|Release Date (Japan):
|Release Date (NA):
||SNES, GBA, PS1, DS, iOS
Scores (Out of 5)
|Story & Cast:
Michael A. Cunningham
While not my first experience with the series, the fourth entry is where my love affair with Final Fantasy began. It was the weekend, and I was staying with my grandparents, so that meant a trip to the mall. As was the norm since I'd received my Super Nintendo, I would stop by my local Electronics Boutique to check out the new games. As I was browsing, I happened upon a new Final Fantasy game: Final Fantasy II. One look at the back of the box was all it took for me to know that this was another RPG and that I needed to have it. I couldn't believe how much better it looked than the NES game I'd been playing. After much begging, I was able to talk my grandparents into buying it for me and I took it home and jumped in right away.
Small disclaimer, I was only eleven years old at the time, so know that going into this next part. I'll never forget starting off and playing through the intro where Cecil storms into Mysidia to take their crystal. I'd never been one for reading books, but I was more than willing to pour myself into every line of dialogue. I was actually a rather poor reader, so I do credit RPGs for my improvement in that area of the next few years.
Back to the game, and it wasn't long before I had Cecil and Kain in my control. Going back to my time with the original Final Fantasy, I quickly decided that I didn't like the names I'd been given and proceeded to rename these two. I wanted to be the hero, so Cecil quickly became Mac. I don't know why, but for some reason I thought Kain was a female, so Kain became Debbie. Sorry Kain. Whatever, it was fun. I liked the character, so I named him after my mom and considered this to be a family adventure. Eventually, I understood more about the game and realized my mistake, but it was fun to think that I was going on an adventure with someone I cared about.
This was the first Final Fantasy I finished and the one I've played through the most. Back when I wasn't flooded with games and ideas like backlogs were the things of dreams, it was easy to replay games. My obsession didn't end there. I had the starting stats of every playable character memorized, and can still remember many of these. I even shared the story about going to the moon with my 5th grade teacher, and how two of the girls in class hiding and not coming in from recess was just like Rosa and Rydia hiding in the Big Whale when they were supposed to stay back on the planet. She feigned interest well enough.
My addiction has continued over the years to the point where I own every physical copy of Final Fantasy IV that's been released in English and even a couple imports. The GBA version was fun to replay, and I truly love the extra content added at the end, especially being able to choose your party. I was sad when that was removed from the 3D DS release. The voice acting and 3D scenes were nice, but it just didn't feel right. The PSP Complete Collection is my favorite version of this game, as it stays true to the SNES version, adds in all the GBA content, and tosses in the sequel, The After Years. While The After Years is more fan service than anything, I love some of the new character designs. The PSP remake simply looks beautiful as well, as Final Fantasy IV looks best in 2D.
I love Final Fantasy IV. I accept all its quirks and problems and cheesy characters willing to sacrifice themselves at the drop of a hat. None of that matters when it comes down to fun, as I really credit this game for getting me into RPGs, and hence, my being here today.
After my parents divorced, my father lived in a trailer with his best friend from high school, Steve Laskowski, for a year or two. Steve loved my brother and me, had no children of his own, and frequently bought us toys and presents as we were five and seven at the time. I have many fond childhood memories of arriving at my father's trailer to see two or three new NES games sitting on display in the living room — random gifts from Steve for no reason other than wanting to see us jump around in elation and run back to our bedroom to play them. Even after he moved out he continued haphazardly buying video games for us as surprises.
I don't know how, exactly, Steve picked out the games he bought. I always imagined that he asked the store clerk what was popular, and the K-Mart employee's shrug in response was taken as an unconventional way of pointing at a game with one's shoulder. When Steve gave us Final Fantasy II for the SNES one day, it became the biggest impact a shoulder shrug would have on my life.
To explain why I loved Final Fantasy IV would be to repeat the energetic nonsense anyone would say about a childhood obsession. Every event, character, and ability amazed me, and it did become an obsession. My brother and I played with TMNT figures, and soon Rocksteady and Bebop were casting Fire 3 on Splinter when they attacked. I recall Shredder summoning Leviathan to flood our bedroom once when the turtles were winning. The Magus Sisters had us creating dual and triple team attacks as the most powerful abilities in any world we imagined, and we repeatedly came up with storylines where a weak team member needed to sacrifice himself and die for the greater good.
Outside of the impact Final Fantasy IV had on my childhood creativity, it opened up a whole new genre of games to me. I started asking for titles by name when holidays were approaching rather than letting cashiers tell my gift givers what to purchase. Nintendo Power finally had a practical use — I could look up the genres of upcoming games and specifically ask for the RPGs. Final Fantasy IV is not just a game I enjoyed playing, and I hardly think of the gameplay mechanics, the presses and clicks that define most of the interactive experience, when I let my mind wander to memories of it today. Final Fantasy IV will always be nostalgia and playtime, the first step of a true hobby and lifelong source of entertainment that can't be explained in hindsight by a single design choice like named party members or the ATB system.
