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A Subjective Look at Final Fantasy IV (RTTP)

Final Fantasy IV is one of the most fascinating Final Fantasy titles to me. It is easily seen as one of the most iconic Jrpgs in gaming, being one of the defining SNES titles and entry for Square in the 16-bit era. However for me, I've found a hard time deciding whether I truly appreciate it for what it is or what it is regarded as.

My experience with Final Fantasy IV is limited to the DS version. I bought it years ago along with Final Fantasy III for the DS as a way of tring to dive into the Final Fantasy franchise's past. I ended up playing and completing III before IV and had high expectations after falling in love with III's world and gameplay(both from the difficulty and the simple job system).

After putting in a good amount of hours into the game however, I began to notice I had several problems with FFIV. The first of which happened to come from the glaring issue of its linearity.



Final Fantasy IV is a deceptively linear Jrpg. I say deceptive because unlike games like Final Fantasy X and XIII, IV makes use of an overworld display for your party traveling across the world. While this gives your adventure a feeling of grandness, traveling from dungeon to town, it also gives an unwanted feeling of feeling closeted. The game is focused on its narrative, Cecil the main character chasing after the Crystals of the world in order to protect them from the hands of Golbez..It is because of this that you as the player are funneled through the world going from A to B to reach the next Crystal in hopes of saving the world. This presents problems because the game is trying to convey a sense of majesty when in reality you are doing nothing more than walking along a guided path.

This is more evident when vehicles are introduced into the game more specifially airships. At this point you can freely travel around the entire world, across seas and mountains. You can even go underground into the underworld and up into Red Moon. However despite this means of exploration there are almost no rewards to using it. Yes, there are the occasional summons such as Bahamut to find and challenge but otehrwise there is nothing else. No limited sidequests to engage in and no mindblowing hidden locales to find. Speaking of the summons, I find it somewhat annoying that Odin, a powerful summon, is simply found back at Baron Castle the starting location of the game in a basement that was locked for the majority of it. It would've been more intriguing to find him in a secret cave perhaps in the underworld which was sorely lacking in destinations to travel to.

The actual gameplay of Final Fantasy IV is also something I find heavily critical. Playing the DS version I knew ahead of time that the difficulty had been upped from the original. However my problems were less of what was updated and more of what had been retained. Final Fantasy IV gives every character a unique and unchangeable class from which they have guided route of growth. Outside of items and equips there are virtually know ways to customize your party in any unique ways. This leads the game designing every dungeon and boss around what your party is able to do based on who's in it at the time.



Now before I go too far into this discussion I would like to point out I very much enjoyed FFIV's bosses. They actually contain some of the most brilliantly designed enemies in the series and there are some very challenging fights that remain iconic to this day. Many of them even throw in unique gimmicks such as the Demon Wall that add greater pressure to fights. Yet my issue is less around the bosses and more the inbetween or the spaces betwen them. Traveling through dungeons and going through random battles in Final Fantasy IV is among the most boring pieces of gaming I've ever played. It's boring because the excitement has been taken away from the player because you know you'll never encounter something truly out of your league(at least up until the final dungeon). The game designs nearly every random encounter in a way that requires the minimum strategy necessary. While one may say that for grinding this is the best possible scenario, I find it uneventful to never use my characters in completely different ways. Rosa can never be the main attacker, Kain can never be a support, and Rydia(through character development) can never be a healer. Even the Active Time Battle system, revolutionary to the franchise, is unfortunately a detriment in the end. Rather than your party being able to fly through random encounters fast and easy you end up having to constantly wait during every encounter for each individual's gauge to fill up. While the ATB system should make the player more involved in the fight, the speed of the slow speed of the system combined with the relative simplicity of most random encounters goes completely against that idea. You're constrained to fight the battles in the most specific way possible and that ends up taking away from that adventurous atmosphere when it becomes less your journey and more the developer's intended journey for the characters.



The plot of Final Fantasy IV also is something I cannot ignore when looking back at the game. I understand that at its time Final Fantasy IV was revolutionary for Jrpgs in terms of storytelling. I realize the iconic moments of the game, from Cecil's transformation from Dark Knight to Paladin to Rydia's reappearance, were genuinely mindblowing experiences when the original game came out. However taking the game in a modern context I can't help but feel disappointed in what IV ended up doing. The narrative, much like Final Fantasy 2, introduces the concept of drop in and drop out characters. That is to say many characters will join your party for a specific span of the game only to either be killed off or separated. Unlike Final Fantasy 2 however, Cecil is the only permanent character that the player has throughout the entirety of the game. Now while this strengthens the player's connection to Cecil it severely weakens the connection one has for the rest of Final Fantasy IV's characters. If there's one thing I specifically appreciate in the DS remake it is allowing the player to view internal monologue of the party character's on the pause screen, giving even just the slightest bit of extra development and player connection to the cast. Outside of that however, the lack of substantial change for the cast outside of cosmetic and class changes and the absence of character to character dialogue scenes makes Final Fantasy IV lean much too far into exposition taking away from a personal investment into the lives of the characters.



