Final Fantasy IV (originally released in North America as Final Fantasy II)
Original North American Release Date: November 23rd, 1991
Final Fantasy IV, first known in North America as Final Fantasy II, set the standard for future JRPGs upon its 1991 release. Final Fantasy IV arrived in North America about two months after the SNES launch, filling the RPG void that occupied the limited SNES library at the time.
The game wasn’t just a graphical facelift of the original NES Final Fantasy though; Final Fantasy IV was also the first RPG that introduced the novel Active Time Battle (ATB) system, a system that allowed battles to play out based on timers rather than the more standard RPG “one action per turn” rule. This gameplay aspect uniquely affected both the player’s characters and opposing enemies, adding a much-needed element of strategy and depth to the sometimes-tedious nature of random battles that most RPGs were known for at the time. The ATB system went on to become the standard battle system for many future Final Fantasy games, as well as influencing battle systems for all RPG developers across the board.
Final Fantasy IV features a central protagonist with his own story and trials, in addition to a colorful cast of supporting characters, each possessing unique abilities like summoning monsters or throwing weapons. Final Fantasy IV’s amazing music and charming storytelling also added to the incredible experience, establishing the game’s legacy to the point that led Square to develop a stand-alone sequel, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, nearly 17 years later. Square Enix even gave Final Fantasy IV its own 3D remake (possibly setting the precedent for Final Fantasy VII’s own remake), releasing it in 2007 exclusively for the Nintendo DS.
Considering the fact that the more celebrated Final Fantasy VI never received any real significant additions, remasters, or follow-ups, it’s no surprise how important Square Enix considers Final Fantasy IV to its company’s history and success. It shows just how influential this SNES continues to be in the video game industry today.