FF4 Logo Back in 1991, a game was released in the United States called Final Fantasy II. At the time, few people realized that it was really the fourth Final Fantasy, and the Japanese were holding out on us. It didn’t matter. Final Fantasy IV was an epic tale, lasting anywhere between 20 and 60 hours to complete, and spanning across two worlds. It was a tale of heroism, jealousy, redemption, and betrayal culminating in a battle against the most evil of evils. June 1, 2009, a game was released in the United States called Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. Japan, of course, has had the game for quite some time.

When you release a sequel to a beloved game, two things happen. The first is that every fan becomes uncontrollably excited. The second is that every fan becomes uncontrollably afraid that their childhood is about to be ruined. The second feeling is considerably more overpowering, and rather than try out a game, most people will just pretend it never happened. Or deny its existence after having their childhood ruined by it. Chrono Cross? Never heard of it.

That being said, I adore Final Fantasy IV. So much, that I was willing to risk all my fond memories on this new release. Plus, since it was released on Wiiware, I didn’t have to leave my room to get it.  I’m happy to say that my childhood is still in tact. It’s my adulthood that was offended. I’ll explain.

The sprites haven't changed!

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years takes place 20 years after Final Fantasy IV. Cecil and Rosa (your main characters from the original) are now king and queen of Baron, have ushered in an era of peace, and have a son with a stupid name (Ceodore). Of course, utopia just isn’t possible, and monsters have started resurfacing. A character similar to Rydia (another main character) is going around collecting crystals (which are powerful for some unstated reason) and just generally causing trouble. This is all introductory stuff, and I haven’t ruined the storyline for anyone who wants to play the game yet.

I can’t go on until I explain what I disliked. The game released for 800 Wii points ($8), which I thought was a deal. Little did I know, the game was going to be released in nine episodes, each with its own cost. Currently, only two of the episodes are out, with the second costing 300 Wii points. When all is said and done, the game will go from a deal at $8 to a total cost of $37. While $37 isn’t excessively expensive for a game, I still think it’s a bit of a lame trick to not state the cost up front. So, not only will you have to wait to complete the game, but it’ll cost 4.5x it’s original stated value. Yay...

OMG! Cecil, Rosa and Cid!

Cost aside, I’m still uncertain of whether or not the game is good. Upon playing it, you’ll notice that the maps, graphics, and music are almost identical to the original game. The characters have aged, and now have different templates, but overall the world is the same. Most of your adventures will bring you back to places you explored 18 years ago, and the game wins for reminiscence. On top of that, the introductory chapter has an intriguing plot, filled with all the things you’d expect out FF4. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed upon playing Episode 2, Rydia’s Tale. Episode 2 seemed to lack any sort of storyline whatsoever and was just an extended grind.  I fear the rest of the chapters will be similar.

As for changes, they’re pretty much all in the battle system. Phases of the moon affect the strength of certain attacks, which is really just an annoyance. They’ve also added a band system, where multiple characters can team up to do a special attack. As far as I can tell, those attacks are less than useful, and you probably won’t use them much.

Overall, the game seems to have potential. Obviously, you could figure out whether or not it was good just by looking at Wikipedia. The Japanese have had the full game for quite some time now. But, that really ruins the fun, doesn’t it? For those of you who loved the original, I’d suggest checking out the first episode at the very least. It’s pretty damned cool.