There is a lack of development for characters such as Rosa, who end up little more than plot devices to trigger the player's movements across the world. For Rosa in particular the player in the beginning may see her nothing more than the damsel in distress being constantly kidnapped by Golbez's forces. Yet when she finally becomes a permanent member of your party in the latter half of the game, there is little to show her romantic relationship with Cecil which is paramount ot Kain's development from his jealousy throughout the game. She becomes nothing more than your party's white mage and in the end her marriage with Cecil seems nothing more than an last minute gift to players rather than a well earned reward through seeing them develop. Edge is even more glaring in that his first appearance is well pas the halfpoint moment of the game and yet he becomes not only your final permanent party member but also one your most useful attackers. Yet storywise he is only given development in a single dungeon and for the rest of the game feels like he's simply tagging along. I point this out because it almost feels insulting that you would have this randomly new character become part of the final party when characters such as Cid, Yang, Edward, and Palom and Porom all end up able and willing to fight and the end of the game yet are sidelined after what the player is led to belive were originally heroic sacrifices to the death. It undermines the connections the player has with the cast in the game, making the drive they might have had from one character's supposed demise feel completely fake.



Golbez is also a character I find issue with. Though widely regarded as another iconic antagoinst in gaming I ultimately feel completely cheated as player from the direction they took him. Throughout most of the game the player is led to believe Goblez is the ultimate evil, a being so powerful he controls the Archfiends themselves. It is the mystique of his character, the shadowy visage of his motivations that define him. It is the boss battle with Golbez and his Shadow Dragon that truly feeling the well earned climax of the game as you finally are able to face the man himself and defeat him while reuiniting with one of the few truly player connected characters from the past. Yet ultimately all these feelings of wonder you get from Golbez become undermined when he is revealed not only to be Cecil's brother but also being mentally controlled the entire time by an even greater evil. Right in that moment the game take away all the awe one had for Golbez as a villain by making him nohting more than a puppet. Him being related to Cecil offers almost no real character devlopment and is litle more than shock value to the players. Yes, his relation makes Cecil feel conflicted about his feelings toward Golbez. Yet the fact that immediately Golbez turns good and fights against the evil rather than for it takes away any conflict that could have been derived had Golbez been a willing servant for the evil Zemus. It is the same lack of conflict that makes Kain's story less interesting than it would have been had Kain not been under mind control as well but rather betraying the party because of his lust for Rosa and envy of Cecil. The game essentially created two characters that when are fully revealed are nothing more than devices to create extra uneeeded drama that takes away from the main narrative. Even Zemus himself becomes underwhelming as the party never actually directly confronts or interacts with him as a character but instead watches as he gets killed only to return as an entity of pure hatred and evil making his entire character nothing more then the game's means of having the player and the characters go through one final trial in order to be seen as worthy heroes who won in the end.



Looking through all I've written it definitely gives the appearnace that I have a completely negative view of Final Fantasy IV. The truth though, is that I really do enjoy several aspects of the game though it leaves a lot to be desired by me. The atmosphere in Final Fantasy IV, for one thing, is one of the most impressive atmosphere's I've ever found in a game. This is created by two parts, the setting and the music. The world of Final Fantasy IV is a true of marvel of gaming. The Tower of Babel and Zot, the Underworld and Red Moon, the airships and the crystal shrines all envoke a very precise aspect of fantasy that remains haunting and notable despite the limitations of the graphics. Indeed it is specifically the design of these locations, in that the player needs to fill in some of the blanks themselves in their imagination to truly get the full picture, which makes the locations larger than life and unforgettable.The music in turn adds to that by providing flavor through letimotifs and ambient exploration music. The dungeon theme, Into the Darkness, I find in particular to be a particularly perfect piece in givng off a sense of lost and mystery, making the very first cave in which Cecil and Kain explore particularly iconic when you first hear this piece. Letimotifs such as the Red Wing Theme craft a foreboding mood for the player while something like the underutilized Love Theme give players a feeling of comfort and security. Goblez, Clad in Darkness is one of my all time favorite villain themes. The immediate sensation of a wicked force is brought about from the organ like synth from the intro. The rapid organ playing halfway through the piece taken from Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor lifts the listener into a gothic state before falling back in an even heavier darkness.



