Monday, December 6, 2010

Game Review: FFIV - The After Years

Final Fantasy IV - The After Years

Shoot for the Moon

Wii (Download Only), 2009

Publisher: Square Enix

Developer: Matrix Software

Time to Complete: Anywhere from A While to A Very Long While

This noble endeavor is the 2009 sequel to the 1991 Super NES semi-hit, Final Fantasy IV (Which was at the time renamed Final Fantasy II in the U.S.... I think everyone understands the whole wack FF numerology thing by now). For anyone who knows about FF, the phrase "sequel to an FF" is a tricky one. Final Fantasy games simply don't flow into each other within the main series, much like how the planets of our solar system don't orbit each other. FFV wasn't a follow-up to FFIV... FFVIII wasn't a follow-up to FFVII... FFXI wasn't a follow-up to Mog House. The only true sequels in the FF-verse come from outside the main series, much like a moon would orbit a planet. Final Fantasy X-2 continues X's story. After Years continues FFIV's story. Revenant Wings continues FFXII's story.

Lots of things continue FFVII's story, including but not limited to: Dirge of Cerberus, Crisis Core, Advent Children, and lots of really screwed up fanfiction.

Let me just state right now... if you aren't a fan of Final Fantasy, and if you never played FFIV... don't bother with this game. You're clearly one of the normal people, and should probably go outside where you belong. I was just out there. It ain't bad, you know. Except for the fact that here in Boston it's so cold that after a minute or so, my cojones fully retreat into my body. (For the socially stunted Final Fantasy players out there, Cojones is Spanish for "Balls") I'm not going to go into explaining how Final Fantasy works. Suffice to say, it's a role-playing game, and there's lots of high drama. Really high drama. There's so much melodrama that even Sex in the City: The Movie looks at Final Fantasy and goes "damn, girl!"

Final Fantasy is so un-masculine that compared to Final Fantasy, Dora the Explorer looks like The Terminator. Final Fantasy was once kicked out of the military under Don't Ask Don't Tell rules just because it's Final Fantasy.

I'm not being at all political here or bashing anyone. Matter of fact, you'd be surprised. I'm just sayin'.

Spoiler? Well...not exactly. Just play it.

So what about After Years? Well...what about it? It's an FFIV follow-up on the Wii. It's enough to make a series fan's Wiimote quiver with anticipation. Either you know this, or you don't.

Now, if you were a fan of FFIV on the Super NES, then this game was made for you. It is styled with a retro, acid-washed, 1991 look. This game makes me feel like watching Michael Jordan take on Larry Bird. It makes me feel like rooting for the U.S. to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. It makes me feel like dancing around to "Bad" by Michael Jackson after the 582nd time I got sent home by the principal.

Now, or 1991?

But seriously. The graphics are nearly indistinguishable from 1991, with small cosmetic improvements - especially to the characters - that make the game look a lot better without being apparent enough to detract from the nostalgia factor. The music is largely unchanged from the 1991 classic, with the same familiar tunes in the same areas. There are a few new tracks, all of which have a new-agey, mystical sound to them that hippies will enjoy profusely while sipping their organic green tea. Most of these new tracks start popping up in the late-game, it should be noted.

Unsurgical Strike
After Years was released in episodic installments over the course of 2009. As of this writing, the full game has long since been released for download on Wiiware. So, earlier this year, I got the whole thing. For a total of $38 or so, it's pricey for a Wiiware title but well worth it for fans of FFIV. Players start with a selection of scenarios, and after they're all completed players can move on to the final, much larger chapter. Let's take a look at the scenarios.

Ceodore's Tale, The Last of the Red Wings - This is basically two tales in one: Ceodore's tale, and Kain's tale. Unfortunately, Kain gets to fall under the umbrella of newcomer Ceodore. Who is Ceodore? Why, he's the son of Cecil and Rosa. At least, that's what we think. The paternity tests are pending. In any case, Ceodore is interesting, sort of a paladin with more healing powers than Cecil. This is basically the longest scenario (besides the last one) by far. While the others can each be finished in an hour or two, this one goes on for a few.

