Final Fantasy IV Recap, Ep. I: No Matter How Dark the Knight

Once again, I’m playing the iPad remaster of the the Nintendo DS remake of the original NES Final Fantasy IV — got that? The iOS version is almost identical to the DS, except with crisper graphics and a lack of overwrought Opening FMVs. So here’s the DS opening:

Aaah, shiny. I’m relieved that the laws of physics are different in Final Fantasy, because our metaphorical Tower of Babel has reached the silly stage. At this rate, Final Fantasy XX will have to resort to something like the “How far is Mars?” animation to reach the top of the tower before the closing credits.

Pros of the iOS remake: pleasing graphics, additional “headspace” thought balloons like this for extra character insight.

Final Fantasy IV on iOS

FFIV Userpic by Shanaqui

Cons of playing iOS version: lack of adorbs 8-bit 16-bit graphics such as the userpic at left. (from Lassarina’s userpic list.)

Sometimes I find myself mentally converting scenes in FFIII and IV back to 16-bit graphics, imagining pixellated people in their quaint pixel environment:

Cecil Avatar Cecil1-Walk-Left Cecil1-Wave kain-face kain-walk kain-wave rosa-avatar rosa-books rosa-walk rydia-face rydia-walk rydia-wave Cecil, Kain, Rosa, Rydia graphics from original FFIV. I see Rosa’s hair is redder in the remake to distinguish her from Rydia. [Credit:]

For the most part, however, I’m enjoying the 3D polygon graphics upscaled to iPad 2 resolution (yay, finally!) which are of course not good enough for players who have the next-best-gadget after mine. Technology changes so fast these days. 3D graphics coupled with the voice acting overlaid on an old game make for a fun hybrid of original Final Fantasy, middle Final Fantasy, and recent Final Fantasy.

Enough geekery! On with the playthrough.

Final Fantasy IV splash screen iPad

Purty splash screen, and apparently Sauron will be starring as the villain. There’s a lovely version of the Final Fantasy Prelude, very clean and pure, remastered from the DS arrangement.

FFIV opens on an airship — huzzah! — and introduces our hero, who is broody-brood brooding in the prow while his troops admire his brooding. Not much to do on an airship, I gather.

FFIV: Cecil, Captain of Red Wings

Introducing “Lord Captain” Cecil of the Red Wings of Baron — a name which briefly distracts me with mental images of a boss fight vs. Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel.

Our captain is facing a morale crisis.

FFIV: Theirs Not to Question Why

His soldiers are feeling remorse over their recent mission to steal Mysidia’s Water Crystal — hey, isn’t that the mages’ village in FFII? — cutting down mages who offer no resistance.

Flashback time:

FFIV: Mages of Mysidia

A white mage, a summoner and a black mage are custodians of the crystal. Heeeey, so does this mean we’re Dark Knights terrorizing the countryside, with the Warriors of Light as the antagonists for this game? Spiffy. Er, wait, that’s a bad thing.

Cecil’s private recollections show that he’s having misgivings, too, although he puts on a false front for his troops.

FFIV: Flashback to Mysidia

Yikes. That’s…a tad more graphic than anything we’ve had in Final Fantasy so far, although the polygons and blood-free stabbings camouflage the gore.

The Red Wings arrive home to Castle Baron in ambivalent triumph. Cecil is met by a smug captain.

FFIV: Cecil and Baigan

Baigan leads “young lord” Cecil to the throne room, then makes him wait outside while he tattles on Cecil to the king. Ooooo. GOSH HERE IS PLOT.

FFIV: Baigan's SpriteBaigan: “Your Majesty, I fear our good Lord Cecil’s faith in you begins to waver.”

FFIV: Baigan the Tattletale
Loyalty and worth? Zero out of two, I’m thinking. Evil King Raminas is no smarter than Cecil was in airing his doubts to Baigan.

I’m still getting used to there being a king of Baron.  Are we going to run into a baron of the realm of King somewhere? Ignore me; I get persnickety about words.

King of Baron, FFIV The king strips Cecil of command of the Red Wings air brigade. Cecil’s new assignment is to slay the “Eidolon of the Mist” on the way to Mist Village, and deliver a Carnelian Signet to the villagers.

FFIV: Cecil's Reassignment

The villagers will know what that ring signifies, eh? “Off with his head,” I’ll wager, assuming the Eidolon doesn’t finish him off first.

