Final Fantasy IV Review
by Lassarina Angharad Aoibhell
All right, I know that technically the Final Fantasy series began with good ol' Final Fantasy I way back on the Nintendo system. However, my personal opinion is that Final Fantasy IV (released as Final Fantasy IV in Japan, and Final Fantasy II for Super Nintendo in the US) truly started it all. Final Fantasy II paved the way for such marvels of RPG creation as Final Fantasy VI. It introduced features that came to be standard in later games, such as the active time battle system (ATB.) Moreover, it ranks second only to Final Fantasy VI in my list of all-time favorite games.
The characters in Final Fantasy IV are fascinating. Although in the Japanese version, both storyline and plot are explored more in-depth (the version released in the US is the so-called "Beginners' Version), the characters are still multi-faceted. This, in my opinion, contributes greatly to replay value. The internal conflicts the characters face (specifically Kain and Cecil) give insights into the personalities the characters possess. (Yes, I know that sounds obsessive, but I always want to understand the characters in an RPG as well as possible.) Overall, characterization gets a perfect score from me. On a scale of one to ten--you guessed it--10.
Plot is another of the elements that is vital to a good RPG. The plot in Final Fantasy IV has sudden twists (which I will not be discussing in detail, to avoid spoilers) and some surprising revelations. I pride myself on my ability to guess plot twists, and some of the events in this game caught me totally by surprise. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of plot revealed in this game. After I finished the game, I was disappointed that I was finished--I wanted it to just keep going. When I feel like I MUST replay a game as soon as I finish it, to make sure it's really as good as I think it is, that's a strong indicator that I've found an excellent game. The plot gets a 10 also. (Yes, I know I am scoring high . . . but you should see the numbers I came up with for Final Fantasy VI.)
I consider plot, characters, and music to be the three most important parts of an RPG. I have already discussed two of them; time to cover the third. Personally, I am of the opinion that Nobuo Uematsu, who writes all the music for the Final Fantasy series, is a genius. Music is important because it sets the mood for any given scene, place, or event. The music in Final Fantasy IV is very good; I am particularly fond of Rosa's theme and Rydia's theme. Overall, I think the music would get an 9.5. It's excellent, and Nobuo Uematsu is an absolute genius (at least in my opinion, and reviews are really only statements of one's opinion.)
Obviously the graphics in Final Fantasy IV cannot be compared to, say, The Legend of Dragoon. However, considering the system they were developed for, I think they are quite good. The character sprites are very detailed, one of the aspects I liked most about the game. The other graphics, considering the limitations of the Super Nintendo, are also quite good. Personally, all that I require of graphics is that they are clear enough to convey the meaning of the story . . . but that's just me. In context (that is, compared to other SNES games), I would give the graphics a 9. They're good; they could be better.
And finally, gameplay. I am very fond of the idea of each character having individual skills. However, there were two things about the gameplay that irritated me. Firstly , you had to wait to gain levels in order to learn new spells. That annoys me, because often I would be learning spells that I never used, and becoming very frustrated that I could not learn the spells I needed. The other thing that irritated me is that the characters' skills were TOO individual. For example, Yang could use no magic. I prefer to have a wide range of spell-casting characters so that if one is KO'ed, I have a backup. Having Rosa knocked out would often leave me with no White Wizard--and no one else who knew white magic. That is a very diffuclt thing to deal with when you're in the middle of a boss battle. So, the characters' very individual battle skills were, for me, a double-edged sword. The good aspects of the gameplay, though--such as summoned monsters and Edge's various ninja skills--quite outweigh the irritants. I would give gameplay an 8.5.
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