Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

As this reviewer has previously stated, Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy IV is bound to set a world record for most ported/remade game, beginning with the original Japanese release on the Super Famicom. Although most titles in the Final Fantasy franchise have taken place in completely different universes, Square-Enix would break the trend starting with Final Fantasy X-2, and as it is one of the more popular titles of the series, Final Fantasy IV would receive a serial direct sequel known as Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, which saw its original episodic release on the Nintendo Wii and a 3-D remake in the vein of its predecessor for iOS devices, providing a solid experience.

The After Years is divided into ten Tales, the first nine taking two to five hours to complete and the final one taking somewhere from ten to fifteen hours, following mostly different sets of characters, the player in most instances being able to import data from previous Tales into later ones so that the imported characters’ levels reflect those with which the player ended their respective Tales. The achievements feature in the game boosts replayability and can potentially bolster playtime.

Like the first Final Fantasy IV, The After Years utilizes random encounters and active time battles that mostly resemble those in the prequel, one significant difference being a lunar cycle altering whenever the player rests to recover health that increases the power of one particular type of ability while decreasing that of another. The second primary difference is the ability for specific sets of characters to use and level combination attacks, which are in some instances the difference between victory and defeat against tough bosses. Battles are generally quick, especially if the player uses auto mode in battle, the only significant fault being that the active time gauges don’t stop while the player is in a character’s main ability list or targeting enemies with the attack command.

The interface in The After Years is generally above average, with an easy menu system and controls, the ability to see how prospective equipment affects characters’ stats before purchasing it, a quicksave feature, the ability to “continue” at the last point of encounter if the player loses a battle (also present in the iOS version of the game’s predecessor) and good placement of save points, although there are some points in a few Tales where the game leaves players clueless on how to advance the main storyline, a flaw that prevents interaction from reaching perfection.

The story is a definite highlight of The After Years, decently continuing the tales of the heroes of the original Final Fantasy IV, with plenty of old and new faces, the only major flaws being the toroid overworld and occasional poor direction on how to advance the main plot; the translation is also above average, with only a few glaring errors towards the end.

One fault of The After Years, however, is the soundtrack mostly recycled from the original game, and while the themes are still good, it would have been nice had Square-Enix actually remixed them rather than rehashing them, with only a handful of original tracks. There is also a noticeable absence of music during most cutscenes, and no voicework of which to speak filling the void. Ultimately, the aurals are above average, but only slightly so.

The three-dimensional visuals are a little more above average than the aurals, although they don’t demonstrate much improvement from the DS/iOS version of the first Final Fantasy IV, with a noticeable amount of pixilation in the character models, and telekinetic exchange of blows between the player’s characters and the enemy in battle.

Overall, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is a solid direct sequel that hits many of the right notes with regards to its battle system and narrative, although there are things that leave some room for improvement, such as the poor direction on how to advance at a few points, not to mention the recycled aurals and visuals, a lazy design decision. Given anti-frustration features such as the continue system, though, the iOS remake is perhaps the definitive version of The After Years, one that series enthusiasts and newcomers alike can appreciate.

The Good:
+Solid active time battle system with new features.
+Great story.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Sometimes poor direction on how to advance.
-Recycled soundtrack with only a handful of new themes.
-Graphics lack polish.

The Bottom Line:
A good sequel and remake.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: iOS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 8/10
Music/Sound: 6/10
Graphics: 7/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: 25-40 Hours

Overall: 8/10

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