My Top 5 Games of 1991: #2 Final Fantasy IV (SNES)

Developed: SquareSoft
Published: SquareSoft
Genre: JRPG
Platform: SNES(reviewed), PS1, GBA, DS, Wii Virtual Console, PSP

I didn't play Final Fantasy IV, or Final Fantasy II as it was known at the time, until long after it's initial release in 1991. However, when I finally did, it instantly became one of my favorite games and I realized why this Final Fantasy thing I've heard so much about was so damn popular. Final Fantasy IV is a Japanese role-playing game where you take control of dark knight Cecil on his quest for redemption after he realizes the evil of his king and the dictator who controls him. It is a dark tale with a surprisingly mature tone for the time. A word of warning: this post is going to be a long one and will contain SPOILERS so if you have been planning to play the game, do it now! You wont regret it. (NOTE: my story summary is purposefully tongue-in-cheek, so please try to have fun with it)

The game opens with Cecil, a dark knight from the kingdom of Baron, leading a regiment of soldiers in the massacre of a bunch of mages so they can steal their crystal of water. Cecil is understandably regretful about mindlessly slaughtering innocent people for seemingly nothing but is punished when he questions his king's motives. He and his friend Kain are sent on a seemingly mundane delivery that turns out to be another massacre in disguise when the package they were to deliver explodes and burns down a village.
Man, Cecil is so good at genocide that he doesn't even have to try.
Enough is enough at this point and Cecil decides to abandon Baron when he and Kain spot a lone survivor: a young girl. Kain, the meathead that he is, suggests that they kill her but she summons a freakin' giant and clobbers the two of them before they can act. Cecil awakens to find the girl unconscious but Kain is nowhere to be found. He takes her to a nearby village to rest but soon after nightfall, soldiers of Baron attack them forcing Cecil to kill them. Thankful for his protection, the girl reveals her name to be Rydia, and they decide to travel together.

Cecil finds that his misfortune will never end though when he finds another of his friends, Rosa, dying of an illness that can only be cured by a so called sand ruby from the next kingdom over so they set off for Damcyan. Along the way they meet an old sage named Tellah who is on his way there as well to find his daughter so they join forces. People group up and journey together at the drop of a hat in this game's world I guess. As they approach Damcyan, it gets bombed to hell and back by Baron's air force who were after the kingdom's crystal of fire.
And a legend was born.
Tellah finds his daughter near death and attacks the bard whom she eloped with. He relents when he learns that the man responsible for the attack, Golbez, is back in Baron so he storms off to recklessly attack an entire army by himself. Cecil and Rydia are joined by the bard, Edward, in their search for the sand ruby.
They soon retrieve it ,cure Rosa's sickness and march to the kingdom of Fabul where the next attack by Baron is likely to happen for their crystal of earth. On the way there, they are joined by a monk of Fabul named Yang. I'm starting to see a pattern here.

When they arrive they set up a defense and like clockwork, Baron's air force shows up and bombs the crap outta the joint. They put up a valiant fight but Golbez bursts in along with Kain who make quick work of Cecil and pals, and kidnap Rosa for good measure. The party soon recovers and makes their way to Baron by sea but are attacked by Leviathan, the king of the seas, and are separated.
Cecil's bad luck is just getting silly at this point.
Cecil awakens to find himself alone on a beach and heads for the nearby village of Mysidia. The village that he attacked in the game's opening. Shit. They aren't too pleased to see him to say the least and tell him that if he wants his bad luck to end that he's gonna have to re-roll as a paladin by climbing a nearby mountain. He's joined by Palom and Porom, two children. How helpful. Nah, actually they're young mages in training who are there to monitor his progress. They meet Tellah along the way and he joins back up with Cecil. As they reach the summit they are attacked by Milon, one of Golbez's minions. They defeat him and Cecil faces his inner demon, quite literally actually, and becomes a paladin.

