and here is an introduction
When Final Fantasy IV was first released in 1991, it was a pretty revolutionary game. In it, you can see ideas and concepts begun in the first three instalments of the Final Fantasy series take on another level while also being able to see how many modern RPGs have been inspired from it. It had the whole package - hours of gameplay, an intriguing story, great characters who developed over the course of the game, a fun battle system, catchy music, and Kain Highwind (of course). It was also the first Final Fantasy game to introduce the Active Time Battle system, which remained a staple in the series until Final Fantasy X. Obviously, seeing as how the game was first released on a 16-bit system, it's not nearly as pretty as today's games. But letting that stop you from playing would mean you'd be missing on a genuinely fantastic game.
The protagonist of the game is one Cecil Harvey - a Dark Knight and Captain of the Red Wings (aka the air force) of Baron. Baron has become a powerful nation and at the beginning of the game, Cecil is busy plundering towns and stealing their Crystals without knowing why. Remember this: these Crystals are important. Battling his conscience and questioning the reasoning of his king, he is relieved of his duty as a Captain for his supposed disloyalty and sent on a seemingly mundane errand to prove his fidelity to the throne. His best friend Kain Highwind (Master Dragoon, ladies man, man's man, man about town, etc) attempts to defend his friend, but is pretty much told to shove it and is also sent with Cecil on his errand as punishment. Their task is to deliver a Carnelian Signet to the village of Mist - a place that's only a short cave and boss battle away from Baron.
Fun fact #1: These are Carnelian stones:
Fun fact #2: It's called a Carnelian Signet in the PSP version of FFIV. It's called a Bomb Ring in earlier versions. Spoiler alert:
it's a bomb.
And that's how the game starts. FFIV has betrayal! Intrigue! GIRLS! And a spoony bard. And shenanigans on the moon. And dwarves! And a ninja! It's just my favourite game ever. As events unfold, Cecil ends up in the middle of a battle to save the world, undergoes a magical girl transformation, and winds up with what can only be described as a motley crew. Obviously. This is a Final Fantasy game, after all.
The Many Faces of Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV was the fourth game in Square's (now known as Square-Enix) successful Final Fantasy series. It was originally released on the Super Famicom in Japan in July 1991. It got a North American release on the Super Nintendo later that year, under the name Final Fantasy II, as the original FFII and FFIII had not at this point been released outside of Japan. It did not get a European release, because someone wanted me to suffer a deprived childhood. The first English edition was the Japanese "Easy type" version of the game, and suffered from censorship and an atrocious translation. Since then, the game has been re-released and slightly modified approximately one billion times, and is now almost universally known as Final Fantasy IV.
Ported to the Playstation in 1999 (2001 and 2002 in North America and Europe respectively) as Final Fantasy Chronicles, the game got a new and slightly better translation. In the US it came packaged with Chrono Trigger, and in Europe and Australia it came with Final Fantasy V and was known as Final Fantasy Anthology. In 2002 it was released on the Wonderswan Colour (a Japan only handheld console), and in 2005/6 FFIV Advance came out on the Gameboy Advance. The GBA version uses the updated graphics first seen on the Wonderswan, as well as the best English translation so far, new features, and added goodies. The game has also been ported to the DS (2007/8), mobile phone (2009), the Wii Virtual Console (2009/10), and - finally - the PSP (2011). I feel like I may even be missing some editions. Basically, you have no excuse for not playing this game.
Game Boy Advance:
In 2008, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, a sequel to FFIV was released on mobile phone in Japan only. It was later made available to download from the WiiWare store, and in 2011 was packaged with the original game and a new chapter called Final Fantasy IV: Interlude to explain events between the two games, and released for PSP in all regions.
Playstation (left) and DS FMV scenes:
Characters from the game also appear in Dissidia Final Fantasy and it's sequel Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, as well as the rhythm game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy All The Bravest, Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade and in the Final Fantasy trading card game. There is also a novelisation of the game that was unfortunately only released in Japan. And probably other things too, because these guys get around.
Lastly, there is also a fan translated version of the game based on the original Japanese product, presumably still available via emulation and that wonderful communication device known as the Internet. The newer versions of the game on DS/PSP obviously have a good translation, but this fan translation was highly regarded and at one point was really the best FFIV experience available to those who didn't speak Japanese.
The original North American SNES version and the Playstation remake are near enough the same, aside from the difficulty setting and loading screens on the Playstation, which are indecently long. Kain will usually Jump pretty soon after you issue the command, and he's incredibly useful - he's quick and deals big damage. He has high stats and decent equipment available for him. It's with the Gameboy Advance remake that things get messy.
My biggest complaint with the GBA version is that the ATB gauge is buggy, doing all manners of irritating things that are particularly noticeable when you're used to the older incarnations of the game. When you tell Kain to Jump, it can often take a whole turn for him to actually get around to doing it. (Nah, it's cool dude. No rush!) Every other character often attacks before he'll jump. So Kain is just sitting there, while I stress and shout at him to pull the finger out goddamnit. It pretty much renders the attack useless for most fights, and ruins all the strategies you would have had for the previous versions of the game - if you're anything like me. This made me very sad, because I was so used to relying on it. When Kain later acquire's the Dragoon Gloves and Abel's Lance, he becomes completely bitchin' and generally indispensable again, but there was a point in time where Edward was nearly more useful than Kain. And while I love Edward, that's just so wrong it makes me want to cry. In the PSP version, you can see the ATB gauge building so you know when Kain will jump (or Rydia will cast magic, etc), so there's less guesswork involved than in the GBA version even though he doesn't jump as quick as he does on Playsation. For whatever reason, it didn't bother me nearly as much in the PSP version.