“You spoony bard!”- Tellah
- Platform- Snes (version tested), GBA, PSP
- Developer- Squre
- Publisher- Squre
- Release date- 19th June, 1991
Hey all! Retroplayer here. Here’s a game I always wanted to get around too. Sit back and enjoy.
I always find RPGs the hardest games to review. Apart from the amount of time you need to put into them, they’re often extremely complex, and warrant drawn out, and tedious reviews. But this isn’t the case with Final Fantasy 4 (FFIV), one of the most critically acclaimed entries into the Final Fantasy series. While FFIV isn’t exactly an empty shell of a game, I found it to be one of the more technically simplistic RPGs I’ve ever had my hands on. While this does harm the battle system to a degree, it makes for an incredibly direct, and enjoyable gaming experience.
Developed and published by Square in 1991, FFIV is a turn-based role-playing game that places you in the role of Cecil Harvey, captain of the Red Wings of the kingdom of Baron. After violently raiding the town of Mysidia at the command of king of Baron, Cecil turns his back on the kings increasingly evil orders. The king is trying to find the Crystals of the Underworld and Overworld, and assemble them for some unknown, deadly reason. However, the king of Baron is merely a small player in this game, and is under the influence by a much darker individual known as Golbez. Cecil, with the help of numerous companions he meets along the way, seeks to prevent Golbez from collecting the Crystals, and thus prevent global disaster.
Did you know?- Upon its release in the US, it was called Final Fantasy II.
The character of Cecil, though a hero throughout, starts off the game is an almost villainous role. He’s returning to his kingdom after decimating a town. His brutal actions against the town of Mysidia are the catalyst of his change. Cecil isn’t your normal, clean-cut hero. He’s making amends for his dark deeds. He’s an excellent character, and his story-arc during FFIV makes for an incredibly memorable tale. The same goes for some of the other characters, especially that of Rydia; the plucky summoner of the group, Kain; Cecils on-and-off rival, and Cid; the loveable, grumpy engineer of Baron. While some of the cast is rather flimsy in the way of development and substance, they do make up an interesting and diverse array of personalities. The characters play well off one another too, and make for some rather funny scenes. There are however far too many scenes of characters supposedly meeting their demise. I was surprised at how many times they pulled this card, and it often leads the player to simply stop caring about certain characters at a point. It drags down the seriousness of the story, and the predicament the characters find themselves in.
The story is easily the best aspect of FFIV though. It’s a story that will take you across the world map, below the surface of the planet, and beyond. Without breaking into spoilers, it’s very much like FFVII in the way that the story originates from space. Also, the idea that these Crystals create a harmony on the planet, and that this perfect harmony is being disrupted, really hits home that the future of the planet is at stake. This, coupled with the mostly excellent cast and great main villain, makes for one of Final Fantasies most memorable journeys.
The battle system is pretty much what you’d expect from a typical JRPG. It’s a turn-based affair, but unlike most JRPGs the player will find that they won’t have to grind too much throughout the game. It’s a rather easy game at its core, with some of the bosses being especially simplistic. In fact, I found the levelling up to be rather too basic at times. For instance, over the course of the game Cecil will, at the very most, learn two abilities outside his typical attack, while Rydia will learn a vast array of Black Magic and summons. This lack of progression for the main character is an utter disappointment. The game puts you through so many random battles, so many confrontations, that the main character barely grows in ability over the course of the game. This usually leads to battles playing out the exact same way time after time, unless the enemy is protected from certain attacks. But battling in FFIV is fun. Apart from the fact that it has one of the best Final Fantasy battle themes to date, it never quite feels like a chore. That could be down to how easy it is, but nonetheless the fighting system is FFIV is slick, enjoyable, if a little rudimentary.
Did you know?- The game has seen many ports since its release, but mostly recently on the PSP. The Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection contains a remastered version of the original game, as well as it’s direct sequel, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.
Graphically it’s impressive by the standards of 1991 console gaming. Sprites are clean and sharp, while magic and summon animations are nicely done. The towns are quite samey though, which does admittedly take away from the enjoyment of exploring and interaction. That said, the kingdoms of the underworld and overworld are the real centre piece to this world; massive, in-depth structures, filled with NPCs to interact with. But the world does feel a little lifeless at times, mainly due to the once-off dialogue from most NPCs. Their dialogue doesn’t change with what’s happening in-game either, so at times it doesn’t feel like you’re making an impact on the game world at all.
I think it goes without saying that the soundtrack to FFIV is incredible. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu, it contains some of his best work to date. From the quirky theme of Mysidia, to the stunning Main Theme, the soundtrack to FFIV goes above and beyond the call of duty. Pure brilliance.
Overall FFIV is a great, if somewhat shallow experience. The story, characters, and setting are all top notch. You’ll grow attached to these people, feel what they’re going through, but if only with a small few of the cast. The gameplay is nicely honed, but in turn quite simplistic is you’re looking for an in-depth, demanding experience. This is a Final Fantasy for beginners, but also for the veterans who simply may not have gotten around to playing it yet. It will likely appeal to both the casual and hardcore gamer, which is a great achievement in itself.