Alright today I'm taking a look at Final Fantasy IV, (aka. Final Fantasy II) on the Super Nintendo. This was actually the first game in the Final Fantasy series to get a near simultaneous US release, coming out less than sixth months after the Japanese version. They achieved this miracle by just missing out the last two NES games entirely and skipping ahead, renumbering this to FFII and hoping no one noticed. It could've been Final Fantasy I in Europe following that method, but alas us poor Europeans were skipped over entirely once again. Still, I'm just happy the game actually got an English release somewhere this time, as it'll save me from translating it from Japanese as I go, one message box at a time.
My associate Ocean already wrote up his thoughts on this game in a guest post last year, but I've been playing through the series in order and I didn't want to miss this out, so please ignore his hard work and insights, and consider this the one true FFIV article on the site.
Final Fantasy IV (PSX)
Like Final Fantasy 1 and 2 (but not 3 weirdly) FF4 received a PlayStation port with a brand new state of the art CGI intro video. The thing is though, this port was created five years before the other games made it to the PlayStation, so the intro... well it's kinda dated looking, even more so than the rest of them.
Plus the video clip's pretty much over before it's begun, as it only lasts long enough to show airships taking off and a knight moping around on deck while this half-melted looking woman watches with concern from a nearby town. It felt more like an airship commerical than the start of an epic fantasy story really.
It turns out that the sinister knight in blue is called... Cecil, and his crew are just a little bit concerned about the fact that they just stole a crystal from innocent people. This is actually toned down a bit from the original Japanese dialogue, where they talk about how they just murdered innocent people for it.
But Cecil tells his crew to quit their whining, they did their duty for King and country and that's the end of it. Plus they should really be more concerned about those giant monsters flying in to attack the airships.
Man, I'm definitely adding that to my shortlist of spells to abuse when/if I finally get this guy in my party.
Hey wait, isn't this the king's throne room from hit video game series GameCenter CX?
|Final Fantasy IV Recoloured||Final Fantasy III (NES)|
|Final Fantasy IV Advance (GBA)|
Oh right I should probably mention what's actually happening in this scene. Cecil came back to present the crystal to his king, his mission a total success, so of course the King was outraged and took away his command of the Red Wings airship fleet, effective immediately. Now Cecil's been demoted to being a delivery boy, tasked with taking a Package to Mist Valley.
Great, I'm playing as an unstoppable dark knight with unimaginable magic powers and (until very recently) command of the world's mightiest airship fleet and my first mission is almost literally a FedEx quest. Alright let's get on with it then.
You guys aren't going to let me leave the castle are you? Bastards.
Come on, I don't need to see the King, I've seen the King! I started off talking to the King, just let me out. What? What do you want from me?
Well okay, if they're going to force me to search every bloody inch of this castle looking for my own bedroom, then I'm going to go raid every hidden treasure vault I find along the way and claim the contents for myself. Maybe my bed's in one of them, won't know until I look.
LATER THAT EVENING.
Somehow I get the feeling that the real Cecil's whimpering has only just begun.
this overworld music. Genius composer Nobuo Uematsu got a lot out of the NES's sound hardware for the earlier games, but this music is a clear generation more advanced.
Well I could go straight off into adventure, but surely the smart thing to do is to visit town and blow my hero's entire life savings on essential supplies (weapons).
So we left town empty handed and took a stroll around the overworld (the King forgot to tell us where Mist Valley is), but it wasn't long before we got sucked into a random encounter battle.
- Most obviously the fights take place on an actual background rather than being in a miserable black void.
- The 'Run' option has been shifted off to the new L and R shoulder buttons leaving more room on the menu for more interesting commands.
- There are extra commands to change the character's row mid-fight or parry an enemy attack, giving more defensive options.
*No seriously it really has been patented.
This place is a maze of ledges and stairs hanging over a chasm, pretty different to the more traditional step-less caves I explored in the earlier games. It's also the only route through the mountains so it's where I have to go. Annoyingly it seems that every dead end has a treasure chest, so if I stumble upon the right path I have to backtrack and take all the wrong ones first.
And once the Mist Dragon's dead I'm free to deliver my Package. You know, it's weird how it's called a 'Package' in the US SNES release, but a 'Bomb Ring' in all the other versions...
Well at least we can go rescue that green-haired kid up on the top right and do one good deed today.
Uh... quick Kain, grab the kid, we'll drag her to safety!
Well the earthquake somehow formed a new mountain range between Cecil and Mist Village, and Kain's nowhere to be found, so all I can do now is continue east and carry the poor unconscious kid across the desert to the nearest town. I just hope this one doesn't blow up when I get there.
ONE HIKE ACROSS THE DESERT LATER.
Final Fantasy III).
Weirdly I can't summon that ultra-powerful Titan she brought out earlier. You know, I can't do any of Cecil's super attacks from the intro now that I think about it either! The Japanese version of the game did at least let him have a 'Dark' attack that hits all enemies at the cost of some of his own HP, but that was taken out of the US version, because I guess the game had been reworked to be easy enough that you'd never need it.
Incidentally they later made a third, even easier version of the game for the Japanese market called the Final Fantasy IV Easytype, but apparently all the later ports for the PlayStation and GBA etc. are based on the original, more difficult Japanese version of the game.
|Final Fantasy IV Advance (GBA)|
The thing is, Cecil never even mentioned Rosa to him when they joined up in the SNES game, so I guess he just suddenly changes his mind and lets me team up with him for no reason besides boredom and senility.
Fortunately Rydia's getting pretty powerful now seeing as she has white magic, black magic and summons, and automatically learns spells as she levels up. Unfortunately she's still a pretty low level so she doesn't have much mana and I've got no items on me to recover it between fights.
A BIT MORE CAVE LATER.
SOME SERIOUS SPELUNKING LATER.
Now we're through the cave passage I'm free to visit the city of Damcyan and help Tellah find his daughter. It seems that my luck is finally starting to turn around.
Well I did come out here to find a SandRuby to cure Rosa, but now Edward's in the team I should probably take him back to the oasis town to get him some gear and maybe a few levels first, so that I don't end up having to drag his corpse the whole way. It's okay, I've got the Prince's hovercraft now so I can take a shortcut back and skip the water cave.
Alright, back in the hovercraft and off to the Antlion cave then, again. How come the crappy caves never explode, that's what I want to know. I want to nuke the whole lot of them.
ONE VERY SIMILAR LOOKING CAVE LATER.
With the Antlion dead I was able to use the SandRuby to heal Rosa and together we headed through another very familiar looking cave full of very familiar stairs to reach the castle city of Fabul and warn them that everywhere we visit tends to explode.
|Final Fantasy IV Advance (GBA)|
You know, I shouldn't be so cruel to Eddie. Sure he's not a damage dealing powerhouse, or a versatile mage, or even a likeable person to have around, but he can send enemies to sleep with just his regular attacks (and his whining) and that's a handy skill to have. And to be honest he isn't doing too bad to still be alive here considering I haven't done the slightest bit of grinding on the GBA.
Oh by the way, I have a five character party right now, so that's another first for the Final Fantasy series. Possibly a last too, I'm not sure.
But as long as we can guard the town's crystal and not let it fall into the hands of Golbez, then all is not lost. With battle music like this how could we fail? Well I suppose Fabul's King confiscating my two healers for absolutely no reason probably isn't going to help.
ONE LONG DRAMATIC CHAIN OF BATTLES LATER.
Fortunately Rydia wasn't in the fight so she was able to resurrect the team, and we soon received a new quest from the Fabul's King (who sleeps upstairs from a pub for some reason) but that just led to further catastrophe and if I was going to keep listing the team's failures I'd be here forever, so I'll end this here.
I have to admit that I kind of liked Final Fantasy IV, but the storyline didn't exactly grab my attention, despite selfishly grabbing a fair percentage of my playtime. So far the game has been all about moving forward, with very little backtracking or grinding necessary, and even the caves are underground roads rather than dungeons to be explored and then escaped back through the way I came in. Though it is missing a bit of the hook of seeing a shiny new sword in the shop and knowing it'll be mine if I work to afford it, as my best gear was just found in boxes along the way. It's like some other dark knight was stripping naked as he travelled through the caves, packing his gear into empty chests along the way.
Man, in one of these games I'm going to finally come across the person filling these chests with free gear, and he's going say something like "what, you mean you don't know the adventurer's code? Everyone travelling through the caves who takes something from the chests must replace it with something unwanted but equally useful for the next party to find. That's just common courtesy!" And then my hero will feel like the thieving monster that he so clearly is.
Well I didn't love the game, I definitely didn't love being sent through so many caves and having my party members constantly swapped in and out, and I will never forgive it for trapping me in that castle at the start, but it was entertaining enough and mercifully free of frustrations, so I'll give it a shiny star. It might even be the best in the series so far, but I'm suffering from mild JRPG fatigue now so it's hard to say. It did at least get that boss battle theme stuck in my head, so everything I do from now on today will be slightly more epic.
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