Light theme

FINAL FANTASY IV: THE AFTER YEARS review
Skip
by XV

When I hear the term "cash grab" referring to a franchise, game, or movie I often discard it, I think that more often than not is an idea that is easy to misuse and even if a product is made to just making money I don't have a problem with it if that said product is at least competent or even good, so, the deeper I was dwelling within The After Years, the more I heard a voice whispering in my brain; "cash grab" it repeated.

The After Years is a direct sequel to the iconic 4th iteration of the Final Fantasy series, as its title suggests it is set several years after the events of the original, so you can see how our beloved or hated characters grow up and even meet some of their children. In theory and depending on how you see sequels, this could be a great experience but in practice, it is far from the mark.

The game is presented in episodes, each episode stars one specific character that you follow mainly for that said episode, this decision might feel odd but narratively speaking it makes sense more or less, a lot of the stories are happening almost at the same time so you can see characters from other stories intertwine briefly and unfold the plot little by little, again, in theory this sound like it could be an interesting choice but in reality it felt quite tiresome to start a chapter with a new set of characters and to increase their levels again and again not to mention that every episode revolves around the same mistery, the problem is that if you play (by any chance) the WiiWare version (which is the one I played) the first episode consist in two parts: Ceodore and Kain respectively, Ceodore episode serves as an introduction to the state of the world while Kain's unveils the "first" mistery of the game which is unfortunetly since in the rest of the episodes revolve around the other characters getting to know this mistery and it would be better if you're in a similar state of knowledge like them, so if you're going to make it through the ordeal of beating this game make sure that when you get to the Kain part of the game (this only applies to the WiiWare version since the newer ones separated it from Ceodore's) hold it and start the other episodes and get back to Kain before the last episode, trust me is the better experience.

Let's talk about the gameplay, it uses the ATB system so you know more or less the drift, depending on the speed you choose the battles can be passive or more active, the interesting new feature tho is a new command called 'Band' this band thing consists in combining two commands of two to five characters to make a more powerful defensive or offensive skill, is interesting since you have to do trial and error to find what combinations can be made, it uses MP to prevent extended usage of them or to exploit them which is OK, regrettably I didn't use them that much, maybe it was my playstyle but definitely is one of the few positives. Another new feature is that now the potency of your attacks, magic, throws, and summons depends on the phases of the moon, this not only affects you but also the enemies so depending on the jobs of your party you need to choose wisely on which moon you're going to venture a dungeon, depending on your decision you might have a harder or slower time, although you can change the phase by resting in inns or tents.

Now, taking aside the new features that can feel sometimes superficial, the gameplay remains the same as the original or at least the newer editions of the original, what it truly makes me reconsider quitting this game on more instances that I want to recall was first and foremost the grinding, to put you in perspective the original game took me 31 hours to beat, this one took me 44 hours, in the original, I did some sidequests while in TAY I didn't, why I comparing their length you say? I'm glad you ask, The After Years consists not only on similar almost identical events of the original with other characters but it also features every boss of it, dungeon and locations rearranged in different order so in a lot of ways is like playing the original but with less charm and soul, combine this with over-grinding and you'll get a tiresome and unbearable experience, it doesn't help that you have to repeat and backtrack some dungeons in different events, even "new" locations are based on exact recreations of another dungeon, the greater offender might be the last dungeon, it is in fact a copy of the last dungeon complete with reused boss fights, but when you think that your'e nearly done (giving the architecture of the original dungeon) you'll find that you need to clear another 30 floors, these floors consist mainly in not so straight forward corridors, pretty common random encounters and 1 to 4 boss fights per floor, a few are optional but the majority are not, what is frustrating is that these fights are from bosses of other 2d FF games so is basically an arena, but it feels and is so cheap to use assets of other games to extend the lenght of the game, not to mention that if you're like me and haven't cleared all the 2D games yet you'll find mid-spoilery battles but without the charm and punch of the game they belong to, so if you plan to complete all the canon games I'd say you put this game at the end of your list after beating the 6th.

Being an episodic game I imagine that it would be complex to a game like this be explorative on its design so I'm not blaming that much that they made it this linear, but keep in mind that you're guided literally to where to go next every time that you advance of the story, at least till the last episode where you'll be tasked to repeat a few dungeons again. Speaking of chapters, I didn't prefer how some episodes were easy or balanced where others were frustrating and unbalanced and it is not like the difficulty progress with the order of the chapters they provide, the difficulty spikes are over the place, sometimes you'll one-hit enemies and the other they will one-hit you.

Not everything is negative, however it is hard to take the positive from this game, the music is still great mainly because they're arranged versions of the original game with a few new tunes that sound like they belong to this game. I happen to really like the last boss fight better than the one from the original, at least narratively speaking, also it is nice to see how the characters grew their personalities and for the most part I like how they ended, I can even say that I appreaciate some characters more after playing with them again, although the new characters are fine I think they're overshadow by the older ones, I would preferred that the story focused more on them and give the veteran cast a more supporting role, however it's nice that by the end of the game you get a huge pool of characters to choose from, so I guess is not that bad in that regard, also at different points of your adventure you'll find several instances where some characters can get permadeath, at least to me it affected my gameplay and narrative so it seems that several story branches exist so you can replay the game to see them all, it is indeed a nice touch for the hardcore players but in my case I wouldn't mind keeping this game in an obscure place for a long time.

