quick Tip by . September 26, 2010
posted in The Gaming Hub
FF's corny story roots were starting to show here but the game and story are still good here. To ME, this was still Final Fantasy and a great part of my youth.
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The dark knight Cecil, stripped of his command of the Red Wings, set out for the distant Valley of Mist. Together with Kain, commander of the Dragoons, he would pursue a faceless quarry―and a chance for redemption. The advent of the airship had marked the realization of mankind's most ancient dream. But man is a creature seldom sated, and he was quick to dream anew. With the unparalleled might of the Red Wings, Baron's military soon reigned supreme. Why, then, does its king now seek the Crystals? And why have fearsome monsters suddenly begun to overrun the once calm land? If the Crystals know, they share no answers―only their pure and silent light.
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