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Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (Wii) artwork

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (Wii) review


"But the critical question: if you're going to fight the same battles, explore the same areas, use the same characters, and listen to the same music as Final Fantasy IV, then why play After Years at all? The only incentives are a few new dungeons and some new characters--none of which are worth writing home about--and the solid battle system. "



Finality. It's what we had at the end of Final Fantasy IV. There were no villainous hands popping out of the ground accompanied by devilish laughter, no loose ends, no TO BE CONTINUED floating across the screen. That was it. Let the post-epic-RPG depression begin. To go any further would be madness, yet that notion didn't stop Square from creating a sequel eighteen years later.

They called it, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. The subtitle should tell you what to expect: weak writing and rehash galore. Familiar faces return to battle a new threat while fighting old enemies in old dungeons--a sad attempt to ride the retro bandwagon.

The retro feel is welcoming at first. Classic graphics, classic music, characters we remember... It would make any old school gamer blush. If you're waiting to see the new tricks Square has in store for you, don't hold your breath. Although After Years is a sequel, it feels more like a remix. Enemies, bosses, dungeons, even plot devices and situations return from the original, only rearranged. The story, for instance, has a new moon arrives and a being (referred to as “Mysterious Girl”) from said moon that lands on Cecil's world to steal all of the kingdoms' crystals and revive the Tower of Babil. Replace the Mysterious Girl with Golbez and you have the plot to FFIV in a nutshell. The only differences between the two plots are in the subplots.

Final Fantasy IV had very few subplots, and those it did have were poignant to the story and the characters. After Years overkills on subplots, most of which are pointless and childish. Ever wonder what Palom and Porom have been doing in the eighteen years following FFIV? Palom spent much of his time avoiding the dwarven princess Luca because she has a crush on him, while Porom secretly sulks in Mysidia because she's afraid that Palom may have surpassed her. Every subplot consists of the same quality of writing and thought. They don't develop beyond a few meager cutscenes, and they culminate in a boring campfire scene in the final dungeon. Many of them end without finality. We never get the feeling that Porom rediscovers her confidence, nor do we feel that Edward is over Anna and ready to pursue his love interest with his secretary Harley.

I'm guessing the subplots come as a result of After Year's episodic nature. Each episode follows a different FFIV character as they suspect something is amiss in Baron. You will already know what's gone wrong in Baron by the end of first episode, yet they still veil the events in later episodes as if they're leading up to a plot twist or revelation. Very few of the episodes add anything new or relevant to the plot, and feel like a means of padding the play time out by 2-3 hours apiece. Porom's Tale, for instance, doesn't even start talking about Porom until you're more than an hour and a half into it. The first two dungeons, which take just over an hour to complete, focus on Palom and his quest to become a sage. The rest of the episode consists of events already seen in previous episodes.

Each episode is the beginning of the game through a different character's perspective, and you'll get the sensation of starting a new RPG ten times over. You'll battle the same early game enemies over and over again (I may vomit if I see another goblin or sword rat) and witness different characters make the same conclusion about Baron. Rather than forcing its audience to endure hours of redundant plot points and dull battles, Square should have cut most of the episodes down to a few cutscenes. But at $2-3 an episode, that wouldn't be lucrative.

Perhaps you're going to tell the story to piss off while you try to enjoy the gameplay. If I can say anything positive about After Years, it's that the battle system is as solid as ever. Not only is the old FFIV system still intact, but it feels smoother. The fast-paced battles can make for some fun experiences and challenging boss battles.

Unfortunately, few of those “challenging boss battles” are original, as every boss from OctoMammoth to Bahamut lines up for a rematch. While battling classic bosses was cool at first, I started losing interest about halfway through the roster. The strategies for fighting them haven't changed much, so you get the impression you're just playing FFIV in a different order. Even when you get to the final dungeon, you still haven't run out of classic bosses. You'll even rematch Edge's parents and the Giant of Babil's CPU, both of which feel out of place in the moon palace. When you've put the last one to rest, you might think the game is coming to a close. That hope collapses when you see Lich from the original Final Fantasy appear as a boss, followed by about fifteen floors of bosses from the first six games. You know rehash has gone too far when bosses from other games start appearing ad nasuem. We've also seen this phenomenon before, in an optional dungeon in Final Fantasy I&II: Dawn of Souls. Unfortunately, few of these battles are optional here. The latter half of the final dungeon is nothing more than a boss rush against classic nemeses.

Even dungeons suffer from the same sort of rehash. While we do get a few new ones, most of them are classic dungeons that offer no new surprises. Every trap, secret passage, and trick is the same as it was in FFIV. Going through these dungeons begins to feel less like a trip down memory lane and more like a formality. It's only made worse when you have to revisit dungeons multiple times, such as going to Mt. Ordeals twice or the Underground Waterway four to five times (two of those times end in battling different versions of OctoMammoth).

But the critical question: if you're going to fight the same battles, explore the same areas, use the same characters, and listen to the same music as Final Fantasy IV, then why play After Years at all? The only incentives are a few new dungeons and some new characters--none of which are worth writing home about--and the solid battle system.

I don't want to rant about Square, but After Years felt like they put forth the barest minimum of effort or thought. Rather than filling our RPG-hungry gullets with new material, they borrowed 90% of the original game, rearranged it and called it a day. Even the story was far below their caliber. Whatever it was that they were going for,--sequel, retro ride or fan service--they missed the target. They would have been better off making an all new game with retro graphics, or not bothering at all.

Rating: 4/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (June 04, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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zippdementia posted June 05, 2011:

Quality review that finally lays any desire I've had to play the After Years to rest.
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SamildanachEmrys posted June 05, 2011:

I hadn't even heard of this game. Once this review tipped me off to its existence, my first reaction was "Huh? Why?" and my second "Well at least it makes a change from FF7 spin-offs". Fortunately that's as far as my thoughts need to go, having been spared the hazards of curiosity.

I think the review does a good job of balancing comment on the things the game does well with criticism of the things it does badly, and the examples are used well to demonstrate that the claim of being FF4 thrown in a blender isn't a casual one.

Good work.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted June 07, 2011:

Thank you, gentlemen!

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