All these years after its humble beginnings on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Final Fantasy remains widely regarded as one of the best, longest-running role-playing game series out there. Despite how recent installments have pushed video game production values to new heights, many longtime fans maintain that Final Fantasy IV (known as Final Fantasy II when it was released in North America in '91) is the breakthrough game in the series. Featuring a fast-paced, emotionally charged story and a cast of memorable characters, plus dozens of hours' worth of entertaining gameplay, Final Fantasy IV set the tone and the high standard for subsequent installments. Now you can experience this classic on the Game Boy Advance, and sure enough, it's as great as ever.
One of the undisputed classics from the Final Fantasy series is just about as terrific as ever now that it's on the Game Boy Advance.
Final Fantasy IV is about Cecil, a dark knight and captain of the Kingdom of Baron's mighty airship fleet. Baron's increasingly warlike tendencies push Cecil into a moral quandary at the beginning of the game, but the moment he questions his orders, he's stripped of his rank and given the lowly task of delivering a package to a nearby town. Cecil is shocked at what happens when he reaches his destination, and becomes determined to find out what's causing his kingdom's corruption and evil. He'll meet many unusual friends and foes during his lengthy adventure, and will even undergo a dramatic transformation as he casts aside his past training in favor of a path of true righteousness.
Final Fantasy IV's story is still one of the best things about it, due to how effectively it twists and turns and how well it handles exposition. Back in the day, it was amazing that this game started you off as a highly capable warrior, rather than the typically inexperienced RPG hero. What's more, new characters are introduced in context rather than with ham-fisted or long-winded background information. We learn right away that Cecil is romantically involved with Rosa but that their relationship is strained due to Cecil's military background; and we also know that Cecil's got a faithful friend in Kain, a fellow soldier of Baron. Other characters, like the vengeful old sage Tellah and the brash ninja prince Edge, are some of the most memorable that the Final Fantasy series has ever created. The game effectively pushes its story along with numerous scripted sequences, set to a stirring musical score that effectively captures just the right dramatic tone. At times, the story may seem a bit predictable or kid-friendly, but in its heyday this game pioneered the whole concept of dramatic storytelling in an RPG.
This is a nearly exact translation of Final Fantasy II for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and it would take a hardcore fan of the original to notice the differences. Most of the changes are clear-cut improvements. For example, the English dialogue is better and more coherent than in the original North American version, while remaining faithful to the original script. Fans of the original might still be a little put off by a few changed names here and there, though. The character portraits and backgrounds are also slightly redrawn, and the text is bigger and more legible--perfect for the Game Boy Advance's screen and very clear even on the Game Boy Micro. The game also sports a new quicksave feature that lets you instantly save your progress at any point, though this data is deleted as soon as you resume play. You'll still need to use save points to permanently save your progress, but having the option to save any time outside of battle definitely helps if you like to play in short bursts. The meticulous ones out there will appreciate the new "bestiary" menu option, letting them review data on any of the hundreds of monsters in the game they've defeated. There's even a big new dungeon that's accessible towards the end of the game, which might entice you to keep playing even after you finish the main quest. Not all the game's sound effects match the original's exactly, but other than that, the presentation is pretty much spot-on. The game still looks very good after all these years, and series composer Nobuo Uematsu's musical score is as thrilling and memorable as ever.
A great cast of characters and a surprisingly moving story make Final Fantasy IV one of the benchmark games in the series.