Playthrough: Wielding the Light and the Dark

Final Fantasy IV (Original N.A. Box)

Building on the innovations incorporated in the Famicom releases of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II, and Final Fantasy III, SquareSoft’s Super Famicom release of Final Fantasy IV charts the intertwined tale of a much larger and more clearly defined cast of characters, whose complicated histories and interactions both aid and impede the quest to save their world from destruction.

The player controls Cecil Harvey, a Dark Knight of the Kingdom of Baron. Cecil commands an armada of airships which the King of Baron uses to attack neighbouring countries with the intent of acquiring their elemental crystals. When Cecil questions whether there is a need to employ deadly force against unresisting adversaries, the King of Baron dismisses him from command and orders him on an errand to a far away village. When Cecil’s associate, Kain, speaks in defence of the former Captain, he is ordered to accompany Cecil, and thus the adventure begins.

Along the way, Cecil will face challenges from friends and foes alike, and from unlikely places he will find aid. But if he is to defeat the true evil which faces not only his kingdom, but his planet, he will need to face his own demons and overcome them. Only then will he have the ability to help others.

Japanese cosplay remains solid.

Use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, challenges you have faced, tactics you are employing, and what you are getting out of your playthrough. Do you feel that the presentation of Final Fantasy IV has held up since its original release in 1991? Are there aspects of the game that you would change, or that you would hold up as an example for modern game developers to emulate? How have your experiences with Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI, and other JRPGs released after Final Fantasy IV changed your impressions of the game? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below!

The aim in this playthrough is to complete the entirety of the game in three weeks. In the final week, the goal is to complete the game. Feel free to join in, even if you are behind on the playthrough. Anyone and everyone is invited to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the series. Remember to comment, and please tell your friends!

Without further adieu, it is our pleasure to invite you to join the The Starlight Megaphone staff members, guests, and readers as we travel beneath the surface and into the skies in Wielding the Light and the Dark: A Final Fantasy IV Playthrough!


  1. As nice as the new translation is, I will never forget the original “ONE TO BE BORN FROM A DRAGON” text of the original North American SNES release.

  2. This reminds me that I didn’t finish FF IV, the ds version, in the other hand I finally finished Chrono Trigger but not really sure if I should put the game in the finished category since I only have 1 ending.

    My backlog is still huge -_-

  3. I didn’t play FFIV until FFVI and CT, so the opening Red Wings sequence wasn’t as awesome as I imagine it would have been going straight from FF1 -> 4. I may have played through FFV in ZSNES v0.700 before it, but I’m not sure.

    It’s no longer online, but there was a great text LP of the SNES release “Final Fantasy II: The Power of Cheese” that made light of the sort of awful translation the game’s first western release got.

    I’ve got a couple days off from my terrible job, so I’ll probably give the Android version a go.

  4. I LITERALLY just started playing the PSP version with After Years after finishing FF1 on iOS. Before we get any dissent, though, I have played the original through at least 30 times, as well as the iOS version and the DS version, so I’m just trying something new here. So far so good, as of Kaipo.

  5. I liked the look of the Complete Edition or whatever they were calling it on the PSP. I know people hate it apparently though. I was thinking of getting the PC version on Steam while it’s on sale. Playing FFIV in 4K at 15 FPS in battles seems funny to me for some reason.

  6. @Ferchu: The DS version of FF4 is HORRIBLE.

    @Strider: I don’t see what is wrong with the PSP of FF4. It’s the version we suggest people play. Cuts made to the game have been restrored, the retranslation is good, the difficulty is normal (not EasyType), and it gives the option for original music. The graphics look like the PSP FF1/FF2 graphics, which are not as nice as the original graphics, sure, but way better than the iOS versions.

    In an ideal world we’d have the original graphics and sound plus a retranslated script and all cuts restored. That’s not really an option, so the PSP version of FF4 Complete is the next best thing.

    @evilestofpauls: We talked about that on the podcast this week (going live at midnight). The FPS restrictions are ridiculous.

  7. Oh, I’m so happy. DEFINITELY going to participate in this. FF4, while I acknowledge at this point that it is not the best entry in the series (even just among the SNES titles), is still my favorite Final Fantasy and one of my favorite games ever. While not my first RPG, this was the game that really hooked me into the genre and had a huge role in forming my gaming tastes.

    I’ll start my playthrough tomorrow, PSP version via Vita. My goal for this playthrough is to complete the game without any party deaths, something I try every time that I start a new game, only to do something completely stupid, typically near the end of the game, to ruin it.

