This game probably does not need much of an introduction to RPG gamers. If you play games and have not heard of the Final Fantasy franchise, then you probably cannot call yourself a gamer. This game is the fourth installment in the series, or second if you are from the U.S. - the second and third games were not originally released outside of Japan. This game was a defining crown achievement for Square and is regarded as one of the best RPG games of all time. At the time of its release around 1991 give or take for the market place, this game did not just raise the bar for RPG games, it shattered it and replaced it with a new one.
Final Fantasy IV is the game which all modern RPG games take their roots from in terms of dynamic story telling. Prior to this game, RPGs were about raising levels, finding keys, beating monsters, and rescuing princesses. Not so here. This game takes on a story of epic proportions for such a limited medium of the time that it showed there gamers wanted more from their games than just hack and slash, games could tell compelling, epic stories, and the systems could deliver on the story given quality graphics, game play, and music. So much so that this game was actually edited and censored for U.S. audiences due to its adult natured themes, love, death, revenge, etc, and several Judeo-Christian references. Some examples of the changes include the loss of Kain's back story relating his father and Zemus's plans for colonization were removed. References to prayers were altered to wishing, death to swooning or fainting (even though there are several characters that outright die in the game), and names of spells and equipment that were called Holy were changed to White.
Like its predecessors, this game involves the players forming a party of up to five (increased by one from earlier Final Fantasy games) characters of differing classes that you can control at any time. The players travel over a world map engaging in random battles to increase their characters levels and abilities all while progressing through a linear story - your standard RPG stuff. This game was the first to introduce Square's Active Time Battle system. Previous RPGs were turn-based, this introduced a real-time system that required input from the user while enemies could attack without waiting. This increased the urgency of the battles as players who miss their opportunities to send commands to their characters can really impact the outcome. This system would form the basis of the battle engines for the series up to Final Fantasy XI though it would see several enhancements and slight alterations.
Finally the music for this game was composed by Nobuo Uematsu and has become one of the most famous melodies in the gaming era. Spawning numerous albums and orchestrations across the world, the theme for this game has become so well known and beloved that it has become a curriculum staple to Japanese students. Not bad considering such a limited medium for sound.
The story of Final Fantasy IV is quite an epic one and evolves over many hours of game play. This story takes place on Earth (the series sometimes takes place on a fictional planet or environment) and centers on the Dark Knight Cecil (pronounced Ses-il, but Cee-sil also works). Cecil is the captain of the Red Wings, which is the fleet of airships owned by the King of Baron. The story begins with Cecil and his Red Wings attacking the wizard town of Mysidia in order to take the towns Crystal of Water. This act does not sit well with Cecil as he feels the Mysidians did not do anything to warrant such an act and he feels like a thief. But Cecil is loyal to his King even though he feels conflicted by the act.
Upon his return to the kingdom of Baron, he voices his concerns to the King and is subsequently dismissed from his command by the King. Kain, Cecil's best friend and leader of an elite group of fighters known as Dragoons, tries to appeal in his defense. The King decides that if Cecil and Kain deliver a package to the village of Myst, then he will forgive Cecil's comments. Distraught over his loss of rank and despicable actions, Cecil is consoled by his girlfriend Rosa, a talented White Mage. Cecil vows to do his duty but remains in doubt. The next day, Kain and Cecil set off to deliver the package…