There was once a time when RPG’s didn’t have flashy cinematics, real time battles, and overly clichéd plots.
There was a game that was innovative for improving the turn based formula, giving a story like none have ever seen, and a translation none would want to see again.
Of course, I am talking about Final Fantasy II.
Since gamers missed out on the real FFII and III (due to attention being given to the Super Nintendo), Square renamed Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy II, and sent it to North America.
FFIV remains as the second most remade game (behind FFI) and the first as far as most re-translations go. But enough about present day talk; let’s get right to what it was like in 1991.
You are Cecil, a character who for the next decade was pronounced See-sill until the DS remake told us we don’t know how to read (it’s actually Se-sill). Captain of the Red Wings and having a problem with his conscience, Cecil leaves Baron with his Dragoon friend/rival Kain to blow up the Mist Village and subsequently turn on his home country of Baron, having seen enough of the pointless bloodshed.
While today FFIV wouldn’t win any awards, the story does hold up nicely. In fact, in 1991 this was considered groundbreaking for a video game story. Characters come and go from your party as they please, several are pronounced dead (and until the end you are damn sure they are dead), and each character seems to have a specific reason for being there. It was the first RPG many games had their first “WTF?!” moment-when Kain comes running in after being absent for a few game hours and making a surprise heel-turn by kicking Cecil’s ass. Of course we all knew it wasn’t Kain doing it, it was Golbez, an evil villain that took a liking to Darth Vader’s style of fashion, who was pulling all the strings. Of course we all knew it wasn’t Golbez, but it was… ok I already used that line of text: Some guy named Zemus is the true bad guy (I think this villain strategy has a patent out on it by Square), you figure this out, ohhh like two hours before the finale.
Don’t be fooled by the villainous rant though, FFIV can pull your emotional strings quite nicely and in quite a few areas. The fact that party members come and go not only gives a sense of realism (seriously, who joins up at the beginning of a quest and stays till the end?), but also gave a great deal of strategy to the game. No choosing your party here, if you get the bard, you are stuck with the bard. This kept gameplay fresh and had you developing new ways to kill bosses with whatever team you had assembled, not to mention gave you rotating cast members to work with.