Review: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

The After YearsThe Final Fantasy series has been going on for more than twenty years, the flagship gaming series of powerhouse Square-Enix. What started out as a desperation act from a failing company has expanded into an empire with dozens of spin-offs. Final Fantasy has made RPGs mainstream, introducing the genre into millions of homes and spawning many copycats. But no RPG series will be quite the same as Final Fantasy.

One of the best known games from the series is Final Fantasy IV. Released originally back in the eighties this game follows the story of Cecil and his friends in a journey that spans the globe and beyond. It is a journey of self-discovery, betrayal, love and ultimately forgiveness. Since it’s original incarnation the game has been re-released on three platforms, including the PSP. This is the remake I will discuss known as The After Years: The Complete Collection.

The Complete Collection includes the original game, the Interlude and The After Years. The original game is an upgraded verison of the original along with the Advance’s optional dungeons. The Interlude is a short jaunt between the original and the After Years, detailing what happens between the two. The After Years is where the real meat of this is, continuing the story of the main characters, adding some fresh faces and advancing the legacy of the crystals.

You’ll notice that not a lot has changed in the game in the basis of gameplay. The ATB (Active Time Battle) is still there, though they added an interesting dynamic of the “Bonds”. Borrowing off the Techs from Chrono Trigger, Bonds effectively allow two or more characters to combine their various skills to execute new powerful attacks. A more original addition is the moon phases. These phases either increase or decrease healing, attacking, etc. and have a surprisingly significant affect on battles. Not a lot has changed beyond that, though you know what they say about not being broke means not needing fixing?

For those who’d played the original will find this a familiar stroll with their favorite characters. If you couldn’t get enough of them before, this game is a great way of reconnecting, like spending a long weekend with the old friends from college. There is also a set of new characters to identify with, all with their own special quirks and skills and they split out into seperate groups for their own adventures.

Where The After Year takes a stumble is that the story, for the most part, too closely resembles its predecessor. Even for a gamer who was especially invested in the original story, the sense of repition can be tiresome. Fortunately after that the story takes an interesting turn, with a few twists that are not entirely unexpected but still welcome. It won’t stand out, but be intriguing enough to not spoil the game.

Music has always been a huge hit in the series and Final Fantasy┬áIV has been no exception. The iconic Theme of Love is back and better than ever, and the new track, The Mysterious Girl, helps add to the aura of power around the game’s primary villian called…The Mysterious Girl. None of the other tracks really stand out, but with how gorgeous a track the original game had, and how it is integrated into the new story, keeps it fresh and enjoyable.

The After Years really shines in how the game is divided into chapters, giving each set of characters a decent time in the lime light. These are seamlessly woven together in order to mesh with the main storyline, which, of course, is intricately linked with the legend of the crystals. Just when the game might become a bit linear a chapter ends, leaving the gamer with the decision of selecting among several others. In what order they are done is irrelevant as all but three are accessible from the start.

In the end whether The After Years (and the Complete Collection, by extension) is a worthwhile venture really depends on the gamer’s tastes. If they are looking for something entirely new and revolutionary, The After Years really isn’t their style. There simply isn’t enough radical changes to make the game a good investment of time and they would likely find more to attract them to the DS remake.

But for a gamer who simply hadn’t the chance to delve into Final Fantasy IV’s universe or has already and is looking to please that nostaglic feeling, then The After Years is exactly the romp through old game mechanics and expansion in storyline they’ve been looking for.

Now if only Square-Enix could do this for other games in their series (namely Final Fantasy VI) I only imgaine how much cash they’d be rolling in. But knowing this company said game is already in the works as of the typing of this article.