Edward. Either he's loathed for his weakness in battle coupled with his angsty attitude, or he's liked for his spooniness and joining the characters despite being far from a warrior. The re-releases have boosted Edward's popularity by making him and his abilities much more useful, to say nothing of the sequel.
Kain Highwind. Part of the fandom views him as the ultimate Memetic Badass. Another part views him as a Creator's Pet whose only impact on the plot is to get mind-controlled and sabotage the heroes over nothing more than his jealousy over Rosa.
Cecil himself. Is his journey to redeem himself, becoming a Paladin, and forgiving his brother Golbez interesting and compelling character development? Or is he a flat character for whom becoming a Paladin changes nothing but his outfit and forgiving Golbez is a Foregone Conclusion given his willingness to forgive Kain time after time?
Breather Boss: The Magus Sisters follow a simple pattern: Sandy casts Reflect on Cindy, then Mindy uses offensive spells on Cindy to do major damage to the party. Problem is, all three sisters are vulnerable to Silence, and once affected their strategy crumbles, leaving them completely helpless and unable to harm the player. While this exploit would be okay for an early game boss, the Magus Sisters are sandwiched between the Dark Elf, which can be rendered unwinnable if the player forgot to talk to Edward beforehand, and Barbariccia, who can be very annoying to fight due to her tornado form blocking every attack other than Kain's Jump.
Broken Base: There's a split camp on whether Cecil was better off as a Paladin or should've remained a Dark Knight. Those who prefer the Dark Knight class claim its design is more badass compared to the more feminine Paladin look, and feel that it would've not only showcased Dark Is Not Evil but would've been a more compelling example of redemption by accepting and fighting your darkness rather than converting to the light and shedding it away. Likewise, those who are fine with the Paladin transition argue that Cecil remaining a Dark Knight would've just been cliche and point out that the sequel actually does address the ramifications of Cecil rejecting his former dark powers.
Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Even in versions that allows you to swap parties, the original ending party (Cecil, Rosa, Rydia, Kain, Edge) is mostly used. They provide a decent mix of power, speed, ability and healing. Edward might get swapped out for one of them due to his explosive stat growth towards the game's conclusion, but it's a rarity.
Complete Monster: Zemus, the true Big Bad, was The Corrupter of, and the man behind, Golbez. Zemus was was the only Lunarian (of which the heroic Cecil and the brainwashed Golbez are each half-Lunarian) pushing to conquer earth, resulting in him being forced by his own people to fall into a millennium-long coma to allow humanity to evolve until the two could coexist peacefully together. Even in this state, he is still capable of manipulating Golbez to carry out his unsettlingly extreme dreams of an all-Lunarian utopia, which involves not only committing the atrocities throughout the entire game, but also using the artificial abomination Giant of Babil capable of dealing massive amounts of racially-based genocide on a global scale. Besides Golbez, Zemus also manipulates Kain during his fight with Cecil, who has turned into a paladin. It is also strongly implied that Zemus was responsible for the brainwashing of the four essences' incarnations, thus being responsible for the atrocities committed by the Elemental Archfiends. It is revealed that Zemus's hatred is so strong, that after his defeat, he turns into Zeromus, a being "fed by Zemus's unbridled hate who knows naught but hate!"
Designated Villain: Well, Designated Anti-Hero at least. A major plot point of the game, and one of the most well-known things about it is Cecil giving up his dark past and repenting to become a Paladin. Except that he never seems at all dark or evil to the player. His only intentional evil act is at the beginning of the game (taking a Crystal by conquest), and his abhorrence of this act is what kicks off the plot. He's in a relationship with a White Wizard, and never seems to manifest any destructive thoughts or emotions before becoming a Paladin. The "Heel" part of his HeelFace Turn arc all happens off-screen prior to the actual game, which makes his repentance somewhat less dramatic.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Among the Elemental Archfiends, Barbariccia and Rubicante have more of a following than the other two. The former thanks to her sexiness and outfit, and the latter thanks to his Noble Demon tendencies. They even got to be playable in Final Fantasy Record Keeper, getting that distinction before a fair chunk of the cast of The After Years. Lately, Calca and Brina (as well as their Fusion Dance form Calcabrina) have been appearing in crossover titles as well, usually as an optional boss battle.