The party heads back to Baron to confront Golbez and are rejoined by Yang after they cure him of a bout of amnesia. As they infiltrate the castle they find another of Golbez's minions, Kainazzo, and defeat him. All is not well though as they fall into a wall crusher trap. Palom and Porom turn themselves to stone to keep the trap from crushing the others who quickly escape and join up with Baron's airship maker, Cid. They escape on Cid's prized airship, The Enterprise, probably the most originally named ship ever, and are confronted by Kain who commands Cecil to retrieve the last of the 4 crystals in exchange for Rosa.

The crew heads to Toroia where the last crystal is located but find it was already stolen by a monster called the dark elf. After an annoying dungeon involving magnets and stupid equipment restrictions, Cecil and Co. defeat the dark elf and take the crystal of earth back to Toroia where Kain escorts them to Golbez's Tower of Zot. When they reach the top of the tower, Tellah attacks Golbez in a rage and uses his life energy to cast a powerful spell known as Meteo which succeeds in wounding Golbez and forces him to retreat. Unfortunately Tellah soon suffers from a plot death so no phoenix downs allowed. Kain comes to his senses and reveals that he was under mind control by Golbez. How original. They rescue Rosa just in time before she becomes a Rosa sandwich and are attacked by Golbez's third minion, Valvalis. After defeating her the tower decides to explode so they teleport back to Baron. Apparently they can teleport now.
It's really powerful! Especially against living things!...Man, my references are outdated.
Kain tells the group that Golbez is going after the crystals from an underground kingdom next so they do the logical thing and drop a key down a well which causes a nearby mountain to explode, revealing an entrance to the underworld. That makes a lot of sense. Oh and Golbez's goal is to go to the moon.What is this I don't even... They fly down but are immediately caught in the middle of a skirmish and crash near a castle. Cid stays to repair the Enterprise while the rest of the group heads into the castle to check on the crystal and are attacked by Golbez who nearly defeats them before Rydia shows up and summons a dragon that makes quick work of him. Unfortunately Golbez's HAND is still alive and grabs the crystal anyway. This game is weird. Anyway, Rydia explains that she was swallowed by Leviathan and taken to the world of monsters where she learned to hone her summoning skills. Also she aged about 10 years. God, this game is weird.
Pictured: Weirdness from Japan.
The party pursues Golbez, who I guess recovered from being reduced to a hand, to the tower of Bab-il where he has taken the crystals and Yang is seemingly lost in an explosion. Cecil and the Avengers are forced to flee and almost fall to their deaths when Cid arrives at the last moment and catches them on the now repaired Enterprise. As they flee to the surface, Cid jumps out of the airship with a bomb and seals up the entrance to the underworld. The party goes to the above ground portion of the tower and heads through the caves below it hoping to find an entrance. They come across a young man fighting Golbez's final and most powerful minion, Rubicant, who injures the young man before leaving for the tower. The party heals the young warrior, a ninja prince named Edge, who instantly takes a shine to the female members of Cecil's group. Edge, who is searching for his parents, joins them.

Cecil and the Sunshine Band make their way up the tower until they are attacked by Edge's parents who have been turned into mutants. After Edge talks sense into them, they commit suicide, saying that they don't belong in this world and what is a man, a miserable little pile of secrets blah blah enough, have at you... Anyway, Rubicant appears and no, spell checker, I'm not trying to spell lubricant so stop trying to correct me. Oh man, this is getting really stream of consciousness here. Rubicant, the nice guy he is, heals the party before being killed by them. Behind him is the crystal room which is, of course, a trap that sends the party to a lower floor where they find another airship.
Aww, what a nice guy. Now kill him!
Cecil and the Masters of the Universe head for the cave where the last crystal for real this time guys is located. They retrieve it but Golbez takes over Kain's mind again and he runs off with it. The party swings by the underworld castle and finds that Cid walked off the whole exploding thousands of feet in the air thing. He attaches a drill to the airship and they dig their way back to the surface where they consult with the elder of Mysidia. He just happened to be praying in his watchtower the whole game and raises a ship capable of space travel, known as the lunar whale, out of the ocean. Now that's some plot convenience right there.