As an RPG is at its best OK but for the most part it's generic and repetitive, however, being the sequel to one of the best FF entries and to completely recreate events, boss fights and almost everything from that game makes this experience cheap and tiresome, it is truly a big missed opportunity. I wouldn't recommend it to play it that much unless you're itchy to know what happens next to our heroes, in that regard it has some kind of payoff and maybe it even gives you the illusion that it was worth it but it is a 70% bitter 30% sweet experience, so if you're going for it just be prepared for an excessive, grindy and unbalanced game.

-------SPOILER COMMENTARY (or some unstructured thoughts)--------

Although briefly, I found really strong moments within the game story:

In Kain's episode I loved how they did all the 2nd personality thing where he had his inner selves talking in that Cecil's father chamber, more precisely when you see that room for the 2nd time and the mirror is destroyed I found that piece exquisite, it subverts expectations and also speaks volumes of Kain's inner self.

Palom and Porom were likable and charm in the original game and I liked how they sacrifice themselves there even when the game unceremoniously rescued them, however, given the time we spend with them I didn't care for them that much, and for that reason I wasn't that interested in playing their chapters, but after half an hour within Palom's chapter I was really hooked, I'm not fond of jerky-brilliant characters but there was something in Palom that ringed to me quite a lot, his dynamic with Leonora is great and you see how they grew together in their story, after that I was eager to play Porom's episode but the truth was that it was more about Palom than her, I get that one of her fears is to be outclassed by Polom but her story was poorly done, it even feels like a recap of previous chapters so it was a big let down to me.

I think Edge must be my least favorite character for the original game, I don't hate him but he as a character seems just serviceable and for that reason, I wasn't that thrilled to play his chapter, surprisingly in the first half of his episode you play as his 4 ninjas everyone with their sub-episode, so this chapter was a little more tiresome to start than the rest, their stories were Ok but grindy and repetitive, the twist is that if you die with one of them they're forever gone. Although when you finally play with Edge at some point they reunite with him one by one and it was pretty great, so it was a rare instance were the plain story took a turning point for the better both narratively and mechanically.

Edward's chapter is a mixed bag for me, it was a beautiful romance saga but it was stained by tiresome backtracking and story repetition, I loved his relationship with the newcomer Harley and I liked her a lot, she's maybe my favorite new character even when you get to know so little about her, the fact that she is this serious and at times cold but vulnerable character added a lot of depth to her, if only it was managed better.

In The Crystals episode where you use characters from different episodes, they manage to get an exhilarating rhythm when they show cutscenes of what's going on in Baron castle in-between your adventure before you arrive at there, you feel the rush and for moments like this it makes sense to have chapters instead of merged experience, but the charm disappears briefly so that's that.

Although my favorite thing of TAY would be its expanded lore, which is brief but the last boss reveal was a big yes for me, it felt in line with the FF IV universe and at least to me it was more dramatic and interesting than Zeromus reveal in the original, it takes the sci-fi element of the game and it also turns it into something at times horrifying, the battle is not that hard but it's also not given to you, I also liked his design, it felt out of that world but within that universe in that sense, if only the game was more focused in bringing moments like this and tell a new story than recycling the older one, maybe this would be a sequel to remember.
«Waste of time»
«Boooring»
«Oh God i managed it»
«Game over at last!»

Other reviews5

Translated by
Microsoft from Spain
Sequel to Final Fantasy IV The Game is 2009, on Steam from 2015. * Constructive Critique: I'll never understand why they put "release date" The year they were hosted on Steam... If you are not informed (most cases/games) can lead to intentional misinformation. It is Not the same when buying a game produced in 2009 that one of the 2015.... Regarding the game that is ultimately important, it gives answer to several argumentative threads that were not fully spun in the IV. I Do Not want to go into details because I think at this point everything that had to have been said about it already said. It Is an excellent sequel worthy of the final Fantasy title. Square Enix did the homework here. P.S.-Mini Spoiler: At some point you will have to make a decision with Golbez.... Decision of irreversible character.... You're warned.
Translated by
Microsoft from French
After finishing all the FF and having redone for the x th time FF7 and 9 which are essential games I met this game which is only a huge joke..... This is not a game.... but a series of stories of characters from Episode 4... There are more cutscenes (poor quality) than game..... I had never seen this.... so disappointed to have bought this game for nothing... which is nothing more than a series of cutscenes. Not strongly recommended!!
Translated by
Microsoft from Deutsch
The Sequel is just as good as Part I, which you should absolutely have played before. The Graphics are great, the Story wonderfully mysterious. The Parallel Individual Stories is also very interesting. There are also new People. Half a Star Deduction is available for the very linear Game, which is given. Another half Star Deduction is there for some of us being a bad Joke that is repeated when you've played Part I. Never, the Game is great and worth the Money!
Translated by
Microsoft from Italian
It Was the distant 1999 when my parents bought me a PlayStation just to allow me to play Final Fantasy VII. From that day the only game I was most interested in was this. Final Fantasy is everything. It Has everything. Stories always engaging, with twists and continuous evolutions. The method of combat is revolutionary and is evolving towards an even greater intuitiveness that leaves the player the possibility of being kidnapped by the game. Final Fantasy is entertainment! The good one. Final Fantasy IV The After Years resumes a game that came out for the first time in 1991, let's not forget it, and only had life for us. People who have grown up with Final Fantasy and who every time they play with any of the various chapters imagine themselves children again. That'S what you need to look for in a game! And now, with this, new chapter we've come to the seventh chapter produced and published for mobile devices. Soon will be released also Final Fantasy VI and who knows what other magnificent gifts the SQUARE ENIX will still be able to make us. I, however, will continue to buy every single chapter of Final Fantasy that is released. This Company is committed to us and it is right that we repay you as a satisfied customer is right that you do.