Golbez. Even though he was brainwashed by the main villain and was a good guy all along, he still has his fans and is often regarded as one of the better villains in the series. Golbez also eclipses the Big Bad in popularity, as many feel that Zemus is poorly developed and has too little presence in comparison.
Rubicante is incredibly popular due to his role as a Noble Demon and his climactic boss fight.
Evil Is Sexy: Barbariccia, the Archfiend of Wind, takes the form of a seductive blond woman wearing nothing but a skimpy bikini.
Fandom Rivalry: Fans of the DS remake vs. fans of the 2D versions (SNES, PSX, GBA and PSP).
Rydia's upbringing in the Feymarch by Leviathan, Asura, and the other Eidolons is a popular subject in fanfiction, as the long stretch of time Rydia spends there is largely glossed over in both IV and The After Years.
Among Kain/Barbariccia shippers (see their entry in Fan-Preferred Couple below), it is very common for stories involving the two to delve into the psychology of their ambiguous relationship while working together under Golbez, usually running with a Loving a Shadow-fueled Mind Game Ship (as explained here).
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Although it isn't as popular as Final Fantasy VI, Americans enjoyed Final Fantasy IV when it was brought to the U.S. in late 1991. It was one of the most popular RPGs that Square made at the time.
Literal bats. They can come in groups up to six, are fast, all act at the same time on their turns, and use only one move; Bloodfeast. An attack that inflicts Sap, drains HP, and takes two seconds to complete the animation for. An omega-class annoyance, they are.
Also the Bog Toads in the Sylph Cave that just cast Toad over and over again. The DS release makes them even worse by resetting the character's ATB bar when you get turned into or back from being a Toad, thus causing half your party on average to miss their turn as they transform. However, the Draw Attacks Augment can rectify that for you.
In the original SNES release, after the Dark Elf changes into his dragon form, he loses his Contractual Boss Immunity to Weak/Tornado, which reduces the target's HP to a single digit. All it took was Tellah casting this spell once, and having anyone else attack to beat him. This was removed in the DS and PSP versions, but not the GBA version.
The original American release had one regarding the Sylph summon — if Rydia's hit points were full, the recovery portion of the spell would restore her magic points instead. This became a go-to attack spell, as it would heal allies, damage enemies, and restore her magic all in one shot. This was corrected in later releases — which surprised some people, as it was thought for a while that this was all by design, given that Sylph is a sidequest-reward summon involving traversing a difficult dungeon and quite a bit of running around on the related sidequest.
Additionally, using the Warp spell to get back into the Dwarf Kingdom's Crystal Room, and claim the Dark Crystal there, would let you skip the Sealed Cave entirely (though you'd probably have to make up for the missed Exp and loot elsewhere). The "Crystal Room Warp Trick" was also removed from subsequent releases starting with the GBA version.
The item duplication trick was among the most infamous examples of all time. It is very simple to perform and allows you to make endless copies of any weapon or shield that can be equipped by a current member of your party. Aside from the obvious use of selling the extras for loads of cash, you can make limitless overpowered ammo for Edge's Throw ability.
In the SNES version, by casting Berserk/Bersk on your melee fighters, you can cause the final boss to desync. This messes up Zeromus' attack pattern quite a bit because the characters' turns queue up before his. This can be commonly demonstrated in the Free Enterprise randomizer, and with enough luck, you can defeat him a lot easier than he originally would be.
"You spoony bard!" appears in every English version of the game. Technically, it's not wrong ("spoony" means "foolish and/or lovesick"), but thanks to language marching on, it feels this way. note In the original Japanese, Edward says "It's not like that!" and Tellah replies "How could it not be?!"
"The bard was spoony. We checked!" —Tom Slattery, the guy who retranslated the game.
Rydia is almost certainly a mistranslation of Lydia though nobody complains.
Growing the Beard: Many fans consider the game to be the starting point of the franchise taking itself seriously with Character Development and a fleshed out plot. "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny has sunk in over the years (see further down), but the game remains popular and recognized for what it did for the franchise in its time.
