Old RPG review #4: Final Fantasy IV

NuMetalManiak
For the fourth iteration of RPG reviewing, I will look at my favorite game in the Final Fantasy series, which is IV, first released on the SNES. It would later be adapted for the Playstation, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. Final Fantasy IV was Final Fantasy II in the North American release, although there is a Final Fantasy II and III for the NES, those were not released outside of Japan. Of all the Final Fantasy games, this was my favorite one. For this review, I will review the North American release of Final Fantasy IV (called II) on the SNES.

Setting: You have three settings, the earth where you start out in, the lava-filled underworld (no you fools, it's not hell), as well as the moon where a lot of bad monsters reside. The earth is wide enough for an airship to fly around in. One notable thing about both the earth and underworld is that the Tower of Bab-IL runs through both of htem. The final confrontation takes place in the deepest regions of the moon. Each of these settings is simply put at best. Grade: B+

Gameplay: You have a number of common RPG elements here, towns, castles, forests, caves, rivers, sea, airships, etc. In the towns you visit inns and equipment and item shops to get all your basic bearings. Walking in the places outside the towns and castles will have players involved in random battles, which can be activated at any interval (you could even get a random encounter after walking just one step after the previous one).

Battles in this game showcase a remarkable shift from previous titles known as the Active Time Battle System. No longer was I to have all the time in the world to make a move, because the battles involved took place in real time. Meaning, if I dawdle, the enemy will strike first. So with that, my actions when engaging in battles have to be swift as well as accurate. There's plenty of options to choose from, everyone can attack, but some characters can use magic or special abilities. More on that later. Now, battles are quite challenging, as there are often many hard-hitting or status-inflicting enemies in most areas. As far as status changes go, they are ruthless. There are so many bad ones, although there are some good ones as well. I tried my best curing any inflicted members as much as possible, especially during the boss fights that use them. Two of the more enigmatic ones are Toad and Piggy, which shapeshift your characters into the respective animal greatly reducing there stats. It's similar to the Mini status ailment for that matter. Then there's always the evil status changes of Petrify (with one variant that slowly builds up) and Paralyze, which is a game over if everyone is inflicted. Charm is one of the ones I found most annoying, as it is causes your members to attack your other members. And let's not forget about any and all attacks in the game that instantly kill a party member. All these status changes made for one frustrating battle after another.

And the battle segments don't end there either. There are also ways to enter a battle. The strike first helps your characters, but the surprise variant causes the enemies to strike first. If that weren't enough, good god, then there is "Attacked from behind!" which is the same as surprised except your members are on the left side of the field while the enemies are on the side your members are usually on. Plus, it practically reverses your rows (front row members become back row members in that case). The bad thing about these battle starts is that there really is no way of predicting them, all the encounters are randomized.

But then again, you need to battle A LOT to get some hefty experience, as well as cash. I like how balanced the experience + cash gain in this game is, plus the chances of getting items isn't so bad either. However, to really complete this game, I had to grind a lot. I followed Kain Stryder's FAQ on GameFAQs, and the guide says to train certain characters in a different way at certain scenarios. Like at one point I had to grind Cecil to level 40 after he becomes a Paladin, and sometimes the guide says to kill off the other party members so that the one you want gets all the experience. I didn't follow it to a tee of course, but hey, I would honestly get my ass kicked in this game without looking at a FAQ.

Overall gameplay grade: A-
I have to give Square a lot of praise even though the game is very tough to beat.