    @evilpaul – The Power of Cheese! I remember that! Too bad it’s not online anymore, that was hilarious.

    @Caspius – I played just a few minutes of a friend’s copy of the DS version and was completely turned off by the polygons. Did the transgressions go beyond the presentation?

  8. Rydia was always my favorite. I would play the game just because of her. I always focused on giving her the best armor and weapons and even forced a silver shield on her when I finally got Edge in the party. This made her pretty sturdy even though she was one of the weakest members in terms of HP. I always wondered why they gimped her so much compared to the others and gimped her by not giving her a unique black magic armor like “Robe of Lords” for example.

    Fortunately the PSP version (Which I think is the best version) resolves much of my complaints. Especially the one where you can finally bring the twins along and leave Rosa and Edge behind.

    I could talk for hours about this game, methods, strategy, story. I shall save you most of that though.

  9. I hate the graphics on the PSP.

    Does anybody know if the GBA version of IV had a revised script?

  10. It does. The PSP script I would say is the best in terms of quality but if you want that nostalgic feel go with SNES.

  11. I would also like to add I love the PSP Complete edition, sprites script and all. It’s a real HD remake. Better than the HD remakes we’ve been seeing anyway.

  12. @Lusi- I don’t have much of an opinion about the snes game, I played that one just for a few moments. The ds game was okeysh for me but not great as FFVI, loved that one.

  13. It’s true – FF6 was the great bow out to cartridge based games. It truly captured what it meant to explore the world and really fed on our open world desires back in those days.

    FF4 was however at the time a leap in graphical power as well as storytelling. It was everything you could want out of an entry into the SNES market for RPGs. It is thanks to Squaresoft back in the day that SNES to this day is the home of some of the best RPGs of all time and this is probably why they keep re-releasing them… Though I do wish they’d have stuck with the Complete Edition way of remastering and not the 3d sprites method the DS version has. It was cute and all but all the content/features/bosses that were cut to make the 3d version possible cause me such pain and sadness.

    (Don’t get me started on how terrible the mobile/steam version of FF6 looks.)

    Meanwhile you probably didn’t notice if you played the post SNES era versions but they cut a scene where Celes is getting beat up from the game. This scene is easily restored but just really a dumb censoring overall. She was a prisoner- what? Prisoners can’t get beat up anymore? It’s almost as bad as them changing the axe into a bowling ball for Rosa in the Tower of Zot.

  14. The DS-sprite style versions are terrible. Not only do they look absolutely ghastly, but they are very slow, so that the whole game feels like it is being played in slow motion. The FPS locks are headache-inducing as well. In addition, the enemies are cut, the scripts are cut, and the voice acting is as grey as grey can be, like the raincast skies of the Hebrides on a grim November day. The DS version is what you play only if you have neither discernment nor sense. One can get a ROM anywhere on the internet, and SNES games will play on anything nowadays. There is no excuse whatsoever to play the horrible DS version, short of abject stupidity.

    The PSP remake graphics are good: they actually add detail, which is the opposite of what they started doing with their later remakes (on iOS/Android), where they applied a filter to the original that ‘smoothed’ out everything and removed any detail at all. And that is mostly what it is: a filter. In the FF1/FF2/FF4 PSP remakes, they actually remade the graphics top to bottom, and the result are clean graphics that include more–not less!–detail than was visible in the original art work.

    Also the font. Every lowbudget iOS/Android port uses the same shit font and square windows and this is to me like a giant sign, waved around by the devs, that says, “WE DON’T ACTUALLY GIVE A SHIT WE JUST WANTED TO SELL IT AGAIN AND MAKE MORE MONEY”.

  15. @Lusi- It seems my experience with DS FFIV was very different to yours, I wasn’t impressed but I wasn’t annoyed either. My PSP died a long time ago though, never played the remake that you speak of, but it really sounds good.

  16. @Ferchu: I played through FF4 DS and did every extra little thing, and I regret EVERY minute.
    Although, at the time, I did not know that a later and much superior PSP remake was coming.

  17. I will be loading up the PSP version for this playthrough. I’ve never played FFIV – and in fact have not played any pre-VII FF to completion. This should motivate me to (finally) complete a game that I’ve heard so much about.

  18. I really love the game. If anyone needs a living breathing walk through let me know.

    It’s a beautiful masterpiece and I suggest anyone interested in what GOOD Square games look like. Start here. (Not the best I grant you but the beginning of greatness.)