Rydia's Tale, The Eidolons Shackled - This tale consists of Rydia, the famed mage, slinking around the hellish underworld in a sexy green outfit. Let's just say there's a reason why the dwarves don't really do anything: they prefer to stay in their chairs what with Rydia on the prowl. Rrrrow.

Yang's Tale, The Master of Fabul - The Yanger, iconic high monk, trains with his equally high daughter. This might be a good time to mention that I really dig the generational aspects of this game. For those of us who grew up with FFIV, it's pretty cool to see the characters from the game now being older and having grown-up (or close) children of their own. It's like a high school reunion, only without all the killing.

Palom's Tale, The Mage's Voyage - The boy wonder of FFIV, Palom, is now grown and a super stud. Here we have the tale of how the gullible young Leonora lusts after the confident hipster. She like, totally thinks he's cute, but like, she doesn't know if he like, notices her. Palom has the art of being a douchebag-who-doesn't-care down to a science, and as a result he doesn't chase the poon - the poon chases HIM.

Edge's Tale, The Pulse of Babil - Edge is a ninja. That should be enough said right there. In this tale, he's joined by a squad of other elite ninjas who each have their own mini-scenario. It's pretty cool. Unfortunately, anyone who is expecting to see the culmination of FFIV's hinted-at Edge/Rydia romance is going to be disappointed, because nothing happens in that department. Once you go Dwarf, you don't go back.

Porom's Tale, The Vanished Lunar Whale - While Palom is a super stud, Porom is...well...let's just say she turned out okay too. And by that I mean she became some kind of really hot human lollipop. I'm guessing she tastes like watermelon. However, strawberry is equally likely. Her tale is like an hour long... at this point the tales do seem to get even shorter, oddly enough.

Edward's Tale, Star-Crossed Damcyan - Yes, Edward. Remember him, FFIV fans? The dandiest bard in all the land, Edward was known for two things: 1) Hiding when danger appeared. 2) Prancing to and fro like a fancy lad while singing the fairest of tunes. Well, here he has a very short, interesting little tale. Accompanied by a trio of generic guards and a hot librarian, Edward must confront his problems with some ingenuity.

The Lunarian's Tale, The Blue Planet That Was - This chapter is basically Fusoya's. Let's just say he gets some cool and unexpected co-stars, though. I'd say this tale is a cut above the rest... it's longer than the previous character arcs (aside from the first) and you get to play as badder-ass characters. If that weren't enough, FFIV's big bad makes a cameo. Really cool stuff here, to the point where I don't even have anything snide to say. It's just rad.

The Crystals, The Planet Eater - The final chapter of the game, where all is explained. You import all of the characters you levelled up in the other scenarios, and it begins. This scenario is LONG. I'd say twice as long as all the others combined. It almost makes the other tales look like the game's intro. Most of it is a ridiculously massive final dungeon, complete with scores of bosses to fight. Whatever you do, don't rush through this won't work out too well for you. At the end, our heroes confront the douchenozzle who is causing all the problems. Spoiler Alert: It's Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange.

Each scenario has a robust post-game. Considering the span of time that passed between each of their releases originally, they had to have more to tide players over than just their storylines. As a result, each one has a Challenge Dungeon that requires hours upon hours of levelling up to even think about going through, in addition to various particularly challenging fights. Omega, Shinryu, and Atma Weapon appear as the uberbosses du jour in the game's final chapter, and all three of them are more fearsome than the actual final boss of the game. As a result of all of this, players can spend anywhere from a lot of time on the game to a massive amount of time on the game. It's very difficult to gauge it in an actual hour estimate.

Again... Spoiler? Not exactly.

After Years is something that most certainly was in high demand over time. Now if we could just get a sequel to Final Fantasy 6, right? And while we're at it, a Sailor Moon / Final Fantasy hybrid. They can call it Final Moon: A Sailor Fantasy. It can go down (hyuck) in history as the most flamboyantly homosexual game of all time, tied with fellow Square Enix game Final Fantasy Girlboy Dawn of Whispers.

