Retro Encounter Final Thoughts

Retro Encounter Final Thoughts — Final Fantasy IV

Retro Encounter Final Thoughts Final Fantasy IV

Michael Sollosi

Final Fantasy IV was my first RPG; I played at a sleepover with two other friends in 1993 or 1994. It was my gateway into all RPGs, and as a result feels like a genre staple. But Final Fantasy IV is so obviously influential to Square(soft)’s future output and to RPGs in general, that those feelings are fact.

It’s probably impossible for me to separate my intense FF IV nostalgia from my experience playing it in 2024, but that doesn’t matter. FF IV is beautiful, dramatic, and surprisingly mechanically rich. Even though I played it with random encounters (mostly) turned off this time, and it’s at least my seventh playthrough, Final Fantasy IV holds up both as a great RPG and as a lovely memory of times past.

The party battling a boss in Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster.

Lucas Greene

To me, Final Fantasy IV is the ur-Final Fantasy game. While the earlier titles created the framework for the series, Final Fantasy IV brought narrative into the forefront. While it may be melodramatic and simple at times, it is also full of characterization and cinematography in a way no other game did before.

While it has its problems, I feel like it ultimately holds up, and the Pixel Remaster‘s cleaned up graphics and orchestrated music are a great way for a newcomer to approach the game. For me, some of the small mechanical changes made me appreciate this version less than I otherwise might have, but it’s not something most people will notice.

Cecil exploring the world in Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster

Aleks Franiczek

Unsurprisingly, it was a blast playing through and discussing Final Fantasy IV with three other fans for whom this classic was a formative gaming experience. But, while the others dipped into the sweet pool of nostalgia that is the Pixel Remaster, I decided to test my rose-colored lenses against the divisive 3D DS remake for the first time. I came away with an even greater appreciation for FFIV, seeing it more clearly for what it is rather than how I feel about it than I maybe ever have.

Is it possible to be ‘objective’ about a game you have so much sentimental value attached to? Who cares! If you ask me whether FFIV still holds up, the only honest answer I can give you is absolutely. It may not be the gold standard for RPG design and storytelling anymore, but it’s still a phenomenal blueprint. The plot can be melodramatic to the point of being silly, but it uses those frequent twists to keep you engaged narratively and mechanically. Party members come and go, forcing you to engage with new characters and their kits through sections tailored to the team composition of the moment. This meticulous balance of narrative momentum and curated challenge is still hard to come by in the genre—nitpicks be damned.

Despite a clear aesthetic downgrade, the DS version understands this balance as the game’s greatest strength and iterates on it. It makes sense considering original designer/co-writer Takashi Tokita and battle director Hiroyuki Ito led the remake. Battles are more challenging and puzzle box-y, demanding even more strategic use of your toolkit. Characters are given just enough extra interiority by having their current thoughts displayed when entering the menu. And you’re also given a platter of character customization options via the Augment system that can further engagement and replay value. But no matter which version of the game you pick up for your next (or first!) playthrough, FFIV treats you to a fine-tuned, classic RPG experience with a revolutionary narrative whose strengths lie in its creative understanding of the genre it’s working within.

Edge in battle casting flame in Final Fantasy IV DS

Zach Wilkerson

This isn’t an original thought, but Final Fantasy IV is the ultimate comfort food RPG. It might not have been my first, but it’s certainly the game that made RPGs my genre. And why wouldn’t it? To an 8-year-old, the high drama, the exciting battles, the quick pacing, and that insanely good music was a perfect combination to make me simply obsessed with getting my hands on this game and as many RPGs as I can since.

‌There’s a reason that I’ve played virtually every version of Final Fantasy IV in the intervening years: I don’t feel its flaws even if I see them. So sure, is the exploration always satisfying? Is the story always logical? Does it understand how to make a death stick? We all know the answers to those questions, but honestly, I don’t care. Final Fantasy IV is a game that I can’t, or won’t, judge properly, and I love it for that.

Zach Wilkerson

Zach Wilkerson

After avidly following RPGFan for years, Zach joined as a Reviews Editor in 2018, and somehow finds himself helping manage the Features department now. When he's not educating the youth of America, he can often be heard loudly clamoring for Lunar 3 and Suikoden VI.