  19. When we finish the game do we get to come together and hold hands singing campfire songs? Because if not, I’ll be sorely disappointed. If I’m going to fight Golbez, we better get some S’mores.

  20. @Cari: The onus is on you to tell new players all the secrets and neat things (so that I don’t have to do that).

    @Adeki: Yes, but only you will participate.

  21. There is a certain indescribable feeling I would like to relate, that of being a seven-year-old child and a substantial fan of the first Final Fantasy game. Most RPGs on the NES, until the release of Final Fantasy, were utter shit. Imagine being a young child, enamored with fantasy storytelling, and all of a sudden here’s the game that not only gets it right, but provides fertile ground for years to come as the gold fucking standard of console RPGs.

    And so, because you’re American, you miss out on entries II and III in the series. An entire console generation goes by before you hear tale of the mysterious Final Fantasy II. In those pre-hype days, and also being seven, we did not hear endlessly of upcoming features, see cinematic trailers, or in any way experience what the game would be. Instead, our tiny minds were the fertile ground for all sorts of wild speculation (I recall my fondest dream was, “I want to use a whip as a weapon” as I lashed my younger brothers with a belt).

    Watching the opening sequence of FFIV was something akin to religious ecstasy, but tempered with the childlike innocence that things were not going to ever be able to top this.

    I replayed the game while in law school because I had a weird masochistic streak. It holds up as a good game, despite some flaws. For instance, I have a ‘Nam flashback every time someone says “Lali-ho,” where I start checking for subterranean little people who are going to drill me with a giant flying schooner. Also, why is the moon ship a whale, and seriously, a smart party would’ve stabbed Kain in the back after 10 minutes. Not this endless, “I can be good but… grr… MIND CONTROL!” bullshit.

    It remains my second-favorite Final Fantasy game.

  22. What Lane said goes for me, except the bit about playing the game in Law School, because I preferred the riches of poetry to… well, actual riches. And so I became a professor of literature instead of a lawyer.

  23. I once quoted Shakespeare in a brief, but it was one of his plays, not a poem. That’s about as close to literary respectability as I’ll ever get.

  24. No you can’t. If you could, Justin Bieber would be respectable. To get lit cred, you’ve got to do it the old-fashioned way, by having professors warp the minds of young people into respecting your work.

    At least, that’s the only hypothesis I have, given the enduring popularity of David Foster Wallace (who, it must be said, stands a high chance of being three raccoons in an overcoat and a bandana).

  25. Well, a lot of the professors I know think DFW was a twat. Although I have met a lot of edgy, progressive students who think he was God. So that may have more to do with it than anything. His writing is interminable and his ‘observations’ are not particularly insightful. Huxley and Orwell were each in their own way more far-sighted.

    The thing is that I don’t think Justin Bieber is trying to buy respectability! He may have the funds, but being somewhat disreputable furthers his career at the moment. Which is good for him, because it is not and never will be furthered on the back of raw talent where that individual is concerned.

  26. Edgy students should be beaten on the hour, every hour until their willfulness ceases.

    Plus, Orwell fought in Spain against Franco. That’s putting your money where your mouth is. All Huxley did was drugs. His Grandpappy was cooler.

  27. @Lane: Indeed he did, and took a bullet to the throat as I recall. Orwell had the courage of his convictions.

    That said, I think Huxley’s observations of society were, on the whole, more accurate–but this is not factoring in, of course, that Orwell may have succeeded in helping people avoid the worst excesses of the kinds of fascism and totalitarianism that he identified. Huxley has gone comparatively unheeded.

  28. It’s kind of funny the way that subsequent entries of the Final Fantasy series have altered the way that I [a PAL gamer] perceive FFIV. FFV-FFIX all took the ATB system and built their own battle system gimmick on top of it, so for me FFIV’s battles feel incredibly vanilla – when really the ATB was IV’s stand out battle system gimmick.

  29. That’s mainly why I love the ATB system- FF4 was the first RPG I ever played and I fell in love with RPGS ever since.

  30. I don’t know that Orwell succeeded. Stalinism was still totally a thing, and Franco won, leaving only his novels to be endlessly misunderstood by generations of undergrads who think Orweell was a critic of socialism.

    I can say that insofar as I might like to live in a dystopia, Brave New World is the best of all possible dystopias, and probably one of the more likely scenarios. But Huxley’s writing is poor in comparison to an Orwell or LeGuin.

