4. Final Fantasy IV (1991)
In a word: Sincere
Final Fantasy may one of my favourite franchises, but for some reason Final Fantasy IV (or Final Fantasy II as it’s better known as in the US) completely passed me by when it was released for DS in 2006. Thankfully, I came to my senses and tracked down a copy of it last year, and what awaited me certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s a fairly traditional story by Final Fantasy standards– the crystals controlling the balance between light and dark are at risk of falling into the hands of evil– but it was such a vast improvement over previous Final Fantasy games– particularly III– that it’s easily my second favourite Final Fantasy story of all time (the top spot going to Final Fantasy VIII).
And with that admission, it’s perhaps easy to see why I hold Final Fantasy IV in such high regard. You see, Final Fantasy VIII did something quite unusual with its story– it chose to place love at the heart of its narrative instead of continuing the dystopian cyber-punk vibe set by VII– but I’d argue that Final Fantasy IV laid down the foundations for this kind of story first with its huge cast of characters and their intricate relationships. Ranging from the blind rage of an old man after his daughter ran off with a prince masquerading as a bard, to the more subtle love triangle between Cecil, Rosa and the sombre Kain, every character brings their own unique flavour and nuance to the plot, and none of them are in any way superfluous. Of course, some may be more minor than others, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Top that off with an incredibly witty script, and Final Fantasy IV is an absolute joy to play through from start to finish.