Having completed Final Fantasy IV (FF4) not too long ago, I’m pleased to be able to play its true sequel – Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (FF4:TAY).  Here’s the trailer:

This is the opening video that is not present in the game (again):

In the spirit of my concise movie reviews, let me get to the point quickly.  This sequel is seriously disappointing, even though it is a 3-D remake of the original game.

So, bad things first:

  • Really poor story – Like movies, the story is the single most important thing in a role playing game.  FF4 had a good story.  As a sequel it makes sense for FF4:TAY to use the same world maps, same attacks, same magic, same items, etc.  However, even parts of the story are the same as before.  This is unacceptable.  For the remaining parts, some are good, but some are unrelated to the main plot.  Then the episodic nature of the game splits whatever little amount of good story it has into fragmented parts.  (Things do become somewhat better by the finale tales, but that’s too late.)
  • Repeat 10 times of grinding from low level – level grinding has always been part of Final Fantasy, but I don’t think anybody will regard doing that 10 times for 10 tales is fun.
  • Repeat the same dungeon many times, especially the Underground Waterway.
  • Weak bosses for a long play time, same bosses at the end – A major part of fun in Final Fantasy games come from dealing with the strong bosses.  In this sequel many times the supporting characters are capped at level as low as 20.  It also implies in those tales you won’t meet bosses that take far more than level 20 to defeat.  You only meet difficult bosses in the final tales.  However, you see a lot of the same bosses from FF4 again!
  • No challenge dungeons, missing bosses – The original versions of the game had challenge dungeons and many different bosses from other Final Fantasy games.  On iOS/Android these are dropped.  The tales already have shallow story and no strong bosses (except the final tales), now the only thing that may even compensate those deficiencies a little is missing.
  • Item and gil sharing among characters at different locations and different times – some tales switch back and forth among several characters, however all those characters can share the same items and gils you have in the tale.  Although some people may find this feature useful or interesting, I find it unreasonable.  If you played the game before or read a walkthrough you’ll know you should unequip certain characters when their times are up in the tale, then those equipment can be used on a different character, even at a different location and at a different time, in the same tale.  In the strangest case, the Lunarian Tale starts with a dream battle.  During this battle one should unequip the character to get the Ebony Blade.  Otherwise when the dream battle ends, the character no longer has the Ebony Blade.  Although the system previously used in FF4 technically works in the same manner, the story is continuous and does not jump around in location or time, so it does not exhibit the same unreasonable sharing in FF4:TAY.
  • No summon – In most of the episodic tales there is no summoner.  In one of the tales about Rydia the summoner, she is ripped of the summon capability.  Although it is still possible to get some weak summons from rare item drops, the fun associated with summon is now gone (until the final tale.)

OK, there are good things as well, but these minor things do not compensate the major weaknesses.

  • Improved engine – even though we still have low polygon models and low resolution textures, the graphics still look better.  When the camera is at a distance the background textures look absolutely fine even at 1080p.  I suspect the water and light animations are improved.  I no longer see any graphical glitches that I saw on FF4.
  • Improved system – there are some improvements to the game play system as well.  I especially like Auto function simply repeating the previous action in battles.  I think it is now easier for the characters to sense an item in the surrounding as well.
  • New characters – I love the grown-up Porom.  Too bad her tale isn’t really about her.
  • All maps are present – There is no longer a need to map out every corner.  In FF4 trying to get 100% for every map and having no second chance for some maps is simply a pain.
  • On my Nexus 5 the game (version 1.0.3) is completely stable, unlike my prior experience of playing FF4 on Galaxy Nexus – although this could be due to the 2GB RAM present on Nexus 5 instead of the game stability improvement, I don’t know.

I think fans who have played FF4 may want to play this game just for the sake of completeness.  For everybody else, there is no reason to buy and play this game.

Note: for those people who want to play this game, restore your copy of FF4 installation if you have.  This way, when starting FF4:TAY it will give you 14 Small Tails. (credit: Joshlp)