Another Final Fantasy done and dusted. Final Fantasy IV is only the second FF game that I've conquered, so it's been a pretty eventful year for me. So, what did I make of it? Read on and find out...
(For reference, I played through the Playstation version that came in the European Edition of Final Fantasy Anthology, so it's faithful to the original SNES game. No extra dungeons or mechanics. It was the only version I had on me at the time. I've used a few GBA screenshots in this blog, as the selection wasn't great for the SNES version.)
The main character is a dark knight by the name of Cecil. Right at the beginning, he questions whether he should be killing innocent people in order to capture crystals for the king. After a particularly bad event, he decides enough is enough and quits being a dark knight. The rest of the game focusses on Cecil's journey around the world and teaming up with various characters for the greater good. There's only so much I can say without spoilers, so I'll stop there.
For me, the characters really shined through. This was something that I didn't think FFV had, so it's a bit odd for the predecessor to succeed with it. Even with the simple 16-bit graphics, it's clear to imagine how the characters are reacting in certain scenes. In fact, I preferred the story overall. It goes in some very interesting directions. Maybe a bit cliched, but it doesn't really harm the story.
As with most (all?) of the early FF games, a lot of the plot revolves around protecting crystals. As far as I'm aware, this stopped beyond FFV. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what ultimately happens to the crystals. This isn't really a complaint, but it's something to be aware of.
The core gameplay is the very definition of Japanese role-playing games. There isn't any unique features in FFIV such as the job system. It really is a simple case of levelling your characters in battle to make them stronger. You don't even need to buy magic. It just appears whenever your characters hit a specific level. This makes levelling a pretty straight forward task, as you don't need to worry about other systems. Perhaps not as fun as FFV's job system, but certainly easier.
The version I played had a limited inventory. There was a total of 40 slots for items. While identical items can stack (except equipment), you cannot have more than 40 different items at one time. Thankfully, you can store items in a Fat Chocobo. Fat Chocobo's can be found within Chocobo Forests. You only require a Gysahl Green to call it (which are very inexpensive). You'll definitely need to store items from time to time. Selling old equipment helps, but there are plenty of items you'll want to keep hold of for later. It's worth noting that newer versions of FFIV either provide more space for items or eliminate the need for item storage entirely.
As with most FFs, you'll need to do some grinding at some point. Having played other FF games, I did a lot of voluntary levelling to make things easier for myself. This certainly helped for a lot of the game. Only two or three bosses proved to be challenging. You might get more of a challenge by levelling naturally, but I think that would only get you so far. However, unless you level ridiculously high, the final boss will always be a stern test. It really lives up to other bosses in the series.
Throughout the game, you'll often find yourself with different party members. I found it to be a pretty interesting way of doing things, as it kept me guessing as to who would join next. You may find some characters a bit underlevelled at first, but you'll also get some who are overlevelled from the get-go, so it balances out. However, you're not given the choice to switch characters at any point. You've got to go with whatever the game gives you at certain points in the story. There's one particular character I would have liked to have used more (Yang), but he didn't feature in the final party.
Like my experience with FFV, it's not always obvious what to do next. You'll get the occasional shove in the right direction, but it can be very unclear at times. For example, there was a part where I had to use a certain item at a location that was a bit of the way. Unless I missed it, there's no in-game indication of this. Had I not checked a walkthrough, I'd have never worked it out. Didn't really ruin my overall experience, but it was a problem from time to time.
It was the first FF game of the SNES era, but you wouldn't know it from looking at the graphics. While it perhaps shows its age elsewhere, it's pretty much on par with V and VI visually. Like the later SNES games, it makes use of Mode 7 for the overhead scenes. All the sprites are nicely done, too. They certainly evoke a lot of character with their simple, but effective movements.
The music is nothing short of what you'd expect from the series. Unlike FFV's soundtrack, there's no real lowpoints I can think of. It's all wonderfully composed by Nobuo and the rest of the music team. There's definitely some tracks that I'll listen to outside the game.
As the Playstation version has loading whenever you want to return to your save, they've added some humourous animations to make the wait more bearable. On load times, they're not as bad as you may think. I certainly remember them being a big issue whenever I played some old FFs on the PS2, but it wasn't really noticable this time round. Either the PS3 fixes it somewhat or this particular version of FF4 didn't have the problem to start with. I can't say for sure.
I think FFIV deserves to be regarded as one of the premier Final Fantasy games. While there's nothing particularly special about the gameplay, the story definitely makes up for it. It has a pretty diverse storyline with some interesting twists. Definitely worth checking out if you're a keen JRPG player.
As I mentioned, I played the Playstation version, but there a lot of other versions. Other than the SNES, it also came out on the GBA, PSP and DS. All three of these versions offer extra content and updated graphics. While I have no idea which one is superior, it might be worth looking at those versions if you ever want to play the game yourself. The PSP version apparently came with FFIV: After Years, but I couldn't really tell you anything about it (other than it was originally a mobile game).
The next game I'll be playing is To The Moon. As it's only a short game, I'll be making some time to play it in one go. Heard a lot of great things about it, so I have high hopes. Due to the nature of the game, I won't be blogging about it. I may comment on it in a status update, but that's about it. It seems like the kind of game that would be spoiled by talking about it. If I like it, I'll certainly recommend it.
After that, I'll be tackling Persona 3 Portable. This will be my first experience with Persona 3, as I never played any of the PS2 versions. I'll be going with the female route, as I've heard it's the best for social links. It's a feature I really liked in Persona 4. As the game is on the very long side, I may end up playing another game in tandem. I'll be fully focussing on P3P to start with, then I'll see how I feel over time. At any rate, I'll be playing it into the new year.
This will probably be the last 'Adz Plays...' of the year, so I'd like to take this opportunity to say thanks to everyone who's read my blogs this year. It's really helped me to stick with it. My format has changed a bit since of the start of the year. I'm still open to more changes in the future, but I think this format is going well so far.
I've already got some games lined up for next year. What will I end up playing? Who knows...