Final Fantasy IV – Why is that head faster than my ninja?

I can’t say much about the final dungeon. It’s a cave, and you’ve already heard my complaints about caves. It was dull, kind of twisty, and full of heavy-duty monsters that loved to jump us from behind. Also: dragons, which were a guaranteed loss of MP. We had an unfortunate laugh at Kain’s expense here, since he was a dragoon slaughtering dragon after dragon. We’re good people.

(Ed. Actually, I come back to you now, a year after this was published on this blog and many years after the game was first played, to point out something that to you may have been obvious but only struck me last night in a moment of insomnia-induced insight.  By my count, Final Fantasy IV’s dungeons are 2/3rds cave.  Granted, the final dungeon will change appearance before the end, but it does start as a cave, and setting aside event battles and combining the tunnels that lead to the Lunarian’s castle as one dungeon, that’s twelve of the original game’s eighteen dungeons as mostly cave, and if you want things to look even worse, two of the remaining six are mountains, in case you were tired of seeing rocks in the dark and wanted to see them in the sunlight instead!  The remaining dungeons are the Tower of Zot, the Tower of Babel (which could count twice, if you wanted to up the numbers to 19), the Giant of Babel, and the optional trip to Castle Eblan.

I suspect this is probably to blame on the game’s appearance so early in the SNES’ lifecycle, like the similar but far more dire case of Phantasy Star 2 on the Genesis/Mega Drive, which also re-used assets to high hell, but even that doesn’t explain the Lunar Subterrane, which uses brand new cave assets and shows a genuine lack of creativity!)

Throughout the dungeon we spotted items on plinths off in the distance, but due to poor searching we didn’t find any until the first one on the main path: the one holding Kain’s ultimate weapon, the Holy Spear. It was only then that we started to fight the optional bosses guarding each weapon, and got our asses handed to us more than a few times. Each guardian of the ultimate weapons required some sort of trick. First, there was the creature that could cast Doom across the party (a spell that kills you after a certain number of turns), forcing you to either kill it fast or psyche Doom out. Next, the skeleton dragons that liked to bounce the Bio spell via Reflect. Behemoths were next, and then Blue Dragons that absorbed every kind of magic, and worse. I believe it was two TPKs for this section, both on the Doom caster. We probably should have lost to the Dragon Skeletons, but Kyle was determined and won the day, very impressive. Kyle’s tenacity carries us through more trouble than anything else.

When we finally descended into the Lunar Core (or so I learn it is called). Here at least the dungeon took on an interesting crystalline appearance. The monsters here fought with boss music instead of standard (even tired old Red Dragons, that used standard enemy music at every other appearance). Worst of these was the Deathmasks (giant robot heads), which could cast top-tier spells like Holy and Flare. Down in the core, I fought a monster called Ogopogo (finally getting some Canadian representation in these games) and won Edge his best pre-endgame sword.

A little deeper into the cave, we fought an energy being (“Zemus’ Breath”) that simply wanted to scan us if we didn’t use magic, so we did not. Not much later, we reached Zemus’ personal chamber. There, Golbez and Fusoya were confronting the rogue Lunarian, and managed to kill him with Meteor. Surrrrrre they did. And then our characters all congratulated them, because we have a party that has never, ever, ever, ever, ever learned to check the fucking bodies. As it turns out, checking this body wouldn’t have helped (though I would have appreciated it) as Zemus really was dead. But as he had predicted, his hatred rose from his body, alive and calling itself “Zeromus.” Golbez and Fusoya tried again, but Zeromus only absorbed their spells and returned a Meteor of its own, despite Golbez trying to stop it with a Crystal. Crystal #18, to be specific, who knows where it came from. Zeromus said that that would never work thanks to the evil still in Golbez’s heart.

Cecil took up the Crystal, and the party was brought back to its feet by the prayers of everyone back in Mysidia, along with encouragement from Tellah’s soul and Fusoya and Golbez (I’m curious how this scene plays out with other party members. I’ll have to get here myself one day). Revived, we buffed up and used the Crystal, unleashing Zeromus’ vulnerable true form: a horrible demonic aberration of twisted meat and bone. Nice.

And then he destroyed us.

We’ve lost to bosses before. Not Final Bosses, as it happened, but other bosses. But this was worse, in that it was almost a fair fight, but just enough slanted in his favour for us to have had no chance. It wasn’t the sweeping, instantaneous losses of unbalanced FFIII, the kind that induce rage. This was us being given the opportunity to do our best but still falling. This sort of jump in difficulty wasn’t as surprising to as us falling behind when we first hit the moon, but was still frustrating. Rydia was an obvious fault in the line: she could not survive any of Zeromus’ group attacks and we eventually stopped reviving her. We sadly needed to escape and do a sidequest to get her and everyone else’s levels up.

We did stick around long enough to grab all but one of the remaining ultimate items, without much trouble, and then diverted to the Lair of the Father. The monsters were underwhelming at our current level, which didn’t reassure us that our grind would be very exciting. After a while we found Bahamut: the last summon and “Father of the Eidolons.” We challenged him, and with the help of a walkthrough, used Reflect to turn his own power against him and gained him as a Summon. While the Bahamut summon played some role in what followed, the real strength we gained was from being forced to travel through the Lunar Subterrane a second time, with more items in our backpack. That, not the hunt for Bahamut, gained Rydia the levels she needed to survive Zeromus’ attacks, and upped the others as well, which was more important than anything else.

