There was a game that was innovative for improving the turn based formula, giving a story like none have ever seen, and a translation none would want to see again.
Of course, I am talking about Final Fantasy II.
Since gamers missed out on the real FFII and III (due to attention being given to the Super Nintendo), Square renamed Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy II, and sent it to North America.
FFIV remains as the second most remade game (behind FFI) and the first as far as most re-translations go. But enough about present day talk; let’s get right to what it was like in 1991.
You are Cecil, a character who for the next decade was pronounced See-sill until the DS remake told us we don’t know how to read (it’s actually Se-sill). Captain of the Red Wings and having a problem with his conscience, Cecil leaves Baron with his Dragoon friend/rival Kain to blow up the Mist Village and subsequently turn on his home country of Baron, having seen enough of the pointless bloodshed.
While today FFIV wouldn’t win any awards, the story does hold up nicely. In fact, in 1991 this was considered groundbreaking for a video game story. Characters come and go from your party as they please, several are pronounced dead (and until the end you are damn sure they are dead), and each character seems to have a specific reason for being there. It was the first RPG many games had their first “WTF?!” moment-when Kain comes running in after being absent for a few game hours and making a surprise heel-turn by kicking Cecil’s ass. Of course we all knew it wasn’t Kain doing it, it was Golbez, an evil villain that took a liking to Darth Vader’s style of fashion, who was pulling all the strings. Of course we all knew it wasn’t Golbez, but it was… ok I already used that line of text: Some guy named Zemus is the true bad guy (I think this villain strategy has a patent out on it by Square), you figure this out, ohhh like two hours before the finale.
Don’t be fooled by the villainous rant though, FFIV can pull your emotional strings quite nicely and in quite a few areas. The fact that party members come and go not only gives a sense of realism (seriously, who joins up at the beginning of a quest and stays till the end?), but also gave a great deal of strategy to the game. No choosing your party here, if you get the bard, you are stuck with the bard. This kept gameplay fresh and had you developing new ways to kill bosses with whatever team you had assembled, not to mention gave you rotating cast members to work with.
Speaking of gameplay, before FFIV RPG’s worked in a turn based fashion. Mostly the “We hit you, now you hit us,” style. FFIV developed the Active Time Battle, time stops for no one, and you can get attacked while you are choosing spells or items. This made your character’s speed that much more important, as well as gives you a sense of urgency to select that damn spell.
But we haven’t even hit the tip of the iceberg. This game is HARD! Not controller breaking hard, but expect to spend a few moments grinding a few levels. The final boss is no cakewalk, let alone some of the tougher bosses in the game.
But get this-the American version was supposedly easier than the Japanese version. In Japan they made two versions, normal and easy-type. Easy-type was the one that got sent to America, with certain spells/skills omitted, along with no difference between front and back row enemies (targeting back row meant less damage in hard type). Honestly, after playing the original, some of these skills made the game easier. Cecil’s Dark Wave ability may have sapped his HP, but it actually helped out in some battles when I had it available. Other skills like Rosa’s prayer were nigh useless anyways, so it didn’t really matter if they got dummied out.
But what Americans really didn’t get was the story. While the story in America actually wasn’t that bad by itself, certain plot elements got omitted entirely. I don’t think I need to mention this since everyone knows about this particular mistranslation, but what the hell, I got space to fill! A character actually says “YOU SPOONY BARD!” Something referenced in all three remakes, and I can’t really say I know of any other game remade that makes fun of how bad it’s original localization was.
But storyline problems aside, the translation isn’t as bad as you may think. Compared to what was coming out at the time, there were worse…much worse translations to games. This defiantly is mediocre, but it isn’t as bad as some of the games out at the time. So if you think about that, “Falling” instead of “Dieing” isn’t so bad. The story still holds up nicely for a game made in 1991, so it isn’t lackluster, just disappointing that Nintendo had to censor everything, let alone have no English skills.
The game has been remade three times in the US, all of which have been re-translated a lot better. The PS1 got a remake in the package of Final Fantasy Chronicles. This package also contained a port of the SNES classic Chrono Trigger. Overall the port isn’t that bad. People blast it for having load times, but I never found any that deteriorating, try playing Chrono Trigger-now THAT is a disappointment. They also re-translated the game, and made sure the version we got was the original hard-type. And as I said, aside from some spell’s omitted, there wasn’t much of a difference. The story though was a bit better as some of the back-story got fleshed out and we saw what we were missing over a decade ago. It then came to the Gameboy Advance…re-translated again, and basically being the same as the PS1 port adding in a few end-game extras.
There also is a remake now out on the DS…expect our review on that pretty shortly.
And now! For your viewing pleasure, the entire mis-translated scene of Tellah and Edward for a new generation of gamers to slap their own faces in annoyance with.