Hype Backlash: In the 2000s era of the Final Fantasy franchise, this one is the most heavily exposed of the Nintendo-era main series, and Cecil and Kain are up there with the likes of Cloud and Lightning as some of the most promoted characters for spin-offs. However, the game has not aged very well due to "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny, especially compared to Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI with much more complex and polished gameplay and story. This causes some detractors to wonder why IV gets so much attention when it doesn't seem like anything special.
It's Easy, So It Sucks!: In the Japanese and North American releases of the Game Boy Advance port, there is a random bug in which the game will semi-regularly give a character an extra turn immediately after they take a turn. It's similar to using Quick in later Final Fantasy games (which is frequently listed as a Game-Breaker rightfully in those games), except it's free, present from the beginning, and anyone can use it rather than just those who put in the work with time magic. This takes the challenge out of pretty much all of the game. There was also a problem where the Infinity+1 Swords added to the game were well beyond what even the Bonus Boss could handle - most infamously, Abel's Lance (for Kain) could randomly cast a spell that instantly set an opponent to single-digit health. And nothing resisted it. While the translation is one of the better versions of the game out there, it's frequently derided as the worst version of the game due to its easiness. The European version, at least, corrected the "free turn" bug.
Cecil becomes a Paladin. Heck, the remakes incorporate his transformation into their openings! The DS version takes it further still by including Paladin Cecil in the character guide at the start of the manual, explicitly explaining that Cecil will overcome a trial to turn to the side of good.
Golbez is Cecil's brother. Dissidia Final Fantasy makes it the central plot point of Cecil's story arc, and The After Years of course brings it up, too.
Junk Rare: Outside of very limited situations noted above, the Goblin/Imp summon is basically useless, and it has the same drop rate as things like extra ribbons or the other hidden summons. The only reason it shows up more frequently is because goblins are common foes in several areas. The FireBomb in the American SNES version as well — not a terribly common drop, from an enemy that only shows up as an uncommon encounter late in the game, and its problems are noted below under Useless Item.
Tellah's crushing insult, "You spoony bard!" It has become so popular that subsequent translations have kept the line, and other gamesin the series (and even a different series altogether!) have included references to it as well.
There's also some Fridge Brilliance — "spoony" actually isn't a completely nonsensical word, it's just a rather archaic word describing being enamored with something silly, or being foolishly in love... and that actually fits how Tellah sees Edward!
To quote Word of God, "We checked and he really was spoony" when questioned about why they put the quote back in after taking it out.
On the other side of the ocean, Japanese fans have clung to Golbez's "Iidesutomo!", said as he dualcasts Meteor with Fusoya. It was a bonus voice for his EX Burst in Dissidia.
While "You spoony bard!" and the other quirks of the original SNES translation are often attributed to Ted Woolsey, in reality he had nothing to do with the game's English translation. Square's policy at the time was that all localisations had to be done by either the original development team or someone at Square Japan's offices, as they felt that relying on foreign translators would hurt the integrity of the localisation. Ironically, though, the bad reception of this game's translation led to Woolsey being hired to localise the remainder of Square's SNES-era games.
And likewise, many things that were added to the script in later re-releases (like the 3D remake) weren't new additions; they were actually just restoring cut-content. (The SNES version had roughly 25% of the script written for the game, due to text size constraints.)
On the one hand, the original Super NES release gave us "You spoony bard!" (which spawnedits own trope herefor a time). On the other hand, when Tellah uses Meteor against Golbez, his reaction is the entirely out-of-character "No way!"
The KO status being "Swooned" in the SNES translation. Apparently, being grievously hurt makes you faint in ecstasy.
The SNES translation turns the Fabul Monks' war cry into "Achooo!", giving the unintended implication that the reason Golbez's forces were able to win so easily was because he happened to invade while the Monks were all suffering from colds or like they were covered in pepper.
Most of the text in the SNES translation comes off as narmy. Because Square's in-house translators in Japan couldn't use the words die or kill, it led to some unintentionally hilarious dialogue as an unintentional consequence.
"You spoony bard!". It's become an Ascended Meme - Square-Enix has not only kept the line in future remakes, but has intentionally put it into other games as well.
