My Problems with Final Fantasy 4

VillainFan42

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I recently decided to replay a bunch of Final Fantasy games, and while my love for 6 and 10 were re-confirmed, I noticed that Final Fantasy 4 didn't hold up very well.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think it's a fine game, probably the point where the series finally got a feel for what it was. But a lot of people claim this is the best in the series, and while I'm not going to go full Spoony on you for having a differing opinion, I personally wouldn't even put this game in my top 10.

Here are my reasons why I think Final Fantasy 4 doesn't hold up very well.

#1 - Fake-Out Deaths

If you've played this game, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Let's see here... First, it looks like Yang dies, then he comes back. Then, it looks like Edward dies, then he comes back. Then, it looks like Rydia dies and she comes back. Then, it looks like Palom and Porom die and they come back. Then, it looks like Yang dies AGAIN and he comes back. Then, it looks like Cid dies, and he comes back.

The only character to actually die is Tellah, and... eh, Galuf did it better. And to be fair, while Kain is missing from the earthquake at the beginnigng, the game doesn't pretend he's dead, the characters are just uncertain if he survived or not. So I don't mind that.

But what really gets me is the increasingly ludicrous ways they recover. Edward and Yang washing up on some shores? Okay, fair enough. As is Rydia being taken by Leviathan. Palom and Porom inexplicably getting depetrified when Esuna didn't work? Well, the Elder is supposedly really powerful, but if that's the case, why couldn't Tellah do it? Did the Elder open a portal to the FF9 universe and borrow a Supersoft? Then there's Yang getting rescued by the Sylphs. Uh... how? He was locked in a room with an exploding cannon. But the one that gets to me the most? Cid jumps out of an airship, hundreds of feet above the underworld ground, detonating a huge bomb in his hands to bring the entrance to the underground down on top of him and close it off? Alive and well with absolutely NO EXPLANATION other than "I got better." No. Just... just no.

Let's compare this with Final Fantasy 2. In that game, when a character died, they DIED. Josef didn't turn up bedridden after getting crushed by that boulder. The party wasn't around for Ricard's death at the Emperor's hands, since they were busy escaping, so the game could have taken the easy way out and had him barely survive, which considering Ricard is the original Dragoon and a certified bada** they could've gotten away with it. But they didn't. There were actual stakes.

#2 - Mind Control

I'm honestly surprised everyone ignores this aspect of the story and how weak it is. So Kain, Cecil's best friend, turns on him. Does he have an interesting motivation for fighting his best friend? Nope! It's just mind control! And yet the game still treats him like he betrayed Cecil of his own free will. Look, I never understood Kain's popularity. The guy has absolutely zero depth aside from being mind-controlled. He's an honorable, completely 100% non-antihero character, but suddenly he gets mind-controlled and suddenly he's a dark, brooding antihero with moral ambiguity and darkness and whatnot. Oh wait, there was one reason he gave in to the mind control: His unreciprocated feelings for Rosa. Which, let's be honest... have love triangles EVER worked?! I can't think of a single good love triangle in the history of fiction.

You want an example of Kain done right? Seifer from Final Fantasy 8. He is manipulated by the villain to fight the hero, but unlike Kain, he isn't directly controlled; instead, he has his own motivations and flaws that the villain manipulates, so he's still fighting on his own free will.

But the mind control problem gets worse.

#2.5- Golbez

Golbez is scarily competent: He manages to get all the crystals from under the party's nose, shrugs off friggin' meteors being dropped on him, and when the party manages to beat him so badly that all that's left of him is a severed hand, he regenerates from that hand and escapes.

...And then it's revealed he's being mind-controlled by a bigger, badder villain living on the moon, and any and all villain cred awarded to him is immediately lost because it wasn't actually him doing any of that. Never mind the fact that the exact same thing happened with Xande from Final Fantasy 3 (the single worst villain in the entire series, I might add), that is just weak.

The sad thing is, Zemus (the aforementioned bigger badder bad guy) actually has a decently solid motivation for being a villain- he believes Lunarians and humans are incapable of coexisting, and wants to make room for the Lunarians to settle instead of waiting out the humans evolving to their full potential. Nothing too grand, but for an RPG made in the early 90s, it works.

