Final Fantasy IV (II US) - Review

Final Fantasy IV(II US): A Retroview

By: Castomel Greenstalk

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 6
   Plot 10
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy to Medium
   Time to Complete

20-30 hours

7.5, really.  Can't give that though

You call that a T? Now THAT's a T!

   The year is 1991. Neon clothing is popular, the short-long is the haircut of choice, and Squaresoft, hitherto famous for such... classics... as Worldrunner 3D, has just released its newest game, Final Fantasy IV(or II, as they preferred to call it at the time). Step back, if you will, for a moment, and let's take a look at one of the classics of RPG gaming, an entertaining piece in its own right, Final Fantasy IV.

   In Final Fantasy IV, you are Cecil, resident Dark Knight and hitman-at-arms for the King of Baron. You soon join up with fellow toughs and proceed to fight in the name of... well, evil, to begin with. These fights take place using the tried-and-true formula that is the trademark of the series; a turn-based menu system where the player can select a variety of attacks from a set list. Different from previous Final Fantasies is the elimination of attack rounds; attacks are executed quickly, while spellcasting and special abilities may take some time. Customizability is low, which adds an element of strategy; magic users are stuck as magic users, and thus, a young girl cannot mysteriously become stronger than a man three times her age and size. This system is easy to operate, and flows quickly, though later games in the series are faster still.

    After running a few errands for the king, you are quickly thrust into the story. The gameplay is pretty smooth, comprised chiefly of you getting into random battles while wandering about the world, sometimes on foot, sometimes with the aid of various vehicles provided you by Cid, the chief engineer at Baron, or even on the back of a chocobo, which makes its first North American appearance here(unless, of course, you want to count the assorted weathervanes in Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest) The menu screen has an easy-to-use interface with a variety of basic options; equipping your characters and other such functions can be performed with a minimum of irritation(it isn't until later in the series that using menus takes more time than actual gameplay).

Personally, I wouldn't wanna get pink goop all over my sword :P
Surgeon General's Warning: Fighting pink snakes may cause identity crises.  

   Your quest takes place accompanied by the first score by Nobuo Uematsu that isn't limited to the paltry assortment of sounds offered by the 8-Bit NES. It has many memorable tunes that to this day sometimes pop into my head. The battle themes, and the overworld theme in particular, are catchy tunes, and my personal favorite, the town of Mysidia, is forever immortalized in my heart as a result of the "wah-wah" sound that punctuates it every few bars. That said, it is not without its faults; the samples that were available at the time are still more limited than in later games in the series, and the sound effects were only a couple steps up from NES(that said, for some reason, the sound of fire burning remained unchanged, even up to FF7) Additionally, the track length of many of the songs is still under a minute. That said, the audio is still a big step up from the first three games in the series.

   As you progress through Final Fantasy IV, it becomes increasingly obvious that although the game is certainly much more advanced than its predecessors in terms of plot, it lacks a certain element of originality. Really, if you get right down to it, it's more or less just a souped-up version of the first three Final Fantasies. This doesn't necessarily hamper the game, however; I'm of the opinion that if it ain't broken, don't fix it. That said, it was still lacking in any particular sort of innovation.

   The plot is really what sets this game apart from those that came before it. When I first played the game, I became addicted to the story. Never before in a video game had I seen a story that actually progressed in response to your actions rather than the mundane "Thank you Mario, but the princess is in another castle." (Certainly, Dragon Warrior and other RPGs for the NES had some semblance of a story, but this was really the first game in which I ever experienced a cohesive, interesting storyline that made me want to keep playing) Ultimately, it was the plot of this game that has hooked me on RPGs to this day. Nonetheless, the story does grow mildly repetitive by the end; there are only so many times you can do the same thing, after all. Regardless, Final Fantasy IV is still by far one of the most advanced games(in terms of plot)from its time.

    While playing Final Fantasy IV, you have to bear in mind that translation was not an item given much consideration in 1991; with this in mind, the translation is fairly well done. Mistakes are not TOO frequent, and when they do occur, they usually result from the limited capacity to display text on the screen, as well as shortcuts taken to avoid exceeding space on the cartridge. As a result, several immortal phrases have been accidentally coined. "Never again! Even if ordered!", "Do not attack dragon when mist. If attack, then.."(I can never remember the last part of this one) and of course, the classic line "You spoony bard!" are all lines that add to, rather than detract from, the game. The only real downside to the localization is the fact that several parts were hacked out of the game to save space.

Spoony: Feebly sentimental; gushy.
Why can't we all just get along?  

   When I finished the game, which on my first time through took me a little over 25 hours, I had to give it back to its rightful owner, so I didn't have much chance to replay it. Then again, the replay value is pretty low anyway. Given its extreme linearity, there's really not that much to do that you couldn't have done the first time. It's not terribly difficult, so replaying the game for challenge is really not that enticing. Nevertheless, I still enjoy playing it from time to time(when I can get my hands on it) just so I don't forget how the story goes.

Another part I liked about this game is the fact that the graphics leave a fair amount to the imagination. They are rudimentary, even by 1991 standards; some would not look out of place on the NES. About the only scene that got any serious graphical effort was the final showdown. This is a good thing, since it means development was not chiefly concerned with trying to suck in the masses with pretty pictures, but rather with producing a good game. The visuals are thus execrable, so don't expect anything majestic.

This isn't really up to 1999 standards either, but hey...
Toto, I don't think we're in 1991 anymore!  

Let's flip back to the present. What have we gained from this little trip down memory lane? A better knowledge of the roots upon which the illustrious Final Fantasy series were built, certainly, and more than that, this game is something definitely worth playing, if not for nostalgia value, then certainly because it's a fun game to play. Though not up to today's standards, it is nonetheless worth your time. Besides, you have to ask yourself how can you go through life without seeing "You spoony Bard!" at least once?

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