How FINAL FANTASY IV combined story and gameplay to make something wonderful

With the release of FINAL FANTASY Pixel Remaster on PS4 and Switch, let’s look at how the game evolved the series to make something incredible and unforgettable.
By Edward Price

The release of the FINAL FANTASY Pixel Remaster series on Nintendo Switch and PS4 is an opportunity to revisit the classic FINAL FANTASY IV... or experience it all for the first time.

The story of Cecil, and his tale of redemption, is one fondly loved and marked the series’ first foray on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, bringing a range of new features and twists on the formulae that the first three entries in the FINAL FANTASY franchise had established. Both familiar and innovative, FINAL FANTASY IV marked an evolution, becoming an unforgettable entry in the franchise. Let’s talk about why.

FINAL FANTASY IV pixel remaster

Characters as Classes

FINAL FANTASY allowed you to choose a party that would carry you through from the start until the end of your adventure. FINAL FANTASY II let you train your heroes in your own way through how you employed them in battle. FINAL FANTASY III gave players a wide range of jobs that their Warriors of Light could switch between, allowing a massive variety in how battles could play out.

For the first time in the series, FINAL FANTASY IV gave us a variety of characters who would swap in and out of the party as the story progressed, each with their own fixed classes. With Cecil the only permanent fixture of your party, the revolving cast allowed you to use a variety of tactics and strategies while avoiding complacency.

FINAL FANTASY IV pixel remaster screenshot

What makes this experience even greater is that not only does the game serve to give you a variety of characters, each with their own classes, but there’s always a balance in team formations. When someone leaves your party, they’ll soon be replaced by an ally who’ll perfectly complement your party and their next adventure. You’ll never be without a healer or without offensive magic for long, or minus a powerhouse in your party, and when heroes return to your party after a short while away, they may return with some upgraded skills as well.

FINAL FANTASY IV pixel remaster

Let’s meet your heroes

Not only does each character have their own classes to set them out from the others, but they also have their own stories to tell and quests to fulfil. So, who can you expect to meet in the FINAL FANTASY IV pixel remaster?

  • Cecil, the Dark Knight – the protagonist of this journey didn’t always start out as a hero. Commanding the fearsome Red Wings, Cecil soon learns that the tasks given to him by the King of Baron come with dire consequences. Disgraced and left to reckon with his actions, he sets out to fix what went wrong. At the beginning of his adventure Cecil will have fearsome offense and access to Darkness, which allows him to deal damage to multiple foes at once at the cost of his own HP.

  • Kain, the Dragoon – Cecil’s best friend since childhood and his brother in arms, Kain is the leader of the Baron Dragoons. Armed with a spear and the Jump technique, he can leap out of the way of the action for a moment to land a powerful blow on the unsuspecting foe beneath. However, what he has in terms of strength he lacks in terms of magic, meaning he works best as an offensive battler.

  • Tellah, the Red Mage – Initially on a journey to rescue his daughter, Tellah soon becomes a mentor to Cecil’s journey of self-improvement. A man who has forgotten more about magic than most will ever know, his knowledge of White Magic and Black Magic is somewhat limited than a master of either. However, with his Recall ability he can temporarily remember more powerful spells, although you’ll have no control over what he casts. He was also the only Mage around to learn the almighty Meteor move, although he’s no longer able to conjure it…

  • Yang, the Monk – On a quest to keep his beloved kingdom of Fabul safe from the impending might of Baron, Yang’s Monk abilities include hitting all his foes at once with Kick, Focus for a turn in order to double the power of his next attack, or Gird himself in order to sharply raise his defence.

  • Palom and Porom, Black and White Mages – Residing in Mysidia, those two wunderkind Mages are tasks with helping Cecil up Mount Ordeals, where Cecil can truly begin to repair the damage he’s caused in his past. The twins have separately mastered a magic discipline, with Palom as powerful in the offensive Black Magic as Porom is a gifted healer through her use of White Magic. By combining their turns, they can unleash devastating spells through their Twincast ability.

  • Edward, the (spoony) Bard – The recipient of one of FINAL FANTASY’s most iconic lines, Edward hides from his true duties by travelling the world and playing music. Although his heart is in the right place, his cowardice can often shine through. While he’s able to hide from forthcoming attacks, his Bardsong is instrumental in delivering status effects upon foes, while his Salve ability allows him to split the effects of healing items across your party, rather than have them focus entirely on one person.