Cecil and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat take the lunar whale to the freaking moon and forget that there's no oxygen there long enough to meet FuSoYa, a lunarian. He explains that Golbez is under the control of a bigger bad known as Zemus, another lunarian. He also exposits that Cecil's father was a lunarian named KluYa, FuSoYa's brother. Remember all of that 'cause it will be on the test.  FuSoYa joins the party in hopes of bringing Golbez to his senses
Normally a a statement like that would sound hilariously sarcastic.
They head back to Earth where Golbez has activated a giant robot and I swear I'm not making this shit up. Yang, Edward, Palom and Porom all return so we don't have to mourn as many deaths or whatever and lead an assault on the giant. Cecil and the Order of the Phoenix head into the giant through its mouth where they deactivate it and confront Golbez. FuSoYa uses his magic to bring Golbez back to his senses, revealing that Golbez is Cecil's long lost brother. FuSoYa and Golbez then leave to confront Zemus.
Pictured: Cecil's reaction to the revelation that Golbez is his brother...I think...
Cecil and the Angry Inch follow them in the lunar whale but not before getting extremely sexist all of a sudden and making Rosa and Rydia stay behind. Doesn't really matter though, 'cause they stow away and rejoin the party immediately. At this point I want you to look at any guide for this game in the boss section and count the number of times it says "have Rydia summon Bahamut". DO NOT play a drinking game with this or you will die.

Anyway, the party makes their way through one last, grueling dungeon and find FuSoYa and Golbez fighting Zemus. They seem to defeat him but of course he comes back to life and obliterates them, now named Zeromus for whatever reason. Cecil and the NO! Gang get pimp slapped by Zeromus, which the people of the world can sense somehow so they all start praying which gives our heroes the strength to fight. They manage to edge out a victory against the cosmic being and return home. In the epilogue we see Cecil and Rosa about to be married and become the new king and queen of Baron. While Kain sits atop a mountain pondering, the rest of our heroes attend the wedding and wave a final goodbye to the player. Aww...
What's wrong with being sexy?
Damn that was a long summary, but it was worth every word because I adore Final Fantasy IV. As far as the story goes, it's full of all kinds of crazy twists and it does a hell of a job making you feel anxious for what could happen next. It seems like misfortune follows poor Cecil wherever he goes, but his story has a happy ending so all's well that ends well I suppose. For a game from 1991 it gets awfully dark with characters dying left and right. Nintendo and Square did their best to tone it down for it's American release but it still maintained most of it's meaning. One issue however is that the translation is awful. The dialogue is horribly unnatural and full of grammatical errors.

The graphics were clearly an up-scaled version of the NES Final Fantasy games but that gives it a certain amount of charm to me. Its pretty bad if you compare it to Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger but you have to remember it came out in the console's first year and may or may not have started out development as an NES game; history isn't entirely clear on that one.

The music, as is standard with all the Uematsu composed games in the series, is amazing. The normal boss theme is probably my favorite RPG battle theme ever and the whole soundtrack is just so melodic and beautiful. The sound effects are good. They don't do anything to stand out but they get the job done.

For me, the gameplay is a mixed bag. It starts out pretty well balanced but eventually it gets to the point where you have to grind for hours to progress, especially at the very end. Maybe it's just me. I do enjoy playing the game overall though.

Final Fantasy IV is available on so many damn platforms that you really have no excuse not to own it. It is a wonderful experience that deserves all the respect that it has in the RPG community. The prayer scene during the last boss fight stands out to me as absolutely magical. You owe it to yourself if you have any love for RPGs to experience this game for yourself.

My game of the year 1991!
Perhaps the finest adventure of our favorite Italian plumber.

I'll leave you with Final Fantasy IV's wonderfully foreshadowing introductory song, The Red Wings, courtesy of YouTube user PeyserConley:

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