The original Final Fantasy was an absolute hit in Japan, but its sales were more modest in the U.S. While Japan got two sequels on the original Nintendo system, the U.S. would not get another Final Fantasy game until 1991’s Final Fantasy IV for Super Nintendo, which was renamed Final Fantasy II for the American release - an attempt to maintain continuity in naming, but really just confusing 10-year-old me when I was looking for information about the game on the fledgling internet.
Final Fantasy IV was released in the first year of the Super Nintendo’s life, and it shows in the graphic design. The characters are similar to their NES counterparts, but with increased color depth and detail. The worlds are all far more detailed than was ever possible before the move to 16-bit, and the characters are far more expressive.
The game opens up on a fleet of airships cruising across the world, with a military march that is both commanding and melancholic, immediately introducing the main character as a distinguished soldier with doubts about the orders he has been given. This was the first time a Final Fantasy game really had a cinematic set piece of this scale, starting a tradition that each subsequent game in the series would top.
The game’s cast of characters is large, and a decent amount of time is spent on the character development of both the protagonists and some of the antagonists. Sure, the main villain’s motive isn’t any more complex than wanting to kill everyone for evil’s sake, but the rest of the cast is given motivations that are believable and in-character.
Final Fantasy IV was a great beginning to the series on Super Nintendo, and set the system up as THE platform for Japanese role-playing games... at least until the Playstation came around.