Final Fantasy IV
) that hasn't been said already. Gaming veterans rank it among the greatest RPGs to date; newbies fresh off of Final Fantasy X
wonder, "What's up with the numbering?" But the charm is undeniable, the characters are plentiful, and the fun:delightful.
In today's modern era, the look of the game is passable. At the time, of course, the graphics appeared detailed, colorful, and artful, but time has not been kind to FFIV
. More likely than not, any modern foray into this particular world of crystals will be met with a strange look and a quick flick of the power button. I am ashamed to say that I, too, was one of those who were at one point subjected to graphical vanity. But with the passing of time my interest got the better of me, and delving into the whimsical realm of FFIV
enticed my curiosity.
What I found was a quaint story about the dark knight Cecil, who is confronted by his own kingdom's evil intentions; the four crystals of the world are being systematically pillaged under the patronage of a man named Golbez. Now Cecil is cast out of his kingdom, searching for the nature of his identity, all while attempting to stop Golbez from achieving his diabolical plans. The result is an intent which begins modestly, then seems to snowball into something grander and more epic; very characteristic of the series. But while other, more recent titles, among them Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
, attempt to provide a thematically significant summation with virtually no in-game support, FFIV
always maintains a sharp focus on its characterization and character inter-relationships: the real points and purposes to the plotline. During the last hour, these themes appear so coherent and feasible that it is difficult not to wonder how contemporary titles miss this simple beauty and efficacy their ancestors were so capable of doing.
Whether in the case of Yang the karate man or the twins Palom and Porom, Final Fantasy IV
delivers some of the deepest characterization around. This is not to say that the developers have invested heavily into dialogue intricacies and rich back stories, but rather allowed for the dialogue simplicities which allow the gamer to fashion in their own imagination the nature and personality through their implied templates. What this creates are characters who function logically in the players mind, and therefore are very good characters indeed. One may note this same technique is also used in other famous titles (Chrono Trigger
and Secret of Mana
) but is mysteriously absent from the contemporary parental angst-cramming of Final Fantasy X
Battle here is standard Final Fantasy
fare, and comes equipped with an ATB gauge and commands hand-tailored to each character in a similar manner to Final Fantasy VI
, but there is never the worry, uneasiness, or concern of having to decide which character to place into the party for fear of a disadvantage; there is never any surplus, and new introductions don't plague you with low-level setbacks. The "if you're stuck: level up" battle simplicity may not sit well with some, but the end effect for most will be enough of a challenge and fun time to excuse any quips of complexity.
The game's soundtrack delivers a combination of exciting and memorable tracks. FFIV
represents the beginning of Uematsu's pinnacle achievements which would continue on for several installments. The "Theme of Love" is both tender and heartwarming, whereas the heart-pounding battle themes feature rather inspirational chord progressions and are used to extremely efficient effect, especially towards the end of the game, when more frequent use of the first boss theme creates an insurmountable tension and suspense. Other notable selections including the "Red Wings" theme and the "Main Theme" definitely make this soundtrack one not to be missed, and it serves well to compliment the general mood of the game.
As a whole, Final Fantasy IV
is a delightful adventure whose fantastic characters, plot, and music make it a textbook case of a classic RPG not to be missed by any fans of the genre. Those who tend to veer away, however, will be ones who find the story too linear or, at first, much too simplistic and the characters two-dimensional. This, of course, is why I began with "as a whole". The truth of a matter is that unlike later installments, FFIV
is meant to be enjoyed as the sum of its parts, beginning to end. While this may draw angry complains that a person's fulfillment ought to be achieved instantly, it is the buildup of story arcs which creates enjoyment: enjoyment in hindsight.