Following another walkthrough, we found Cecil’s ultimate weapon, Ragnorok, but were once TPK’d by the defending boss, “Dark Bahamut.” This was, uh, because I tried to pull off a stunt instead of fighting him straight. Specifically, I tried to trick him into attacking himself with his own countertattacks. It only worked once. Serves me right. A little deeper in the Subterrane, Kyle used a Siren item to fight the elusive and infamous Princess Flan monsters, though we sadly but not unexpectedly did not win the rare prize they drop.

We returned to the Core, despite bad luck giving us even stronger mini-bosses to fight along the road (we tended to use Edge’s Smoke Ninjutsu to just avoid them), we confronted Zeromus again. And died. And then again, and died. The fourth attempt was much better. This may have had something to do with us finding more of the Zemus’ Breath “boss” to gain a few levels, but also with Kyle fighting the other weaker bosses instead of avoiding them with Edge. There was a second, more dangerous energy incarnation of Zemus, which Kyle could consistently wipe out with Bahamut’s Megaflare and Rosa’s Holy. Kyle realized that we’d get healed before the battle with Zeromus either way, so it was fair to dump our ammo into these jerks. Personally, I would have rather went back to a save point with all the new XP, but he risked it. That time we triumphed, though despite Kyle’s “actually fighting the bad guys” plan, this still owed something to strange game design. Late in the fight, Zeromus starts using Meteor but… it stinks compared to his standard Big Bang attack? What gives? No, wait, forget it, I don’t care.

Just for the record: while we did feel a lot better about trumping Zeromus after all the times he had killed us, and all the trouble it caused? Frankly, I think we would have preferred to go without the frustration. We weren’t having trouble against the Lunar Core, we certainly shouldn’t have had to do not just the final run but the entire dungeon twice. Call us lazy if you want. We call it wanting to have fun with our games.

The story had one last scene before it proceeded rapidly to epilogue. After everyone celebrated, Fusoya invited Golbez to join the Lunarians in sleep, which he accepted. Cecil was willing to call Golbez “brother,” but they still parted, and thus we began a montage of post-game scenes. Palom and Porom returned to their normal lives, though Palom now flirts with girls his age. Yang somehow became King of Fabul, despite the original king still hanging around in his crown. Edward began to rebuild his kingdom of Damcyan. The Dwarfs disassembled their tanks to rebuild their castle. I’m not sure that’s the sort of thing one uses to build castles, myself, but I guess I’m not a Dwarf. Also, when was the castle ever broken? Edge, still being called “Prince” for some reason, reigns over his kingdom of Eblan. Rydia returned to the Feymarch. She’ll no doubt be sixty in the After Years. Kain went to Mount Ordeals to live up to his father’s legacy as a Dragoon, somehow, and the game says he hasn’t been seen ever since. Also, he is apparently blond. The things you don’t learn when no one takes off their heavy armour! Cid continues to work for Baron, where Cecil and Rosa have married. Last of all, as implied by the people of Baron earlier in the game, Cecil and Rosa have been appointed King and Queen of Baron, and the old party (sans Kain) reunites to attend the coronation/marriage. This was another of the no-dialogue, extra-sprite-animated scenes in the game. Thankfully, this one was easily the best, with genuinely funny character moments all about.

There was also some fuss about the moon involving a reused 3D animation (so lazy) that made no real sense as it simply looks like planets rotating. I feel something must have been lost in the conversion to PSP in this regard, but I’m not sure what. I am happy to note that, from our perspective, pretty much everything after Fusoya’s infodump during our first trip to the moon until just before the final boss was good gaming, as much as I teased the narrative role of the Giant of Babel! I’d have preferred better balance with Zeromus, but it’s not bad. It was very much like the first parts of the game, the likes of which we had not seen since Cecil started blowing up the same mountain over and over. So that was nice.

Ed. Years after these entries were originally written for the old blog, I finally got around to playing the FFIV 3D remake, specifically on the PC.  While I’m still not sure how I feel about the game’s rebalancing, I can safely say that the narrative is far superior, and it goes to show that a lot of the issues I highlight on this blog can be fixed by a little extra editing, because that’s all they had to apply in most cases!  I won’t be doing a full Journal on the new version, but suffice to say I think it’s much improved, and easily the best version of the FFIV narrative overall.

Of course, the story doesn’t end here! After FFIV comes something entirely new to this version, the Interlude, bridging the gap between FFIV proper and The After Years.

Checking back after the fact, our final playtime for FFIV was 24 hours and 50 minutes. Nearly a decade later, I returned to the game on PC for the 3D version. Maybe I’ll tell you about it some day, but suffice to say, it took even longer, 28 hours, though a lot of that can be blamed on my attempt to get the horrible random drop prize required to clear the Namingway quests (and I never found it!)

Prev: Final Fantasy IV – Additionally, I Am Your Father
Next: Final Fantasy IV: Interlude – His and Hers Thermite

Screenshots in this Journal come from Parazzing’s longplay of the J2E translation of FFIV on the Super Famicom, available from World of Longplays (YouTube).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s