Video Game Review: Final Fantasy IV

Details: This is the remake of the game originally released in 1991 for the SNES and known in America as Final Fantasy II. They remade the game in 3D into this game for the Nintendo DS in around 2008. It was subsequently released for iOS and Android, then for Windows and PC. I purchased the PC version through Steam in a bundle with Final Fantasy IV: The After Years for a total of around $11.50. It spent about forty-one hours playing through the game.

Final Fantasy II (or Final Fantasy IV as it was known in Japan) was a game that had a big impact on me. I first saw my older cousins playing it, which, as a child, caused me to want to play it as well. So I did and enjoyed it very much. It was one of the first video games I ever played. Fast forward a couple of decades and I nostalgically wanted to play it again. Unfortunately, the game has visually not held up very well and it only took me a couple of minutes before I decided I couldn’t play a game that looked this old. Luckily, Final Fantasy II (now IV) was remade from 2D sprites to 3D models and subsequently ported onto Windows. It’s this version that I’ve played and it was a lot of fun walking down memory lane again, albeit with better visuals.

Final Fantasy IV takes place in a fantasy world with magic, monster, knights, kings, and airships. The story primarily centers on Cecil, a dark knight from the Kingdom of Baron. Cecil has issues with the orders his king is giving him. He subsequently learns more about a world threatening danger and goes on a quest to defeat this evil while meeting a bunch of allies on the way.

Final Fantasy IV is one of the most beloved games in the history of the medium and, though dated, it’s not hard to see why. Final Fantasy IV is a role-playing game. Gameplay is your standard active time battle system from Squaresoft. You walk around the world and outside of safe zones (like towns or rest areas) you run the risk of triggering randomly occurring battles. During battle, there’s a bar that gradually fills up during battle and when it does, you get to perform an action of your choice, like attacking, magic, etc. There are more nuances like equipping armor and weapons among other things, but that’s the core of the gameplay. Like most role playing games, the primary focus here is on the story and the story here is one of the most beloved stories in video games.

Visually, the game looks like it was made for a handheld system or a smart phone.. an older smart phone. With that said, as some who desperately wanted to an updated version of this game, I think the visuals are fine. It’s not cutting edge. This is an old game even though it is a remake. However, the visuals were satisfactory to me and didn’t detract from the story.

The music is mostly synthesized, but it is magnificent. Final Fantasy IV has a legendary soundtrack from Nobuo Uematsu with distinct melodies that have been revisited time and time again in subsequent games in the Final Fantasy franchise. It’s a great soundtrack that I’ve found myself humming even decades after the game was first released. All these years later, the music is still great.

There’s some light voice acting for the cut scenes. They aren’t bad, but no one is winning an award for their performance in this game.

Something that could be viewed as good or bad is that like many Final Fantasy games, there are a lot of secrets throughout as well as things that can be missed. I think a modern trend in video games is the movement away from things that can be missed. Instead, what often happens in many role-playing games is that there is a time in the game right before the final boss where you can go around and collect things, rather than just losing the chance to enjoy a bit of story or some other content because you didn’t find something twenty hours ago. Final Fantasy IV is an old role playing game so it does not adhere to that tradition and there are many things that can be missed.

Further, a lot of the extra content in Final Fantasy IV beyond the main story line are randomized (many have a .04% chance of occurring) or require a second play-through in order obtain. I just don’t have the time, energy, or patience for that and if I wanted to play a slot machine, I’d go to a casino. I didn’t enjoy this part of the game.

I also didn’t enjoy how quests are triggered and segued in this game. This is an element of the game that was actually kept close to the original. After you finish a part of the story the game will give a hint at what you are supposed to do next. It won’t provide a specific location and, because the game is so old, there is no quest tracker in order for you to easily know where to go or what to do. Instead, you either need to fumble around, figure out where to go on your own, or use a guide. I’ve done all three at some point during my play through of the game and it really made me appreciate how far games have come to let the player know what to do next instead of wasting a player’s time wandering around.

There’s also no mini-map in the corner. You can bring up a full screen map that’s kind of transparent, but no corner map. Kind of annoying.

Despite that, I still enjoyed my time with Final Fantasy IV. Overall, I think it’s a fine game, though I’m not sure I could recommend it to anyone who didn’t play Final Fantasy II. If you have played Final Fantasy II before and you liked it, then buying this game is an easy decision.

Score: 6.8/10

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