Video Game Review: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
We’re sure it’ll just take another dangerous quest or two.
It’s one thing to turn Final Fantasy into an anthology series. We’ve read enough comic books that the idea of a bunch of different universes each having their last adventure come to fruition is easy to grasp. It’s the sequels to a numbered entry that confuse us. We understand the original Final Fantasy was supposed to be Square’s last game, but the idea still baffles us. Almost as much as trying to get into one of these sequels without beating the original.
The old-school controls and menus of past Final Fantasy games remain pretty much intact. Fortunately, these controls are perfectly suited for an RPG, as only menu navigation and walking around are necessary. Our only real complaint is that there can be a few too many sub-menus at times, but this is still a minor issue.
Few things have confused us as much as the graphics in this title. After seeing The After Years was in full 3D, we looked up the original Wii version, only to see that it was originally made of sprites. When ported to mobile, however, the graphics were remade, which was then ported to PC. That would make sense if not for one simple issue: the visuals are reminiscent of the Nintendo DS remake rather than taking advantage of the extra power a smartphone provides.
Here’s the thing about almost every 3D game on the DS: they’re not pretty. We love that system, but it has ugly 3D games, and this is no exception. The only saving grace was the small screen could somewhat hide this flaw — that means unless your PC has an incredibly small monitor, this will not look good. To make matters worse, however, this game is also poorly optimized on PC. Every screen transition was met with significant slowdown, which always felt jarring.
Mechanically, what worked in Final Fantasy IV still works here, random battles aside. The combat requires picking commands in real time as each character’s meter fills up, allowing them to perform an action when full. This system leads to fast, fun battles that offer a good twist on the usual turn-based systems.
Combat adds two new mechanics. The first of these is based on the moon’s location. Lunar cycles determine whether your magic or physical attacks are more effective, as well as which monsters will show up. This system is hit or miss, as it makes the world feel more alive, but it can also get tedious. The other system, however, allows your characters to combine their attacks for special moves, which is a completely positive addition to the game.
The story is told in different chapters, many of which focus on different characters. In the most bizarre comparison we’ve drawn to a video game, yet, it’s very similar to the fourth season of Arrested Development. Each chapter is mostly exposition, showing how a character got to a certain point at the story, until eventually all of their backstories are uncovered and the plot can finish.
This ends up harming the story, however, as there is too much focus on the exposition rather than where the plot is going. We kept wanting the story to move on rather than go back to a new beginning, with each jump back being more painful than the last. At a certain point, it makes the story less interesting and a lot more exhausting.
That this game is made for fans of Final Fantasy IV (and them alone) should be obvious. Do not even think of jumping into The After Years without beating that game first. Even without that information in mind, however, this is not quite a perfect continuation of the so called fourth Final Fantasy. If you really love its predecessor, however, there should be something to enjoy here, even with the steep asking price.