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Final Fantasy IV (II US) - Review

"I'm just a Dark Knight"

By: Paws


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 7
   Plot 8
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

10-30 hours

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   A long long time ago in a galaxy far away...well, actually, it was just the video store down the street, but back to our story...a young girl picks up a package entitled "Final Fantasy II". She turns it over once, is interested in what she reads, and brings it home for a day's rental. Thus began the adventure of Cecil to this young girl. Final Fantasy IV is one of the best within the series of excellent games, through it's fledgling battle system, and it's touching story.

   The battle system, though nowadays well worn, was shiny and new upon the release of FFIV. Called 'ATB' (active time battle, as we all know), it was unique from most of the other systems, where generally one made many decisions then watched them all implemented until everyone had gone through their turns. The basis of the system is avidly watching a small power ball fill. Upon completion, the character's turn will come up. Characters have several generic options, such as fight, defend, row (move from front to back and vise versa), and item. Each also has a 'unique' slot. These skills are generally magic-based, such as Rydia's Black/Call Magic or Edge's Ninja Magic; Cid (yes, Cid appears in FFIV) has a 'peep' skill which lets the player examine current/total HP, current/total magic, and weaknesses...too bad this didn't work well on bosses nor was Cid in your party for long. However, for the most part the system does a spectacular job and it is difficult to become tired of it unless you've fought one too many behemoths in a row.

   Interface was well done, considering how the battle system had to incorporate 'fast acting' menus. Items and magic could be organized to one's contentment, and though there was a limited space for items, the friendly 'festively plump' Chocobo was willing to store many things for you. Lali could be called anywhere where the character could smell carrots, and though this meant keeping an extra item on hand, it more than doubled your item capacity, if you weren't interested in selling things off. The overworld maps were easily traversed, whether on foot or with the aid of some form of transportation. Outside of battle there were also many interesting things to explore, from towns to the setup of your characters. Who can forget the first time they were toaded after they were shipwrecked?

Silly Little Comment on Screen
Silly Little Comment on Screen  
Item finding became an interesting, if somewhat predictable game. While side quests were not needed to fully enjoy the game, they fill out a couple small plotholes and give you a broader look upon the world you are in; be forewarned, however, these side quests are fledgling compared to those found in later game such as FFVII. Through simple actions such as jumping up and down or twirling a lot of emotion is given to the characters. It is very easy to get attached to those in your party and deep into the story.

   The characters jumped up and down in joy to the music, and you will too. The music and sound effects of the game were done incredibly well. The music was very fitting and each different type of weapon had a satisfying 'sching' or 'thwhap' to accompany it. From slow and emotional to fast paced to deep foreboding, the music kept the player informed well of the environment around them.

   The originality is pretty average. While this was one of the first RPG to come to North America, it was somewhat generic. It's story is reminiscent of a fairy tale. It introduced to us the ATB system for the first time, but it wasn't until later games until it was truly refined to the one you'll find in the current games.

   The plot was done extremely well. For such a short game, the story is full of twists and turns, losses and happy moments, and really draws the player into the game. Characters come and go over the course of the game but thankfully they usually stick around long enough that any development you put into them pays off in the end. Many parts of the story were predictable and some very cliché, but this does not detract from the story overall. Playing FFIV can be compared to reading a darn good book, with a little action thrown in to make it above average.

   The localization, on the other hand, was nothing spectacular. This was a time before Working Designs, before Atlus, and it seemed that there was little interest in RPGs as a genre to those who had yet to try it. Though the game does have some interesting translation errors (or perhaps they were on purpose), the time the game was published is clearly evident as the language is almost devoid of slang and/or anything that could be considered foul language (Hence why Edward is a 'spoony bard').

Cutesy or Realistic Name
Cutesy or Realistic Name  
Another negative point of the localization is that when the game was translated for a North American release, some things were taken out of the game. This makes your quest much easier and faster, and some may argue it loses some of its interest. Those who realized this gap, as I did, seem to feel a unanimous feeling of getting 'jipped'.

   The replay value is a mixed bag. While the game is short and therefore easy enough to play through a second time, some plot point merely aren't the same the second time through (such as the heroism of Palom and Porom). On the other hand, there are several side quests of sorts to go on which are quite enjoyable (including collecting tails or finding Rydia new summons), and may take the second time through. Of course, there's always the challenge of finding the most powerful sword in the game within the final dungeon. I was lucky enough to have gotten a hint (albeit unwanted), or I would have literally spent hours wandering in circles trying to find it. The game will draw back the player, but perhaps not 'time and again'.

   Of course, one cannot ignore the appear of the visuals. The visuals were well done, considering the time and technology. FFIV was around when NES titles were still being released! Though the game has an overall 'cutesy' feeling (through the way the characters are drawn, the way they act, etc), this suits the game and time period it was released in quite well. My one complaint would be that the characters were oddly out of proportion to the enemies; however, this as well fitted and seemed appropriate. The 'weenie', small heroes, taking on the big bad world and the enemies within it.

   This big bad world doesn't take that long to whip, however, and generally a first time run through won't take more than 30 hours. Many brag of their 'less than 10 hour' games, but rushing through the game takes away some of it's ambience.

You know the deal-title it.
You know the deal-title it.  
Part of the reason why people may defeat is so quickly is that it is a very easy game. It is disappointing the more difficult version never made it to North America, but we have made do.

We made do so well with the game Square even graced us with more Final Fantasy games; perhaps as they go through a remake phase they will decide to finally sake our thirst for a tougher FFIV. Considering they left it out of FFA, I'm not going to hold my breath. For now, we can look at our old 'Final Fantasy II' cart, and smile upon fold old memories. Perhaps it's time to play an old favorite again.







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