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Posted on May 18th 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Final Fantasy II, SNES, Easy Type,

Final Fantasy IV is one of the most important JRPGs to grace the console market, and would go on to shape the cinematic direction of developer Square's flagship Final Fantasy series for decades.  It wasn't my first RPG, but it was the first for me where story primarily drove the game, and was the first to feature a knockout and memorable ending sequence.  Despite this, I haven't played the game in nearly a decade (and not completed it in almost twelve years).  So, won't you join me, my friends, as I re-experience Final Fantasy IV for the first time in years?

While the rest of the poster from Nintendo Power #26 had some good games, I always gravitating back to the bottom right corner

Final Fantasy IV and I go way back. Ever since I learned of it's existence back in Nintendo Power Issue 26 during the summer of 1991, I knew it was going to be something special. Granted, I was a huge "N" fanboy back in those days, and drooled over pretty much every iteration of the Super Nintendo (system, controller, or games) that I could look at, but that poster from issue #26 was something special. It even displaced the poster of Alyssa Milano on the ceiling above my bed!  And on the day I was finally able to fire up FFIV (sold under the guise of Final Fantasy II), I wanted to mark that spot in time.  And the ending was not only a perfect topping to the lovely sundae that was the experience I had with the game, but also changed and solidified how I thought an ending of a game should be done.  No longer was I happy with the journey alone, if an RPG dared to pawn off a "bad" ending on me, it would often ruin the whole experience.

While I no longer own the original SNES cart, I have gone back to play Final Fantasy IV several times over the years: once when ported to the PlayStation on the Final Fantasy Chronicles compilation, and once each for the GameBoy and Nintendo DS remakes (respectively).  I was never really satisfied with any of those games, and it all had to do with sound reproduction.  It was either too muffled (PSX port), too compressed (GBA and DS), or too arranged (everything else).  I hate being this picky, but it is something that I've never been able to shake off and move on from.  But I really wanted to get back and play this game again, so because I had to be such a baby about sound reproduction (and since my SNES is dead), I decided to turn to a recommendation from a friend, and take a look at Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection for PSP.  Apparently, it had the ability to use the original score and sound effects, which I verified with YouTube videos.  So I bought it, even though I later realized that I could have just bought the original SNES game on the Wii Virtual Console and saved myself the trouble.  Oh well, at least I was able to get y'all some nice pictures (using a custom firmware plugin).

For those not in the know, Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection for the PSP is the sixth port or remake (counting the Japanese phone ports) of the original SNES/SFC title, and the last of the 2D versions.  While in the West we were treated to our own specific remake of Final Fantasy IV on the SNES (later re-jiggered and re-released as "Easy-Type" in Japan), as far as I can tell, this is the general difficulty featured in the original Japanese version, as well as the GBA remake.   The PSP remake also includes Interlude and The After Years, both direct sequels taking place a year and seventeen years after the original (respectively).   I should start off by stating that while I have played Interlude (it is only about a two hour game), I have not played The After Years for more than a few minutes, as I primarily wanted to get my nostalgia-freak on.  Maybe another day, when I don't have this great-mucking backlog staring me down.

While most summon changes are pretty conservative, Titan is the largest, and in my opinion the best

Finishing the experience, I have to say that it was just as wonderful as I remember.  Initially, I had some trepidation, and being a bit of a purist with classic game redesigns, this was primarily due to the redesign of the character sprites, but my worries were all for naught.  With some minor gripes (due to the "version" of the game, I think), it was a wonderful experience that hit a lot of nostalgia points, reminding me of how truly great it was to play the game for the first time.

While I was expecting something different, the sheer amount of similarities between the SNES and PSP games were a nice surprise.  There are new animations and sounds to accompany casts and summons, but most of them are minor and take nothing away from the original.  Couple that with the ability to switch between "Original" and "Arranged" music scores and I found this an extremely smooth transition and an easy recommendation to fellow FFIV purists.  All the old tricks work as well, so it was fun and maybe a bit harrowing to try and dredge up memories of the tried and true strategies.  I remember just how much difficulty I had with the Magus Sisters, and once I found the secret, they went down quickly every time. To be clear, all the major additions to the game featured in Final Fantasy IV Advance for the GBA are here, with the best being the ability to swap out characters near the end of the game, thereby allowing for some interesting combinations.  The mandatory lineup change for me is the replacement of Edge with Yang, who equipped with the Godhand weapon (from the Cave of Trials), is truly a devastating force.  As for Edge: Bye, buddy!  You can wait in the Big Whale while we storm the castle!