Characters:

Playable characters here:
Cecil: The main character who is always in the party all the way to the end. Starts out as a Dark Knight with good attack power and low magic defense. Not to mention not being able to use magic. When he becomes a Paladin he is much better, and gains some White magic spells and the Cover skill (which I personally didn't use). Quite a story going on too. Grade: A
Kain: This badass is just like Cecil at the beginning, great attack but no good with magic. Except he really doesn't need it as his attack, in my opinion, is better than Cecil's for most of the game. He does have the awesome Jump ability, where he flying teabags his opponents for massive damage. He begins the game on Cecil's side. Of course, storywise, he ends up being a mild traitor to the cause. Grade: A
Rydia: One of two main magic users, and the only character you will have as a kid and as an adult. She reluctantly helps Cecil out after he defends her in Kaipo. She is insanely weak as a kid, coming with only one Call spell and some mild magic, not to mention terrible attack and defense. Luckily, it gets better. When she rejoins as an adult, she is gets better in many things. Her attack is fine by that stage, but it's not that which is exciting. She gains more black magic and Call spells at the expense of losing White magic (but by then you have Rosa in your party). With that in mind Rydia can deal the most damage out of a single magic attack with the proper knowledge of enemy weakpoints. She stills holds low HP as a weakness though. Grade: as a kid, D, as an adult, A+
Tellah: This old man plays the magic game as well. He seems fine as a mage that can use White and Black magic, but if there's one thing I hate about him, is that he never gains more than the 90 MP that he has! Not to mention it takes a while to get him to gain a level (a possible side effect of being and old guy, I guess?) and his attack % is rather clumsy at most. Still, he isn't too terrible. He has quite the spirit for avenging the death of his daughter though. I'll give him that. Grade: C
Edward: Edward the bard isn't interesting as a character for the rather short time I had him. He has average attack, and the only thing he could really be good in is speed (I usually get to his turn first in a battle). Plus his Sing and Hide abilities are really useless. Perhaps the interesting thing about Edward is his sad life after losing Anna. Grade: C-
Rosa: Your other magic user, she specializes in healing and assist magic. She's also Cecil's girlfriend, if you didn't know already. Her attack, defense, and HP are much smaller than the dudes in your party though. Grade: B+
Yang: Yang's a badass character that is a tank in combat and can dish a ton of damage with hand-based physical attacks. His Kick ability hits all enemies for awesome damage as well. Even though he doesn't cast magic, he really does not need it. He seems to help Cecil's cause at any point too. Grade: A
Palom & Porom: When you don't have Rydia and Rosa in your party you have these two twins helping Cecil out. The boy twin, Palom, specializes in all sorts of black magic, while his sister twin Porom is your white mage. The twin spells requires both of them to be alive, and it is a deathly magic attack that's so worth it. Too bad that since their mages, their attack and Hit% suck. Grade for both: B
Cid: This ruffian is the first playable Cid in Final Fantasy series. He basically is another powerful physical fighter devoid of magic. Peep is cool but it's not a useful skill. After escaping Baron castle he joins the party, and those who know other Cid's know that he is a chief engineer who specializes in ever popular airships. Grade: B-
Edge: My favorite character in the whole game. Great level gain, awesome attack (he can strike with two swords, and lots of great skills. This truly badass ninja has his own assortment of magic spells which may be in handy. Dart is an AWESOME skill, throwing a weapon just to cause tremendous damage. And a man with a cloak around his face is nimble enough to have a Steal skill to take an item away from an enemy (I've never used it though). All of these culminate in Edge being the best character in the entire game, and the best part is that he never leaves the party when you get him. Grade: A+
FuSoYa: (Insert Gandalf joke here) This white-bearded wizard temporarily joins your party to stop the big bad that is controlling Golbez and he has literally EVERY spell at his disposal for use. This makes him the best mage in the game, although the caveats are low attack and defense, actually low MP (possibly a side effect of aging), and as I mentioned, he is not in your party for long. Grade: B

There are many other non-playable characters out there. For a time, Golbez is the big bad for awhile, but then you'll find out that Zemus has him under control and that guy is the final boss. You'll visit the town of mages, Mysidia, and the castle of dwarves, Giott, amongst other places. Plus there's the sad story of Anna, Tellah's daughter, whom Tellah seeks vengeance against Golbez for. You also have four fiends, just like in the very first Final Fantasy, and of them, Rubicante was my favorite. He is probably the one video game villain I've seen that directly heals you before fighting you. In other games I've played, there's usually a healing area somewhere before a boss, or nothing to help you at all apart from your own judgments. Rubicante straight up heals you directly. Now THAT'S a generous villain with a sense of honor.