It is the music surrounding the battles that I find most intriuging however. Nobuo Uematsu purposefully seems to incorporate a heavy amount of classical rock themes into his composition. This allows him to create starkingly different tracks depending on how influenced they are. The Battle 1 theme for example has an ever present bass line that constantly keeps the players engaged in the fight. Battle 2 offers a sort of fusion mix betwen rock in the beginning ending in a symphonic punch as if to signify the rising tension of the fight. Battle of the Four Fiends, an especially iconic piece to Final Fantasy considering it the first unique boss music outside of reguarl and final bosses to the series, completely ditches the rock aesthetic and goes for a full a full blown orchestra like composition, giving the player's an increased intensity knowing that this song signals an even tougher and more important boss fight than normal. The Final Battle theme however does something especially unique. Putting the synths to a more rock styled composition while adding in a few orchestral soudning instrumentation all while pairing it with a powerful enemy giving the player the notion that goal is within in their reach like the normal encounter and regular bosses and yet the opponent isn't more alien than anything you have fought before.



Even more, I love the character designs in this game. More so than the other FInal Fantasy titles(with the exception of V), the cast truly feels like an Amano painting come to life with stylized armor and robes that never go too far into uncomfortable territory. The age of the cast is nice having them all more as young adults then simply teenagers. I also found myself enjoying the humor of the game. The animosity between some party members and the wackiness of some of the antagonists made for a very whimsical journey.



My feelings Final Fantasy IV are definitely strange when you summarize them all. It's less of a love hate relationship and more of a grey understanding. I can see both the light in the game, the iconic and memorable cast and world, and the dark, the too linear and undeveloped gameplay and character development. Perhaps if I had played this game at earlier time, right at its release, I would see something different of this game. As of now however, I feel that appreciate Final Fantasy IV more as the game it is then the landmark title it is known as.

 
I disagree with you on about all fronts. People seem to use linearity like its negative. It's neutral. I don't mind it, the presentation and gameplay is what soaks me into a video game and Final Fantasy does it better than some others in the series. You do have sidequests other than Bahamut. There's also the adamant quest, the Sylph Cave, and something else I'm forgetting. It also has one of the better soundtracks in the games. Into the Darkness is the best dungeon theme in the series. The only thing I don't like is the limited inventory and the stupid rare items.

I hope the next FF goes back to using a predetermined job system. The last time we had that was back in 2000.
 

Sophia

Member
Final Fantasy IV was the first Final Fantasy game I played, and at the time as a kid it blew my mind. However now that I'm older I've begun to realize that the game, especially the first third of the game, does not hold up as well. A lot of what it did, other RPGs (in particular Phantasy Star IV that came out a few years later) did better.

Nice retrospective tho. Definitely agree with you on a lot of fronts, especially the character designs.
 
I disagree with you on about all fronts. People seem to use linearity like its negative. It's neutral. I don't mind it, the presentation and gameplay is what soaks me into a video game and Final Fantasy does it better than some others in the series. You do have sidequests other than Bahamut. There's also the adamant quest, the Sylph Cave, and something else I'm forgetting. It also has one of the better soundtracks in the games. Into the Darkness is the best dungeon theme in the series. The only thing I don't like is the limited inventory and the stupid rare items.

I hope the next FF goes back to using a predetermined job system. The last time we had that was back in 2000.

I can agree that linearity is more a neutral choice than a negative. My problem is more that it gives the player an illusion or rather the promise of exploration with a 3 overworld maps in the surface, undeworld, and moon. Yet despite this the limited number of optional things to do made it feel merely like a tease of exploring from what would come in future Final Fantasy games which left me feeling disappointed.
 

Junahu

Member
I can agree that linearity is more a neutral choice than a negative. My problem is more that it gives the player an illusion or rather the promise of exploration with a 3 overworld maps in the surface, undeworld, and moon. Yet despite this the limited number of optional things to do made it feel merely like a tease of exploring from what would come in future Final Fantasy games which left me feeling disappointed.
This is a really odd thing to say. FF2 gives the player a stupid amount of freedom to explore the world map, from the moment you gain a 4th party member. And because enemies can drop spells and equipment for you to use, it was totally worth it to just poke around and see what you could find.

FF4's fake openness was a deliberate facet of its design. It's presenting you with a world, but giving you exactly one thing worth doing in it; "saving the world". It's part of the game's focus on using the mechanics to tell a story.
 