In closing, I really liked this game. Fans who grew up with FFIV should definitely check it out if they haven't already... it's damn good. People who are unfamiliar with FFIV... pass on this. It's much better with that familiarity and connection to the characters, as well as the connection to the graphics and sound that growing up with FFIV would give you.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10


  1. "And by that I mean she became some kind of really hot human lollipop."

    In the words of Colbert, "Nailed it!"

  2. I have a lot of good memories of FF4, and you summed up the plot of the sequel very well. What's your opinion of the gameplay, though?

  3. I don't know about his opinion, but I think it's actually an improvement. Like the DS remake of 4, status spells actually matter. Most bosses can (and really, really should) be Slowed, and there's a lot of uberenemies that you can cast Stop on to make manageable.

    I'm not quite sure how much effort is required to make Ceodore a feasible character in the final chapter, though.

  4. I concur, the gameplay is an improvement over FF4. In particular, status spells having a use.

  5. This is the best game I've played in the year when it came out. I really liked it and it was overall really fun and even the story was cool. Getting powned by the mysterious girl but then when you play the Lunar scenario YOU ARE THE ONE pounding her, the badass ninja escape, Palom being really cool, all the Kain scenes, overall the only weak part of the game was Ceodore. Some scenarios were more boring too like Yang and Rydia but meh not a problem. Even freaking Edward still fighting like a pussy was REALLY badass, he's the only character short out of the lunarians to one up the mysterious girl. Seriously Edward went from pussy to the most badass guy in the game.

  6. "Which was at the time renamed Final Fantasy II in the U.S.... I think everyone understands the whole wack FF numerology thing by now"

    So you would release episode 4 with it's production number, causing everyone to say "where the @#$% is 2 and 3?", or release 2 and take a risk that, that piece of trash ends up killing Final Fantasy's North American momentum just like what happened to Actraiser? Not to mention, 4 wouldn't get released till 1993 (unless you foolishly want to release 2-4 so close together and watch people get burned out with the series very quickly) and by 1993, 4 would be outdated.

    Of course, this is just another reason why I would NOT NUMBER A FRANCHISE and just use subtitles instead like Golden Sun.

  7. As a person who loves Final Fantasy 4, it just sickens me to watch Square destroy such a great mythos with this trash! And don't even get me started on that insult of a DS remake! As a person who enjoys renaming RPG characters, I would love to punch the idiot that thought of the oh so brilliant idea of including that "players are no longer interested in renaming characters anymore" line for Namingway! Voice acting is not an excuse for excluding the ability to rename characters. Did these morons forget that the PSP version of Final Fantasy Tactics included voice acting that mentions Ramza's name, and yet still allows people like me to rename him anyway?

    Remember, nobody is forcing anybody who doesn't want to rename characters to rename them. I can handle Ramza's name being used for the cutscenes while calling him Galtar for the stats screens.

    Also, at least the PS2 version of Phantasy Star 2 (which disables renaming characters) doesn't insult me with that "nobody wants to rename anymore" garbage.

    "Now if we could just get a sequel to Final Fantasy 6, right?"

    No, you don't! The After Years, 10-2 (that one poster above is correct about the stupidity of numbering these games at this point), Lightning Returns etc. are all perfect prove of why they push the "reset button" after each installment. Though I think Final Fantasy 2 would have been alright if it was a "true sequel" to Final Fantasy 1. And a much better game too!

    I'd say Dragon Warrior had the right idea during the NES and SNES eras with the Loto and Zenith trilogies by having them take place CENTURIES from each other (unlike the Final Fantasy "sequels").

    So unless the Final Fantasy 6 "expansion pack" takes place centuries before or after the main game, odds are it will most likely be the same recycled trash (storylines and characters) that the After Years was. And you know, a Final Fantasy 6 game that takes place during the first War of the Magi doesn't sound like a bad idea.

  8. "And while we're at it, a Sailor Moon / Final Fantasy hybrid. They can call it Final Moon: A Sailor Fantasy."

    Sailor Moon and Final Fantasy? Uhh, no thanks. I'm more into a Sailor Moon/Centurions or Sailor Moon/Thundarr The Barbarian myself. As for Final Fantasy, a Loud House game that plays like Final Fantasy 6 will do nicely.