I can think of two ways Golbez could have worked, though admittedly this is in the context of that extra cutscene in the DS version, but since it was originally planned but cut from the SNES version, I think it still works.

Number 1- Make Golbez the main villain, except he's Cecil's uncle instead of his brother. He would've been KluYa's brother who came to the Blue Planet along with him, and when he saw KluYa get killed, he comes to the conclusion that Lunarians and humans are incompatible and does all the things he does in the game- sans mind control.

Number 2- If you want to keep Zemus in there, don't mind control him! Zemus makes his offer to young Golbez after KluYa's death, and he accepts of his own free will, as after what he's seen, he thinks Zemus is in the right. The thing is, the game almost seems like it's going that direction... but then FuSoYa breaks Zemus's control over Golbez, thus explicitly stating mind control was involved.

What I'm saying is, a major villain's motives should never be "mind controlled by a bigger villain." I mean, was Darth Vader mind controlled by Palpatine? No. Palpatine manipulated him into joining his side, but ultimately Vader made the decision himself. Golbez is already filling all the checkboxes for Darth Vader clones (Black armor, related to the hero, serves a seldom-seen but more powerful villain) so why not do this aspect instead of copping out by mind controlling him?

On more thing on this note: In the game, Zemus is mind controlling Golbez, who is mind controlling Kain. Um... what?

#3 - The Second Half

The first half of the game has a genuinely good flow to it. Cecil has a defined character arc where he does horrible things in the name of his king, comes to realize he's a jerk, tries everything in his power to make amends for his misdeeds, and ultimately becomes a Paladin, a paragon of righteousness who has overcome his past sins. And this climax to a legitimately intriguing character arc... resolves about a third of the way through the game.

The game feels like it should have ended at the Tower of Zot. Golbez has all four crystals, Cecil is fresh off his redemption quest, and it's time for a showdown. But no... suddenly there's an underworld and second set of crystals that were never once foreshadowed. And once Golbez gets those four, then is it time for a cataclysm and then final battle? Nope! Let's go to the moon because the developers needed 5 more hours worth of content! The only foreshadowing we get for any of this is the voice on the mountain that gives Cecil the Mythgraven Blade and the prophecy on said blade, but those are basically forgotten until the end.

For comparison, let's look at a similar plot point in Final Fantasy 5. That game also had the party go to a second world with a second set of crystals, but the second world was at least built up through the restoration of Galuf's memories, the meteors, those werewolf guys, etc. FF5's story was overall pretty subpar (excellent writing in the GBA dub notwithstanding) but it at least felt consistent. FF4's story felt like the writers were making crap up as they went, like a D&D campaign gone off the rails and the DM is desperately trying to make it look like this was his plan the whole time.

#4 - The Constantly Changing Party

I've already gone on about how I hate the fakeout deaths, and I think the only reason they're even here is to justify people being removed from the party as new characters enter the mix. Cid joins the party after you beat Cagnazzo? We'd better fake kill the two kids so as to appease the Arbitrary Headcount Gods!

And the thing is, the party changes so much that you can't get used to playing with a certain character for that long before they're ripped from you. Oh, you're leveling up Rydia and learning new spells at a good clip? Well, tough luck. She's going overboard, and when next you see her she'll have lost one of her skillsets and gained one to replace it.

Same thing happens with characters with really cool and unique abilities that get shafted as a sacrifice to the Arbitrary Headcount Gods. And more often than not, their replacement isn't better. What's that? Palom and Porom are really powerful and their Twincast ability is awesome? Too bad! They turned themselves to stone to stop the crushing walls, even though they could've just cast Teleport or burned down the wooden door or something. You get to use Cid instead! ...except he's slow as molasses, his Analyze ability is redundant because Cecil and Tellah both know Libra, and is outclassed by Yang in physical attack.