Steve died of a heart attack in 2007. As an adult, I never did tell him how happy his generous gifts made me as a child, or the formative effects they had which continued to positively impact me in adulthood. I don't regret this because I am certain he knew. I played Final Fantasy IV DS in 2008 a year after his passing and enjoyed letting the nostalgia warm me during the story sequences. I played it in bed, and while slowly drifting to sleep afterward would think about Steve and childish things, Bebop burning Raphael, Christmas wish lists that included Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III, and wondering whom I would be today if Final Fantasy IV never existed.
Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke
Going on to Final Fantasy IV after playing VI was something of an odd move, but I found plenty of enjoyment even so. It was clearly a regression from FFVI, but enough was still right to let my trip through Cecil's lunar escapade be a smooth one. It helped that I was coming back to something that once stymied me: in sixth grade a friend had lent me the game, and my foolish young head was unable to really process the game much once the manual's lengthy Walkthrough for Dummies ended. Power-leveling on the moon to prepare for Zeromus seemed pretty simple after a few sessions with dinosaurs in FFVI, and the whole game seemed like a breezy romp. I came back to it a few times when I felt like playing something familiar that would go by pretty quickly, and while it will never have the same appeal to me that it seems to have for those who understood what they were playing as children, it's a fun ride all the same.
As much as I adore Final Fantasy IV, I don't think I have much to say about it. It is a great game, and it is the game that converted me into a fan of the RPG genre. To this day the music from this game has a powerful effect on me. It really doesn't stand out as my favorite entry in the series, but I appreciate the creativity that went into this game. This praise is, naturally enough, a long lead in to me complaining about how Final Fantasy IV's DS remake really messed things up.
Final Fantasy IV didn't have the long dialogues or fancy graphics of later games, but it was brilliant when it came to telling a story with small touches and implying actions through clever use of its limited sprites, and the DS remake smashes all of those little touches with a sledgehammer. The scene where Edward collapses mid-battle during the defense of Fabul makes it look like he was shot by a monster's arrow in the original version, but the DS version makes it look like he just trips (which makes the dramatic music sound out of place or sarcastic). The way the game makes clever use of reflections to tell a story in the mirror chamber scene is completely lost. The DS version's narrow field of view makes the eavesdropping dolls invisible to the player, and it can't even begin to replicate the way the original manipulates gameplay tropes when Baigan "joins" the team. Even a notable character feature like Kain's left-handedness is senselessly lost.
I like many of the new ideas added in the remake, particularly the Augment system and the attempt to make the boss battles much more exciting and difficult, but it is a terrible adaptation of Final Fantasy IV's story. The adaptation also has some big problems with its gameplay, particularly with making certain attacks unfairly deadly and poorly implementing the way Augments interact with party members who leave the team. Final Fantasy IV DS was a chance for a good game to become even better, but it just didn't live up to that.
One of my favorite storytelling devices is the dramatic sacrifice. Whether Final Fantasy IV or Catholic education was the source of this love, I'm unqualified to say. What I do know is Final Fantasy IV had a lot of them. It offered drama on the level of my favorite books (Redwall, Lone Wolf, Robin Hood) with the added lures of music and chocobos. For reasons that I can no longer recall, I called them "chobobos" for some time.
Nintendo Power fed the desire to know as much as I could about Final Fantasy II. Mode 7 graphics! Dynamic mist overlays! Tragedy, both spoony and otherwise! I filled notebooks purchased from the Scholastic book fairs with heroes and monsters for my dream game, inspired by my hours on the Big Whale. In their narrative incompleteness and willingness to ignore genre, these books were comparable to the creative impulses behind Axe Cop. These notebooks, along with the family SNES, accompanied me on family trips. Again, the cartridge was always a rental. Several were the times when I missed a week of rental to see my saved progress replaced by that of the brave paladin BUTT and his true love, HOMER.
One day, a braggart of a friend explained a totally awesome idea to me. He had written a story about what happened after the game ended. The concept seemed derivative to me. The story was over, unless there would be a sequel. "It will never catch on," I thought.
I don't have very much to say on this title, since I again played one of the remakes rather than the original game. It introduced the ATB system, but I experienced that for the first time in the GBA port of Final Fantasy VI. The story was heavily character driven for a game of its time, but said story is rather stock and many other games have better characters. As I understand it, the DS version's script is longer than the original SNES game's, but I don't believe it changed the game drastically. What I enjoyed most about this game was the battles and the challenging boss fights. I really liked how many of the bosses could be beaten using strategy or uncovering a weak point. For instance, by discovering that Cagnazzo would withdraw into its shell when a Thunder spell was used on it, I virtually soloed it by using Palom. Underwhelming story and awkward graphics (though better than Final Fantasy III DS to be sure) aside, I did enjoyed this entry.
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