  • Cid, the Engineer – A long-time confidant of Cecil, “Uncle” Cid is the reason the Baron army has become so formidable, helping create the airships that gave rise to The Red Wings that Cecil has commandeered. The first time a Cid has been playable in the FINAL FANTASY series marks the introduction of the Engineer class as well. Able to equip a wide variety of weapons, Cid also has the ever-useful Analyze ability, helping you to understand enemy weaknesses.

With a wide range of skills and stories to tell, you’ll be prepared for whatever comes. There are four more heroes who’ll join on your adventure, each with their own unique abilities and jobs to fulfil…

Ain’t No Battle Like An Active Time Battle

The next key evolution in FINAL FANTASY IV was the introduction of the Active-Time Battle system, which shows players through ever-increasing gauges when they’ll be able to attack, allowing a deeper level of strategy.

A higher speed stat will allow party members to attack quicker, magic such as like Haste will speed up the ATB gauge, Slow will mean longer waits for turns, and Stop will leave affected heroes unable to act entirely until its effects wear off.

This battle system also helped introduce the ability to pre-emptively strike enemies. However, enemies can also turn the tables with Back Attacks, which give enemies an additional attack and forcibly change the party order, meaning those being protected in the second row will now be front-and-centre and more vulnerable.

This system helped revolutionise the way battles were conducted in the series, and you can experience where it first came to life in the FINAL FANTASY IV pixel remaster.

An incredible story

The FINAL FANTASY series is known for its fantastic stories, and for many the trials and tribulations of Cecil hold a special place in their heart. Our tale begins after another successful mission for The Red Wings, a mighty army of airships led by Cecil. However, their actions have led him to question the morality of the King of Baron. Soon stripped of his command and sent on another mission with his best friend Kain, Cecil unintentionally causes a disaster that causes him to renounce his past and begin on a journey of redemption.

What follows is heart-warming, heart-breaking, and unforgettable, as the quest to prevent the Crystals of Light ending up in the wrong hands is constantly interrupted by the mysterious Golbez, whose ability to control the minds of others is just one weapon in his arsenal of despair. Able to manipulate even the most kind-hearted, and seemingly impervious to Cecil and his party’s attacks, his presence gave the FINAL FANTASY series one of its greatest villains.

Hard choices and sacrifice

What makes the story of FINAL FANTASY IV even more compelling are its themes of sacrifice, betrayal, and redemption. You’ll meet heroes on misguided journeys, come across people who unexpectedly double-cross you, and throughout it all you’ll want to do what you can to help Cecil complete his mission to right the wrongs of his past, and make up for it by saving the world.

Your other party members all have their own reasons for joining Cecil and meeting them for the first time can be just as joyous as it can be upsetting to see them say goodbye. As their own arcs evolve, you’ll constantly want the best for your allies, and they will want the same for you in return, not hesitating for a moment as they stay behind to allow Cecil to achieve his mission or attempt the impossible just to keep Golbez at bay for just a moment longer.

From start to end, FINAL FANTASY IV is a beautiful adventure, and represented a stunning step-forward for the series during its original release 30+ years ago. Nowadays, it’s still just as compelling and emotional, and if you’ve yet to give it a try, then now is the perfect time.

All six games in the FINAL FANTASY pixel remaster series are now available to buy digitally on PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Each title can be bought individually or as a complete series in the FINAL FANTASY I - VI BUNDLE.

Purchase the game on Switch before May 25, 2023 to receive two themed Wallpapers for each individual game. Buy the complete series in the FINAL FANTASY I-VI BUNDLE to get all 12 themed Wallpapers.

Buy the games digitally on PlayStation 4 before May 25, 2023 to get a Theme and Avatar for each title purchased. Players who purchase the complete series in the FINAL FANTASY I-VI BUNDLE will receive every Theme and Avatar included with the individual games - a total of six Themes and six Avatars.

The FINAL FANTASY Pixel Remaster series is also available on PC via Steam, as well as iOS and Android:

Follow us on social media for news and updates about these and other FINAL FANTASY games: