Ever since Final Fantasy X-2, the main Final Fantasy installments have now begun to have their own sequels and spin-offs, most notably with FFVII. While it’s a move that may be a quick cash-in, it also gives new life to main installments and give characters we know new stories to tell. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years was initially a cell phone game in Japan that was structured for episodic releases. It was a smashing success, but the cell phone market is far less significant in other regions so it remained a Japan exclusive for quite some time. Because of the obscure platform, Square Enix decided to port FFIV:TAY over to Wiiware and released the game to the US audience on June 1. While the game is currently incomplete, it already shows it’s a worthy successor to one of my all time favorite RPGs.
TAY takes place many years after the events of FFIV. Cecil and Rosa became rulers of Baron, their comrades are living their lives and the world has undergone an era of peace. Paying homage to its predecessor, the game starts off in a Red Wings airship where you get introduced to Cecil’s and Rosa’s son, Ceodore. Ceodore’s objective is to head out to a grotto in Adamant Isle where he undergoes a trial to become a full-fledged knight like his father. Being the son of heroes though, he feels overshadowed by his parent’s successes and aims to make a name for himself in his own way. Meanwhile, a series of strange events occur. The second moon re-emerges, opening a gateway for monsters. The tower of Babel is back, Eidolons have been turned into stone and other incidents have begun to pop up. Someone seems to be controlling these strings of events, and so it’s up to the heroes of old and new to save the world once more.
The story did not start off as engaging as FFIV, and it clearly takes a while to get rolling. However, after some key sequences, the story takes on a much bigger scope, and it becomes complicated due to the number of times the story switches perspective. It can get confusing because of how it’s presented and it might make you think you missed something. It takes a while for all the pieces to fall in place, but it works out in the long run with some good twists in store.
The highlight of the story portion comes from character chapters. Nearly every character from FFIV has their own story, and each gives you insight into what each one of them is doing before or during the TAY events, as a behind the scenes look. This move not only gives players some bonding time with characters they like, but also provides some character development, and paints a bigger picture to the overall plot. Except for Kain’s story, the chapters are 300 points each and are optional, but are fun to play through. Only Ceodore, Kain’s and Rydia’s stories are available, but seven more are expected to come in the following months.
The gameplay remains the same as its predecessor. Combat is a simple turn-based style where you attack, defend, use magic or abilities to defeat your foes. With no customization aspects, each character is unique for having their exclusive abilities and/or specializes in different types of magic. The rest of the game just consists of heading to towns and then going through dungeons to advance the plot. It’s a simple and effective mechanic still used in many games.
Though the core gameplay is the same, there are some major changes that enhance the game. The first addition is the lunar phase where your attacks, magic or abilities can be strengthened or weakened depending on the moon phase. There are four different phases, each enhancing and weakening some abilities, making the game more strategic than never. Another new addition is band attacks, which are similar to techs from Chrono Trigger. Band attacks are team abilities in which selected party members perform an attack together. Most are gained through experimenting different combinations, and some are gained automatically. It adds some spice to combat, and there are tons of band attacks to get.
The game maintains a 16-bit graphical style as an homage to the SNES generation with slight tweaks to the sprites. They might be dated, but it holds nostalgia for those who grew up playing in the era. You revisit a lot of old areas and they all remain the same, but there are some new places to see and keep things fresh. The biggest fault in the graphics is in the flashbacks. There is a strange transition of utilizing the old sprite style in flashbacks, and it does not mesh well when it reverts to the new style again, making the graphical style a little inconsistent. Overall, the graphics are nothing special by today’s 2D standards, but it’s colorful and pleasant on the eyes with some new things to see.
The music score remains exactly the same as before, utilizing the DS sounds rather than the original SNES. Despite the rehash, it’s hard to fault on what is considered to be one of the best soundtracks in the series. It’s still a powerful score that stands high against the test of time and conveys a surge of emotions when hearing them all again. There is one new song present, but it’s nothing special and it’s not on par with the rest of the music.
Ultimately, TAY is a game meant for Final Fantasy IV fans, but for what it does, it does very well. It may not exceed the classic, but the FFIV magic carries on, and it’s a satisfying experience with much more to come. If you are a fan of FFIV, do not pass this up no matter what the price may be. Here is hoping the later chapters are on par with this original installment.