Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
System: Nintendo Wii :: Rating: Everyone :: Players: 1
Genre: RPG :: Released: 01 June 2009
By Tim Schreier
23 July 2009 — People have many different opinions when it comes to the Final Fantasy series. To some, the games are the best titles ever made, and form one of the finest franchises to ever exist. To others, they're trite, boring, and the stories are so unstructured and nonsensical it removes any possible emotion that the fans claim is the bread and butter of the series.
For the sake of full disclosure: I was a huge Final Fantasy fan — I even played the fan translations of Final Fantasy II, III, and V. That is until VII. I'm not going to get into it here, but I'll say this: I like Final Fantasy before it went 3D. That being said, IV is probably my least favorite of the early ones — with VI being the one I dig the most.
In the past I've said that Final Fantasy IV was the dawn of the "roller coaster" RPG. Follow me for a second. You know when you're getting to the end of an RPG, and you realize that you've barely put any effort into it at all — you've basically just sat through an interactive movie? To me FF IV summarizes this perfectly; throughout the entire game you're pushed around through all the story's plot points, and 10 hours later you're done. Big deal, right? Lots of RPGs have a linear storyline. But it's the one FF game pre-VII that requires little to no character leveling. And since you can't choose the characters, jobs, or even the spells you use, there's very little strategy.
Why is that diatribe necessary? Because they made a fucking sequel. A full-fledged sequel that's downloadable through Nintendo's WiiWare service. A sequel that promises episodic content, no less. I was excited to play this game, and I even fell in love with the characters all over again. Your favorites from the original are back, and many are playable. And only eight bucks for a new FF?! Fuck yeah!
This time around the story focuses Ceodore, the son of Cecil and Rosa, and takes place 17 years after Final Fantasy IV ended — with Cecil now King of Baron. After a time of peace, the second moon has once again appeared in the sky, and a new mysterious protagonist — with alluded connections to Rydia and the summoners — is making himself known. The story is classic Final Fantasy, which means you'll either love the corny dialog and bizarre plot twists or flat out not "get it."
For those of you not familiar with the older games, you may be turned off by the top-view, two-dimensional, sprite-based presentation. This style is most certainly motivated by the need to keep file sizes smaller, but what is there is a much cleaner look than the original FF IV. The textures are of a noticeably higher resolution and the animation is slightly improved, but for all intents and purposes, the graphics work on a nostalgic level. Likewise, the score is redone, sounding better than ever, but this isn't necessarily the best example of Nobuo Uematsu's music.
Control wise it plays exactly how you'd expect — navigating menus with the D-pad and selecting with the A button — but Matrix has pleasantly included two options to play with. For those hardcore / retro players that bought the Classic Controller, you'll find the SNES button placement is perfectly replicated. But if you only have a Wiimote turned on its side, the game is still completely playable.
While I played through the game I ignored the things that usually piss me off, like fencing off your characters so they have to walk a very linear path (you never get to pilot the airship or even go to the moon). And for a majority of the game, you have only two people in your party, and it's a very unbalanced party at that. The one guy can only attack, and a true staple for JRPGs, he's initially so much stronger that he makes the other character irrelevant in battles.
Seriously, I tried this; I saw that it would take two blows per enemy to dispatch them with my strong guy, so I had my weak guy attack one enemy throughout the entire battle while my strong guy killed off everyone else. Say there were three enemies, and one was being occupied by the weak warrior. That's four turns of the weak warrior hitting the enemy, then the strong guy took two blows to dispatch him. It made no difference that the weaker one was there.
Still, I was all on this game's dick. I was enjoying feeling nostalgic, and I was going to recommend this to everybody. I mean, eight dollars for a new Final Fantasy game!
And then it ended.
I sat through the excruciatingly long end credit sequence (seriously, Square / Matrix, I've got the Internet, I can look up who did what at my leisure) to see how long my eight dollars lasted. But wait! We have to honor the original FF IV programmers. Jesus fucking Christ! Okay, it took just under five hours to beat. That's it. Not even half the length of the original game. Bullshit.
But I'm a fair person, and I did have a fun time in spite of its faults. I thought, Maybe I'll check out the add-on quests. Then I saw it: five blocks. Even simple NES games take up 20 or so blocks. Five blocks means, more or less, they're unlocking content that's already in the code. Now that's some bullshit.
Like I said, it stays true to the source material, and even adds some nifty things, like the moon system — adding a little more strategy to the battles in a way that's much less irritating than the Law System found in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance — so if you love you some FF IV, you'll probably have a blast playing a real, brand new Final Fantasy game on your Wii. Just be aware that this isn't a five-hour game with episodic content, but a $20 game broken into pieces.
Standalone score: 6
Episodic content to be reviewed later.
Buy FF VI instead.