Muffdraul

Member
FFIV was my first JRPG in 1992... and I frigging hated it.

I bought an SNES a few months earlier as part of a scheme to establish credit. I had just finished college and hadn't given a shit about video games in many years. But between F-Zero and Super Mario World, I was back in. At some point I bumped into an old buddy I hadn't seen in a long time and in catching up I mentioned that I had an SNES and was gaming again. He said "Definitely get this new game called Final Fantasy 2. It's cool, it's just like D&D." That was pretty much all he said about it, didn't go into detail at all. So I envisioned a game where I would start out by creating my own character and then be set free to explore a realm looking for quests, accepting and rejecting them as I saw fit. You might say I envisioned a 16-bit single player version of WoW. So, I went out and bought a copy and started playing, and was immediately dismayed to find out that the characters were all pre-fab. I had absolutely no freedom to explore, the world was carefully designed to ensure that I could only go where the game wanted me to go. I had to follow a linear plot and basically just watch it unfold. The only D&D-ish elements were that each character was essentially a collection of stats, and the combat was somewhat turn-based. And of course the overall motif, and many of the monsters and summons seemed to be lifted straight from D&D. It was neat to see a video game telling such an epic story, something I'd never seen before. But the writing wasn't exactly impressive. I was really disappointed and didn't enjoy the game. It took me months to play through it, usually dreading it and chipping away at it here and there.

A couple years later FFVI came out, and I had no interest in it. By this time I was online and a regular on a couple of gaming BBSes. A lot of folks were all excited about "FF3," but not me. Long story short, they badgered me into playing it, promising that it was waaaaay better than FFIV, and I decided to try it if only to shut them up. I guess part of it was that my expectations were correct this time, but whatever it was, I fell head over heels for FFVI. Over the years I've gone back and played FFIV again and was certainly able to enjoy it much more than I did that first time, but I still don't think very highly of it. I respect it for taking some very large steps towards changing it from the little game it was in the beginning to the modern FFs that ruled the world from 1997 to 2001. Ironically, now I couldn't give less of a fuck about some quasi open-ended D&D-esque video game RPG, and that's the way I've felt for... eh, pretty much since FFVI I guess! WRPGs, the ones that tend to stick much closer to classic D&D tropes, they can all suck my fatty. Funny how tastes change.

EDIT: I notice there's a little mini-debate going re: the level of freedom FFIV afforded the player. All I'm saying is, compared to D&D, it was approaching zero. I don't blame FF or Sakaguchi, I blame my friend for not being more explanatory about what I'd be getting into.
 
This is a really odd thing to say. FF2 gives the player a stupid amount of freedom to explore the world map, from the moment you gain a 4th party member. And because enemies can drop spells and equipment for you to use, it was totally worth it to just poke around and see what you could find.

FF4's fake openness was a deliberate facet of its design. It's presenting you with a world, but giving you exactly one thing worth doing in it; "saving the world". It's part of the game's focus on using the mechanics to tell a story.

FF2 did indeed give the player freedom as did 3 to a degree. However comparing 2 and 4, 4 feels like a backtread in terms of the liberty you have in the world.

I disagree however that the fake openess of FF4 is simply the having mechanics tell a specific story. One can argue every Final Fantasy has the main idea of "saving the world". The difference is that Final Fantasy 4 can't efficiently tell its story without sacrificing the ability to give the player more control.

It's different from XIII's corridor like structure but it maintains the same feeling of being pushed around rather than simply managing your own adventure. It's too limited for the story it is telling as it makes everything outside of the narrative feel bare.

All discussions of video game's merits are "subjective"...

I was trying to come up with a more interesting title for this thread. Nothing really came to mind except this :l
 
No sidequests?

Getting the Excalibur
Getting the Spoon
Getting many of the summons (which is one BIG subquest that is comprised of 2 smaller ones)
Grinding the Flan Princess for Adamant armor
In a way, getting some of the special weapons and armor

The game isn't super long to begin with and I rather like the brisk pace, even now.

Rydia 4 lyfe
 
No sidequests?

Getting the Excalibur
Getting the Spoon
Getting many of the summons (which is one BIG subquest that is comprised of 2 smaller ones)
Grinding the Flan Princess for Adamant armor
In a way, getting some of the special weapons and armor

The game isn't super long to begin with and I rather like the brisk pace, even now.

Rydia 4 lyfe

Yeah I was wrong in writing that there was none.
 

