Final Fantasy IV Recap, Ep. II: Spoony Bard

Now that we’ve had a taste of the current generation of graphics, here’s a quick glance at the 1991 original SNES graphics of Final Fantasy IV (released in English as FFII, since the previous two games weren’t):

I’m glad that old-school players were able to fall in love with FFIV despite the choppy translation. Then again, I adore FFV, even though my version is the uninspired PS1 translation.

All right! Let’s go rescue Rosa!

In the cave on the way to Dalmasca Damcyan Castle, we meet Tellah, whose family troubles we’ve already heard about from town gossips.

FFIV: Introducing Tellah

Someone needs to cosplay Tellah. I mean, just look at his pants. Stripes and polka dots? And Amano’s concept art for this dude is even wilder.

FFIV: Tellah Sprite
[[Update: FF fans rock. Here’s several incredible Tellah cosplays. ]]

Village scuttlebutt informed us that the prince of Damcyan has a “voice and face as fair as any maiden’s.” I am briefly hopeful that we’ve got ourselves a precursor to Faris. Then I realize that Cecil and Kain have not been fulfilling their obligations as bishie boys, so someone else needs to pick up the slack.

While Tellah appears clueless about the gypsy rover’s identity, he instantly recognizes Rydia as a summoner of some talent. How? Is it the green hair, the scanty costume, or “detailed character sprite, must be important”?

FFIV: Cecil and Tellah Campling

Child prodigy or no, Rydia tuckers out after a long day’s dungeon crawl.  I approve of Cecil’s worry about dragging a child on such an ordeal (he has no choice, since he can’t leave her unguarded).

While she dozes, her elders compare notes about their respective goals: retrieving Anna, rescuing Rosa, watching over wunderkind. It’s little character moments like this that catapult us from the first phase of FF into its mature phase.

Once she’s back on her feet, Rydia is almost as concerned about Rosa as Cecil is.

FFIV: Rydia Worries About Rosa

Tellah has warned us that a monster has taken up residence in the next tunnel and prevented him from reaching Damcyan. Cecil is puzzled.

FFIV: Monsters Multiplying

am puzzled why a “cave frequented by men” requires travelers to wade along an underground river, then leap down a fifty foot waterfall.

At the bottom of said waterfall (!), we do battle with a ferociously silly Octomammoth.

FFIV: Octomammoth

Some relative of Spongebob Squarepants, perhaps?

I finally recall that hey, I’ve got a summoner. Rydia’s summoning dance is cute.

FFIV: Rydia's Summoning Dance

For the moment, all she can summon is Chocobo Kick, the beginning summons in FFIII.

FFIV: Chocobo Kick

Having punted the Octomammoth, we cross another desert arrive at Damcyan castle just in time to see the Red Wings bomb it.

FFIV: Red Wings Bomb Damcyan

Poor Rydia has to cope with flashbacks. Angst hammer up to eleven in this game.

FFIV: Rydia at Damcyan

(Cecil isn’t too happy, either, but mostly he’s just trying to figure out who’s taken command of his air brigade.)

Everyone in the castle is dead or dying. At the top of the castle, we find Tellah’s daughter.

FFIV: Tellah Finds Anna

And Edward.

FFIV: Introducing Edward

FFIV: Edward Sprite A pathetic punching match breaks out between aggrieved father and grieving lover. Tellah plinks away for 1HP a turn, while Edward makes feeble “But wait!” noises.  Among Tellah’s insults is the famous line:

FFIV: You Spoony Bard

Anna weakly begs them to stop fighting. She reveals Edward’s all-too-obvious secret.

FFIV: Anna Speaks
This seems to mollify her father somewhat. What, he’ll veto her choice, unless she dates royalty? Tsk.

Alas, this really isn’t a typical Final Fantasy: we’re too late to save the girl. While everybody’s busy trading Exposition about the recent attack…

FFIV: Edward Tells of Siege

…Anna tells Edward that she loves him and expires.

FFIV: Anna Dies

OOPS. You know, there was a healing urn not fifteen feet away, and my Rydia has a Raise spell. Damn you, gameplay/story segregation!

Edward blubbers. Tellah is underwhelmed.

FFIV: Tellah Tells off Edward

Actually, Pops, Anna would prefer that neither of you get killed avenging her.

