2018 Summer Backlog: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

Final Fantasy is one of my favorite series. I have cherished playing through most of the mainline games and their spinoffs. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is one of the few titles related to the core series that I hadn’t yet experienced, until now.

This year, I have been introducing my wife to a bunch of my favorite RPGs. She loves the genre but didn’t experience a bunch of the classic titles, including the core Final Fantasy trilogy for the Super Nintendo. We played backwards from Final Fantasy VI to Final Fantasy IV. She loved them all but grew especially fond of FFIV for its endearing characters. Between the three games, FFIV was the only one that just so happened to have an actual sequel. I actually own a version of The After Years for the Nintendo Wii, but for one reason or another, I never got around to it. Instead, we played through the updated Steam version that featured updated 3D graphics akin to the ones on Final Fantasy IV on Nintendo DS.

I’m actually surprised that I didn’t get to Final Fantasy IV: The After Years until now. After all, I loved the original and a game showing what life was like for our heroes 17 years later intrigued me. The opening moments of the game were pure fanservice. Not only did I get to see what the old protagonists now looked like and what they were up to, but I also got to meet brand new characters. My favorite was Ceodore, the son of the original game’s leads Cecil and Rosa. The first few hours did a decent job introducing him and his personality, and I was eager to know more. However, Ceodore’s importance diminished following the first chapter.

To clarify, The After Years follows an episodic chapter format. When you realize the game started out as a mobile game where you had to buy individual episodes, the structure makes sense. However, it doesn’t necessarily suit the story or RPG gameplay. Each tale stars a different beloved character from the original cast, be it the martial artist Yang, the now grown-up twins Palom and Porom, and my personal favorite, the summoner Rydia. Each chapter is about how each character responds to a new threat – a mysterious girl who has captured the various summon creatures to do her bidding.

Since almost every tale is separate and you can do them in any order, they lack cohesion. Characters don’t transfer between them and neither does their progress, except for the finale, which I’ll get to. For the most part, these two to three hour chapters are middling stories that retread through the same dungeons and bosses from the original. After all, the map is reused from Final Fantasy IV. I liked some moments, such as Yang connecting with his daughter Ursula and Edward the spoony bard learning to cope with loss. However, the actual tales, which sometimes included filler characters and pointless quests like finding coconut oil, made the journey feel boring at times.

Even though I found the structure and pacing to be a mess, I did like revisiting the world of Final Fantasy IV. I particularly enjoyed seeing some plot holes resolved, particularly regarding Cecil’s dragoon rival Kain and the original game’s villain Golbez. And the final chapter, although it was unnecessarily long, allowed me to import every character from every tale, for a powerhouse party consisting of over a dozen members. Even better, most of these characters shared Bands, which are essentially this game’s imagining of dual techs from Chrono Trigger. Two or more characters perform a joint attack, which is usually flashy and does massive damage.

As I write this, my wife and I are currently facing the final boss. It’s hard, though, so we haven’t yet beaten it, but with some grinding, I’m sure Final Fantasy IV: The After Years will join a spot in my coveted finished RPGs list. This list, by the way, includes every other single-player mainline Final Fantasy except Final Fantasy XIII. Lightning and friends had better watch out because we’re coming for them next!

I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!