"I’ve played Final Fantasy games involving cute “slam dancing” animals, a stupid creature called NORG, and implied man-on-man action in a notorious place called the Honey Bee Inn. What I haven’t experienced is a Final Fantasy game as insanely difficult as the fourth installment. Perhaps the first couple games featured on Final Fantasy Origins were the most challenging, but those PSone incarnations were on a glorious easy setting that made things a breeze. This isn’t the ca..."
I’ve played Final Fantasy games involving cute “slam dancing” animals, a stupid creature called NORG, and implied man-on-man action in a notorious place called the Honey Bee Inn. What I haven’t experienced is a Final Fantasy game as insanely difficult as the fourth installment. Perhaps the first couple games featured on Final Fantasy Origins were the most challenging, but those PSone incarnations were on a glorious easy setting that made things a breeze. This isn’t the case here. I saw the depressing Game Over screen often. When I thought the game was getting easy, a boss would appear and rape me (not literally, but it sure felt like it). The final boss made me want to weep (literally, but don’t tell anyone). I’d consider myself more than passable in the RPG department, but even with the help of an excellent strategy guide I found myself swamped in monsters and Game Over screens.
As soul-crushingly difficult as Final Fantasy IV is, I still enjoyed it. Considering I play games on the “insultingly easy” and deliberately avoid difficult games on a consistent basis (I’m looking at you, Splinter Cell series), my satisfaction is a compliment of the highest order. The main reason for my surprising fondness of this game has to do with simple and enjoyable plot. A dark knight, Cecil (whose name constantly reminded me of legendary slugger Cecil Fielder), has just slaughtered some innocent people after blindly following his king’s order to procure a crystal. With Cecil’s newfound doubts and distrust in the monarchy, the king stabs the veteran warrior in the back with banishment.
You can guess what follows next. Cecil travels the land, recruits many different folks for his party, hunts for the crystals before the king can get his grubby despotic hands on them, and has to save the world (will he succeed?! The suspense is killing you!). While a lot of this business is rather clichéd, there are plenty of twists and memorable scenes that foreshadow the series’ evolution (or devolution, according to some) into interactive movies. Making things even sweeter is a snazzy new translation that is supposed to trump the lackluster offering on the SNES version. I never played that version, so I can’t personally attest to it, but I take Squares’s word for it since this translation is far less awkward than every other one leading up to Final Fantasy VII.
As a recovering Final Fantasy nerd, I also enjoyed one of the earliest inclusions of character classes, which would be developed extensively in the fifth installment and Final Fantasy Tactics, even though here you can’t customize the classes. The many different party members include a lancer complete with the jump ability, a summoner, and a monk, in addition to a few others. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then I strongly advise starting with an easier game in the series. The pain of the difficulty will make you wonder what kind of madness you’re getting involved in.
As much as I enjoyed the storyline and such, there were a few things I wasn’t too fond of. The difficulty was one thing which I eventually got used to, but the frequency of random monster encounters was consistently frustrating. Hearing the same few notes of the battle music ad nauseam also wasn’t too pleasant. Another thing is that the battle system is a little sloppy. While it hints to the “active bar or whatever it’s called” system used by a good chunk of the series by having agility determine how soon a party member attacks, there’s no bar to be found here. This means that you have no idea whatsoever of who’s up next and what enemy will be kicking your ass. I think the GBA version adds a handy bar, so it seems like Square is admitting that this battle system is woefully outdated.
Another downer is the minor slowdown during some battles. While I may not be a master game coder (my brilliance lies in game reviewing!), I don’t understand why an early SNES game should have slowdown issues on the always reliable PSone. Wait a minute; I think I understand why this is the case. Laziness and poor porting are the most likely culprits.
Despite these issues and the insane difficulty, Final Fantasy IV presents an early, enjoyable, and somewhat sophisticated entry to the series. It’s far from perfect, but if I can handle this game with my limited skill and fortitude, I think many other RPGers can handle it. So, have fun with the last boss! That guy will make you reexamine your life.
Community review by djskittles (May 27, 2006)
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