Square Enix takes fans of FFIV on a bumpy, yet memorable, new ride packed with tons of DLC that will keep you occupied.
The game starts off with the main protagonist Ceodore (the son of Cecil) who is on his way to a dungeon were he will test his skills and prove that he is worthy of becoming a member of the elite air force, the Red Wings. It's a humble, and somewhat stereotypical, beginning for an RPG but it's a good way of making the player acquainted with the new additions to the battle mechanics.
The first new addition is the phase of the moon with affects the power of black and white magic, physical attacks and skills. It's a cool concept but somewhat of a throwaway for a couple of reasons. First of all, enemies are also affected by this which is not particularly a bad thing right? This means that enemies who only use one type of attacks will become easier/harder to defeat provided that you have a well-balanced party (which you won't have for a while) that is able to use all types of attacks. Well, the flipside is that you'll notice that monster hardly ever appear all by themselves and the type of monsters that appear in one place usually varies (as in, they use various types of attacks). This implies that the difficulty of each dungeon will remain constant regardless of the phase of the moon.
The other problem that I had with this addition is that you need to stock up on "tents" (regains HP and MP and cures most status ailments but can only be used at save points) to really make use of this since you have to use four "tents" to end up in the same lunar phase. Each type of attack (white, black, physical, skill-based) is more effective during one particular moon phase, hence the reason why you'll need four tents.
The other new addition is the "band attacks". Band attacks are similar to the double and triple techs in Chrono Trigger but they can only be learned once you've gotten up to a certain point in the storyline, as opposed to just leveling up your party members. They're also a lot slower to use than single attacks, they do about the same amount of damage and it's oftentimes difficult to figure out what type of attack it is (physical or thunder/ice/fire/ground magic attack) which can at times be crucial to know since some enemies gain HP if you use the wrong type of black magic attack and physical attacks are useless against certain types of enemies.
The only addition that I found really useful was the "quick save" feature which allows you to save and quit your game at any point. This made the game a lot easier to pick up and play without having to worry about when you'll find the next save spot.
Other than those additions, the graphics and sound have been improved over its 16-bit predecessor but not as much as I had hoped they'd be. It still sounds, plays and looks similar to Final Fantasy IV (yes, that's right; expect frequent random encounters). I noticed early on that enemies tend to have an excessive amount of HP which made each random encounter unnecessary long. I thought that this issue would diminish over time as you start leveling up but no it remained a constant issue throughout the entire game.
This leads us to yet another issue in the game, the unbalanced monsters. I sometimes found myself over-levelled until a new type of monster randomly appeared and killed me off before I had a chance to flee. Even worse is when enemies get a "surprise attack" and suddenly monsters you had no problem defeating earlier can become a nightmare...
After you've gotten drenched in cold water, by all the negative aspects of the game, in the first dungeon with Ceodore you'll slowly ascend to the surface (just like our main protagonist) as the game starts to jump between characters, letting you play as various familiar faces from the Final Fantasy IV universe while the game tells an interesting yet somewhat cliché story.
10 hours or so into the game, you'll find yourself done with the main quest but you'll soon realize that you've only scratched the surface of the game as there are 8 additional chapters to purchase through the online store as well as extra dungeons and side quests (such as the tails collecting). As you start playing through the DLC you'll soon realize the grandeur of the storyline.
Finally, the story reaches its climax with the last chapter and by the time you reach this point, there's no turning back; you'll be playing it until the end. The last chapter is a long and epic one that will delight even fans of Final Fantasy V (like myself) and VI. I will not spoil anything for you though.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, with all of its DLC content, is a long RPG (clocking in at around 100 hours not counting the extra challenge dungeons and side quests) that isn't without its faults such as unbalanced monsters and dragged out random encounters due to the excessive amount of HP that some enemies have. I was able to look past these flaws and enjoy the truly remarkable and clever storyline that doesn't fully start to shine until about halfway through the DLC. It's certainly not the best RPG you'll ever play but it'll be a memorable journey if you're a fan of Final Fantasy IV and felt that there were more secrets to the second moon than what the game had to offer.
- 100+ hours of playtime (not counting the side quests)
- Epic and memorable story
- You get to play as all of the main characters from Final Fantasy IV
- You have to buy all of the DLC to do this game justice
- The new additions to the battle mechanics are somewhat of a throwaway
- Unbalanced monsters