Having heard the story of the attack from Spoony, Tellah charges off to avenge himself on one Golbez, “clad in armor of deepest night, with strength beyond that of mortal man,” who’s taken charge of the Red Wings and stolen Damcyan’s Fire Crystal. (Has Kain become a Dark Knight to replace Cecil?)

Edward resumes weeping. Rydia has a stellar moment of six-year-old badassitude, although someone needs to give her a talking-to about the “act like a man!” part of her rant.

FFIV: Rydia Fierce

I love Rydia’s frowny face.

Cecil interrupts to beg for Edward’s help, explaining that he needs a sand pearl to heal a friend. Recognizing a kindred spirit trying to save his beloved, Edward shakes himself out of his funk and takes them to an Antlion den to retrieve one.

FFIV: Antlion

We’ll need a hovercraft full of eels to get there.

Along the way, Cecil and Edward have an angst wrestling contest via thought balloons. Cecil’s fretting that Rosa may die while they’re futzing around. Edward, understandably, is grieving, and everything reminds him of Anna:

FFIV: Edward's Hovercraft

Wait. Hold on. Hovercraft. Hovercraft? I’m sorry, I’ve been trying to avoid “men should be macho” claptrap and let our passive prince pine in peace, but that does it. Edward, you’re moonlighting as a bard.  For Aerith’s sake, can’t you find a more elegant word than “hovercraft” for your emoting? Seriously. “Hovercraft” is never an appropriate word choice for epic angst:


I… I will take the hovercraft to Mordor, though I do not know the way.

You’ll be my living legacy. My honor, my hovercraft…they’re yours now.

… I’ll stop.

We pummel our way through the Antlion’s den. Edward’s just sure we’re gonna get through this without fighting a boss battle.

FFIV: Placid Antlion

Riiiiiiight. And I’ve got an Excalipur to sell ya.

FFIV: Antlion Battle

Afterwards, Cecil brings up the same point that we’ve heard several times already: it’s unusual for monsters to spawn all over the place, or for placid critters such as Antlion to attack. Something’s afoot. (What, a world where it’s not normal to have dragons and aggressive puddings and killer plants outside the town outskirts? What a concept!)

Regardless, we’ve got a distressed damsel to save, so we race back in the... hovercraft.

Rydia’s almost as eager as Cecil to reach Rosa.

FFIV: Rydia the Cheerleader

Awww. Shipper on deck.


FFIV: Healing Rosa

High fives all around.

I am once again briefly distracted by the sexual dimorphism of clothing in the kingdom of Baron. Rosa must have a degree in mechanical engineering.

FFIV: Rosa Awakens

Once she’s on her feet, Rosa thanks Cecil’s new friends and fills them in on what’s happening back in Baron. Yep, Golbez has taken over the Red Wings. Her guess is that that he’s manipulating the king in order to seize the crystals for himself. Which means the Kingdom of Fabul’s Wind Crystal is probably the next target.*

*[I had no idea that my “Sin goes on a pilgrimage to destroy all the Fayth statues” alternate universe FFX sequel was such an old-school FF plot, but substitute “statues” for “crystals” and you’ve got the rough structure of FFI, III-V.]

Edward reminds us that the path to Fabul is blocked by a you-can’t-go-there-yet ice wall, but Rosa’s confident that Rydia must have a fire spell to blast through it.

FFIV: Rosa Meets Rydia

Again, I have to wonder if “Hi, I’m a summoner!” is sewn onto Rydia’s nametag.

Actually, I can see why Rydia’s abilities are getting telegraphed by every mage/sage who meets her. In FFIII, every party member could change job classes at the drop of a hat. (Some of them very silly hats.) In FFIV, each party member is locked into a particular character class like Dark Knight, Sage, Dragoon, Monk, etc, none of which are the standard D&D character classes familiar to gamers at the time. Rather than interrupting the game with out-of-character tutorials, these “Oh, you’re a summoner, so you can do X!” conversations remind the player that Rydia can use summons, white, and black magic.

Unfortunately Rosa’s still not feeling entirely well.

FFIV: Rosa Not Well

However, she’s not about to let Cecil leave her behind again. She says a white mage can take care of herself. Sadly not true in every FF, but I’m all for it.

During the night, Edward goes out to mope at the lake, gets a visitation from Anna’s ghost on her way to the Farplane Spirit world, and fights a Sahagin with her urging him on. This is less contrived than it sounds.

FFIV: Anna's Ghost and Edward

Lassarina’s own playthrough snark has MST3K’d this touching moment forever:

Anna’s Ghost: “Edward, you gave your love to me once…”

FFIV: Anna's Last Words

(Lassarina makes some remark about Anna overestimating Edward’s stamina.)


I’m afraid that despite knowing better, my initial reaction to Edward was, “What a drip!” I didn’t like the fact that Anna had shielded him from arrows and he was apparently hiding instead of tending her when the party first arrives. Yet I will say this: it is a fine thing to have a male character in a fantasy game who is not a warrior and not a Gandalf (i.e. old man = wizard). We’ll see whether Spoony lives up to Anna’s expectations and remains a “lover, not a fighter,” or whether he’s put through a Manliness Transformation like Gordon, Prince of Toads in FFII.

Next day, we set out for Fabul via Mt. Hobs.

At the ice wall, Rosa encourages Rydia:

FFIV: Rosa and Rydia
(I love that shot. Hello, physical character interaction.)


FFIV: Rydia Hates Fire


Cecil bleakly informs Rosa what happened to Rydia’s village.

Rosa gently coaxes her, saying they won’t make her do it, but it will help them save others from being hurt.

FFIV: Bechdel Test

I really love the dynamic of an older woman/mage mentoring a younger, with respect and love.

FFIV: Rosa Teaching Rydia

Rosa: “Rydia, you did it! That was incredible!”

FFIV: Rydia giggles

Rydia enjoys their praise, although Rosa regrets having to push her:

FFIV: Rosa the Mentor

Bechdel Test, check. This sequence is what inspired my doodle/portrait of Rosa & Rydia.

Moving on, I just gotta say.

FFIV: Rosa Cecil Rydia Edward in-game screencap


At the top of the mountain, we find a monk beating the stuffing out of a mob of goblins. However, a Mom Bomb (whut?) causes him more trouble. Rydia to the rescue!

FFIV: Yang in Trouble

Halfway through the battle, Mom Bomb displays one of the odder transformations in FF, and spawns a bunch more bombs that pound us pretty badly before we defeat the whole mess.

FFIV: Mom Bomb

Afterwards, Yang introdues himself.

FFIV: Introducing Yang

FFIV: Yang SpriteHe relates how all his monks were killed by a huge host of monsters; he’s the sole survivor. Rosa guesses that Golbez sent the monsters to draw out and destroy Fabul’s defenses before moving in to seize their Wind Crystal.

Yang is reluctant to accept more aid, until Cecil explains that everyone in the party has personal reasons for fighting Baron.

FFIV: Cecil's Guilt

Rydia: “…”

It’s a subtle change, but Cecil here takes more direct responsibility for his actions, instead of just blaming it on the king or falling back on his self-defeatist, “I’m darky dark dark, I’m cursed, I’m irredeemable, so I’ll just mope about like Cloud Strife, wallowing in my own loserdom.”

We reach Fabul Castle, where nearly everybody is a monk — yet another job class converted into a culture. (Yang had said there were some monk trainees left in the castle.) Before the inevitable throne room cutscene, we check in with Yang’s zooty wife:

FFIV: Yang's Wife

She thanks them, then shoos them off to see the king. But wait! We have to talk to all the npcs in the castle, first!

Most are your run-of-the-mill monks looking up to “Master Yang,” with a few white mages thrown in. Then… oh no, it’s another one of those WTF dancers who’s gonna rip off her dress and shimmy, isn’t it?

FFIV: Dancer?

Weeeeeell, not quite. She does rip off her clothes and dance on the bar, however…

FFIV: Drag Monk

She’s a he. It’s a monk in drag.

I think I’ve just been trolled. Well played, FF, well played.

Rydia is probably bursting with impatience at this point, so we’d better head up to the throne room. At first, the king is none too inclined to trust Cecil and company, despite Yang’s favorable report.

FFIV: King Mistrusts Cecil

Edward’s glib tongue comes to the rescue.

FFIV: Edward's Silver Tongue

The prince grimly tells the fate of Damcyan, his parents, his lover and the fire crystal that was taken from his own castle.

FFIV: Edward Diplomacy

The king of Fabul is convinced. (Go Spoony!) Trusting Yang’s judgment, the king puts his faith in Cecil and friends help defend Fabul against the imminent attack.

FFIV: The Party Splits

At this point the party separates, with Rosa and Rydia joining the castle healers. Grumble feh.

Rosa calls Cecil back to tell him, “Be careful,” as she did near the beginning of the game.

