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atari mania
Written by  :  Patrick Bregger (271611)
Written on  :  Apr 09, 2021
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars

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Ambitious, but bites off more than it can chew

The Good

Final Fantasy IV is a radical departure from its predecessor: instead of a bare-bone story and characters which barely speak five sentences over the whole game, FFIV features characters with real motivations and personalities as well as a story with many twists and turns. However, this also means the game is linear: you receive an airship relatively fast, but you can only visit one or two places at any given time. There is a small window towards the end of the game during which you can do some simple side-quests, but that's it.

This is the Final Fantasy which introduced the ATB (active time battle) combat system. I have to admit, I usually prefer standard turns in my JRPGs because ATB often leads to long waiting times during which the player just waits until a character can act again, but in FFIV it works quite well. This is because the full party has five characters (which means one character can act at almost any time) and spells have unique casting times, which introduces a tactical element which only works with ATB.

The Bad

Unfortunately the game breaks down during the second half. The gameplay becomes very tedious because the dungeons become long, stay very linear and have a way too frequent encounter rate. The story becomes stupid (you can only do the heroic sacrifice twist so many times before it becomes stale) and cuts off many well-established party members just to replace them with badly introduced and boring new characters. Rosa, mechanically one of the most important members, plays practically no part in the story and conversations anymore after her role as damsel in distress is over.

I also have to mention that the difficulty curve is a bit off. The majority of the game is pretty easy (normal difficulty mode) and because of the high encounter rate you are almost guaranteed to be over-leveled for the final boss, but there are a few gimmick bosses which are practically unbeatable without using special tricks with limited consumables.

The Bottom Line

I don't know enough about the history of JRPGs to claim this is the first which tries to tell an epic and linear story, but it is certainly one of the most influential for Western audiences and an important stepping stone to Final Fantasy VI. Because of the shortcomings of the second half I can't fully recommend it, but for JRPG fans it is worth a shot.

atari mania