Final Fantasy IV (Super Nintendo) Review

By Leo Epema 19.12.2017 5

Review for Final Fantasy IV on Super Nintendo

Final Fantasy IV is about Cecil Harvey, a dark knight in the service of a king turned evil. With the help of his love interest Rosa (a white mage), and an assortment of magic wielders and fighters, he must foil the plot of Golbez, who is stealing the crystals keeping planet Earth together and protected from a force far, far away.

Unfortunately, what's also far, far away is any semblance of story depth. Many plot points are too convenient. They feel like they were written in while the writers were spitballing a rough draft of the story. One moment a character has no control over another anymore, and the next it's revealed he still has control. So… what, he just didn't feel like controlling him before? The character being controlled serves as nothing more than a plot progressor, which is a great shame considering the dramatic story between him and the main character that was teased. Indeed, the majority of the characters function this way. Many of them even "die" only to come back later to serve as a way of getting to the next area. It tugs on the heartstrings slightly, but it's a lazy way of eliciting emotion. It intentionally obscures the fact that the characters barely interact and so have almost no connection.

Three quarters of the way into the story, a pointless character is introduced. He doesn't serve a purpose thematically. It's as if the writers suddenly realized they were missing a character that could tie the main cast to the last kingdom holding a crystal. His personality is very similar to that of Cid, only slightly less agreeable. That's the thing: nothing is done with his personality to affect the main cast. They don't grow or learn because of him, and the dynamics don't change with him around. Mostly he just yells interjections like "Heck yeah." Why is he there, and why is the possible love story between him and another character not explored? It's like an entire part of the game was edited out, and it renders the story shallower.

Sometimes, characters that should have no reason to want to help or even talk to the party will tell them where to go, or to undertake a quest. In that sense, some plot threads are just glued together in a rather silly way. An "evil" character has to redeem themselves? Well, he needs to go to this mountain over here and become a fighter for justice. How? Well, not really by learning anything, just by fighting an illusory version of themselves like in Star Wars, only without the revelation.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IV on Super Nintendo

NPCs don't generally have anything interesting to say that fleshes out the world. They mostly reiterate directions another character had given. The lack of backstory is also a problem when one of the characters suddenly starts working for the bad guys. It's hard to feel really bad about it since that character had disappeared entirely for a while and wasn't even referenced again. It's only superficially shocking. With all that said, there are some genuinely dramatic moments that shock with their seeming finality. Note that while the story is rather shallow and bland, it does offer moments that feel Star Wars-like in their grandiosity.

Items are scarce and cost a fair bit of money, so it's encouraged to also use healing magic to heal. Of course, that decreases MP for that magic character, which will eventually make it impossible for them to use magic in battle. That means it's a good idea to fight near towns with inns, where characters' HP and MP are replenished. That's annoying, considering it means the player is expected to grind to level up so that healing isn't always necessary.

However, levelling to get decent amounts of HP can take a long time, so it can only be called bad game design. This is certainly so when entering a new area with new enemies. It's often the case that those new enemies are too strong for the party's level, which means progression is halted. In fact, there are guides online that instruct the reader to level up first. It's as though the game is afraid that if not enough levelling was done, certain spells or attacks might be missed out on. It's not in keeping with the spirit of role-playing games, which should allow people to do things at their own pace.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IV on Super Nintendo

To heal, the best thing to do is use items and only use magic as a last resort. Consequently, that means grinding to get large amounts of money to purchase healing items. Grinding is basically mandatory. Battles are forced on the party. Considering there are few enemy types per area, and few ways of dispatching enemies without often using magic, fighting soon grows tedious. This is doubly the case when magic points are shaved away a fair bit with each battle, again necessitating frequent visits to inns. Of course, it's also a possibility to use very weak magic for few MP, but that will result in more MP or items spent on healing, anyway.

The reason why this system doesn't work well is partly because battles spew out groups of powerful enemies, which often necessitates the use of strong magic like Firaga. That costs too much MP. A simple way of fixing the battles would be to either weaken enemies' attacks slightly, or to reduce the amount of enemies in group fights. As it is, many random battles are more difficult than boss battles, which is anticlimactic.

In summary, many random battles do so much damage to the characters that healing and grinding becomes standard fare, but the game isn't gracious enough with healing items, and the amount of MP spent on healing often cripples the party. The battles don't always work well. That said, when the battles do work, they work very well, giving the player a big range of choices from all sorts of magic and physical attacks. FFIV is also fairly tactical for a game that's otherwise so simple in most other respects. Enemies will keep attacking while the next move is considered, adding some much-needed tension to an otherwise simplistic battle system of "find and exploit the enemy's elemental weakness."