Nottle

Member
I think you make some great points. Though it's has been probably 10 years since I've really played this game in my memories the characters are really fun with a few exceptions that are just sort of bland. After playing FFT your comment about Kain and Golbez strikes me as pretty insightful. It could have had more weight if Kain was driven by jealousy and lust, rather than just mind control. Him turning face is fine, but it would have been better if they took a more mature approach and if it was actually a story of jealousy, acceptance and redemption (sort of mirroring Cecil's arc)

I agree about the gameplay. The characters while fun, are not very customizable. I prefer either the FF9 approach where they really go all in on giving characters individual skills, or the Job system from 5 where you can really synergize certain party builds.
 

ZangBa

Member
What you wrote is well written and I respect it, but I can't help but disagree. I don't have any nostalgia attached to this game because I played it sometime after IX, through the 2 disc collection I can't remember the name of (Chronicles?). It's easily one of my favorites in the series.

I'm not convinced the party structure is inherently negative. I can understand Edge being odd in the final lineup since he's introduced so late, but IIRC, he was important to the worlds history being a prince of his kingdom which gives some legitimacy to him being there at the end. I actually liked how characters would shuffle around during the game, it consistently forces you to change your strategy moving forward rather than becoming complacent with what you have.

The same with linearity, I don't really feel this is a negative. It's open enough to allow you to explore but the main point of any JRPG is to progress the story. There are sidequests available as well so it isn't strictly linear, nothing like FFXIII at least.

I'll agree the Zeromus thing is wack, but I still think Golbez is cool as shit. I like villains that end up helping the party in the end so I guess I'm biased here.

To me, it's also the first FF with really outstanding music. Probably my favorite boss theme in the series, and the final dungeon music really captures the feeling of the game at that point.
 
FF IV is easily my favorite Final Fantasy game and possibly my favorite JRPG. (Chrono Trigger is right there with it.) I fell in love with the game as soon as the Red Wings theme started. I've played the game probably 6 times on 3 different platforms and it's still great.

The things you dislike about the game are the things that I like about it.
 

ghibli99

Member
I love all 3 SNES-era FFs for different reasons. I didn't actually play/finish FF4 until 1997, and it kinda blew me away. While I preferred FF6 overall, I still loved FF4. I couldn't really get into the DS remake, although I did play the SFC Hardtype patch version around 2002 or so, which was pretty damn cool.
 

Junahu

Member
I disagree however that the fake openess of FF4 is simply the having mechanics tell a specific story. One can argue every Final Fantasy has the main idea of "saving the world". The difference is that Final Fantasy 4 can't efficiently tell its story without sacrificing the ability to give the player more control.
Saving the world in FF1 and FF3 isn't a time critical task; evil is out there somewhere, and you can go fight it whenever you feel up to it. They're very laid back games, and present relatively static worlds that will eventually be in some sort of danger. The antagonist just shows up at the end to serve as a climax. FF2 was better at presenting us with a world in peril, but the game mechanics and the openness of the world actively encourage you to goof off and meander around without a clear goal

FF4 makes it clear that the antagonists are moving with a clear objective, to the point that the player is unable to keep pace, no matter how fast they progress. It's that feeling of racing against time that is meant to drive the player through the game's events, and it's the reason why the experience is so controlled and linear.
It's also core to the ATB system, which layers in real-time pressure to what was previously purely strategic battles. The ATB helps to add a little more player investment, by forcing them to react to things as they happen, rather than planning things out a few turns in advance.
The game basically substitutes player choice for event driven gameplay, and there will always be a place for that kind of adventure.
 
I'm playing through FFII/IV right now using the Namingway Version hack (combines Project II's fan translation with series bible updates/dash movement) and having a good time, just got to the Tower of Babil. After so many years of the game's tropes and storytelling devices seeping into games of the genre to follow, I'm nonetheless impressed by how actively Square pursued set-pieces and rapid pacing, with bosses getting more interesting to fight and the setting more idiosyncratic. Setting battle/message speed to max on Active isn't something I normally try in games based on the system (and the inventory UI is bad enough here to remind me why) but it's adding a lot of tension I normally wouldn't experience.

Right now I'm feeling a well-earned sense of urgency to keep the plot going, even knowing there'll be side-quests to liven things up in a bit.
 
