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Birth of the Plot Driven RPG
By: Jake Alley
In 1991, after two entries which failed to leave Japan, the U.S. was graced with the return of the Final Fantasy series in the form of Final Fantasy IV, released here as Final Fantasy II. A game which set new standards for storytelling and presentation in the RPG industry.
Prior to Final Fantasy IV, the typical RPG had very little emphasis on story. While storylines themselves were always present, the constant, long and involving cutscenes found in modern RPGs really began here. Players are treated to a steady stream of scenes, created in-engine, which tell a sweeping story full of interesting twists and turns.
As one of the first RPGs released on the SNES, Final Fantasy IV raised the bar for graphics and sound. Utilizing transparent fog and scaling, as well as a highly complex soundtrack with a good variety of songs, Final Fantasy IV is a far cry from its predecessors.
The gameplay of Final Fantasy IV also set some new standards, at least for the series. It was here that Square first introduced their famed Active Time Battle system, wherein enemies don't wait patiently for players to input actions for their characters. Instead, each enemy and character gets a turn every few seconds, with players forced to act quickly if they want to finish the battle with a minimum of damage. This system tends to make combat a bit livelier, in turn making for more engrossing gameplay.
Also on the lines of maintaining player interest, Final Fantasy IV was the first RPG to balance out experience rewards so that players have no need to ever stop and character build. In an era when one typically had to spend half an hour slaughtering monsters upon reaching a new town in order to upgrade their equipment, this made the game far more accessible to the average person.
All in all, Final Fantasy IV is a solid and ground-breaking RPG, which also brought about the end of an era in gaming.
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