Overall characters grade: A+

Just about every character that is in this game, playable or not has something to them that you will like.

Bosses: This is so special it gains its own section. A lot of the bosses in the game are not ordinary RPG bosses that are just HP tanks with big attacks. A lot of them are very difficult to fight because they require some very interesting strategy, and even the very first boss you fight has a strategy. I'll point out the most notable ones. The D. Mist boss at the beginning can fade to mist, where it can counterattack if you hit it, so just wait. Some of the fights that you get into are unwinnable, like the first half of the Dark Elf fight. Oh man, was this guy a character. He would always talk IN ALL CAPS LIKE WHAT I JUST DID and has an assortment of attacks. At the first half, just let him weaken your characters to near death and the first phase will end. Edward (who is resting at Troia) will play a medley to get your characters up and running again, and by then you can reequip your characters and kick the Dark Elf in the tookus. Another interesting fight is the Golbez fight, where every character in your party will die (unless you exploit Kain's jump!) and Rydia will save Cecil with her Mist dragon summon. The Evil Wall was the most notable boss I can think of that was really frustrating, with his petrifying attacks plus when he moves all the way to the party he will instantly kill them. I had to kill the thing pretty fast. Some of the optional boss battles (which are actually unlockable summons for Rydia) require an interesting strategy. Finally the bosses in Lunar Subterranae before Zeromus are the toughest in the whole game. Then there's Zeromus himself. It certainly was the most suspenseful finale I've beaten, and with this many dynamic bosses, the game gets an A for boss fights.

Plot: Ah yes, the plot of Final Fantasy IV is one of my favorites for an SNES game. Cecil starts out as this pretty bad character, taking crystals away for the kingdom of Baron. He regrets his actions though, as he feels that what he's doing is bad. And he finds out he is correct.After defecting from Baron, he ends up witnessing a lot of catastrophic events, such as the raid on the Damcyan crystal and the death of Anna, as well as the taking of the crystal from Fabul, in which Kain apparently betrays him. Golbez is mentioned and is Cecil's nemesis for much of the game, making his physical appearance about here and kidnapping Rosa. Later on, he loses the rest of his party and ends up with Palom and Porom at his side climbing Mt. Ordeals to banish the darkness within him and becoming a Paladin. After getting Tellah and Yang to join him again, the fight against Cagnazzo triggers a trap in which the twins sacrifice himself so the men (Cid is a part of the party by this point) can escape. The party will confront Golbez and Tellah uses Meteo in an attempt to annihilate Golbez, but this costs him his life and he is the only character to die as a result. Kain and Rosa rejoin, and at the second Golbez encounter, Rydia rejoins. A few things happen later where Yang and Cid make sacrifices as well (but they return at the end) and then Edge will join soon enough, but not without a sad fate for his parents. Kain betrays the group again. The party will eventually journey to the moon with a giant ship and seek FuSoYa, who joins in order to help out with the attack on the Robot of Bab-IL. As a result of the party's actions, the robot is destroyed and both Golbez and Kain are removed from mind control. And it is revealed that Golbez isn't such a bad guy after all, in fact he is...actually I'm not gonna spoil that. All I will say is Kain will rejoin and you will eventually confront Zemus, who becomes Zeromus. After beating it the game will be done and you will see the great ending. I tried not to spoil to much, so I won't spoil the ending either. Whatever the case may be, I absolutely love this plot. Grade: A+

Music: Now the music is just as good as anything else. The overworld and underworld themes both have a nice instrumental aura to them, and I enjoyed them quite well. Many of the storyline themes like Cecil's theme at the beginning and the ending themes were great to listen to as well. I enjoyed the themes on my through the final cavern, Lunar Subterranae. There's just too many good music tracks and no bad ones. Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

I have not played Final Fantasy VII, and that seems to be the most popular game in the series. I've only played two games so far, the first one, and this. And I flat out loved this game. Sure, it's hard as heck, but rightfully slow, with a great soundtrack and story, as well as characters and villains to love. I highly recommend this RPG for those interested.

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