Saving the world in FF1 and FF3 isn't a time critical task; evil is out there somewhere, and you can go fight it whenever you feel up to it. They're very laid back games, and present relatively static worlds that will eventually be in some sort of danger. The antagonist just shows up at the end to serve as a climax. FF2 was better at presenting us with a world in peril, but the game mechanics and the openness of the world actively encourage you to goof off and meander around without a clear goal

FF4 makes it clear that the antagonists are moving with a clear objective, to the point that the player is unable to keep pace, no matter how fast they progress. It's that feeling of racing against time that is meant to drive the player through the game's events, and it's the reason why the experience is so controlled and linear.
It's also core to the ATB system, which layers in real-time pressure to what was previously purely strategic battles. The ATB helps to add a little more player investment, by forcing them to react to things as they happen, rather than planning things out a few turns in advance.
The game basically substitutes player choice for event driven gameplay, and there will always be a place for that kind of adventure.

This is like someone walking up to me and telling me the perfect words to let my girlfriend know how much I love her. Brilliant summary.
 
FF IV is easily my favorite Final Fantasy game and possibly my favorite JRPG. (Chrono Trigger is right there with it.) I fell in love with the game as soon as the Red Wings theme started. I've played the game probably 6 times on 3 different platforms and it's still great.

The things you dislike about the game are the things that I like about it.

Agreed completely. One of my favorite games of all time. Nice write up though, I can see where you're coming from, just don't agree
 
I use to think this was my favorite SNES game until I replayed it and Chrono Trigger over the last couple of years. Now it has to sit at number two. It has to be up there with Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Symphony of the Night as my most replayed games, though.

So much great music and cool characters, even if they aren't very fleshed out by today's standards. I'd never seen anything like it back when it came out. Cecil turning from a dark knight into a paladin was the craziest thing ever. And people dropping like flies. I didn't know games could be like this. So, I'm clearly biased by it being my first JRPG. But, I fucking love this game.
 

Pejo

Member
I disagree with a lot of your points, but understand what you meant by them.

The linear nature of IV allows the pacing to be swift and the gameplay experience to be focused. The more games I play, the more value I can put in both linear and non-linear rpgs. I find myself petering out about 3/4 of the way through a game when given too much freedom, on average.

IV is a funny thing for me. It was probably the first game where I really paid attention to the story and characters. The atmosphere and music is amazing, and I really liked all the characters.

When I replayed this game last year I realized that a lot about the characters that I remembered were little mini-storylines I made up in my mind, and that actually made me connect with them in a weird way. All subtlety is gone with this franchise now, and you instead get cutscenes and double flip 360 sword slashes telling you exactly how something plays out.

It's funny that you are so disappointed in the story and characterization when you're looking at a game that originally released when almost no games had a story besides "jump on the boss's head 3 times". It seems really unfair to judge its story compared to games of today or even 10 years ago.

After a lot of reflection after replaying both IV and VI in the past year, I have to say that VI is the "best" Final Fantasy in my eyes and opinions of what a FF should be, but IV is (and will most likely always be) my favorite.
 

RPGam3r

Member
The linearity and lack of choice in the development system make me look back on FF IV and place it near the bottom of the FF series. I remember playing "2" when came out and loving it, but it doesn't hold up against most of the other entries in the series. Honestly, I'm always a little puzzled when people put it at the top for the series.
 
I disagree with a lot of your points, but understand what you meant by them.

The linear nature of IV allows the pacing to be swift and the gameplay experience to be focused. The more games I play, the more value I can put in both linear and non-linear rpgs. I find myself petering out about 3/4 of the way through a game when given too much freedom, on average.

IV is a funny thing for me. It was probably the first game where I really paid attention to the story and characters. The atmosphere and music is amazing, and I really liked all the characters.

When I replayed this game last year I realized that a lot about the characters that I remembered were little mini-storylines I made up in my mind, and that actually made me connect with them in a weird way. All subtlety is gone with this franchise now, and you instead get cutscenes and double flip 360 sword slashes telling you exactly how something plays out.

It's funny that you are so disappointed in the story and characterization when you're looking at a game that originally released when almost no games had a story besides "jump on the boss's head 3 times". It seems really unfair to judge its story compared to games of today or even 10 years ago.

After a lot of reflection after replaying both IV and VI in the past year, I have to say that VI is the "best" Final Fantasy in my eyes and opinions of what a FF should be, but IV is (and will most likely always be) my favorite.

About the bolded part, I understand how FFIV was something incredibly new to storytelling in games and of course judging to other games around that time would make it stand far out. That being said I'd played the remake version that was released on the DS which I believe gives me some ability judge it based on that context of modern games.
 

Violet_0

Banned
I was trying to come up with a more interesting title for this thread. Nothing really came to mind except this :l

A Critical Look?

