The Game That Face-Lifted An Entire Genre For Good
"FFIV revolutionised the genre,beyond the point of recognition,and set some highly ambitious staples,that continues to be followed by the genre,years after they were set."
In 1991,very few circles of western-gamers were aware of the rising phenomena of Japanese-RPG. The genre sure had it's solid foundations credited to games like Final Fantasy I and Dragon Warrior. Yet,it lacked the all-important element of "player attachment" and memorable
moments,something which every fan of the JRPG genre cherishes today. If one were to see,from where it all began,then all eyes would go towards the 1991 classic,named Final Fantasy IV. Released in the West,as Final Fantasy II on Nintendo's runaway-hit console SNES, Final Fantasy IV proved to be the flagship game,that the genre so badly needed to gain momentum in the West. Final Fantasy IV,however did far more than that.It revolutionised the genre,beyond the point of recognition and set some highly ambitious staples,that continue to be followed,years after they were set.
Porting a Japanese game to the West was a risky business,in those days,especially for a genre,as young and relatively unknown in the West as JRPG's. Yet,the perennial risk-takers at SquareSoft took the gamble,and came up all smiling. FFIV not only skyrocketed the struggling company's earnings,but it was also the initial breakthrough entry of the legendary series. It not only brought the series to everyone's notice,but it also gave it a firm footing in the West,by creating a strong and faithful fanbase.
PLOT AND CHARACTERS
"Final Fantasy IV has one of the most involving,believable and emotional stories,which lifted the genre from the abysses of mere "dragon-slaying" and "saving the princess" to the zenith of emotional human drama and psychology."
FFIV tells the epic tale of featuring some of the most believable characters of it's time. Cecil,the kind-hearted Dark Knight of Baron has just returned to his kingdom after stealing the elemental crystal of Mysidia on the King's orders. He is then,sent to a quiet village of Mist,along with his childhood friend,Kain the Dragoon,to deliver a secret parcel,which unknown to both Cecil and Kain,would burn the town into ashes.
Hence begins a journey,in which Cecil attempts to stop an evil mastermind,from stealing all the world's elemental crystals for his own use. Also,Cecil himself will undergo a "retrospective transformation",during the game,as well. The story of FFIV will make you see many tragic deaths,friendship,betrayal,and love,that the story will instantly amaze any first-time JRPG player. FFIV boasts of a memorable cast of characters as well. These characters don't have the wafer-thin personalities,as possessed by the characters of JRPG's before this game. Cecil,one of the very first "proper" protagonist produced by the genre,is really memorable for his in-depth believable personality and his "transformation" from Dark Knight to a Paladin. One of the most famous character of the older JRPG's was Kain. This dragoon,a childhood friend of the protagonist,shifted loyalties many times,which made him a character to be loved. Other notable ones,like Rydia,the little summoner girl from Mist,or Edge,the brash Ninja or Porom and Palom,the twin magicians,were also pretty likeable.
FFIV also produced some of the memorable moments in gaming,something which the series itself has become renowned for. From the glorious heights of Mount Ordeals,to the hellish depths of the underworld,every place you will come across in FFIV will instantly strike memorable to you. Who could forget the timeless journey to the Land of Summons? Or the unforgettable thrill to go to the Moon on the Lunar Whale?Or the infamous Tower of Babel? To be straight,FFIV has produced some of the most original,out of a genius-mind's moments,which fans of the genre cherish till date.
However,there lies FFIV's main downpoint. Why is it that games like FFVI and Chrono Trigger not feel as badly aged as FFIV does? As the years have passed,these very plot elements and characters of FFIV,that were once-so-famous,have been used again and again,such that now most of them feel highly cliched. It's not a fault of FFIV,but of the genre itself. Few games experimented anywhere outside these particular characters and plot elements,giving a term of "a cliched genre" amongst the JRPG skeptics. While,the story might have been regarded the best of it's time,it has aged pretty badly,and has been surpassed repeatedly over and over again. The characters,themselves,have been duplicated in countless other games,that,one can't help,but term their personalities as aged. This is however,the case with FFIV itself.
"Coming of to be something ingeniously clever and original,the gameplay of
FFIV,has inspired countless other titles for a decade."
The highly-popular and well known Active Time Battle (ATB) system was first
introduced in FFIV. It was so innovative and revolutionary at it's time,that it was continously used for every game in the series till 2001's Final Fantasy X,to stupendous success. Turning the slow-paced,Turn-Based JRPG over it' s head,FFIV's "active" battle system introduced the much needed pace and power of decision into the genre. It not only increased the challenge,by forcing the players to decide what to do in battle,or face an attack from the enemy,but it also made the battles a lot more enjoyable and smoother.
The basic concept of ATB is simple. Once you are in the battle,all the menus
appear normal as they did in the previous FF games,except one thing. You are no longer,given an infinite time,to think out your strategy. FFIV pushes the player,to come into the battle with a prepared decision,depending upon the situation. This gives a great feeling of control over your party's battle strategy. Prior to FFIV,every JRPG used a class system,with each character,given a pre-determined class. However,FFIV twisted that concept a little,and made it less obvious as to what each character's class was. While some of the characters were clearly tending towards a particular class like Rydia as Summoner,Rosa as White Wizard,Yang as Monk,some of the others like Kain,Cecil,Cid,Tellah produced interesting combinations of various classes. However,customisation wise,FFIV had very little to offer.
FFIV was also the first game in the series,to introduce the popular Summon
creatures,which in the game,could be summoned with the help of the only summoner in the party,Rydia. Unlike the latter games in the series,like FFVII ,where these summoned creatures are obtained through certain items,here,in FFIV,summon creatures,agree to help "assist" you,through Rydia,if you are able to defeat them in battle. This produces many interesting boss battles like the ones against Odin,or the ones against Leviathan and Asura. The inventory was also made a little easier to use,by introducing the "Optimum" option in the character's Equip menu. This automatically equips the character with the best weapon,armor etc. in your inventory.
It was one of the very first games to introduce multiple travelling methods. Like one could use ship,chocobo,airship or as in later parts of the game,the
famous Lunar Whale. This not only made the overworld,much easier to travel through,without the nuisance of random battles,which have a high frequency,compared to some other games in it's era.
"Nobuo Uematsu's first true musical masterpiece in gaming,FFIV boasts of a haunting soundtrack,that's bound to linger in the minds of gamers,long after the game ends."
The Final Fantasy series is widely renowned for superb musical score. However,it was post-FFIV that the series climbed onto that status,courtesy to the long-time composer,Nobuo Uematsu. Unlike the previous games,in the series,FFIV had a unique theme for every character,whether they were good or bad. It's overworld theme was highly haunting to say the least,especially the one on the moon. The famous victory tune of the FF series,gets a really good refinement in FFIV,and it's very nice to hear it everytime you win a battle (which is very often,considering the amount of random battles).
"Being the trend-setter of modern JRPG genre,FFIV remains as one of the most influential games till date."
It would be hard to ignore the importance of FFIV,when it has single-handedly revolutionised the entire genre. Most of the revolutionary games,usually tend to lose their "inspiration factor",after a couple of years,yet FFIV has continued to inspire countless other classics,even a decade after it was first released. Sure,it hasn't aged that well,and some of it's storyline elements and battle system feel aged,but they really don't stand
out,over the sheer significance this game has for it's genre.
It has truly given such a fine example of JRPG storytelling and set staples in
nearly everything,from plot elements and gameplay,to characterisation that the JRPG genre would be unimaginable without this all-important game.