I’m noticing how features that were undeveloped or mere game mechanics in previous Final Fantasy games — summons, dark knights, summoners, mages, even magic rings — are now fully integrated into worldbuilding and plot.

FFIV: Eidolon of Mist

Oho, our first instance of Mist in Final Fantasy. And while I’m meta geeking, I’ll note that in Japanese, summons are always called genjû, “phantom beast,” regardless of whether the English translation is Eidolon, Summons, Esper, GF or Aeon.

Whatever one wants to call them, Cecil is trying too hard to be loyal and is not asking himself why his King wants to pop off an Eidolon. I begin to suspect that Cecil isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Cecil’s BFF Kain, leader of the Dragoon division of Baron Castle, lands in hot water by sticking up for his friend:

FFIV: Kain Speaks Up for Cecil

The king snarkily tells Kain he can go with Cecil too, in that case.

Kain is puzzling me. First there’s his voice actor, whom I first encountered speaking for Caius in FFXIII. He’s got a stereotypical Evil Villain voice, so this is a hint, right? Then again, even the good guys in this game are dark.

Also, I’m seeing so many tie-ins here to FFII: Mysidia, Dark Knights, Dragoons. I’m still not sure whether this Kain Highwind is supposed to be the Kain of FFII, all grown up. Yet he really can’t be, since this world is too different to have changed that much in just a decade or so.  It seems as if Square treats names and roles (Cid, Kain, Mysidia) almost like mythological types, which they feel free to repeat and reinvent just as they do the recurring summons, weapons, minibosses and monsters.

Other things. Checking the menu, I get a reminder that DARK KNIGHT IS DARK, MMMKAY?

FFIV: Dark Knight is Dark

I’m enjoying the fact that we’re playing Warriors of the Dark for a change. (That is, not pure evil, but dark, as in FFIII).

Now if I’d stop with the meta commentary, I could go out and do a little exploring.

Cecil is still troubled and doesn’t have the sense of a drunken fruit bat. When I take him to Dragoon HQ to chat, he immediately starts talking sedition again despite the fact that there are several dragoons standing around within earshot:

FFIV: Cecil's Misgivings

Kain tells him not to stop talking treason worrying, and that the king obviously had some good reason. Oo, reasons? Is our villain going to get motivations beyond “destroy the world” and “conquer the world” for a change?

There’s a brief flashback showing Cecil and Kain dueling, which gives us the chance to learn that Kain is trying to fill his father’s pointy dragoon shoes. Foreshadowing alert.

Next, we meet our love interest,  the White Mage of Baron, who is wearing significantly less than the head-to-toe robe of the standard white mages seen elsewhere in the castle:

FFIV: Introducing Rosa

Rosa’s a main character, so we must see her tits. Oh. Okay.

I like Cecil’s matter-of-fact “Of course!” when she tells him that she’ll see him in his bedroom up in the tower. No “of course” about it; they’re the only Final Fantasy couple I can think of that doesn’t have to fight giant time-compressing sorceresses, city-destroying Eidolons, bigass sword villains, turning to crystal or other impediments before they can hop in the sack.

I am relieved to discover that Cecil and the Red Wings did not kill the mages of Mysidia, or at least not all of them. Some are prisoners in Baron’s dungeons.

FFIV: Dungeons of Baron

Side note: Rina’s icon about Kain staring at Cecil’s butt? Cecil’s wiggly stormtrooper buttplate is nearly as distracting as Fran’s battle thong.

FFIV Sprite: Cid WavesAh, here’s Cid, Baron’s airship engineer. The colors in this game are fantastic, in every sense.

FFIV: Airship Engineer Cid

Er… Cid? You’re surrounded by Dark Knights and Dragoons and tin-plated soldiers… what did you think the king was going to use your airships for? Package deliveries?

Cecil’s Red Wings are still loyal to him and disturbed by what they’ve done.

FFIV: Red Wings Mourn

The soldier to the left is drowning his sorrow in drink to keep from thinking about it. Ouch. The Final Fantasy Angst Machine is fully oiled and operational.

(Oooh, there’s a tower room closed by his majesty’s orders. WELL OF COURSE WE MUST BREAK IN. Drat. Can’t get in. Yet.)

I eventually locate Cecil’s tower. Just inside is one of those inexplicable FF cute short critteroids. This one thankfully lacks a knife or needles.

