We got the best Final Fantasy out of the way a few weeks ago, so now that it’s safe for the other children to come out, let’s talk about one of the games in the series that’s still Top 5 for me, but nowhere near as amazing as VI or X.
Final Fantasy IV holds a special place in my heart as it’s the first game in the illustrious series that I ever played. At that time of course it was still labeled as Final Fantasy II in North America as we were jipped the actual second and third games for a long period of time and Squaresoft at the time thought that they ought to make it more complicated for us too. Not that I had a clue back then.
I look at Final Fantasy IV as the best example of the classic Final Fantasy formula, it’s a fantasy world, there’s no real huge gimmicks in either its world or the gameplay, such as the Esper system in VI, Materia in VII, Sphere Grid in X, things like that. The fourth installment of the series is simply a classic JRPG at its finest, it’s just a great story with interesting characters in a world where you just go out and grind away at until you get to the end.
The story’s pretty basic as well. You’re a Dark Knight at the start of the game, simply a loyal soldier for your King, but you are beginning to question the decisions that your King is making. You’re getting more violent in your attacks on other towns, you’re stealing and pillaging rather than maintaining order, something isn’t right. So when you travel to a town and unknowingly release a collection of Bombs (the monster not literal bombs) on them, that’s when you really start to realize something far worse is going on behind the scenes and your real journey begins as you try and right the wrongs you’ve done.
The cast of characters aren’t crazy unique personality wise, so much as they are in terms of their looks and abilities. Unlike past and later Final Fantasy games, these characters are lone wielders of certain abilities. You only have one summoner in Rydia, one dragoon in Kain, one monk in Yang and others as such. The only multiples are black and white mages, but at no point do you ever have more than one of them at the same time. The party constantly changes over the course of the game, there’s over ten different party members, but throughout the story you have only five at a time through various plot points that cause many of them to disappear or just be out of action for a little while. It’s very interesting how the game manages to keep the game so well held together while maintaining all these different characters coming and going.
The story itself isn’t overly spectacular, but there are moments where things get very good. Edward’s story arc is a very sad one, the twins Palom and Porom have one of the most memorable scenes in a Final Fantasy game of all time and of course the first real moments of terror from the main villain Golbez is a fantastic moment for a villain in a JRPG. But in terms of a story, it’s not remotely the best one in Final Fantasy history.
There are a few things I can nitpick about the game. As with some Final Fantasy games, the end just suddenly comes out of nowhere and doesn’t quite resolve the conflict the way we all wanted to see. I also did not like how your mages either did little damage with rods and staffs, or virtually no damage with bows cause they’d never fucking hit for me! And lastly…fuck that demon wall boss. Hated him when I was a kid, I could never beat it, so I never actually finished the game until I replayed it later on in my teenage years.
But the game is still solid and like I said, it’s a classic edition of the series. For those looking for a gimmick-less JRPG from the past, this is the marquee one to play, without a doubt!
…But seriously, fuck you, Demon Wall.