As a kid, I can't think of anything else that fascinated me more than space. To think that there was something beyond the clouds completely blew my mind when I was younger. But there was no way I'd be able to get there in this day and age, not with the small amount of pocket money I had saved up. Fortunately, there are a handful of RPGs which allow you to do this. The most bizarre of these is Final Fantasy IV. Cecil's adventure is largely fantasy-based, with mythical dragons, summons, and a little bit of drama thrown in. But after the Tower of Zot, Kain reveals Golbez is trying to open the path to the moon. "Of all places," I thought, "why the moon? What's so special about that?" Hours later, the party is forced to chase their nemesis into space with the Lunar Whale, a giant airship capable of breaking through the stratosphere. This was probably as close to going into space as I would get, and my eyes were wild with excitement. I remember thinking at the time, "This is it, the end of everything." What better place to have a showdown than on the moon?
The experience of landing on the Red Moon was perhaps the complete opposite of what I was expecting. I had dreamt up this image of a barren wasteland, with leftover remnants of the Lunarian citizens and a somewhat mystical feel. Instead, the bleeps and bloops of the SNES soundtrack created an otherworldly concoction of both hilarity and uncertainness. While the surface was barren, there was literally nothing to look at, at all. Luckily, my wonder was reignited in the Crystal Palace, and with the discovery of the sleeping race and FuSoYa. He wanted to help Cecil and save the Blue Planet, the homeworld. Cecil exists as an example of the connection between the two worlds and the desire of most of the Lunarians to help Earth — he is half-human, half-Lunarian. It felt like a wonderful way to introduce the final act of the game. The Red Moon itself is one of the most bizarre places in the Final Fantasy universe, but its legacy has not been forgotten in later games. They always hide a disaster or a bizarre and uncomfortable otherworld that the party has difficulty in accepting. Some protagonists originate from those other worlds. Final Fantasy IV kicked off one of the more unusual trends in the series in an odd fashion, but one of my first trips to the moon in RPG form will not be forgotten.
I mention on my staff page that FFIV was my first Final Fantasy. Interestingly, this introduction began with an ending when, as a kindergartener, I was invited to a neighbor's house while his older brother was finishing the last dungeon. I was intrigued. Who were these people with ridiculously strong powers? How did they get them? Why did each person have different powers? Most importantly: who was the woman in the amazing green gown (hey, the way my 5-year-old mind pictured it, it was amazing) with some of the most powerful mythical creatures I knew about at her command? Seeing the adventure that led up to this epic final battle became a pretty immediate need. Unfortunately, in a slightly less fond memory, the game had been out for quite a while at that point and had become difficult to find...
...So after a long wait, I remember being even more excited when I was finally able to play as Cecil and leave Baron to enter the wider world. I went into the first dungeon wondering about Cecil's inner conflict and what the right path forward would be. Most of the stories I knew at that point in my life were pretty... straightforward affairs about knights vanquishing evil. But with FFIV, surprise, that dragon I just fought was a magical familiar, and in vanquishing it, I actually killed the mother of that woman in green I admired so much. Well played, game. Lesson learned. Now, I mostly appreciate the fact that Rydia's first reaction to this trauma is to summon a Titan. I think we all wish we could do that sometimes. It's also great that this particular Final Fantasy doesn't let up with that ambiguity (looking at you, Kain) throughout the entire adventure. That's one of the reasons that I've been able to introduce this game to so many different people over time and have it resonate with them.
Also, though it doesn't have quite as much cheesy dialogue awesomeness as FFVI, this game gave us "spoony bard." I wasn't about to let us present memories of this game without including that.
I was super jelly the first time I saw Final Fantasy IV. I loved RPGs, but I was a Sega kid, so I was limited to Phantasy Star, Shining Force, Lunar, and whatever weird games Renovation chose to bring over. Generally, this worked in my favor as I got to enjoy Ys III and Exile, but it meant I missed out on everything Squaresoft and Enix had laid down for years. My mom's gym had a short-stay daycare that she'd drop me off at during the summer when she'd do aerobics, and while I was there I made a friend who lived across town and also happened to love RPGs (hats off to you, Jonathan; you're the reason I still sometimes accidentally pronounce it "chock-a-boo"). We arranged to go over to each others' houses, and he fired up Final Fantasy IV, which was new at the time. He was right at the end of the game and wanted to show me the battle with Zeromus.
Nevermind that Zeromus and Zemus were, for all intents and purposes, bad plot devices out of left field, this whole end-of-game sequence hyped me up: the cuts to all of Cecil's friends rooting for him; the eldritch transformation that spawns the nightmarish, insect-like frame of Zeromus; the scale of the Big Bang special move. I had no idea what came before any of this, but I could feel the emotion, the high stakes, and the scale of the conflict. A year or so later, I got a SNES for my birthday, and I was hooked on catching up on what I had missed out on for many a year to come.