The Battle of Fabul, a sequence early in Final Fantasy IV, still represents one of the most exciting pieces of gameplay I ever experienced – especially in a role playing game.
There are a number of things that heighten the tension. This is the first castle that the player is able to get to before The Red Wings show up to capture the crystal, so there is a feeling of “hold the line” that settles in early. Before the battle begins, the game does away with music initially and there is just silence and the sounds of footsteps as Fabul’s soldiers move about, preparing the defenses. When the first wave of soldiers show up, the traditioinal battle music is replaced by one of the “boss” themes, which hints to the player that this is going to be more serious. They also keep the theme going even between the multiple battles, which helps keep the tension up. After the first fight, The Red Wings bomb Fabul, which is in line with what happened earlier at Castle Damcyan when their crystal was taken. As a player, it really felt like you were “in it” and by being there before The Red Wings show up, there is a chance at actually protecting the crystal. The battle begins, and the party is constantly falling back, deeper into the castle (despite always winning the battles). Of course, Edward trips en route to the Crystal Chamber, requiring the team to rescue him, which admittedly is less dramatic than it sounds. Finally, the party finds itself in the chamber, ready to hold out, when an old friend shows up in one of the series’ great plot twists.
The whole thing is just really well done. The first time you go through it, without knowing exactly what is going to happen and whether or not there are potential multiple outcomes, it really pulls the player into the game.
Also, I imagine Fabul rhymes with Kabul.