Actually, pretty much every boss went down rather quickly.  Not to say that they weren't hard, but it always seemed to be over too quickly.  At first, I thought the game was dynamically changing the difficulty on me, or maybe the bosses were pre-leveled experiences (similar to Final Fantasy Tactics).  I still haven't verified that latter theory, but I can say that I made it from game start to the moon (with all the summoned monsters including Bahamut, but sans the secret ones), in just under twelve hours.  But within thirteen hours, I hit a pretty significant snag:  My party lineup simply didn't have enough hit points to survive the opening attack of the final boss, which cannot be avoided, much less the second (which also cannot be avoided).  I thought that I needed to level some more, and every hour or so come back and try the fight again.  Want to know how long I leveled for?  Nearly nine hours!  Now, once I was able to actually survive the first (and second) attack from the final boss, completing the game was a snap.  While I don't think that those long hours grinding soured me of the game, it certainly cast a shadow upon it, and will make me think twice of another playthrough in the near future. 

A paltry forty-eight item inventory means you will see this message a lot, even in the games beginning

This revelation finally leads us to my final question: What happened?  On one hand I do understand the real presence of "old school" grinding in the game while also doffing my hat to the devs for not watering the "old school" experience down at all.  On the other, I have to raise an eyebrow at the unevenness of the game in comparison to the original SNES released in the West, and maybe affix blame there.  The Japanese original (and pretty much every subsequent port and remake after) feature enemies that tend to hit your party of characters very hard and also use their most potent spells more frequently.   This forces you to strategize and take advantage of your ability to easily run from encounters, so as to "save" your HP and MP to be better utilized in sub-boss and boss fights.  In the Western port, you will end up fighting a lot more enemies (because they are easier) and thus level up a lot more, so that when you reach the end, it is a smooth transition. That being said, it has been more than twenty years since I've played the original SNES copy, so maybe I should just hold off further judgement for later.  Perhaps I will be getting that Wii VC game after all.

Final Fantasy IV remains a landmark title, and a recommendation to anyone who enjoys story driven games.  While maybe not the most refined, The Complete Collection is the most affordable way to obtain both FFIV and FFIV: The After Years, and the only way to obtain Interlude.  The game can be found regularly on eBay for less than $15 USD loose, and sometimes only a few dollars more complete.  If you have a PSN account you can buy it digitally for your PSP or Vita (and maybe PSTV) for only $15.

Despite my earlier misgivings (it has been about a week since I last played it), I keep getting drawn back to the ending sequence, and how watching it again made me feel a bit (just a little) like a fifteen year-old again (well, except the appeal of Alyssa Milano).  If I remember correctly, I video taped the ending the first time I beat it.  I don't recall taping the battle though, since I remember losing the battle a number times).  I should try and find that tape.

Thanks for reading!

It just never gets old, friends

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I have a similar history with FF IV on the SNES and often consider it one of my all-time favorite games.  I also just recently played through the PSP version and had a great time with it.  I don't remember having to spend a lot of time grinding before the final boss encounter, however I always grind out about 10 levels before I go into the magnetic cave in the middle of the game (I forget its name).

As for the After Years content.... I don't recommend it.  You play through about a dozen disjointed chapters all featuring different characters, rendering all of the leveling and equipping you've done irrelevant as your party keeps constantly changing.  It gets better once you hit the final chapter and all those characters come together so you can essentially form your dream party, but that final dungeon just drags on forever (~15 hours) and eventually just becomes one big boss gauntlet.

Thanks for the write-up!  I always enjoy reading about one of my favorite games!
This is also easily in my top 10 favorite games ever. It's the first RPG I ever completed. I still like FF VI more but without this game gracing my SNES all those years ago, I may not be as into gaming as I am now. I certainly owe a lot to this game. I would also note that I still went out and got the GBA, DS, PS1 AND PSP remakes even though I still own my SNES game. Come to think of it, it might be top 5 instead of top 10!
I've heard a lot of people describe this version as the definitive way to play FFIV, and that the game's story is incredible. It's definitely near the top of my RPG to-play wishlist. That said, every time I've tried to play it, it just seemed so brutal. I put a lot of hours into it last year on my Vita and eventually didn't get back to it. Part of the problem is I just don't have the patience for grinding levels these days. I keep telling myself I need to just suck it up and deal with it to experience one of the greatest RPGs in history, but every time I actually try I end up stalling. One of these days I'll try again...

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