I played FF IV for the first time about three years ago and got out of the first cave before I gave up, so I don't have much to add. My personal, biased and uninformed opinion is that the game is really outdated, or at least not for me
 

Pejo

Member
About the bolded part, I understand how FFIV was something incredibly new to storytelling in games and of course judging to other games around that time would make it stand far out. That being said I'd played the remake version that was released on the DS which I believe gives me some ability judge it based on that context of modern games.

I agree that they updated the translation and changed some minor points, but for the most part the DS remake (and Android version based off of it which is the one I played last year) didn't change the actual story. The events still occur in the same order with the same results (minus the endgame optional stuff). So it's still a 1991 story wrapped up in a 2008 package. It's fair that you weren't impressed with it, but I was blown away with parts like Cecil's transformation, Kain's betrayal, Edge's revenge, Rydia's rapid aging, the Twins' sacrifice, etc. That was a big deal in 91.
 

Kuro Madoushi

Unconfirmed Member
Yeah I was wrong in writing that there was none.
Not a side quest but there were also optional weapons from the bosses on the Lunar base as well as the enemies in the area too.

Rosa might never be your main attacker (but what's wrong with archetypes...? Especially considering how old the game is...); however, she was beastly if she got the Artemis bow or silence staff.

As to the story, it is incredibly simplistic and I agree that there are a lot of letdowns, but I will say that's coming from gaming so much in this era where those things you mentioned are taken more into consideration.

Additionally, the re-release on GBA is the ultimate version and let's you use swap in previous party members, which addresses some of your other criticisms.

Edit: DS version? I dunno...one of them gave you the option to bring back old party members.

For myself, I thought they could've focused a lot more on the internal struggle that Cecil goes through to make the redemption stick a lot more. I'm fine with Golbez being a puppet was a bit of a shocker and twist when I was a kid. He mirrors Cecil in that regard with the guilt over what he does and also tries to make up for it. Still, I do wish there was a bit more development on the big baddie so to speak. Additionally, Mass Effect has spoiled me and I really wish there were more character specific side quests to help flesh out the character growth and add more incentive to explore the world once it opens up.

Before I go on, I believe Square addresses most of these in FF6.

As someone who decimated this game (retranslated and tweaked rom, different versions of the SNES cart, adamant armour, Silence Staff, lvl 99 everyone, bunch of optional summons, etc), it holds a special place in the old ticker though I still prefer FF6, CT, and other games in higher regard; this could be because I'm utterly burnt out on the game after playing it on every freakin' system available though.

Also, fuck that fucking doll boss! >=
 

ZangBa

Member
There's one more thing I'd like to mention about the deaths of characters. For anyone who acquired FFII off the portal app for free recently and doesn't want to be spoiled, don't read on.
After playing through much of FFII which we all know is a bit of a template for FFIV, I wondered if the fake-outs with all the character deaths in FFIV was done on purpose as a kind of twisted reference to FFII. FFII has no problems with killing off your party members, some not even 10 minutes or so after acquiring them, unlike FFIV, where the amount of fake deaths started to become questionable. Since I don't believe we actually got FFII in NA, I wonder if that was done to throw a curve-ball at the Japanese players, who were probably convinced they were all dead considering the precedence set. To me, this would be a little bit clever, if not at least funny. A reference that would be lost on us completely at the time.

I wish the PSP version of the game was playable through PSN without that device, it's probably the best version for me. Come on Square, just one more port.
 

Lothar

Banned
The linearity and lack of choice in the development system make me look back on FF IV and place it near the bottom of the FF series. I remember playing "2" when came out and loving it, but it doesn't hold up against most of the other entries in the series. Honestly, I'm always a little puzzled when people put it at the top for the series.

It's because not everyone dislikes linearity and wants customization. Usually, being able to customize leads to all characters having the best attacks and best healing magic, as is the case for FF6, FF7, and FF8. That makes for a dull repetitive experience. In FF4, you can't have every character with Meteo, Cure 4, and Life 2. You can't just mindlessly spam those spells. If Rosa dies in FF4, that's a bigger deal any character dying in FF6 because she's your only healer. FF6, FF7, and FF8 are all really easy, so I find them boring. I greatly prefer challenge and variety to customization. FF5 does have better gameplay but lousy story, characters, and music in comparison to 4. So I would put 4 above all other FFs except for X.

The actual gameplay of Final Fantasy IV is also something I find heavily critical. Playing the DS version I knew ahead of time that the difficulty had been upped from the original. However my problems were less of what was updated and more of what had been retained. Final Fantasy IV gives every character a unique and unchangeable class from which they have guided route of growth. Outside of items and equips there are virtually know ways to customize your party in any unique ways. This leads the game designing every dungeon and boss around what your party is able to do based on who's in it at the time.

