Thursday, May 26, 2011

THEPLAYGAMER3: Final Fantasy IV

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Final Fantasy IV
Developer - Square
Publisher - Square
Release date - June 29, 2001


Final Fantasy IV also known as Final Fantasy II for its initial North American release) is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Released in 1991, it is the fourth main installment of the Final Fantasy series. The game's story follows Cecil, a dark knight, as he tries to prevent the sorcerer Golbez from seizing powerful crystals and destroying the world. He is joined on this quest by a frequently changing group of allies. Final Fantasy IV introduced innovations that became staples of the Final Fantasy series and role-playing games in general. Its "Active Time Battle" system was used in five subsequent Final Fantasy games, and unlike prior games in the series, IV gave each character their own unchangeable character class.

Final Fantasy IV has been ported to several other platforms with varying differences. An enhanced remake, also called Final Fantasy IV, with 3D graphics was released for the Nintendo DS in 2007 and 2008. The game was re-titled Final Fantasy II during its initial release outside Japan as the original Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III had not been released outside Japan at the time. However, later localizations used the original title.

With its character-driven plot, use of new technologies and critically acclaimed score by Nobuo Uematsu, Final Fantasy IV is regarded as a landmark of the series and the role-playing genre. The various incarnations of the game have sold more than four million copies worldwide. A sequel, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, was released for Japanese mobile phones in 2008, and worldwide via the Wii Shop Channel on June 1, 2009. In 2011, both Final Fantasy IV and The After Years were released for the PlayStation Portable as part of the compilation Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection, which also included a new game, set between the two; Final Fantasy IV: Interlude. Ports of the Nintendo DS remake were released for iOS in 2012, for Android in 2013 and for Windows in 2014.


Story

Most of Final Fantasy IV takes place on Earth, also known as the Blue Planet, which consists of a surface world (or Overworld), inhabited by humans, and an underground world (or Underworld), inhabited by the Dwarves. An artificial moon orbits the planet, upon which the Lunarians live. The Lunarians are a race of beings originally from a world which was destroyed, becoming the asteroid belt surrounding the Blue Planet, and are identified by a moon-shape crest on their foreheads. They created the artificial moon, resting until a time when they believe their kind can co-exist with humans. A second, natural moon orbits the Blue Planet as well, although it is never visited in the game.


Final Fantasy IV offers twelve playable characters, each with a unique, unchangeable character class. During the game, the player can have a total of five, or fewer, characters in the party at any given time. The main character, Cecil Harvey, is a dark knight and the captain of the Red Wings, an elite air force unit of the kingdom of Baron. He serves the king alongside his childhood friend Kain Highwind, the commander of the Dragoons. Rosa Farrell is a white mage and archer, as well as Cecil's love interest. The Red Wings' airships were constructed by Cecil's friend, the engineer Cid Pollendina.

During his quest, Cecil is joined by others, including Rydia, a young summoner from the village of Mist; Tellah, a legendary sage; Edward Chris von Muir, the prince of Damcyan and a bard; Yang Fang Leiden, the head of the monks of Fabul; Palom and Porom, a white mage and a black mage, twin apprentices from the magical village of Mysidia; Edward "Edge" Geraldine, the ninja prince of Eblan; and Fusoya, the guardian of the Lunarians during their long sleep.

Zemus is the main antagonist of the game. He wishes to destroy the human race so that his people can populate the earth. He uses Golbez to do this by controlling him and Kain with his psychic powers to activate the Giant of Babil, a huge machine created to carry out the genocide.


Gameplay

In Final Fantasy IV, the player controls a large cast of characters and completes quests to advance the story. Characters move and interact with people and enemies on a field map, which may represent a variety of settings, such as towers, caves, and forests. Travel between areas occurs on a world map. The player can use towns to replenish strength, buy equipment, and discover clues about their next destination. Conversely, the player fights monsters at random intervals on the world map and in dungeons. In battle, the player has the option to fight, use magic or an item, retreat, change character positions, parry, or pause. Certain characters have special abilities. The game was the first in the series to allow the player to control up to five characters in their party; previous games had limited the party to four.


Player characters and monsters have hit points (HP), with the characters' HP captioned below the main battle screen. Attacks reduce remaining HP until none are left, at which point the character faints or the monster dies. If all characters are defeated, the game must be restored from a saved game file. The player can restore the characters' hit points by having them sleep in an inn or use items in the party's inventory, such as potions, as well as using healing magic spells. Equipment (such as swords and armor) bought in towns or found in dungeons can be used to increase damage inflicted on monsters or minimize damage received. The player can choose whether characters appear on the front line of a battle or in the back. A character's placement impacts damage received and inflicted depending on the type of attack.


Final Fantasy IV introduced Square's Active Time Battle (ATB) system, which differed from the turn-based designs of previous RPGs. The ATB system centers on the player inputting orders for the characters in real time during battles. The system was used in many subsequent Square games.

