I remember the first time I saw Final Fantasy IV. Of course, in America… it was called Final Fantasy II. It was the second Final Fantasy released in America but the fourth Final Fantasy overall. In my mind, it is called Final Fantasy II. So if I slip up, and you see me refer to Final Fantasy II rather than to Final Fantasy IV, I’m talking about the same game.
This review will be a touch broad, since Final Fantasy IV was remade several times. I’ve played it on the SNES, GBA, DS, and the PS1. They all were slightly different. Like on the GBA, there was a bonus dungeon unlocked after beating the game. And you can get back older characters that you couldn’t originally like Yang and Edward. The DS was more or less 3D (not the 3D like the 3DS, but it seems like the characters were a lot more defined)… so you have improved graphics, better sound, a new game mechanic of upgrading, and the Japanese was re-translated so everything read better.
Well… mostly everything read better. But the line “you spoony bard” is classic. You can’t mess with the classics. You know, I haven’t taken a look at the statistics, but Final Fantasy IV has to be one of the most re-released games out there. Hell, they made a sequel that was released on the WiiWare and is now on the PSP as part of a re-release of Final Fantasy IV! There’s something special about this game that keeps on drawing in a new generation of gamers.
What is it? Why does Square Enix constantly remaking and re-releasing this game? There’s a huge demand for the re-release of Final Fantasy VII. Fans have been calling for it since the advent of the Playstation 3. But Square Enix has dragged their feet on it while re-releasing another Final Fantasy IV. I think that’s pretty telling. But why do they keep on going back to Final Fantasy IV? Only the management of Square Enix knows for certain. I can only tell you why I love the game so much…. it’s my second favorite Final Fantasy, after the original Final Fantasy for the NES
Cecil: The Ultimate Hero
I can say, with 100% certainty, that Cecil Harvey is the greatest hero in the entire Final Fantasy mythos.
At least, I think so. That guy in the armor up there? That’s Cecil. The one behind him is his girlfriend (perhaps fiance) named Rosa Joanna Farrell. Starting off he looks like the most bad-ass hero out there. And it is not just the spikes. He looks like he’s ready and willing to tear out your intestines and play it like the fiddle. But he’s not. He’s actually a very nice guy who is a loyal soldier of the Kingdom of Baron. He’s struggling with the orders his king was given. He wanted to follow them because he believed the king had the best interests of the world in mind, but he did not enjoy what the king was making him do: attack innocent kingdoms/towns to steal magical crystals. He believed Baron should live up to the high heroic standards of the past. And this is just the set up for the game….
I cannot sum up Cecil’s entire journey. Too much happened. His adventure was on a scale that just isn’t done anymore. He went to all corners of the world, under the world, under the under the world, and even up to the moon… which may or may not have been Mars. He fought ultimate evil, twice. He had to deal with the death Tellah, a powerful wizard who killed himself casting a spell that failed to destroy the antagonist Golbez. He fought and destroyed the Four Elemental Fiends. He even threw off his identity as a Dark Knight, picking up the Light Sword… allowing him to become a Paladin. It was his father’s final gift to him.
He even did the bravest thing I’ve ever seen in a video game. I want you to picture this. Two of the most powerful characters that Cecil has met was just destroyed by the ultimate evil, Zeromus. Zeromus took them out, and your entire team, without even trying. Cecil was down to 1 hp. I kid you not. One hit point. But somehow, he managed to get back up to his feet. Rather than caring for his own life, he went to his fallen brother (who turned out to be Golbez…. can you imagine it? He was trying to kill his own brother for more than half the game), someone who he still hasn’t forgiven for all the evil actions is performed… all the lives he’s taken… all the families permanently shattered… and tried to make sure Golbez was alive. After that, while still at 1 hp, Cecil attacked Zeromus fearlessly. And you know what?
I want to believe there’s something special about the story of Final Fantasy IV, something that keeps on bringing Square Enix back to it. I suspect it has to do with two things. One of them is the overarching story of the game. It’s basic and grandiose at the same time. It’s good versus evil. A knight standing against injustice with no one to back him but his friends. That’s what Cecil is all about. Other characters may have other motivations. Tellah wanted revenge, and he killed himself trying to get it. Yang, Cid, Palom and Porom all sacrificed themselves to ensure Cecil would not die. Kain, Cecil’s best friend, was consumed with jealousy and passion…. wanting Cecil’s girlfriend for himself. Rydia learned to forgive Cecil for killing her mother, growing and maturing into a powerful young woman. Rosa only wanted to protect Cecil, heal him so he would survive. Edge wanted revenge for the death of his parents, but learned there was more to life than killing thanks to his love for Rydia. Edward grew from a cowardly child to a man willing to put himself through suffering to save his friends.
I think we all like a good story where a brave knight will stand up against the forces of evil. That’s what fairy tales are about, right? The knight slays the dragon and saves the day. Isn’t that the universal story? The knight who stood up against the forces of darkness? That sort of story is in every culture that I’m aware of. I think that’s part of why Final Fantasy IV is reintroduced over and over again. We all recognize the story. We can relate to it in some way.
I concede that I could be wrong about it. Maybe it’s the gameplay. I mean, the game’s easy to just pick up and go. As RPGs go, it’s a pretty basic game. You can fight, use magic, your character’s unique power, or items. It’s easy to pick up and go. It’s not as basic as the original Final Fantasy and complex like Final Fantasy VII (be honest, once you introduce the materia, it adds a level of complexity to the game). So, it could be a matter of convenience.
Or heck, maybe the game is just easy to code.
Honestly, when I think of Final Fantasy IV, I think of simpler times with video games. When the story was clear. The battles were straight forward. The music was simple. It was before watching characters attempt suicide, or having completely self-involved jerks as the hero. It was about the adventure. It was about saving the day. Why is it so hard to make a Final Fantasy that is about that?
Maybe that’s why Square Enix keeps on going back to Final Fantasy IV.