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IV on Super Nintendo

Aside from being simplistic, FFIV is a little outdated. It also has a cumbersome menu system. For one, it's impossible to use a spell in the menu more than once in succession - it has to be reselected to use a second time. Second, when buying items, their descriptions can't be checked. Their effects must be found out in combat, which just feels wrong considering most battles don't really allow for experimentation due to their danger.

The obtuseness extends to battles, with some battle conditions not getting explained or even providing hints. When a boss started using the defensive attack "tsunami" to raise a barrier, it turned out only a spell would break through it. No other attacks appeared to have any effect, and considering even certain spells would do barely any damage, it wasn't quite clear magic was the way to go. Finding that out is a needless chore.

On the flipside, FFIV is aware of its own limitations at times, such as when one character makes fun of the fact that some sprites are reused a bit much. It just turns into a joke about how some skimpy clothing is actually rather useful for a character that's supposed to be a guard. After all, it makes them more agile… and stylish. Thankfully, the music makes things much more emotional sounding, and it's nicely varied.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IV on Super Nintendo

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


Final Fantasy IV is decent. It's got excellent music, and the characters can be quite charming. It's just simplistic fantasy when it comes to the story, and it goes from plot point to plot point too quickly sometimes. Many characters serve as plot progressors and have little emotional interaction. Random battles tend to be too harsh, making it necessary to defend or heal a lot just to get to the next battle, which unfortunately leads to a bit of grinding. However, when fighting smaller groups of enemies, the game shines. There's so much choice, and magic is very rewarding with its power. FFIV is flawed, but a must-play.






Turn Based RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


It's really a shame, but I did not see why Final Fantasy IV is considered by so many people to be a triumph when it comes to the narrative and characters. The story itself is quite alright, but many of the characters are unplayable for much of the game and serve no purpose other than to provide some kind of plot-point for the overarching story.

Hell, there's one character who simply disappears for most of the game, then returns for no apparent (gameplay-related or other) reason, only to tell you they've been on a kind of spring break trying to become a stronger fighter. Then, for the rest of the game, they're basically a silent companion.

When comparing this installment to Final Fantasy VI or VII, I can't help but wonder why this is praised as much as it is. Perhaps it was a step up from the first three Final Fantasies, but for today's standards, I can't consider it very emotionally rousing. Final Fantasy VI manages to be much more personal.

( Edited 20.12.2017 00:21 by Leo Epema )

I'm speculating, but...could it be to do with it being the second FF released in North America, and the first one on SNES there? A huge step up from the NES original, I can see why some would hold FF4 in such high esteem following on from FF1 with this one. But then as you say, FF6 came along, and looking back now, it doesn't have quite as strong a story.

Dang...I am going to have to disagree hard with this. Most of the characters in this game are more original than most modern characters, esp in final fantasys.

In my mind 4 and 6 have better stories by far compared to modern ones, esp when you factor in the 20 year gap.

I'm sure the characters are more original than in most Final Fantasies, but I just think they're pretty shallow, many of them have barely any meaningful dialogue. Just about every character sacrifices themselves as a kind of cheap emotional hook, but other than that, they don't have much character, IMO. I can barely remember Rydia's role, other than to be a kid that hates Cecil one moment, then for no apparent reason sees him as a friend the next. And all that just because he saved her from burning to death like her parents, even though she knows Cecil and Kain set the village on fire in the first place.

Even Kain and Cecil's relationship, which started out as interesting, eventually turned more into a kind of plot-progresser than an actual deep story.

I agree FFVI has a better story than a lot of modern ones, I only dislike IV. The characters have very little narrative glue holding them together. They just feel like a hodgepodge of unrelated characters slapped together to provide a 'fun' story. That's fine, but for me, it's laughable to place that on the same level as FFVI's more coherent characters relationships.

Anyway, it just shows you that reviews are, in fact, always subjective. How we weigh the good against the bad (i.e. how good/bad something is and whether or not it balances things out) is different for every reviewer. Not to mention good and bad are subjective terms, in the end.


( Edited 20.12.2017 15:05 by Leo Epema )

"Right and wrong are not what separate us and our enemies. It's our different standpoints, our perspectives that separate us. Both sides blame one another. There's no good or bad side. Just two sides holding different views."
- Squall Leonhart


But the reviews so far are amusing (and the ones still to come, too). Such is the diversity of opinion of these games on just our team alone that one person's 9 or 10/10 game could be a 3 or 4/10 game to someone else.

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?

There are 1 members online at the moment.