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Final Fantasy IV (1991) review
by rawgdawg

This game has a lot of much needed improvements from the previous iterations. I think the most obvious is the lack of game breaking glitches throughout. The active time battle system makes decisions more time-sensitive and adds a layer of challenge through that. The story is actually present, and I quite like the idea of the ever-changing cast of characters (although that kinda stops towards the end). I did notice that it was easier to become disengaged with this game than the first. Often I spammed the same attacks or ran away from enemies, when in the first game I felt like I was thinking through every move I made. I still think this is objectively the better game, but I did miss the strategy of Final Fantasy this go around. 

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Final Fantasy IV starts with a bang, for the first hours it doesn't take prisoners at all and it takes the plot onwards and beyond, everything was great, and for the most part, this rhythm is replicated through the rest of the game.

A little side-note: I consider myself a Final Fantasy fan maybe it is my favorite franchise, I have played a lot of the non-numerical games and at this point, I'm yet to play only: 5,6,8,9 and 11. What I'm trying to say is that as much as I love this franchise and considering the time period they were created, at least till the 4th entry, there wasn't a truly great Final Fantasy game, they all were good but they also lack in some departments, be it the story, grinding or combat mechanics, but, having played IV for the first time (in a remake version, sorry about that) its safe to say that they finally achieved a milestone, whereas gameplay, story, rhythm, and progression merged beautifully.

Game-play wise, the game relies on the famous or infamous ATB system, in which your characters have a "time-bar" that needs to be filled in order for them to make an action, be an attack or spell, once you use an action this bar needs to be filled once again, it's as simple as it sounds, therefore what you get are dynamic and sometimes dramatic battles where you need to quickly choose commands in order to not lose any time and get the upper hand in battle, you can choose also the speed of battles (at least in this game's edition) if you're getting trouble selecting stuff or if you think you can speed things up you have some liberty in that regard, however, this is where things get mixed. As far as I know in this version of the game, the ATB doesn't seem to work that well if you're not using high-speed battles, and more often than not, characters that have delayed abilities like "jump" will take far more time than it needs to, this is clearly a disadvantage and a thing that will be with you for the rest of the game. Aside from that, I liked the ATB system quite a lot, it maintained battles dense and tight, speaking of battles, I was surprised with plenty of the boss fights, it has a great variety and several strategies that make you feel "super smart" when you figure out their mechanic in the middle of the fight, truly loved that.

The story, at least to me, was a reminiscence from FFII, it felt dynamic and well crafted, it kinda subverts a lot of your expectations in a good way, so I accepted gladly all of their plot twists, I loved how it is hinted that you have to get "5 objects" or so in order to get to the "final dungeon" but then the story is like: "you're little too late, the bad guy is ahead of you and it has collected 2 of them" it maintains a fresh and unexpecting rhythm, another strong point is the theme of doing bad things for the greater good, it truly tried to tell something and for the most part (and as a game from 1991 with a lot of technical limitations) it hits the target just right, I won't spoil it but definitely is one of the highlights. Although the story is great it has some problems also, mainly is that at times it somehow feels repetitive, and it seems that they didn't want it to go that far, so some things that should be definitive in the end are not, this lows the stakes a great deal at some point, not that it ruins it, but certainly takes points out of it.

Graphically, this edition looks beautiful, the combat sprites look great and for the most part, they nailed the art of Yoshitaka Amano, maybe the only sprites that didn't look that good were the dialogue sprites, but is not really an issue. The music is also pretty memorable, it has some reminiscence of some tunes of FFIII and also there are leitmotifs that you'll notice in future entries.

All in all, I believe FFIV is a well-packaged and crafted game, it simply has everything that the past entries have promised and more, there are some minor issues that I can see how for someone else can be easily overlooked and consider it a masterpiece and that's great, this game has passed the test of time and it makes it look easy. Definitely recommended for any RPG fan and also for people that are interested in a starting point for the Final Fantasy Series.
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