Comic Book Curious

Final Fantasy 4: Games Worth Playing

February 4, 2022

My mom and I were chatting not that long ago about games from WAY back in the day. We’re talking 8 and 16 bit here. We talked about the Legend of Zelda and Mario, but what sprang to my mind was my first real J-RPG, Final Fantasy 2 (well, the fourth one, but let’s move on). Still, there are thousands of video games out there, but what’s worth playing? More importantly, what VERSION is worth playing, as Final Fantasy 4 has been remade countless times. Today let’s talk about:

The title for Final Fantasy 4

Credit: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 4: We’re going to be all over the map with this.

Final Fantasy 4 came to the U.S. as Final Fantasy 2 in 1991 and represented a massive leap in terms of role-playing games and their structure. While linear, you could stray off the path quite a bit, yet were never lost. There wasn’t a time when you had to grind, and the music was one of the first true video game soundtracks. Jeez, the boss battle theme is on my running mix. Listen to this, and tell me it doesn’t get you moving. This was also the first game in the series to introduce the active time battle system where enemies will just keep attacking you if you take too long to choose what you want to do on your turn, making combat lively and engaging!

The story is a nice mix of medieval fantasy with a dash of sci-fi and moves along at a good pace. It’s regarded as one of the best games ever made and is an excellent introduction to role playing game for the novice while only being a 30-40 hour kind of game, yet has enough depth for the more seasoned player.

But jeez, what version should you play?

Final Fantasy 2 / 4 – the 1991 versions

Unless you have a working Super Nintendo, you’re probably not going to be playing a hard copy of this. Still, it’s so old that it’s easy to find emulation versions online. The U.S. version is rather easy (if you’re looking for that) and has had a ton of the moves from the Japanese version removed. Originally this was done because having too many choices was deemed “too complicated” for American audiences. Still, the game has a strong soundtrack and holds up nicely, even if some of the translations are a bit silly. So silly in fact, that someone volunteered to do localization from Japanese to English just to help make these games be more accessible to western audiences. Some of these flubs became a staple of the series.

A screenshot in Final Fantasy 4

Credit: Square Enix

Still, this is usually my go to as it is streamlined and efficient without a ton of bells and whistles. If that’s your jam, this version is for you.

Final Fantasy 2 – Easy Type

This version was changed to be even easier than the U.S. version, mostly by removing various challenges. There is a sword for your main character that works in the magnetic cave because otherwise you basically can’t fight using a real weapon for that part. Weapons have their accuracy increased (odd seeing as how I can’t remember missing very often in that game) and how long it takes to cast certain spells has been reduced. If you speak Japanese and want an easy version of this game, this one is for you. This era of games are all, more or less, the same sort of game, it just depends on what language you speak.

An image of the different cartridges for the game

Credit: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 4 – PlayStation 1997

This version has some quality of life bonuses that are helpful. You can set the cursor to remember what you told a character to do on a previous turn, so you don’t have to re-impot it each time. There is a sprint button to move around a little quicker on the map screen. There is also a “soft save” so you can save in the middle of something and come back to it later.

This version got remade a lot, even finding its way back onto consoles in Japan on the Wonderswan Color, but that version removes almost all of the quality of life improvements.

If the walking is too slow and you feel you can’t be bothered to push a few extra buttons, this is a solid version as it’s pretty much a direct copy from the SNES 1991 Japan version. The only real major difference in terms of the actual game is the hardware it is on.

A screenshot of Final Fantasy 4 remade

Credit: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 4 Advance – Game Boy Advance 2005 – Start Here

What an advancement actually. No no, this is solid. The GBA has a run of these remakes of old 8 and 16 bit games and did an excellent job (like Dragon Quest 4) and this one is no exception. Not only is there a graphical upgrade, but there are whole gameplay elements that have been added.

In the original game, you got stuck with the party you got for the story (sometimes being a knight dragging along an old man and a pair of 10 year old twins) but now you can change your party members late in the game. The quality of life stuff from above is back and there are even more optional dungeons for some characters to play through to get them even more elite gear and flush out their stories.

I will admit that I’m not a huge fan of the music as it seems more gritty, but that’s a minor complaint.