Each character has certain strengths and weaknesses; for instance, a strong magic user may have low defense, while a physical fighter may have low agility. Like other Final Fantasy games, characters gain new, more powerful abilities with battle experience. Magic is classified as either "White" for healing and support; "Black" for offense; or "Summon" (or "call") for summoning monsters to attack or carry out specialized tasks. A fourth type, "Ninjutsu," consists of support and offensive magic and is available to only one character. Magic users, who account for eight of the twelve playable characters, gain magic spells at preprogrammed experience levels or fixed story events. The game includes balanced point gains, items, and rewards to eliminate long sessions of grinding. Due to the Super NES' greater processing power, Final Fantasy IV contains improved graphics when compared to previous Final Fantasy titles, all of which were released on the NES. The game employs the Super NES' Mode 7 technology to give enhanced magic spell visuals and to make airship travel more dramatic by scaling and tilting the ground for a bird's eye view.


Development

After completing Final Fantasy III in 1990, Square planned to develop two Final Fantasy games—one for the Nintendo Entertainment System and the other for the forthcoming Super NES, to be known as Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V respectively. Due to financial and scheduling constraints, Square dropped plans for the NES game and continued development of the SNES version, retitled Final Fantasy IV. A mock-up screenshot of the cancelled title was produced for a Japanese magazine, but little other information exists about it. Series creator and director Hironobu Sakaguchi has stated that the NES version was approximately 80% complete and certain ideas were reused for the SNES version.

Final Fantasy IV was lead designer Takashi Tokita's first project at Square as a full-time employee. Before this, Tokita wanted a career as a theater actor, but working on the game made him decide to become a "great creator" of video games. Initially Hiromichi Tanaka, the main designer of Final Fantasy III, was also involved in the development of the game. However, Tanaka wanted to create a seamless battle system that had no separate battle screen and was not menu-driven, and since Final Fantasy IV was not going in that direction, he changed development teams to work on the action RPG Secret of Mana instead. The development team of Final Fantasy IV contained 14 people in total, and the game was completed in roughly one year.

Initial ideas were contributed by Sakaguchi, including the entire story and the name of Baron's royal air force, the "Red Wings". The Active Time Battle (ATB) system was conceived and designed by Hiroyuki Ito when he was inspired while watching a Formula One race and seeing racers pass each other at different speeds. This gave him the idea of different speed values for the individual characters. The system was developed by Kazuhiko Aoki, Ito and Akihiko Matsui. As the game's lead designer, Tokita wrote the scenario and contributed pixel art. He stated that there was a lot of pressure and that the project would not have been completed if he did not work diligently on it. According to Tokita, Final Fantasy IV was designed with the best parts of the previous three installments in mind: the job system of Final Fantasy III, the focus on story of Final Fantasy II, and the four elemental bosses acting as "symbols for the game" as in the first installment. Other influences include Dragon Quest II. The themes of Final Fantasy IV were to go "from darkness to light" with Cecil, a focus on family and friendship among the large and diverse cast, and the idea that "brute strength alone isn't power." Tokita feels that Final Fantasy IV is the first game in the series to really pick up on drama, and the first Japanese RPG to feature "such deep characters and plot.

The game's script had to be reduced to one fourth of its original length due to cartridge storage limits, but Tokita made sure only "unnecessary dialogue" was cut, rather than actual story elements. As the graphical capacities of the Super Famicom allowed regular series character designer Yoshitaka Amano to make more elaborate character designs than in the previous installments, with the characters' personalities already evident from the images, Tokita felt the reduced script length improved the pacing of the game. Still, he acknowledges that some parts of the story were "unclear" or were not "looked at in depth" until later ports and remakes. One of the ideas not included, due to time and space constraints, was a dungeon near the end of the game where each character would have to progress on their own—this dungeon would only be included in the Game Boy Advance version of the game, as the Lunar Ruins.


Because the previous two installments of the Final Fantasy series had not been localized and released in North America at the time, Final Fantasy IV was distributed as Final Fantasy II to maintain naming continuity. This remained the norm until the release of Final Fantasy VII in North America (after the release of Final Fantasy VI under the title of Final Fantasy III) and subsequent releases of the original Final Fantasy II and III on various platforms. Final Fantasy II has since gone under the title Final Fantasy IV.

The English localization of Final Fantasy IV retains the storyline, graphics, and sound of the original, but the developers significantly reduced the difficulty for beginning gamers. Square were worried that western fans would find it difficult to adjust to the game's complexity due to not having played the previous two entries, so decreased the overall depth considerably. Other changes include the removal of overt Judeo-Christian religious references and certain potentially objectionable graphics. For example, the magic spell "Holy" was renamed "White", and all references to prayer were eliminated; the Tower of Prayers in Mysidia was renamed the Tower of Wishes. Direct references to death were also omitted, although several characters clearly die during the course of the game. The translation was changed in accordance with Nintendo of America's censorship policies (at a time before the formation of the ESRB and its rating system).


Music

The score of Final Fantasy IV was written by longtime series composer Nobuo Uematsu. Uematsu has noted that the process of composing was excruciating, involving trial and error and requiring the sound staff to spend several nights in sleeping bags at Square's headquarters. His liner notes were humorously signed as being written at 1:30 AM "in the office, naturally. The score was well received; reviewers have praised the quality of the composition despite the limited medium. The track "Theme of Love" has even been taught to Japanese school children as part of the music curriculum. Uematsu continues to perform certain pieces in his Final Fantasy concert series.

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