When fighting Dr. Lugae in the 3D versions, he commands Barnabas to attack you, only for Barnabas to smack him instead. The fact that Barnabas swings his fist towards you but hits Lugae instead actually makes this moment even more funny.
No, people who've only skimmed the wiki, Kain is not the poster boy for HeelFace Revolving Door. He only changes sides twice, and both times it's because Golbez takes control of his mind; when Kain is his own person, he's consistently good. Even Square Enix won't let him live it down — one of his cards in the TCG has the effect of him changing control between players when the opponent plays a Dark-elemental character.
Rosa can't live down getting sick and kidnapped and is often accused of having no trait other than being in love with Cecil... even though she is just as vocal about the troubles in Baron and how to deal with the situation as the others when she's in the party, if one cares to pay attention to her actual dialogue. Early in the game, she even braves the desert after Cecil goes missing, which for the time was even unique. In total she is only kidnapped once and gets sick one.
Many elements and "innovations" that are accredited as originating in Final Fantasy IV actually first appeared in the two earlier installments in the series, Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III, which were only officially released outside of Japan 13 and 15 years respectively after Final Fantasy IV on the SNES (as Final Fantasy II).
Many people who only played the English SNES release and then the NDS (or Steam) 3D release thought that the latter had been made substantially more difficult or had had numerous changes to the combat rules. In fact, almost all of these were originally in the Japanese SNES version, and were removed from the Easytype and English releases to reduce their difficulty. The 3D release did further increase the difficulty somewhat, mostly by making making the bosses tougher to varying degrees, but otherwise the game's difficulty is generally comparable with most of the other versions.
When Palom and Porom turn themselves to stone, Tellah says that it can't be undone due to being petrified by their own will (despite Porom, as a White Mage, being unable to cast Break in-game). When the Giant of Babil awakens, they show up, perfectly fine and claiming that the Elder unpetrified them.
When Golbez's Shadow Dragon makes the party "swoon" one by one, until Cecil is left... and then Rydia shows up Deus ex Machina completely out of nowhere to save Cecil's backside.
Oh, Crap!, seems like Cecil & party just got their asses kicked by Zemus. That means the world is DOOMED! Oh, wait, no... the secondary characters managed to revive them by prayer.
The game begins with a player punch. A small town is raided and attacked... by the protagonist and his army! Granted, the protagonist isn't feeling all that happy about following this order, but that doesn't lessen the impact it has.
Shortly after, when sent to the village of Mist by order of the king, Cecil and Kain need to kill a mist dragon to enter the village. And, upon entering, the package that they were supposed to deliver explodes into a ring of Bomb monsters and destroys the village. The only survivor is a little girl, Rydia, who rightfully hates you for causing this. Oh, and that dragon you just killed? That was her mother. You Bastard!.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Various re-releases and The After Years have tried making Edward more useful, which has mitigated the hate somewhat. Being subject to Final Fantasy's most famous meme doesn't hurt either.
The game was a huge departure from the previous games at the time. The cast of playable characters is vast, their personalities are developed and unique and they will leave or join Cecill on his quest as their interests align, it was the introduction of the Active Time Battle system when turn-based combat was the norm for RPGs, there are bosses who change their attack patterns and behaviors forcing the player to adapt, and the story is far deeper, the gameplay being driven by the plot instead of the player being free to wander the world. In short, this is when Final Fantasytruly began to come into its own. Of course, the series has since surpassed this game in story, character and gameplay complexity, so when you talk about IV today, you'll hear about how it has a boring battle system with little customization and flexibility, shallow and boring characters, and a straightforward and simple story.
The music also falls victim to this, after a fashion. It still sounds good even today, for sure, but in 1991 going from this to this, from NES FM synth to near-perfect MOD orchestration-sampling, was absolutely revelatory. Its use in the opening sequence alone, using volume control and broader instrumentation to make for a more effective lead-in before the orchestra hits, cemented the game's place in the zeitgeist of the time all by itself.
Special Effect Failure: The 3D versions of the game may have characters attack their allies, notably Barnabas attacking Dr. Lugae. In this particular case, he literally swings right at you... but Dr. Lugae takes damage. This actually makes the moment evenmorefunny.
Zeromus has an attack called Big Bang, dealing huge damage and causing continuous HP loss for any party member that manages to survive. It's the majority of his offense, but it's all he needs.
