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Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Matrix Software
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Download
Released: US06/01/09



Scorecard
Graphics: 84%
Sound: 84%
Gameplay: 89%
Control: N/A
Story: 84%
Overall: 85%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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The Red Wings under attack!
 
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The Cross-Slash combo attack in action.
 
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Cecil is still very holy.
 
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Ashton Liu
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
06/07/09
Ashton Liu

Final Fantasy IV was the Holy Grail back when the RPG genre was just a fledgling niche among a small industry, and many RPG enthusiasts still look back on it (admittedly, much of the time with rose-tinted glasses) as a milestone of quality within the genre. Nearly two decades after its release, Square-Enix released a direct sequel to the game for mobile phones, titled Final Fantasy IV: Return of the Moon. As a cell phone release it looked as though it would never be released stateside, but thankfully the game ended up being slated for a Wiiware release with the unfortunate (and soap opera sounding) subtitle "The After Years." Thankfully, the old cliché "never judge a book by its cover" holds indomitably true here.

The story follows the life of Ceodore, the son of Cecil and Rosa from the original game, as he attempts to take his first steps into knighthood and out of his parents' shadows with the elite knights of Baron. After successfully passing his rite of initiation by obtaining a "Knight's Emblem" at the bottom of a cave, monsters suddenly assault Ceodore's squad while they are en-route to Baron. Baron presumably falls to the horde of invading monsters and Ceodore's airship crashes nearby Mysidia, wiping out his entire unit and leaving him severely wounded. Saved by a mysterious hooded man, Ceodore aims to return to Baron and find out what has happened to his homeland as well as what prompted this sudden aggression.

The storyline is typical JRPG fare, and if you weren't impressed by the storyline of the original game, then you'll be even less impressed with this one, since its story hinges on the characters developed in the last game. However, if you enjoyed the original game to any degree then it's a fair bet that you'll love revisiting the Blue Planet and see the further development of the Final Fantasy IV cast. Thankfully, Square Enix didn't completely invalidate any of the progress the characters made in Final Fantasy IV, unlike its other sequel endeavors like Final Fantasy X-2, and the story is much better for it.

The graphics are pretty decent when you consider it's a cell phone game. It's somewhere in between the graphical quality of Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI. It never quite reaches the amount of detail and color palette that VI had, but it's head and shoulders above anything IV had to offer, though it's much closer to VI than it is to IV in terms of graphical quality. The music and sound effects remain the same from the original game, so depending on your tastes, this can be either a good or bad thing. If you're a fan of nostalgia (and if you're playing this game, chances are good that you are), then you'll find that the music is glorious, since it's completely the same as in the original game. As Megaman 9 has shown us a year before, sometimes less can be more - and The After Years maintains this philosophy. Chances are, if you are turned off by simpler looking graphics and 16-bit music, then you're not the target audience for this game anyway.

Much of the gameplay is the same as the original game, with the traditional world map, dungeon crawling, and random battles. Battles still play out with Square's traditional ATB combat, with players selecting attacks, spells, and skills whenever their active time bar charges to full. Some expansions to the gameplay add some wrinkles to the combat system, though, so that veterans are kept on their toes. The first addition is the band system, which is a feature not unlike the dual and triple techs employed in Chrono Trigger. When characters have spent enough time together and established a meaningful connection, they can team up to deliver combination attacks that have varying effects. These attacks can range from damaging all enemies in one stroke, to launching a powerful assault on a single enemy. Hwoever, band abilities are not spelled out for players; in order to perform a band attack the two (or more) characters must be selected in a specific order - for example, having Cid band with Cecil will enable the Machine Break band attack but banding Cecil with Cid does nothing. After unlocking a band attack players can use it every time thereafter merely by selecting it from the list of band abilities. The second addition is the lunar phase system. There are four different lunar phases that shift over time (and whenever the player sleeps at an inn or uses a tent/cottage). These lunar phases affect different battle commands in different ways. For example, during a Full Moon, normal attacks are halves in power, while black magic recieves a noticeable boost in strength.

Players will need to take advantage of these systems because more often than not they are pivotal in major boss battles. The difficulty of the game is extreme. Players have very little resources with which to support their party, and enemies will hit hard and fast. Normal battles can easily decimate a party at full health if players aren't careful, and I have died at least once on literally every single boss encounter. Those looking for a challenge need look no further than this game. The first episode is relatively short, clocking in at around 3 to 4 hours, with each succeeding episode at around 2 to 3 hours, if that. For 800 Wii Points for the first episode and 300 for each expansion, this can be somewhat hard to swallow if you're not a fan of these types of games, but if you're a fan, it's well worth the investment.

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is very obviously a fans-only purchase, as the narrative will be lost on newcomers and those who didn't enjoy Final Fantasy IV will find even less to like here. But those who enjoyed Final Fantasy IV and wouldn't mind exploring its world for another adventure will feel right at home with this game, simple graphics and all.



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© 2009 Square Enix, Matrix Software. All Rights Reserved.


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