This game packs a lot of optional content yet never feels like it really needs you to finish it all in order to beat the game. If you want that sort of option to make the game longer at your leisure or try to beat the final boss with an anemic bard and the set of aforementioned twins, go for it!

The Gameboy Advance version of Final Fantasy 4

Credit: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 4 – Nintendo DS (the 3D version) 2008

Oh snap it’s in 3D! With a total move list from the original Japanese game! Holy cats is it ever HARD. Well bless my biscuits if you’re looking for a Final Fantasy 4 to kick your teeth in, look no further. It’s packed with cutscenes and voice acting that is … mostly ok. The 3D doesn’t look great but it’s a pretty strong return to the original in terms of difficulty and scaling of the story.

A screenshot of the 3D version of th4e game

Credit: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 4 – The mobile phone version, 2009

Um, it’s this game on your phone if you have a phone from Japan and this is like 2009. They removed the inventory limit so now you can carry around as much stuff as you want. If you can’t deal with inventory limits and hate not being allowed to horde things, this game if for you.

Final Fantasy 4 – PlayStation Portable (PSP) 2011

A solid 2D remake and the best one in terms of graphics. Much like remakes of games that are decades old, they know that this one is going to attract a lot of people that remember the old versions, so they have lots of customization when listening to the music and included optional versions from the DS and the SNES eras.

There is a lot of additional content, though it seems a bit easy somehow. Some of the spells are MUCH more effective than they need to be and it makes the game unbalanced in favor of the player. Maybe it’s just because the 3D version knocked me into next week, but while this one is solid if not a little overly busy, it’s just not difficult enough. It’s got a lot of “after the credits” gameplay that for some reason never really motivated me to keep going, but if you want more Final Fantasy 4, this one will absolutely drench you in content.

Another remake of Final Fantasy 4

Credit: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 4 Pixel Remaster – Steam - Excellent if you want a challenge

The 3D version on your computer. Finally, a Final Fantasy 4 for people to Twitch stream. It is not quite as unforgiving as the Nintendo DS version, but it still doesn’t mess around. While you don’t lose gold from running from a fight, and all the religious elements have been put back in, it’s still plenty tough. Mostly this version removed the bugs and exploits you could do while making the difficulty just right.

This is probably my favorite version because it’s just so nicely balanced. I will say the voice acting and the cut scenes can be a bit much, but maybe that’s because I know the story because I’ve been playing it for 31 freaking years.

Final Fantasy 4 screenshot

Credit: Square Enix

Tips:

1: The BEST TIP: many of the weapons can be used as items. Equip an item like “ice rod” and in the items window push up. This will allow you to change out your weapon, but we’re not going to do that. You’ll see what you’re using in your left and right hand. Click the weapon you are using and then click again; you can use it as a weapon (or healing item) on enemies or allies. This is HUGELY helpful, especially early on when Rydia has nothing to do. Give her a rod and it will shoot a bullet out of it that as nearly as strong as Cecil’s sword attack! Rods, staves, the “Earth Hammer” casts quake for free, spears and the Dancing knife all do these sorts of attacks and for free!

A screenshot of the combat in Final Fantasy 4

Credit: Square Enix

2: Claw weapons can be effective for both Yang and Edge, especially the ones that cause confusion or silence your enemies, but the elemental ones are also helpful. It doesn’t hurt to have a spare set.

3: There are a lot of secret passages and any closed treasure chest, you can get to it. Try walking into the walls to see what ones are real of illusionary!

4: There is a pretty good sword upgrade you can get early on. When you get the airship, head south until you see a big tower. Near it is a ruined castle with treasure inside. Heads up, some chests contain monsters, and they are WELL above you in power so give it all you’ve got. The Mad Ogre battle requires you to cast confusion or stop on them because magic damage won’t work, and they have tons of hit points.

5: Float magic will help you avoid taking damage from floors, but you have to cast it each time you move up or down a level.

6: Cecil’s strongest dark knight sword will flat out kill certain enemies, especially after the ship adventure. Feel free to grind some experience for your other party members with your one hit knock out dark knight.

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