FFIV: Rydia Protects Rosa

Okay, I’m slightly mollified by the respect both of them give Rydia’s abilities.

(Incidentally, I’m noticing a few faint echoes of Rydia in FFXIII, with Hope’s “you killed my mother!” plot arc. However, Hope is not quite the prodigy she is, and he’s much less resilient.)

The next scene is really quite dramatic, like the siege of Balamb Garden in FFVIII. With only Spoony, Cecil, Yang, and a bunch of monk trainees, we are seriously outnumbered. Yang fights using a collapsing line tactic, but all it does is delay the inevitable.

It doesn’t help that one of the monsters disguises himself as a monk and unbars the doors as Yang retreats into the citadel.

FFIV: Shapeshifting Monk

What? Just a dang second. First this spy was a bald, shirtless Fabul monk, then it’s a hooded figure, and then its battle form is a gargoyle— are we back to random FFIII shapeshifting?

We’re pushed all the way back to the crystal’s inner sanctum.

FFIV: Wind Crystal

An old friend arrives for a showdown.

FFIV: Kain Returns

Cecil’s overjoyed to find Kain’s alive— there was a “Kain, I wish you were here” thought balloon just a short time ago—  and thinks he’s come to help defend Fabul. Um, no.

FFIV: Kain's Betrayal

Cecil is surprised. Didn’t they vow to fight Baron together after torching Rydia’s village?

Kain Fights Cecil

News flash to Cecil: Sweetie, his name is KAIN.

My Cecil holds his own pretty well, but Kain can’t be stopped. As he looms over Cecil to strike the killing blow…

FFIV: Kain About to Strike

The cavalry comes charging in.

FFIV: Rosa to the Rescue

Kain flinches at Rosa’s voice. He seems to be struggling with some kind of mind control.

FFIV: Kain Mind Control

Enter the Big Bad.

FFIV: Enter Golbez

(Golbez: Grumble grumble, do I have to do everything myself? Minions these days.)

Cecil shouts at Golbez the usurper, unwisely drawing attention to himself when he’s already on the floor. Golbez does… something… to him.

FFIV: Golbez's Gift to Cecil

Cecil collapses again. This is going to be inconvenient later, isn’t it? “Hand me the Black Materia” inconvenient, right?

Golbez blasts Edward and Yang as “worms,” reasserts control over Kain and orders him to seize the crystal over Rosa’s protests. Unfortunately, Cecil’s feeble attempt to reach Rosa backfires.

FFIV: Distressed Damsel Alert

DAMMIT. Rosa gets hauled off into the Distressed Damsel penalty box. Gimme back my white mage archer!

Kain perfects his Grim Stalk of Doomy Doom.

FFIV: Kain Leaves Carnage

Once our antagonists have cleared out, Rydia casts a cure spell to revive everyone. She won’t let them stand around moping over what just happened.

FFIV: Rydia Takes Charge

Rydia: “And the Crystal— we can take it back, too!” 

We check on the castle, since we’re not really sure how to rescue Rosa yet. Most people are pretty beat up — the king himself is wounded, and a white mage poignantly remarks, “Would that I had magic to equal Lady Rosa’s” — but one person, at least, has come through unscathed.

FFIV: Yang's Tough Wife

Yang’s wife rocks.

In fact, she gives Yang the frying pan (i.e. “Counter Argument” skill) as a parting gift when we go off to rescue Rosa.

The King of Fabul provides Cecil and his friends with a ship to reach Baron. Unfortunately, it’s too early for the endgame, so Leviathan butts in.

FFIV: Leviathan Attacks

The remake throws in some clever visual quotes of Final Fantasy X, the scene of Sin attacking Yuna’s ferry. Random sailors tumble across the deck like the Aurochs. Poor Rydia doesn’t have a big blue furry guy to grab her!

FFIV: Rydia in Trouble

Yang imitates Wakka, diving off the ship when she’s washed overboard, but it’s too late.

Edward gets knocked out during the deck’s pitching. As Cecil hurries to check on him, Leviathan looms up behind the ship…

FFIV: Leviathan Behind Cecil


And we have a fade to white.

When Cecil wakes up, he’s in another place.

FFIV: Cecil Shipwrecked

Somehow I doubt there’s any redheaded dudes playing blitzball here. (And hopefully no shotgun-wielding Frenchwomen, much as I would love a random Mira Furlan cameo.)

So! That was exciting. Tune in next time for Cecil’s Humiliation Conga!

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