Bad Breath inflicts several disabling status effects on its victims at once. Getting hit by it can leave the party helpless.
However, in this game Bad Breath can be blocked entirely just by having protection against any one of the statuses it inflicts. Got a Ruby Ring (which only resists Pig)? The Malboros are sitting ducks. It wasn't until VIII that Malboros became "run on sight."
The Behemoths get Maelstrom. You thought the Tornado spell, which reduces HP to a single digit, was bad news? Imagine that on your entire party all at once. Thankfully, it only uses this attack if you cast Holy or Meteor on it, but it's still a huge disadvantage.
The Demon Wall. For the time you fight it, it's incredibly hard, since it has a ton of HP. But, by far, it's best known for its "Crush" move. If it gets too close, it starts using this move exclusively, which is a One-Hit KO on a party member. Many a Solo Character Run has come to an end because of this wall.
Golbez, the second time you encounter him. It's bad enough that you fight him right after fighting the Calcabrina dolls, but the first part of the battle is treated as an in-game cutscene where Golbez kills everyone except Cecil, before Rydia shows up and frees Cecil from paralysis. When you gain control, that leaves you with a party where just two out of five characters are in fighting shape, leaving you to spend a good part of the battle recovering. Meanwhile, Golbez himself pulls no punches during this, casting -ra and -ga level spells at you.
Since Kain is the fastest character in your group, just tell Kain to Jump as he should always get his turn before Golbez gets his. If he jumps before Golbez starts his gloating, Kain won't get hit by the Shadow Dragon's instant death attack. That leaves you with 3 out of 5 people in good fighting condition. The only way this can fail is if Golbez goes before Kain (you'd have to be pretty under-leveled for this to happen) or if Kain lands before Golbez starts gloating (which requires excessive level grinding). If Kain jumps before the Shadow Dragon is summoned but lands before Golbez paralyses everybody, Kain will not get paralyzed, and the Shadow Dragon still won't kill him.
Also, this fight can potentially be Unwinnable by Mistake. If Cecil is KOed at the start this battle, Golbez just paralyzes and kills everyone, leaving you to fight the Calcabrina dolls all over again. This makes an already frustrating battle even more annoying when you have no chance to fight back.
The 3D remake's version of this fight takes things From Bad to Worse, firstly because Kain is now guaranteed to be killed by the Shadow Dragon no matter what you do, and secondly because Golbez goes from fleeing the battle after just a few thousand points' worth of damage to having nearly 10,000HP, every single point of which has to be depleted before he falls.
The Tower of Zot is difficult enough in and of itself, but this is horribly compounded by the player being stuck with the worst party in the game. You have one good character (Cecil), one good but fragile character (Yang), one character who doesn't really do anything well (Cid), and Tellah. The latter has low MP and poor casting stats, making him borderline dead weight as either a White or Black Mage, let alone both at once. Add in common enemies with powerful full party attacks and the inability to leave via magic after entering and you're practically guaranteed a bad time.
The characters that get shuffled out (Palom, Porom, Edward, Tellah, Yang, and Cid) are inferior in skill to those who become your final party members.
Tellah gets weaker every time he levels up, and when he rejoins your party, his MP pool is fixed at 90 points, which gets annoying since Ethers are uncommon and he has access to high-level Black Magic spells (Firaga, Tornado, Bio, etc.) about a fourth of the game in (the Firaga/Thundaga/Blizzaga spells are 30 MP alone). His health is also pathetically low.It correlates withhis old age, but still.
Cid's only real attribute is his decent strength, which is still lower than Yang's or Kain's. His Study skill (which tells the HP of enemies) isn't that great either, and doesn't work on many bosses.
Edward can actually be an aversion of this, in the versions where you get to realistically use him at high level. At high levels, even with lower HP than Rydia, he is one of the fastest members of the party and his harps deal full damage from the back row. His weapon received from the Bonus Dungeon deals extra damage to enemies weak against fire and dragon-type enemies, of which there are several in the final dungeon. How does 9999 damage from the Spoony Bard sound?
