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Final Fantasy IV - Review

A Story Worth Reading

By: jaraph


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 5
   Plot 7
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

10 - 15 hours

 
Overall
8
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   Long ago, we old school gamers used to debate. We didn't debate about whether online gaming was a good thing, or whether Square's quality had begun to decline. Instead we argued over a much purer and simpler concept. Namely, which was the best RPG of all time: Final Fantasy IV or Final Fantasy VI? Despite the fact that it lost most of those arguments to its stunning successor, FFIV is truly a good game and a solid role-playing experience. Published by Squaresoft and released in the US as Final Fantasy II in November 1991, Final Fantasy IV defies the notion that greatness comes only in 40 hour long, beautifully renderedpackages.

   The adventure begins by casting you into the role of Cecil, a dark knight and commander of the Red Wings, the elite force of airships of Baron Kingdom. Baron's king has decided to collect the four crystals of the world and has charged the Red Wings with carrying out the task. From there, FFIV's story goes on to become one of the most interesting in the series.

   The game is set to a superb musical score. Being midis on a cartridge, the sounds and music are of a lower quality than the digital effects found in modern games, but very few titles have used music to underscore and compliment a story as story expertly as FFIV. Each track sets an appropriate mood for its corresponding scene. During some cut scenes, the music even changes in relation to the events that are occurring. The over world track sounds appropriately adventuresome, and the dungeon music is just slightly eerie. Fans of the series will recognize some classics like the Chocobo theme and the little song that plays when you win a battle. Overall, FFIV's music is head and shoulders above most games of the time.

   In contrast, the graphical side is nothing to write home about. The in-battle graphics are quite good, with large, detailed sprites. However, the out-of-battle graphics pale in comparison. The characters are small, and the world is defined quite precisely in blocks. For instance, to go up or down stairs, you step on a 'block of stairs', rather than climbing a staircase. Of course, taking into account its release date, one cannot fault FFIV's graphics too much. As well, the powerful story and music more than make up for the small graphicaldeficiencies.


spoonyspoonyspoony
"Truer words were never spoken"  

   Aesthetics aside, the game's true strength lies in its battle system. As in most newer games, FFIV employs the active time battle system, in which each member of your party has an invisible meter that, when full, allows the character to take one of a set of actions. Each character is able to use the basic fight, defend, and item commands, but each also has one or two special commands (magic, jump, and summon just to name a few) that make him/her special. You can also change equipment mid-battle, a feature that proves surprising useful when battling different types of enemies against which you wish to use different kinds of weapons. The idea of elemental weaknesses (ice creature - weak against fire) plays a large role in the game and the battle tactics you'll use. Unlike newer RPGs, FFIV's battles are not a cakewalk. Boss battles are great fun, usually requiring multiple tries and tactical skill. Even the random battles become challenging toward the game's end. The nice level of difficulty together with just enough individuality among the skills of the characters combine to create a solid and fun battle system.

   Aesthetics aside, the game's true strength lies in its battle system. As in most newer games, FFIV employs the active time battle system, in which each member of your party has an invisible meter that, when full, allows the character to take one of a set of actions. Each character is able to use the basic fight, defend, and item commands, but each also has one or two special commands (magic, jump, and summon just to name a few) that make him/her special. You can also change equipment mid-battle, a feature that proves surprising useful when battling different types of enemies against which you wish to use different kinds of weapons. The idea of elemental weaknesses (ice creature - weak against fire) plays a large role in the game and the battle tactics you'll use. Unlike newer RPGs, FFIV's battles are not a cakewalk. Boss battles are great fun, usually requiring multiple tries and tactical skill. Even the random battles become challenging toward the game's end. The nice level of difficulty together with just enough individuality among the skills of the characters combine to create a solid and fun battle system.

   The biggest complaint one can make against FFIV is its length. Only 10-15 hours long, the game is much too short considering its great mechanics. The insufficient length also damages what is in general a strong story. Though always interesting and full of twists, the tale can at times feel rushed. Also, with only 10-15 hours total game time, it often seems the characters have been given inadequate time to develop themselves and their relationships with one another.

   Despite its feeling a bit rushed and unoriginal, Final Fantasy IV's plot is one of the best in the series. It is simply marvelous in the beginning, and though it regrettably devolves into a typical save-the-world tale toward the end, there are more than enough twists and fresh characters to keep things interesting. If given the time to develop more fully, the plot could have been the best ever. All in all, however, its strength is undeniable.


crystalcrystalcrystal
Cecil claims his first crystal  

   One is hard pressed to rate FFIV's overall originality with any level of soundness. Those who have played other RPGs on the Super Nintendo will find much of the same here. This is mainly due, however, to the fact that many games were patterned after the successful Final Fantasy mold. I suppose in the spirit of a retroview, I must confess that though FFIV was fairly original at the time, it no longer feelsoriginal.

   Though many of the battles will require some thought and strategy, FFIV is not a difficult game. Experienced gamers should be able to walk straight through will little resistance. The one point of trouble comes if you don't pay attention to the hints provided in the cut scenes. You will be able to hear many of them only once, so it is important to make note of what you should be doing next.

    On the bright side, its relatively short length and low difficulty lend Final Fantasy IV a nice level of replayability. Although there aren't many side quests or related things that you will miss the first time through, the story alone is worth the 10 hours a repeat play will cost. Also, the battle system is so well designed and enjoyable that there is little of the tedium often associated with replaying a game.

    Clearly, Final Fantasy IV is top-of-the-line. Sporting both an excellent storyline and battle system, the game excels in the most important RPG categories. If you are a relatively new gamer who hasn't had a chance to go through this gem, track down an old-schooler and get him to lend you his copy. It'll be worth the effort. Just remember not to ask him if it's better than FFVI.







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