If it wasn't for the first sentence, I would think this paragraph was complimenting FF4. Yes, the game makes it more challenging by limiting you, and every dungeon and boss has unique ways to beat them that you have to figure out based on the characters they gave you. That's why FF4 is awesome.

The plot of Final Fantasy IV also is something I cannot ignore when looking back at the game. I understand that at its time Final Fantasy IV was revolutionary for Jrpgs in terms of storytelling. I realize the iconic moments of the game, from Cecil's transformation from Dark Knight to Paladin to Rydia's reappearance, were genuinely mindblowing experiences when the original game came out. However taking the game in a modern context I can't help but feel disappointed in what IV ended up doing. The narrative, much like Final Fantasy 2, introduces the concept of drop in and drop out characters. That is to say many characters will join your party for a specific span of the game only to either be killed off or separated. Unlike Final Fantasy 2 however, Cecil is the only permanent character that the player has throughout the entirety of the game. Now while this strengthens the player's connection to Cecil it severely weakens the connection one has for the rest of Final Fantasy IV's characters. If there's one thing I specifically appreciate in the DS remake it is allowing the player to view internal monologue of the party character's on the pause screen, giving even just the slightest bit of extra development and player connection to the cast. Outside of that however, the lack of substantial change for the cast outside of cosmetic and class changes and the absence of character to character dialogue scenes makes Final Fantasy IV lean much too far into exposition taking away from a personal investment into the lives of the characters.

What I like about FF4's story, still to this day, is how packed with emotion it is. The game starts you off with killing innocent people who don't fight back because the king ordered it and then you later see Cecil pained over what he's done. You accidentally cause the death of a little girl's parents and then she stays with you because she has no one else. You protect her and she sees you're not so terrible and she warms up to you, the killer of her parents. Edward who is weak and not a good fighter has his girlfriend sacrifice herself to save his life, and he has to find a way to live with that. Rydia slaps him in the face for giving up because she hasn't given up after everything she's been through. Tellah consumed with rage over his daughter's death dedicates his life to revenge. He's willing to get Golbez even it costs him his life. Your best friend betrays you, your boat gets destroyed, and you end up alone with all your friends presumed dead in the town from the beginning who's residents you murdered. Now you have to look to them for help. I could keep going on and on. That's just the beginning.

Compare that to FF13 where I felt no emotion. I played FF12 for 20 hours and felt nothing. I still think FF4's story is great right now. Think how far above everything else it was In 1991. It doesn't get near enough credit.

I think you make some great points. Though it's has been probably 10 years since I've really played this game in my memories the characters are really fun with a few exceptions that are just sort of bland. After playing FFT your comment about Kain and Golbez strikes me as pretty insightful. It could have had more weight if Kain was driven by jealousy and lust, rather than just mind control. Him turning face is fine, but it would have been better if they took a more mature approach and if it was actually a story of jealousy, acceptance and redemption (sort of mirroring Cecil's arc)

I agree with you that it would have been better without the mind control. Still, he really was jealous of both Cecil's rank and his girlfriend. That's how his mind was able to be controlled. So he is partially to blame. He feels guilty and he should. That's why he doesn't show up at the wedding at the end.
 

Soodanim

Member
The only thing I don't like is the limited inventory and the stupid rare items.

I hope the next FF goes back to using a predetermined job system. The last time we had that was back in 2000.
Speaking only of the basic things because I don't remember the story enough to comment, I absolutely agree with these points. The limited inventory was terrible, and made worse by the 100th item of something taking a new slot. I did not enjoy that, especially as gear was included in the limit. Better use some items or I can't pick up this new weapon!

I used to think locked jobs would be a limiting factor, but I've played this and FFXII:IZJS and it makes everything better.

The PSP version also had fast forward/auto in battles, and that allowed me to grind out 10 levels and finish the game after 5 years of not beating the last boss and hating that last trek to him.
 

djtiesto

is beloved, despite what anyone might say
I love the game, it's probably my second favorite behind 5, although what I like about both games is different from one another. Having a party that switches as you play makes the battles and dungeons a bit more dynamic as you learn to exploit what you have, instead of making a super-powered jack of all trades like most of the other FFs. The story is told at a brisk pace and likes to throw a wrench at you, screw you over...

One of the first FFs to make the boss fights a bit more of a puzzle where you have to do more than just blast the opponent with the most powerful spells - even timing becomes crucial, which was revolutionary to RPGs from 1991.
 
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