Final Fantasy IV is a classic of the highest order. Final Fantasy I may have laid the foundations, but Final Fantasy IV set the tone of the series. Everything, from its cinematic approach to its revolutionary gameplay, made Final Fantasy what it is today. This still remains one of the best Final Fantasys to date. So what’s Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, its sequel, like?
It’s like a dream I had before playing this sequel. Cid Pollendina and Ceodore turn into birds in a sewer. Ceodore turns back and finds a magical hat to turn Cid human. They find their way back upstairs, get behind a cannon blast stormtroopers . This turns them into birds. When they vanquish all the soldiers, Cid and Ceodore ride up an escalator. A confused solider follows them.
Fan fiction. Nothing terrible like my dream, but fan fiction nonetheless.
This isn’t the first time we saw a fanfic like Final Fantasy. The first happened with its direct sequel, Final Fantasy X-2. The game envisions what type of life Yuna and Rikku would take after Sin’s defeat. Apparently, they’d become Sphere hunters. Did you know Sphere could give you magical dress abilities? Me neither. But the original writers for Final Fantasy X wrote the script for Final Fantasy X-2. Square Enix later produced another fanfic-esque title with Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. This game was not written by the original scriptwriters. However, Yoshinori Kitase produced Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, and he directed Final Fantasy VII.
It makes you wonder, what makes a Final Fantasy game feel like a Final Fantasy game? We thought it was their original stories, but as of now, sequels are the norm. In fact, it would be odd to not see a spin-off or sequel of a Final Fantasy game now. So then the question is, does Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, feel like a Final Fantasy game?
Sure, I guess. The story picks off right after Final Fantasy IV: The Interlude ended. Of course, you could skip that short story and the story would still take place 17 years after Zemus’ defeat. That’s a first. Cecil and Rosa are almost in their 40’s. Imagine that, we’re playing a Final Fantasy where the characters are older than 35. And they all return – Kain, Rydia, Edge, Cid, Palom, and Porom, etc. We travel to the same locales from Final Fantasy IV, such as Baron, the Underworld, and the Tower of Babil. And we get to hear Uematsu’s amazing soundtrack, with a few new songs.
Most of the characters are more or less the same, with a few changes. Edward isn’t so much a coward anymore. Yang is a doting father. Cid doesn’t look like he could survive a blast anymore. Palom is a massive jerk, and Porom doesn’t seem to be her brother’s overly formal taskmaster anymore. Some NPC’s return. Remember Luca, who’s dolls came to life and attacked us in the first game? All three of them make an appearance as playable characters. Remember the girl who Palom flirted with at the end of Final Fantasy IV? She’s Lenora, Palom’s student. Remember the Elban Four who Edge trains? Me neither…they’re completely new.
But sometimes this doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy. Mainly, the story. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years has the same template as the first game, but it feels different. It’s not the Chrono Trigger style Technique attacks, that’s a nice addition. It’s not physical and magical attacks heighten with the phases of the moon. I don’t even think it’s the episodic formula, now that we can have it all at once. It’s an interesting technique that weaves multiple viewpoints together.
It’s the fanservice, or shall I say the fan fiction. The fan service is great if you like Final Fantasy IV. But without all of the tropes, you can tell this would have been a really generic game with flat writing. It doesn’t seem like the same people wrote it. Hironobo Sakaguchi wrote Final Fantasy IV, with Takashi Tokita. Tokita returns, and you can see just how much of an influence Sakaguchi was on this series. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years rehashed the same ideas. The game was complete, yet now there just so happens to be a new moon? And more crystals? Did we really need a new sequel?