FFIV: Namingway

The remake’s upped the Moogle factor; the original was a little orange cat in a turban and specs. (What?)

It says that I can change Cecil’s name. For a moment our hero faces the terrible prospect of going through this entire story under the moniker “Boopsie,” but the rabbit thing comes up with a tactful excuse for averting this Spoo-like catastrophe. Suddenly, he says, his Namingway power has stopped working.

FFIV: Sad Namingway

So thwarted, Namingway heads out to find a new career path.

Well, that was random. So. Bedroom. I can haz girlfriend?

This is not girlfriend, as she’s wearing functional clothing. (In fact, she looks suspiciously like Luneth’s Mom Nina.)

FFIV: Cecil's Chambermaid

I am sadly unsurprised that the second female character in the game is a servant.

Cecil heads up to his bedroom to get in some quality brooding time. Broody brood brood. Dark Knights recharge HP this way.

FFIV: Cecil Strikes a Pose

Incidentally, I’m loving the twin moons with TWO moon bunnies and TWO Tycho craters. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN.

Full Moon Luc ViatourFull Moon Luc Viatour

So, Cecil. Can we interrupt your brooding for a moment? It’s time for a Backstory Dump. (Yes! Our hero finally has a backstory.)

Tell us about your troubled childhood, hero.

FFIV: Backstory Dump

Aha. Cecil was raised by the king of Baron, and (as we learn from his Kain conversation), took up the Dark Sword at the king’s bidding. The king has been grooming him as a Dark Knight. To Cecil’s surprise, that means he is now dark.

When Rosa stops by to learn what’s happened, Cecil’s all, “No, it’s nothing.” He’s finally figured out that maybe he shouldn’t be badmouthing the king and putting his friends in a delicate position. However, Rosa’s persistent, and digs the story out of him.

FFIV: Rosa Hears the Truth

Broody brood brood BROOD:

FFIV: Cecil Broods, Again
“Not even… in my heart.”

Here’s where the remake’s graphics give angst scenes extra garnish.

FFIV: Rosa Has a Sad

Rosa verbally smacks him upside the head a few times (insisting that he’s a good man, that he’s not a coward). He doubts her, but they part amiably.

FFIV: It's Late

How often does a game start with a canon couple who get along comfortably? It’s…relaxing. Moreover, despite the tits and ass, these graphics give me enough of a hook to like Rosa at once:

FFIV: Rosa Smiles

Next morning, Cecil sets out with Kain in an overdramatic exit, with clunky graphics, the gorgeous Final Fantasy anthem, and dammit, Kain, stop sounding like The Batman with that creepy-ass voice. It’s Cecil who’s got the whole Dark Knight mask and armor thing going on.

FFIV: Foreshadowing

Cecil: . o O (Are you pointing that spear at me, Kain, or are you just happy to see me?)

FFIV: Cecil and Kain

I imagine there’s a metric ton of Cecil/Kain slashfic out there, isn’t there? And wow, they BOTH have the Batman thing going on.

Now we get the delayed Final Fantasy opening sequence with pretty castle. Thanks, Amano.

FFIV: Castle Barron Art

Next to the castle is the town of Baron.

FFIV: Kingdom of Baron Worldmap

Oh, hey, Cecil, since you’re out of a job, here’s one! The Inn’s hiring.

FFIV: Dancers Wanted

In fantasy universes, it’s extremely important to judge people solely by their appearances:

FFIV: Cecil is a Bad Person

I’m the Batman. Of course I’m a bad person.

Oh, here’s Rosa’s mom. (Does she get a name? Drat, no. Of course not.)

FFIV: Rosa's Mom

Rosa’s Mom and many of the villagers are muttering sedition against the king, disapproving of recent actions and Cecil’s own attack on Mysidia. Several are scared of him.

The innuendos in this game are starting to surprise me.

FFIV: Dancer in Baron

I can tell by her outfit that it’s one of those random dancing ladies like Bibi, who have appeared in random villages ever since FFI. WHY? What strange purpose do they serve?


FFIV Dancer




With  a Flight of the Bumblebee soundtrack, yet.


Okay, backing away now.

We venture out into the world and find the mighty chocobo.

FFIV: The Mighty Chocobo

And our first dungeon crawl!

Inside the cave, we hear voices.

FFIV: Mist Cave

Several times our tin-plated heroes hear the voice telling them to go back. Cecil remarks that the presence does not seem to be hostile. However, gits that they are, they refuse to back down. This leads to a confrontation at the cave exit.

