Review | Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

After the increasingly complex FF logos of the last few years, this one's refreshingly simple.

After the increasingly complex FF logos of the last few years, this one's refreshingly simple.

(Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, Square Enix, WiiWare)

If you had asked me prior to its release — and I’ll note that you didn’t ask — I’d have likely told you that Final Fantasy IV: The After Years was further prove of intellectual poverty which continues to plague the minds of management and marketing alike at Square Enix. From a management perspective I wondered how they thought they could continue to milk the dead horse (to mix a metaphor) which has comprised 40% of their releases for the last 6 years, namely old Final Fantasy titles. It’s lucrative, but it’s not sustainable. From a marketing perspective I simply wondered what glue-huffing exec came up with “The After Years”. I would have told you that there was simply no point in a sequel to a game in which you defeat evil incarnate. That’s like releasing a sequel to the Gospel. I’d have told you not to waste your money.

Of course I bought it! It’s the fanboys who are always the loudest and most cynical, you know. And after playing an hour of the game I was eagerly and unreservedly recommending the game to everyone I know who’d played the original. I told them it was a more than worthy successor, that there was a perfect mix of old and new, and that the story was awesome, opening as it does with the sacking of Baron, the enslavement of the Eidolons (summoned monsters), and the return of the second moon. Things goes to hell pretty quickly, and that’s how I like it. I told my friends that the game was absolutely worth their money.

Now? Meh.

Playing with characters from the original who have been gimped down from their level 70-80 highs just feels false.

Playing with characters from the original who have been gimped down from their level 70-80 highs just feels false.

If it feels like I’m jerking you around, that’s just because that’s how FFIV-2 made me feel. The first hour of the game is an object lesson to other RPGs on how to start a story with a bang. The story is interesting, well-paced, and fits the established history well. New gameplay elements help keep things fresh as well, such as team-up attacks called Bands (always welcome) and a new system of moon phases which increase and decrease stats during battle.

However, by the time you get to the first DLC, Rydia’s Story: The Eidolons Shackled, the game’s luster begins to pale. You start recognizing plot points. Chasing a mystery villain? Check. Race to acquire the Crystals? Check. Betrayal and Redemption? Got that too. The characters are different (sometimes), but too much of the story seems all too familiar. The new dungeons continue to provide some fun, and the team-up attacks really are a welcome addition, but the deal with the moon’s phases just feels like a gimmick after a while. It doesn’t really add a whole lot of strategy other than sleeping repeatedly until the phase you want shows up, then blasting through a dungeon as quick as possible to make sure it doesn’t change on you. God forbid you pause the game, though. The phase is based on the game clock, which doesn’t stop in the menus, so pausing provides no protection from phase change while you go cook yourself dinner.

Now this looks familiar.

Now this looks familiar.

Here’s the essential issue that FFIV-2 has: A sequel can’t just be a re-tred of the previous game. Imagine a book or a movie sequel that was telling a new story, but did so in a progression of scenes from the original movie. Perhaps even footage or entire passages could be recycled!

It would never work for novels, it would never work for film, and it doesn’t really work in a game. It’s not like the game isn’t available anymore. Hell, it’s been re-released twice in the last four years. Thrice in the last decade. If it’s the nostalgia of retreading old ground that I want, I’m certainly not at a loss for ways to get my fix.

So does this, but in context this is one of the better parts of the story.

So does this, but in context this is one of the better parts of the story.

It would be absolutely incorrect to suggest that this is just the same game repackaged. Many of the old areas are expanded (which I like) and the gameplay additions generally welcome. There’s just not enough of this; strip out the time spend retreading old areas and plot points and there’s a lot less game here than is being advertised, and it comes sporadically. I’ll bet you anything the last dungeon ends up being the same as it was in the original.

If you enjoyed the original, go ahead and buy it. It’s definitely worth taking for a spin. The nice thing about it being episodic is that you don’t have to buy the entire game if you’re not digging it. You can always stop. I’ll probably buy the rest of the game as it comes out, and I’ll have an okay time. It’ll just be a lot less fun than I’d hoped for.

The title’s still retarded, though.

This game rates: whale.

Advertisements

~ by Matt Altieri on July 10, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: