Final Fantasy 4 Review

Final Fantasy IV, the second Final Fantasy game released in North America, was originally released in NA under the title “Final Fantasy II” in what can only be described as a bout of hilarious shortsightedness. Fortunately, this number confusion has been somewhat allayed by a number of ports and remakes that call it by its real name, and few games deserve that level of endless attention showered on them more than this one. That’s not to say that it’s perfect, but it comes surprisingly close, especially given the fact that it originally came out on the Super Nintendo in 1991.

As far as faults go, it has to be mentioned that the dialogue is badly translated in the original Super Nintendo version (leading to some endearingly strange conversations), but that’s a non-issue since later versions feature far more solid writing. Some of the characters are less than memorable, as well, but that’s something that all Final Fantasy games have suffered from, and it’s really a matter of opinion; were I to even mention the characters I find forgettable, someone would no doubt shout, “No way! That’s my favorite character in anything evarrrrrrr,” at their computer screen and I’d end up with some kind of voodoo hex on my head. It’s understandable, really, because the majority of the characters are very well done, and they make this game an instant classic.

This is why it’s a bad idea to take a hit of ecstasy before supervillainy.

Thing is, it’s hard to explain what makes the characters so well done since this is true even of the original SNES version in spite of its often serious translation flaws; in that version, serious moments and dialogue can come across as facetious due to an overuse of exclamation points, not to mention a certain degree of randomness in replies that makes conversations between characters feel very disjointed. Somewhere beyond the inappropriate enthusiasm and non sequiturs, however, lies an inexplicably interesting set of characters that have somehow managed a stranglehold on gamers’ hearts, and that grip has only become tighter thanks to the improved dialogue and graphics in later versions.

Things are about to get kinky.

Gameplay is everything you’d expect in an early Final Fantasy title. You, playing as Cecil the dark knight, wander around with your party members and fight monsters until you’re strong enough to progress past them and further the plot. Your party members will vary depending on where you are in the game, switching in and out as the plot demands, and many of them have unique abilities that keep the combat consistently fresh and interesting.

Combat uses the same ATB (active time battle) system that many of the later Final Fantasy games utilize. Basically, you select your attacks in real-time, and only choosing a spell or item from a menu stops your enemy from attacking. The end result is something that resembles turn-based combat, but with more potential strategic depth. Inside of combat you have your Final Fantasy staples, such as offensive black magic like fire/ice/thunder spells, and support-centered white magic that heals and casts barriers and all of that boring stuff. There are also the character-specific abilities, such as Kain’s ability to jump off the screen and attack several turns later, that can be used in creative ways (such as allowing him to avoid a fatal blow). Overall, combat is simplistic compared to later entries in the Final Fantasy series, but you’ll never feel like anything is missing, even when coming back to FFIV after playing those games.

With such a rigorous test as this, it’s a wonder the world is in peril.

Graphics can vary wildly depending on the version. The Super Nintendo version, pictured in the screenshots, is fairly simplistic and bright, but still detailed enough to be interesting. The Playstation and Game Boy Advance ports sport graphics virtually identical to the Super Nintendo version. The PSP version, however, is a much prettier kind of 2D, and the Nintendo DS version received a full 3D overhaul. As far as the music goes, it’s so full of instantly memorable game themes that if you were to hum the tune “Theme of Love,” virtually anyone who’s played the game will know what it’s from. The music suits the game perfectly, even given the limited abilities of the Super Nintendo, though one or two tracks repeat too often.

Here’s what you should do:

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