So, here, a Mist Dragon. Occasionally it turns into Mist completely, like those creepy dinosaurs in the Feywood in FFXII.

FFIV: Mist Dragon

Cecil and Kain dispatch it like dumb schmucks as ordered.

Afterwards, we journey to the pleasant-looking town of Mist.

FFIV: Mist Village

And torch it.

So apparently the ring itself was a trap, not a token ordering Cecil’s execution.

FFIV: Carnelian Ring Explodes

Cecil once again discovers why it’s a good idea to question orders beforehand.

FFIV: Mist Village Torched

Final Fantasy Bombs kill all the villagers except one girl. Her green hair and detailed sprite protect her from the worst of the carnage.

Awww. Haven’t I seen you somewhere before, sweetie?

FFIV: Introducing Rydia
Yep, it’s the twin image of Princess Lymsleia’s frowny face in Suikoden V. Another tough little tyke who doesn’t take kindly to being pushed around.

Through her sobbing, Cecil and Kain learn that the dragon they killed was her mother’s. Kain remarks that summoners in this world die if their summoned beasts are destroyed. Boy, I’m glad this isn’t FFX.

Kain tests Cecil (I hope) to see if he’ll defy the king.

FFIV: Kain Tests Cecil

Waaaaait… I don’t recall any direct orders about genocide, just killing some poor dragon and delivering a piece of jewelry. (Then again, Cecil would’ve balked at such orders…I hope.)

Cecil balks here and now, refusing to kill a child.

FFIV: Cecil Rebels

Kain agrees with Cecil, although again, it briefly appears like they will come to blows.

FFIV: Kain Rebels, Too

Cecil is delighted, although Kain mutters something about Rosa and “I’m not doing this for you.” Once again, Cecil is dumb as a sock full of gravel.

They try to take the kid with them. Unfortunately, their habit of talking over everything they shouldn’t in public has now won the girl’s enmity, since she overheard that they killed her mother’s dragon and, therefore, her mother.

FFIV: Rydia Pissed

Oh, by the way, she’s a summoner.

FFIV: I Hate You


FFIV: Gaia's Wrath

It’s Titan, Hyper, or whatever they’re calling him in this game. Earthquake!

FFIV: The Earthquake

Cecil awakens on the far side of the chasm, Kain-less, and appoints himself the child’s guardian in atonement for what he’s done.

FFIV: Cecil, Guardian

He carries her to an oasis in a nearby desert, recharging his HP with angst.

FFIV: Cecil's Guilt

In the oasis of Kaipo, an obliging innkeep waves the fee when he sees the little girl all tuckered out. She wakes up briefly but refuses to speak to Cecil.

In the middle of the night, there’s a knock at the door. The general says the King will pardon Cecil if he turns over the girl.

FFIV: I Think I'd Rather Not

I think I’d rather all tin-plated heroes used language like Balthier.

After Cecil fights them off, Rydia decides that her mother’s murderer isn’t such a bad guy after all and tells him her name. She even apologizes for getting him in trouble with Baron’s soldiers.

FFIV: Cecil's Apology

Rydia is a surprisingly understanding little tyke. Her animosity quickly melts away.

FFIV: Rydia softens

We explore the town. There’s yet another WTF dancer; this one performs a water ballet, even if the only available audience is a child.

FFIV: Water Ballet?

There’s got to be some sort of crackfic explaining the random dancers in the first five games of Final Fantasy. (Come to think of it, “Dancer” is a job class in FFV, after which it goes into hiding until its triumphant return, paired with bard, in X-2.)

Oh, here’s Namingway again. The blinking rabbit can’t seem to pick a job and stay with it. I had the same problem in FFIII.

FFIV: Mappingway

It changes its name to Livingway (what?) and gives us a Bestiary. Oh. Okay.

Rosa’s made it across the desert, too, somewhat the worse for wear.

FFIV: Rosa in Kaipo

Aha. We have ourselves a fetch quest.

FFIV: Desert Fever

So we’re off to find the kingdom of Dalmasca, er, Damcyan. And I think it’s time to pause.

Tune in next time, when we finally meet the legendary Spoony Bard of Final Fantasy fame!

Share on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit

Leave a Reply

Your email will NOT be published. Name and Email fields are required. Please solve math problem below to get past my anti-bot spam filter.

six − 3 =