Final Fantasy IV was the series debut on the Super Nintendo, and was also a huge leap forward in terms of graphics, gameplay, and most importantly, storytelling. FF4′s tale of betrayal and redemption was more engrossing than anything seen in its predecessors, and brought RPG fans an immersive experience that set a lofty new standard for the genre on consoles.
It’s been a long time since Final Fantasy IV sprang to 16-bit life in 1991, and though it’s been re-released and remade numerous times, I can’t expect most younger gamers to fully embrace it — the advancements that once set it at the head of the pack don’t hold up to today’s standards, especially in terms of graphics and gameplay. But for those of us who experienced it near the end of the 20th century, it will forever hold a special place.
Here are what I consider to be the best moments from Final Fantasy IV, in chronological order.
Cecil and Kain Leave Baron
Cecil has been kicked out of the Red Wings for questioning the king’s orders, which had recently lead Cecil to steal Mysidia’s Water Crystal and slay any who opposed. Kain has also lost the king’s favor for supporting his best friend in defying authority. They’ve been given a package to deliver to the Summoners’ Valley of Mist, without knowing what it is or why they’ve been sent.
With a head full of questions and remorse, Cecil crosses the drawbridge, leaving behind his friends and comrades, except for Kain, his long-time friend. As they leave Baron, one of the best tracks in the entire Final Fantasy series starts playing…
… and an exterior view of the castle and surrounding lands captures your imagination as story text scrolls up and draws you further into the tale.
A brilliant opening.
Tellah Calls Edward a Spoony Bard
Tellah (“Tella” above) is furious at Edward because his daughter Anna ran away with him, then shielded him from a storm of arrows when Baron’s Red Wings attacked Damycan to steal the Fire Crystal. When Anna dies a moment later, Tellah loses his mind, attacking Edward and thwacking him repeatedly with his staff.
It’s hard to say whether Tellah would have dropped this goofy insult under normal circumstances or if it was a byproduct of the situation, but regardless, he calls Edward a “spoony bard”, bringing an unexpected moment of hilarity and creating one of the most beloved quotes in the series.
Leviathan Attacks at Sea
Fabul’s Air Crystal has been stolen. Rosa has been kidnapped by Golbez. Cecil, Yang, Rydia, and Edward know they can’t stand up to Baron’s superior airpower, but strategically realize that the kingdom’s naval capabilities are weak. The king of Fabul agrees to let them take a ship and sail to Baron.
On the open sea, Edward gets a chill. You think, “Whatever, this guy’s a total wimp,” but the way they present it gives you a slight sense of unease and foreboding.
Not long after, the vast water gapes open in a swirling cone, and the gargantuan sea dragon Leviathan attacks the ship. Rydia is thrown overboard, and Yang jumps in after her. Edward unsurprisingly falls on his face, likely getting knocked out. The ship is drawn into the massive whirlpool and pulled into the drowned depths.
Cecil regains consciousness on an unknown beach, with no sign of his friends or the ship.
This twist in the story is a major blow to Cecil. How is he supposed to stop Baron now?
Cecil Becomes a Paladin
After scaling Mt. Ordeals with the Mysidian children-mages Palom and Porom, rejoining forces with Tellah — who seeks the ultimate black magic Meteor on the mountain to avenge Anna by slaying Golbez — and slaying Scarmiglione, the Elemental Archfiend of Earth, Cecil is faced with a soul-jarring task: defeating a physical incarnation of his past. Having been imbued with the mysterious light of the mountain and becoming a Paladin, Cecil must overcome the Dark Knight he used to be, who eerily walks out of the mirrored wall to face the new warrior of light.
Embracing the nature of a Paladin, Cecil does not fight the Dark Knight, instead guarding himself and enduring the onslaught. The Dark Knight fades away, and the essence of the mountain speaks to Cecil, calling him its son. Cecil has more questions than ever, but will find no answers yet.
Cecil now truly becomes a Paladin, and this uplifting fanfare accompanies his redeeming transformation:
Guiding Cecil through the process of shedding darkness and becoming a Paladin is one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced in a video game. The first time I played Final Fantasy IV, my mind was blown by this aspect of the story.
Palom and Porom Stop the Crushing Walls
Cecil, Yang, Tellah, Palom, and Porom have disposed of the monstrous Baigan and the Elemental Archfiend of Water, Cagnazzo, who was impersonating the king. With Cid now in their ranks, they leave the throne room — only to be haunted by Cagnazzo’s voice. Though dead, he causes the doors to the small antechamber to lock and makes the walls start closing in. It’s only a matter of time before they’re all squashed.