In fairness, the DS version does remedy this somewhat with the Augment system, allowing you to carry over abilities and give them to your late-game party members, but the methods for getting the augments are so obscure and out-of-the-way that I can't say it fully fixes my problem. (Though I will admit that Cid is actually pretty awesome in the DS version)

#5 - That scene on the Lunar Whale

You know the one. We're about to head off to the moon to stop Zemus from... um... doing evil things, but Rosa and Rydia can't come along! We can't have our heroics corrupted by the accursed X-chromosome! Never mind that Rosa is the only one able to heal efficiently in battle at this stage of the game, and Rydia can summon freaking dragons and outclass everyone else in terms of raw damage output, but we can't bring them along or we'll get cooties.

Okay, in fairness, Cecil was trying to be chivalrous to Rosa, the woman he loves, and considering her teleport spot in Baron brings her directly to Cecil's bedroom, I'm convinced she was pregnant with Ceodore during the events of the game. Edge, however, has no such excuse.

Doesn't change the fact that was kind of a jerk move on Cecil's part, and idiotic to boot. It's a good thing that the girls just ignored them and stowed away in the next room the entire trip.


*phew* That's my list of grievances with Final Fantasy 4. Now I do think this is a good game, don't get me wrong. There's a lot I like about the game. Cecil's character arc, though it ends too early, is still compelling and satisfying. I absolutely love Rydia, and I honestly think Rosa is an underrated character- I have to respect a character who, when she receives news that her lover is presumed dead, goes out on her own to find him and only stops because she's in danger of dying. From a gameplay perspective, despite this being the first appearance of the ATB system, this game uses it to the fullest with some of the best boss fights in the entire series.

Do I like Final Fantasy 4? Absolutely. Do I think it deserves to be considered one of the best, if not the best in the series? No. So what do you think? Am I being too harsh? Am I holding this game to an unreasonable standard?
 

Ilyena

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How dare you? :rage:

j/k I do love FFIV and it's one of my favorites. Probably more from a nostalgia standpoint since it was my first FF game. You do bring up some good points. One of my least favorite parts of the game was the revolving door party. It was annoying to have to start fresh with a new character every few hours of gameplay.

I agree that mind control is a weak plot point, especially where Golbez is concerned. Not really a great twist there. Actually while I was playing through the game more recently, I kept wondering to myself why I used to love Kain so much. I still like him but you're right, there isn't a whole lot to his character. I guess I just like dragoons.

The Lunar Whale thing was cringeworthy.

The fake out deaths I didn't mind so much. Although it was annoying to lose yet another character when it happened. Except Edward. He sucks. My husband and I always joke that no one is ever dead in an older FF game until they disappear in front of you. After the first incident with Yang, I expected him to survive again and again. :lew:
 

Shaissa

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I kinda get where you are coming from, but we have to remember how old this game was and what RPGs were really like before this.

As far as the changing characters, I think this added some interesting depth to the story, and this was really their first attempt at giving you more characters with different classes to control, I felt that you had enough time with all the characters to get use to them, yes it did suck when they would leave the party, but you always got someone arguably better a little later.

The "fake-out" deaths, minus Cid who we thought was dead, the rest of the cast throughout the whole story it was unknown what happen to them, like Rydia going into the Levianthen, Yang falling off the ship and so on, the only fake out I saw was Cid, and maybe the twins but they only came back at the end, and theirs was being turned to stone and not really dying.

I will give you the mind control bit on Kain, although I think it did add some interesting depth to the story, and with Golbez also being controlled...think that was a bit of a stretch but it did give you an interesting final boss and a more interesting plot twist.
 

winksgaming12

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FF4 did have some issues to say the least. The "deaths" were emotional and you felt like this was something bigger only to realize everyone was alive. I felt cheated and I felt the emotions that I had for the deaths were not justified and I got mad at myself for even caring.

The mind controlled Golbez can also mind control? So did he really mind control him confusing but hey out of the first 4 this by far was the best one yet.
 

Pat Frost

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I actually don't mind the constantly changing party. At least for me, whenever I play an FF game in which you can pick your party yourself, I tend to only use the characters that I like most or seem the most useful without ever mixing it up. I liked that in FFIV I was actually forced to branch out and use other characters.

I definitely agree with you on the fake-out deaths though. The game really went overboard with those, to a point that it became comical.
 
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