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Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is a sequel to the original Final Fantasy IV, by Squaresoft. It was developed by Matrix Software, the company that also created the DS remakes of Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV. It was recently released on Nintendo Wii, exclusive as a digital download on WiiWare. In Japan, this game is also known as Final Fantasy IV the After: Tsuki no Kikan (translated to Final Fantasy IV the After: Return of the Moon), and is released exclusively to Japanese cellphones.
For there are no cellphones in the US market that can function like a Japanese phone; and the fact that mobile phone gaming in the US is not as popular as in the Japan, Square Enix decided to port this into Wii; and this game is downloadable from the Wii Shop Channel. How this sequel compared to the original game will be explained in this review.
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The storyline starts 17 years after the event of the original Final Fantasy IV. In this time, the second moon has left the Blue Planet orbit (as shown at the end of Final Fantasy IV); and a period of peace follows. Kingdom of Baron now is ruled by the protagonists of Final Fantasy IV; Cecil and Rosa, who is now Cecil's wife. However, suddenly the second moon reappeared, and much closer to the planet. With this, the monsters became violent and in the beginning, Baron is attacked by monsters; led by a mysterious girl.
The game revolves around Cecil and Rosa's son, Ceodore. At the beginning of the game, Ceodore is shown to be waiting for his knight inauguration which will happen after he finds the Knight's Emblem in the grotto of Adamant Isle; which will be the first dungeon the player will face. From time to time, Ceodore will be accompanied by someone new such as Biggs and Wedge (non-important characters), a Black Mage and White Mage whose name is not specified, and a Hooded Man that seems to know Cecil.
After being generous, the story has to be given 4/5, because of how it just seems like an unneeded extension of Final Fantasy IV story. This game feels like a franchise that Square Enix tried to milk, and it feels that this 17-years-after portion is just unneeded. Like in the beginning, a cliche story similar to "the dark lord was sealed, but 20 years after, it broke the seal and caused calamity once again, and it is your role as the previous protagonist's son to save the world" story. It doesn't feel like a part of the Final Fantasy IV series; it just fees like a fanservice of "what the characters have been doing the past <insert any number here> years".
The good thing about the story is that Matrix Software keep the originality of the story. The story, although unneeded, answers what happened to certain character (Kain) after he/she disappeared. Matrix Software continues the loose ends of the story and ties them up, and doesn't contradict anything on the original Final Fantasy IV.
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The graphics used in this game are an like old-school Final Fantasy game, which used sprite-based movement of tile-per-tile. Knowing that this game is ported from a cell phone game, I must say that I am impressed with how Matrix Software managed to port a small-screen game to a widescreen TV game. The graphics, even though its SNES graphics, are very good for SNES graphics. Talking SNES-wise, the tiles used are not too dark, but not too light either. The objects in the game, such as houses, castles, and dungeons, were added as eye-candy that even the current generation gaming lacks. Matrix Software emphasized the details.
This game is full of hidden switches and passages, and in this game, if you look carefully, although blurry, you CAN find hidden switches by just looking on the walls and hidden doors are outlined on the door. There's no need for you to blindly moving along the wall while pressing 2 tile-per-tile. Impressive graphics.
Even though the graphics give it a feel of nostalgia, the thing that hinders it from having a perfect score is that the game seems low-budget. If Matrix Software could make this game similar to what they remade in Final Fantasy III and IV, this game could be much better;
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You would only need the Wiimote to play this game, you would not need to have GameCube or the Classic controller. The Wiimote is played sideways with the 1 and 2 button on your right hand. The control scheme is nostalgic, as it resembles a SNES controller. Button 1 acts as B, while button 2 acts as A; you use the control pad to move around, and the A button to open up the start menu. The + button is also used to change your party leader--to change the character walking around on the overworld. It feels that I am holding a wireless SNES controller.
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The gameplay is the ATB system used throughout Final Fantasy series. Being a SNES-quality WiiWare game, it doesn't use too much of an animation gimmick and great graphical animation, like the current Final Fantasy uses; but uses the classical way of playing the game--waiting for your bar to fill up then selecting your actions. There are no unneeded animations in this game; every move (spell) has its own animation, although some spells look similar.
Final Fantasy IV: the After Years used a new system known as the Moon System. Every time you used a tent on the overworld or use the inn to recover yourself, the moon phase will change. There are total of four moon phase in this game; starting from New Moon, to Waxing Moon, to Full Moon, to Waning Moon, and back to New Moon. Each of them will have different effects on characters. For example, Waning moon will cause all physical attacks to double; while black magic halves; and full moon will just do the opposite.
The use of this moon system is refreshing. There are certain enemies that can only be faced on a certain moon phase; for example; the strong monsters only appears on the Mist Cave during the full moon. This moon phase will also help your grinding. Some of you might abuse this moon phase for your advantage, for easy leveling up.
The difficulty of this game is low compared to the original Final Fantasy IV. It seems like that this game is made to be more casual to new players by making it not so hard that it becomes frustrating. If you abused the Moon Phase, grinding in this game is easy; and most of the time you will be overlevelled while fighting the monsters that appear through random encounters.
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The only problem with this game is its poor digital distribution. This game is distributed to the players using the Wii Shop Channel. The bad thing about this is that it was released per-chapter. If you downloaded this game on the day it was released; be prepared to face a cliffhanger ending. This game will end at abrupt time and you will have to painfully wait a few months for the next chapters to be released. Unfortunately, you have to pay more to get new chapters.
The problem is that this feels like Square Enix is trying to hold the game part-by-part only to increase their profit. While this is annoying for us gamers to pay for new content, Square Enix can happily divide the game to get money; using the name Final Fantasy to increase their profit. This is the part that the game lacks. It would definitely be much better if Square Enix decided to release this game fully. It is better to wait a few more months to get a full game compared to getting it now with a cliffhanger; and having to pay more to get more.
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If you are a fan of Final Fantasy IV and don't mind the graphics, get this game. It is worth your money with how it tied all the loose ends of the previous game together. But, if you are considering playing this game but haven't played Final Fantasy IV, don't get this game before you've played the original. It will only 1) confuse you, and 2) give you spoilers because of how it revolves around the previous game in the series.