Once it’s apparent that there’s no way out, Palom and Porom don’t hesitate. Without speaking, they agree on a course of action, then say their farewells to everyone. You’re just at the point of wondering if they’re serious and what they have planned when they brace the walls and turn themselves to stone, stopping the deathtrap.
I’m not going to lie… the first time I played this game, I shed a few tears for the twins.
Edward Breaks the Dark Elf’s Magnetic Field
Ah, Edward… finally you’re useful.
Cecil and friends must retrieve the Earth Crystal from the Dark Elf, but he has put a strong magnetic field in the cave where he dwells, rendering metallic equipment unusable. After one of the most annoying segments of the game — where you must swap out great equipment for lame substitutes and take a lot of damage in random battles, or else run from most of them — you get to the Dark Elf, only to be completely floored by his attacks. As Cecil says, if only he could use his sword!
Edward, seeming to have had some knowledge of the Dark Elf, gave you a harp to take with you. When you get in trouble, he somehow knows, and starts playing his own harp, causing your copy to echo the music. The melody drives the Dark Elf mad, and he loses control over the magnetic field, allowing you to put all that awesome gear back on and slay him.
I think the combination of Edward being an annoying character and this cave being very frustrating made this moment so enjoyable.
Reaching the Underworld
When you first hear rumors of an underworld, you’re thinking it’s probably not true, but hoping it is. Before Final Fantasy IV, RPGs typically had one overworld — one map — and the thought of there being a second one was sort of mind-boggling.
Once you’ve dropped that rock into the well in Agart, opened up a huge hole in the mountains, and take the airship down, you’re greeted with an awesome truth: there IS a second world to explore. And though it’s much smaller than the green and blue world above, when you first leave the airship and stand on baked ground surrounded by a sea of glowing lava, it feels almost like a game within a game.
You’ve defeated the creepy Calbrena dolls and saved the dwarves’ Dark Crystal. This game loves its twists, though… just as you start celebrating, Golbez shows up. He immobilizes the party, then summons a dark nightmare to start killing them one by one. Just as he’s about to take out Cecil, the Paladin is somehow freed from his magical restraints, and an unknown woman speaks from out of sight. A familiar mist dragon appears and obliterates Golbez’s shadow dragon, and then she shows up… Rydia, returned from what you surely thought was a watery grave. This Rydia is a full-grown woman, though, not the scared girl Cecil refused to kill in the village of Mist.
After the battle, it is revealed that Leviathan took Rydia to the Land of Summons, where time flows more quickly, hence why she’s grown up so much.
The return of Rydia to your party is one of the most welcome surprises in the game. With all the characters that leave Cecil’s company, most due to death, it’s encouraging and heartwarming to have Rydia in the ranks once more.
Yang Stops the Cannons
Speaking of characters leaving the party due to death, what’s up with all the sacrificing going on? Palom and Porom, Tellah, and now Yang… they all went willingly to their graves for the greater good. Admirable, but also depressing.
The loss of Yang when he decides to blow up the cannons that are set to destroy the dwarves is especially hard to take because 1) he’s a really enjoyable character and 2) he’s a total powerhouse in battle. When he (seemingly) dies, he leaves a hole in your party that is immediately felt during the next random battle.
Edge Fights his Parents
Edge… his bravado and womanizing mask the pain and tragedy he’s endured in his life as the Prince of Eblan. But he’s a fighter, and he’s opposed Golbez’s cronies for the sake of his missing mom and dad and for his people.
In the Tower of Babel, Edge encounters a true nightmare — Dr. Lugae, certifiable mad scientist, has used Edge’s parents for an experiment outside the bounds of any reasonable person’s ethics, transforming them into hideous monsters whose minds have become as twisted as their bodies. Incapable of rational thought, the mutated King and Queen of Eblan attack their own son.
Thankfully, they eventually regain their minds, though their bodies are failing. Edge has a brief time to speak with his parents before they fade away. This cruel and unjust end to their lives endears Edge to the player, making him a tragic favorite.
It’s funny that although Final Fantasy IV has strong themes of betrayal and redemption, none of my favorite scenes include Kain. I think this is because I found his constant waffling and weak-mindedness annoying. Every time you trusted him, he stabbed you in the back again, and near the end of the game, I still didn’t truly put my faith in him. To be fair, even though Edward was a craven weakling, at least he was always loyal.
What are Your Favorite Moments?
Agree with some of mine? Disagree with others? Are there scenes that you think should have made the list? Drop a comment and share your thoughts.Tweet
About the Author
|Markham Asylum is a founding member of Delta Attack. His tier-1 favorite genres are role-playing, puzzle, and strategy. His tier-2 are adventure, shooter, and platformer. He strives to provide spoiler-free postings whenever possible.
Markham Asylum has written 416 posts on Delta Attack.