Final Fantasy IV - Retroview

A Small Step for Japan, A Giant Leap for America

By: Desh

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 8
   Plot 4
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy, Medium, Hard, Impossible, etc.
   Time to Complete

15-30 hours


Final Fantasy IV

   After unwittingly missing the creation of Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III, America was ready to believe that Final Fantasy really WAS the final one. With the advent of a more technologically advanced gaming system, namely the Super NES, we in the western hemisphere received the fourth in the ever-growing series, named Final Fantasy II for us starved Americans. Little did we know that this game presented only a small step up from FFIIIj...

   The battle system was revolutionary at the time it was released. First off, for your carnal pleasure, a party can consist of up to five characters. Count 'em, FIVE. That in itself drew me in like a moth to a flame. Also introduced was the psuedo-real-time battle system, where characters still took turns but were timed in doing so (if you don't know what I'm talking about, play ANY of the SNES or PSX FF games to find out). The class system is once again implemented, with Cecil being a Dark Knight/Paladin, Rosa a White Mage... and so on.

   With this new timed system, battles occasionally turn into a button-mashing contest with the computer. However, it was workable in its own right. More limiting, however, was the row system; only three characters could be in a certain row, so if you have four fighters or mages... one of them's gonna hurt. This is done in the menu screen, which, true to the series, is not very complicated and easy to interpret.

A dark knight to extinguish the light
A dark knight to extinguish the light  

   With a new system capable of more than a few square and triangle tracks, the music transformed from the first game. Different instruments and percussion line the soundtrack. Sound effects improved as well. However, if you compare these to the REAL prequel to this game, FFIIIj... it is only a slight improvement. For a Nintendo (excuse me - Famicon) game, it pushed the limits incredibly with a large variety of pieces and sounds. Even for a SNES, they would still be decent. With more sounds, FFIV provides only slightly more variation, without the quality of music in its prequel.

   This is not to say that FFIV did not bring with it its own personality and flair. An active-time battle system was introduced and used until the ninth installment. Five characters were used, instead of three or four as every other game. However, a whole slew of other features are decidedly repeated in an unsavory fashion. Leviathan swallows your ship, like in 2. Mysidia is an important town, like in 2. Summoned monsters are important, like in 3. The idea of crystals themselves keep cropping up. This game seems to turn into a large cliche.

   The plot itself is a hackneyed version of many other games and stories combined. Not only that, but it lost my attention halfway through. "Cecil's a paladin. Yeah." "Let's go save Rosa again." "Oh my, [such and such] switched sides again." And if you can't tell, these all lack enthusiasm and caring. At some point, I put down the controller and said "So [such and such] did [this and that]. Who cares?"

   Also shooting down the plot was the localization. A more careful translation would bring out more of the life out of the characters, instead of producing lifeless, uninteresting sprites that I couldn't care less about. And, who could forget the spoony bard, who was absolutely useless? The poor localization went from the outrageous to the empty.

Aah, the alternative to swearing!
Aah, the alternative to swearing!  

   I have no intention of ever playing this game again. Just the thought of it makes me shudder. If I want to see the movies for the PSX remake, I'll have somebody else do it and show me. This game became torture partway through, and completely turned me off. And besides that, there really aren't a whole lot of side quests - just summoned monsters and a few special weapons. Woo hoo.

The American version of this cartridge was made considerably easier than the Japanese version, although I think it was restored for the Chronicles version. I'm not going to check, but this game wasn't a piece of cake, either. The overall difficulty was raised due to the fact that you have five characters to play around with, but didn't make it impossible. Good thing, too... if it were any harder, I would've just stopped and say to hell with it.

The graphics were only a minor improvement over its prequel. This is even sadder when you consider that its prequel was a NINTENDO game, whereas this is a SUPER Nintendo game, a generation ahead. Add a few more tiles, a few more colors, and you have FFIV. Oh my. The monsters themselves seem to have been downgraded, character sprites more fuzzy, and overall just blah. The only improvements seem to be in the summoned monsters' animations and the portraits of the characters.

He's got some... issues...
He's got some... issues...  

Despite my perfectionist nature, I rushed through this game just to get it over with. It took me all of fifteen hours, while picking up just a few summons and weapons. However, you could spend a good chunk of time leveling and searching for summons and ultimate weapons. Either way, this will take you awhile.

We Americans didn't know what hit us when this game came out. Many of us still don't know what REALLY hit us, due to the fact that Square still hasn't released II and III here. Final Fantasy III puts the lie to the greatness of Final Fantasy IV. Even without playing FFIII beforehand, I found FFIV dull and annoying by the end. With only the original released here, it was a small step for Japan, but a giant leap for America.

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