Palom and Porom actually subvert this; even in the base game they're quite powerful together, and Palom (in versions where his being high level is relevant) is actually superior at casting Black Magic to Rydia, having higher Intellect and Bluff to boost it further, along with learning spells faster and being less squishy, though he lacks the better Summons.
Yang also manages to avoid this in the GBA version and later games — due to his massive strength score and his elemental claws, he's easily as useful as Edge.
Strangely, Cecil himself becomes this not long after he becomes a Paladin. He has well-rounded strength, which is lower than Kain's and can get overshadowed by Edge's ninjutsu abilities, and he has access to basic White Magic, which is useless when Rosa, the game's actual White Mage, is around. However, he does remain the most durable member of the final five, with arguably the best equipment options. The Excalibur and Crystal Sword/Ragnarok are what really manage to salvage him, simply because of how completely stupid those weapons are.
What an Idiot!: Cecil borrows a world Crystal (which are pretty damn important, and which are being gathered for unknown nefarious reasons) to give to Golbez in exchange for Rosa. He doesn't try to create a fake or trick Golbez or even make sure Golbez gives Rosa back first; he just hands it over. Guess whathappens next. By extention the entire party in the Tower of Zot, especially when you read Yang's thoughts in the DS version—he rightly thinks that Kain's offered deal is fishy as hell and doesn't say a damn word.
Believe it or not, the original SNES version had one improvement — the item that Cecil delivers to Mist is called the Bomb Ring in the original game. While that would have fit (with some editing) in the original English translation, Cecil comes off as a bit stupid when he doesn't realize what a Bomb Ring will do when it gets to its destination. Becoming merely a Package makes Cecil seem like much less of a fool, and helps drive home the idea of his being demoted from airship captain to errand boy. Not coincidentally, Slattery similarly did not keep the original Japanese name — he went with a Meaningful Name of the Carnelian Signet (carnelian being a bright red stone, with the additional meaning of "strength to conquer one's enemies").
The J2e fan translation is in retrospect agreed to have failed pretty badly in its attempt at this trope. Comparisons to the original Japanese text have shown that, despite their claims that it was a translation truer to the Japanese original, the translators actually just polished and rewrote the text from the U.S. Final Fantasy II release. This might not have been so bad if they hadn't also rewritten Golbez's dialogue to make him more of a jokey Kefka-esque villain, thrown in a bunch of gratuitous pop culture references, introduced errors that weren't in the original translation (such as changing the Dark Elf's magnetic field to a gravity field), and threw in a bunch of unnecessary swearing in an attempt to make the script more "mature," such as calling people "retarded" and having Kain refer to Rosa as Cecil's "little whore".
The DS version, courtesy of Tom Slattery. The Eidolons were previously just "summons" but he wanted them to have a proper name like summons did in other titles, so he dug up "Eidolon" from Final Fantasy IX, and he also translated the Mysidian Legend to more clearly refer to the duality of Cecil and Golbez. This is also a case of Doing It for the Art — Slattery was a fan of the game and the original plan was to just dump the translated text from the game's GBA release, but Slattery offered to redo the translation from scratch in order to be more faithful to the Japanese and give it more flair.
The recurring item hisohisou - a plant which can trasmit sounds - debuts here, and poses a unique challenge for translators as usual due to the Japanese pun in its name, which combines hisohiso (onomatopoeia for whispering) with -sou (a suffix used to denote plant names). Starting with the SNES original, most English translations changed this into a completely different item called a "Twin Harp" (a pair of harps that can transmit sound from one to another), which was a clever enough solution considering you never actually get to see the item in Cecil's inventory. For the DS version, Slattery retained the item's original nature as a plant and translated its name as "Whisperweed", cleverly replacing the wordplay of the original with Added Alliterative Appeal.
Writers Cannot Do Math/Fantasy Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The guidebook Settei Shiryou Hen, released alongside the SFC game in Japan, gives a lot of All There in the Manual information about the world of FFIVnote (much of which hasn't been acknowledged since in the sequel and various remakes of the game, making it dubiously canonical), including the population and area of each of the game's nations. All of these numbers seem unusually small, such as Fabul having a population of 300 people and the entire planet having less surface area than Kansas. See the editor's notes in the previous link for snarky commentary on these and other discrepancies.