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Final Fantasy IV back to reviews
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Doesn't hold up, even to its own era
Unlike many, I have no nostalgia for this game, having been introduced to it via the DS version. While in retrospect, I can applaud that version for making an interesting twist on the original game, it only makes the problems of the original even more readily apparent.

For one, the plot gets in the way of the gameplay far too much, as evidenced in the way it constantly cycles through party member with no warning to the player. This forces the player to, in turn, constantly rethink their strategies. While I'm not against that, ideally, it would come from the game presenting new challenges to the player instead of "lol your healer is gone." This is especially apparent in the DS version, which, while I can appreciate for being one of the few turn-based games I've played to require you to think your way through random battles instead of just spamming the attack command, still forces you to know when each party member leaves and what to give them in order to get the most out of your final party. Considering the difficulty of that version, you need every bit you can get.

Compare this to FFIV's immediate predecessor and successor, where you have the same four party members for more or less the whole game, can change what they do at any point in response to what the game throws at you, but don't necessarily have to if you've found something that works for you. If your usual plans aren't working for something, you can make a temporary change, cover it, and go back afterwards. This seems like a much more fair way to handle challenge than what FFIV does. FFIV doesn't let you do that, not even through having a pool of party members as seen in games such as FFVI and the Breath of Fire series, and as such comes off as worse in comparison.

Now I could tolerate the plot's changing party members if the plot was anything to write home about, but it isn't. True, this was the first Final Fantasy to have distinguishable characters, but it didn't do much with them other than Kain and maybe Rydia. As a person that's played Breath of Fire II, I can say that game definitely trumped FFIV in plot within its own era, even with a shoddy translation.

While I can see IV as being a foundation game, that's the best it has going for it in my eyes. There's fun to be had, but I don't see it as an all time classic.

It's annoying how characters keep leaving and reappearing for arbitrary reasons (did Cid have to ride the bomb as he dropped it?) - really, because of the five-person limit. Even more annoying because Dragon Quest IV (probably other games as well) had a way to switch party members.
comment #19461 doctrainAUM 20th May 13
Did you play III or V in their own eras? If you've only played the DS versions, I don't think you're really looking at the games in their original context.

The difficulty introduced by the cycling of party members doesn't particularly make IV suffer in comparison to its immediate predecessors, because they were difficult as all hell. The distinct characters and story, it's true, aren't much to write home about today, but they're a much bigger deal when you haven't seen anything like that before.

I'd rate the story of Breath of Fire II more highly than Final Fantasy II also, but keep in mind that they aren't contemporaries. Breath of Fire II came out a few months after Final Fantasy VI, and a few months before Chrono Trigger. Final Fantasy IV was the "exploring the capabilities of the SNES" period. It was the first RPG made for the SNES. The designers of that period were rapidly learning and building on each other's work, it's not as if they were waiting until the next console generation to make use of their discoveries.

comment #19510 Desertopa 24th May 13
Yeah, I've only played the remakes of III and V as well, but I know the originals all used exactly the same system, even if they don't have the modifications made by the remakes, so it doesn't really make a difference.

FFI-III may have been difficult in their original versions, but at least you could get through the games fairly comfortably if you know what you're doing. My point is that those games give you the freedom to play however you like and make plans based on what you like doing best. In IV, you have to make plans based on what the game wants you to do at any given moment, and I think it's not as good because of that.

And a story's a story, man. The only difference the SNES's capabilities made to the writers was probably the ability to program more text into the game, and you don't even necessarily need all that much to be effective at storytelling. Just look at what Hideo Kojima was able to do on an 8 bit system with the original Metal Gear games. So yeah, maybe IV came out before the likes of Bo F II, but I'd still consider them contemporaries. Though I will say that IV holds up better than VI in terms of story; villains like Golbez kept it from aging too terribly in that regard.
comment #19513 DeviousRecital 24th May 13
The discomfort of having to cycle through characters is absolutely nothing compared to what II put you through. It wasn't even close to as difficult as I, and that game didn't play unfair like II did. I haven't played III on the original hardware, so I can't speak to that one from experience, but from people who have I hear that it was also more difficult than IV.

It's not difficult to get through IV when you know what you're doing, character cycling and all. I managed it when I was a kid, and I had a lousy grasp of tactical planning back then.

The hardware might have had a limited impact on what kind of story you could make with a video game, but the designers themselves were still learning the ropes. If you're going to call BOFII and FFIV contemporaries, why not call FFIV a contemporary of Final Fantasy I? The time gap is about the same.
comment #19514 Desertopa 24th May 13
That's how you define not holding up to it's time? comparing it to a game that came out on the same console but several years later? As said the series had already released two other titles by then. This is the FF 2 proves FF 1 could had been better thing all over again, it's a really weird logic.
comment #19516 marcellX 24th May 13
^^The difficulty isn't really the issue here. My complaint rises more from the fact that IV bootstraps you to one particular set of abilities and doesn't allow you to do anything else, unlike the other games in the series (barring I, but you still had some sort of choice at the beginning of the game as to what you have to work with).

^Well, within Final Fantasy, I've only played I-VI, and I didn't think any of them had particularly good stories, though admittedly I got a few laughs out of V. Regardless, there wasn't much I could think of to compare it to otherwise except for the Breath of Fire games, which are the only other turn-based games I've played that came out for the SNES. I wasn't aware of when II came out when I made the comparison, so yeah, maybe I wasn't as informed as I could have been. If it makes you feel any better, I'd still put Bo FI just a hair above FFIV and that presumably came out in a more reasonably close timeframe. Anyway, the fact remains that writing got a bit more complex for 16 bit games as more got developed, and I don't really have a better way to define the era FFIV took place in other than by that benchmark. I guess the game was just unfortunate enough to come out at the beginning of that time where it was more impressive than what came before but not as impressive as the stuff that began to come out immediately afterwards.
comment #19520 DeviousRecital 24th May 13
I don't think it really matters which game came out when. They're all out now, so we might as well compare them all together. There ain't no handicap here.

That said, FF 4 is the only FF that I actually enjoyed enough to play through. Ok, so I've only actually played 3 of them, but still. I didn't find the character forcing too onerous, since combat in these kinds of games is so limited anyway. Essentially, the strategy is just to use the strongest attacks over and over, while the healer heals if necessary and defends if they need to conserve mana. Did they ever totally deprive you of a healer at some point? I don't actually remember.

The plot is indeed silly, but in an outlandish video game sort of way. I think at one point, after you go through the Giant of Babel or somesuch, you ride the Giant Whale Ship to the moon? Someone should make that into a movie.
comment #19526 luomo 24th May 13
"If it makes you feel any better, I'd still put Bo FI just a hair above FFIV and that presumably came out in a more reasonably close timeframe."

Not as close as you'd think. Breath of Fire I came out a year before Final Fantasy VI, and three years after Final Fantasy IV. Around the time Final Fantasy IV came out, the only other RPG on the system was Drakkhen.

And personally, I always hated the series' constant obsession with making a system to "customize" your characters. Although in theory this should lead to different strategies being implemented, in practice it tends to lead to every character being a carbon copy of every other character (seriously, was there any other strategy in VI outside of "spam Ultima on everything"?).
comment #22165 DarkPhoenixFF4 21st Nov 13
The Ultima spam was only useful if you had several Relics that were each quite difficult to obtain. Otherwise, there was plenty you could do. The game was easy enough for a player to freely experiment, and the characters were different enough, given their unique abilities.

I was disappointed with IV's lack of customization because I find it quite fun to tweak characters like that. I think IX hit the perfect balance between customization and individual uniqueness.
comment #22167 doctrainAUM 21st Nov 13
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