Over the years, I’ve written a lot of articles about why I love Final Fantasy IV, and why I think the game should be President. And some people have said to me, “I’d like to play Final Fantasy IV for the first time — which version do you recommend?”
I’d go with Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection for the PSP. A hard copy isn’t hard to find on eBay at a reasonable price, and you can always opt for a digital download.
Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection features the original adventure with nicely-refined HD graphics (including revised enemy art), a good translation, and the option to switch between a reworked soundtrack and the original. There’s also a bestiary and an art gallery.
Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection also contains the entirety of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.
I bought and played The After Years chapter-by-chapter when it came to WiiWare in 2009. I finished it, too. Sucked down every last drop. Not because the game is good. It’s not. I just love Final Fantasy IV that damn much.
Rest assured when I was done, I said “There. I’m never touching this accursed demon data ever again.”
Hello, how are you. It’s 2015 and I’m playing through The After Years again.
It’s not like I don’t have anything better to play, either. I have Fallout 4. I have Xenoblade Chronicles X. I have any number of wonderful games I haven’t finished. And yet I’ve chosen to spend a chunk of my meagre spare time with a game that has a hero named Ceodore.
Ceodore, for Bahamut’s sake.
Driven to do some serious soul-searching, I asked myself, “Nadia. Why do?”
I think I’ve figured it out. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is a bad game that’s full of good characters. And I wanted to see those characters again, so here we are.
It’s sad how miserably off-kilter the gameplay is in The After Years. Most of its challenge is delivered via boring tests of endurance, like dungeons full of dead ends, tedious fights for shitty rewards, and high random encounter rates.
There is almost nothing in the way of original enemy sprites or music. Bosses are recycled, or simply palette-swaps of regular foes.
There are also points in the game where you’re expected to go up against jelly-type enemies even though the story doesn’t supply you with a black magic user. As Final Fantasy IV nerds well know, jellies and flans can’t be hurt by conventional weapons, so if you don’t have a black magic user on your team, your options are to use a magic-loaded item (if you have one) or run like a chocobo that’s just met a man named Sanders.
It’s a small oversight on the programmers’ part, but it exemplifies how little thought went into polishing and balancing The After Years’ gameplay.
But even though the game’s core mechanics are engineered from recycled Final Fantasy IV bits nobody liked (HEY, HOPE YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT VISITING THE SEALED CAVE AGAIN!!!), there is a large roster of new characters to play with, and most of them are pretty tolerable. Also, the established characters have new responsibilities and motivations.
I like chubby sassy engineer Luca and the girl-time adventure she has with Rydia.
I like Luca’s mechanical children, Calca and Brina. They look like they belong on the cover of The Midwich Cuckoos.
I like Lenora’s flowy Epopt robes.
I like Palom’s angry bitter teenage phase.
I like Yang’s hella wise master mustache.
I like Edward’s foxy grey research-obsessed secretary, Harley.
I like the fact reformed Golbez plays a big part in the game — and his reaction to meeting Ceodore is basically “Uhhh OK” even though half the boy’s godforsaken name comes from his moon-uncle.
I like Kain’s–
Wait, forget that. Kain spends much of the game in the company of the green-eyed monster. Again.
Kain, your choices are to either get over Rosa, or insinuate to her and Cecil that you’d like to try a threesome. Bring a whiteboard and draw a diagram. Cecil’s not very smart, God love him.
Playing Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is like meeting up with old friends who can be dicks sometimes. It feels good to see them again, even though they’re spitting in your beer and jabbing glass shards in the back of your left hand at ten minute intervals.
Now, a pre-emptive FAQ:
“So if I get Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection, should I give The After Years a try?”
Sure! You may as well!
“Should I buy the mobile version of The After Years for $15.99?”
Jesus Christ, no. Don’t do that.
“Square-Enix hasn’t made a follow-up to Final Fantasy VI, and I don’t know if I should be angry or thankful.”
Come join me in the Thinking Circle, child.