  31. @Lane: A thing, but not a thing in the West, by and large. Orwell’s warnings resonated well with people and put them (by and large) on a guard that is only now beginning to want, thanks to largely unread college graduates who want to use fascistic methods to enforce their moral ideologies.

    @Java: Late, but still here! And just in time for…

    This week, the goal is to get The Blue Whale. Who can reach the goal? And let us know if you have obtained the Enterprise this week! We will honour people who reach the targets in next week’s podcast!

  32. I think the enforcement of moral ideology is somewhat of a unique problem to the US, or maybe just the Western world generally (although I’m not sure how much it’s caught on in say, Scandinavia). Deprived of any chance at real revolution thanks to the machinations of the ruling class, people must amuse themselves by the sort of petty, mean revenge over the lives of others as one may garner from the thought that someone, somewhere out there, isn’t going to enjoy himself because of something you’ve done. Certainly 1984 itself is replete with examples of the enforcement of moral ideology (the Junior Anti-Sex League; one wonders what the Senior Anti-Sex League was up to, or if IngSoc just assumed everyone was against seniors having sex).

    I think it stems from an unwillingness to teach the sort of all-encompassing Weltanschauungswissenschaft from the Continent, and why not? Bradley and Russell managed to fuck up seven generations of English-based Hegel study by being piss-poor at Hegel, so we got atomism and logicism instead of a more holistic view. Unable to understand the relationship of cause and effect between mental content and social action, we are left only to attempt to impose our will on the latter via the materials of the western, analytic mind — law and policy, rather than a change in the material conditions which give rise to culture.

    Which is to say, if our earnest, moralizing undergrads really wanted to achieve their stated goals, they’d start by having a riot and burning down the local state houses and financial institutions, rather than worrying if Johnny Undergrad is going to use a naughty word in his next term paper, which he undoubtedly is, but Johnny Undergrad is a symptom, an effect of the system which created him, and not a cause in himself. But that’s like, hard, and shit, so we’ll settle for a fifth undercommittee meeting on the Student Honor Code which will submit ten revised drafts meant to attempt to encompass inclusivity in student language, and the only thing that will ever be accomplished is that the campus will have a poorly-attended meeting which will invariably break down as the Student Communist League will call the Student Socialist Committee “revisionist,” the local feminist club will accuse the Women’s Empowerment Workshop of being trans-exclusionary, and anyone who isn’t OK with immediately lining up dissenters against the wall and shooting them shall be deemed a “liberal” by the anarchists, who really only want to throw a few molotov cocktails at the Young Republicans Club and their stupid sweater vests, which, let’s be honest, isn’t an altogether awful idea, because sweater vests are fucking dumb.


  33. How dare you–how very dare you!–criticise sweater vests! I have worn them for my whole life and they look very good as a warm, Michigan alternative to the weskit.

  34. Just go for the full sweater, either an Aran or another good, solid weave. Oh, or a nice blazer, preferably with genuine leather elbow pads. If I didn’t have to wear a suit every day, that would be my winter wear. As it stands, I have a nice cashmere overcoat which I must wear as I brave the desert ice-winds to walk down to court.

    A sweater vest is like 2/3 of a garment. My early modern philosophy professor was inordinately fond of them, and also of staring into a corner as he lectured. WHY WOULD YOU NOT MEET OUR EYES, PROFESSOR HANKINSON?

  35. Michigan is COLD, especially Detroit. I usually wear an undershirt, shirtsleeves, bow tie, sweater vest or weskit, blazer, heavy overcoat, cashmere scarf, hat, and gloves! I dislike sweaters–they are uncomfortable inside of blazers if too loose, and uncomfortable at all times if too tight. And they snag on my cufflinks. And then if I get to my too hot office, I cannot just take off my jacket and be cool–I have to wrestle with the infernal sweater. This is why I try to avoid anything which is ‘pull-on’, and things which go over my arms.

    In the summer, weskits and cravats (blazer omitted).

    In very hot weather (for us, which is about 30° centigrade) I wear short shirtsleeves, and an unbuttoned nehru vest, with no neckwear.

    A sweater vest or weskit is necessary to cover up the straps of my braces, without which my pants would fall down.

    I always look at my students when I lecture. It disconcerts them more to have my owlish gaze peering at them from behind my huge, round spectacles.

  36. Uh oh. I’m ahead of schedule! I just picked up the whale last night while watching The 5th Wave and several episodes of Parks and Recreation. Everything goes so much faster in the PSP version! Bab-il was over in no time, and the bosses are so much easier than I remember! It’s fun, nonetheless, and I’m enjoying the slightly different experience. I might get all the way through The After Years for the first time in this playthrough.

  37. We’ve wandered afield. I didn’t consider that you might actually use your heaters inside. I tend to be so hot-natured that any amount of internal cold temperatures can be solved by application of the latest in blanket technology.

    As regards FFIV, I would love to join, but as I must attend a continuing legal education conference over the next week, I shall content myself to a quiet “Lali-ho!” and reminisce about the time I spent grinding levels with Kain and Rydia on my first playthrough. That was… dumb.

  38. @Strider: Whoa! Well, you’re cracking along a hell of a lot faster than I am. I’m in the underworld, messing around in the sylph cave (and here I thought I was going to be the furthest along…)

    @Lane: Yes, although the use of them is rather all or nothing. In the classrooms and offices, the temperature hovers around about 40ºC, which is just about right for any students who have emigrated from Vulcan or Cardassia. Usually, when I get to my office, I open the windows. The external temperature does battle with the internal temperature whilst my shirtsleeves dry out.

    Double whammy re. Kain and Rydia!

  39. 35° C is about average temperature for me from April through October (it’s maybe 30° at night), then it inconsistently dips below 30 during the day through March. I would be ecstatic if 30 was considered hot.

    When I started university in 2002, I was in a group called Students For Global Justice, that was left-wing, did protests against the Iraq War and such, and worked on “consensus decision making.” It was all focused on political situations and there was no bickering or backbiting about who is being denigrated amongst out-groups, and we had all types of people included. Some of us (like myself) were roommates with frat boys, sorority girls, and young Republicans and had no animosity towards them, or indeed towards each other, as we were trying to find common ground and positive ways forward. So the way the which a lot of “left-wing” people present their views today is absolutely saddening, because I thought we were way past the kind of infighting, but it’s come full circle. Now it’s like the kind of people who don’t want to learn how to play an instrument, because they think it will ruin their “artistic vision as a musician.” Except with socio-political ideology.

    I agree that Huxley put a better finger on what’s going on with us now, in a postmodern consumer capitalist society that has real possibility of genetic control over breeding, but Orwell had a better idea of what was happening back then. Also, Huxley was not doing drugs all willy-nilly like an idiot, and his psychedelic explorations must have helped him write what I think is a much better novel than Brave New World in Island.

    I’m in the Tower Of Zot, but I think I’m done with FFIV for now. I love it, but I’m not in love with it. It’s fun for a while, the music is fantastic, I like the visual style and even the primitive translation is fine by me (I’m playing the original on Wii VC), but it feels archaic to me in a way that V and VI does not. I played this on the SNES back in the day, although admittedly not much, and was enjoying playing Dragon Warrior III a couple weeks ago (speaking of archaic RPGs), so go figure.


    Come ON man- the game just starts to get really good at that point!

  41. I never play FF games the way they are meant to be played. I grind endlessly for a while until I’m flush with gold and EXP, and then just cheese every fight. The last time I played FFVI I think I beat Kefka in 6-7 rounds, maybe? It was really quick. I never even had to replace my original party.

    Of course, prior to the final missions, I spent hours wandering that desert where every few fights you face the Cactuar who gives you 10,000 gil. I don’t know why I do it; I’ve done it ever since I figured out that was a valid strategy for beating War Mech in the first one.

    And as far as offices go, my office does not have windows that open, and even if they did, it was a balmy 105 here today, and more humid than a desert has a right to be. Going outside felt like stepping into a warming oven. I have petitioned to have the sun canceled, but even my SJW powers apparently have limits.

  42. I am precisely on schedule in this playthrough, having picked up the Blue Whale (Lunar Whale in the PSP version) yesterday evening, just prior to reaching the Giant of Bab-il, where I am currently saved.

    I did not have much time this week to play, but I did put a few hours into picking up the Ashura, Leviathan, and Sylph summons, and in speaking to Yang and his wife in order to get the Kitchen Knife. I also picked up and traded in the Rat Tail, although I won’t be able to get Excalibur until after I defeat the giant.

  43. And I have completed the game, including all optional bosses and ultimate weapons. My time was just over 21hours, but that includes quite a lot of time spent where the game was on but just sitting on my desk or the counter, and rather a lot of mucking around levelling, trying to get drops, etc.

    The PSP version can easily be ‘completed’ within 15 hours by someone who knows the game at least as well as me.

  44. PSP version is best version. If only because after you finish the first story you can jump right into the sequel which while not quite as good really adds to the original formula with combo attacks.

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