Final Fantasy IV: The After Years for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch costs $15.99. I know, right? That’s crazy! Except do you know what you get for that $15.99? You get the game, the whole game, and nothing but the game. No extra payment to unlock chapters and characters. No in-app purchases to level up your characters. No ads. For $16, you get Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, and it’s worth getting.
I say that not as a fan of Final Fantasy, but as a fan of turn-based RPGs. Truth be told, this if the first Final Fantasy game I’ve ever completed, and that includes Final Fantasy IV. It’s not a requirement to have played through that first to enjoy The After Years (although you can, again for $15.99), but since you’ll likely enjoy this enough to play both, you may as well pick up the first one first.
Now, having done that, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is a remake of the original game released for mobile devices you’ve never heard of in 2008. It eventually also saw release on PSP and WiiWare. Its precursor—Final Fantasy IV—was a Super Famicom game from 1991. It’s an odd path for a game to take to the iOS, but its here, and we’re more the better for it.
The game is played in episodes; ten in all. You’ll begin with Ceodore’s tale, which unlocks six more tails that can be played in any order. Finish them, and it’s back to the main story for the final three tales, that must be played in order. It sounds disjointed, but it’s actually pretty easy to follow and get wrapped up in. The various tales keep things fresh throughout the adventure, which is good because the story really doesn’t give you much drive to continue. I was more interested in completing tales because I wanted to move on to the next character, not because I cared much about what happened to the current character.
The combat system requires you to stack up your commands as a progress meter moves. When the meter completes, that character gets to go. You can attack, defend, use magic items, etc. You can also pass your turn along to the next character, and you can band your movements with another character for more powerful attacks. In addition, the phases of the moon will affect your attacks. Fight during the wrong phase, and your physical attacks will do less damage, for example.
Thankfully, you’ll find tents along the way that you can use to heal up and pass time until the next phase). It’s a deep system that would be fun to use, but there are two problems. First, it’s not explained well at all, and I had tremendous trouble with some early boss battles simply because I had no way of knowing how to optimize my strategy until I just stumbled upon something that works. Second, hitting the tiny commands on the screen of my iPhone 5 was difficult to do, especially when trying to control multiple combatants at once. If you have the option to play this on an iPad or iPad mini (and it is a Universal app), that’s certainly the way to go.
The graphics are decent, but not great for the Retina display. Considering the rudimentary battle animations, they could’ve provided more detail without too much trouble.
Considering it’s a remake, though, I’m pleased we got the updated graphics instead of a “nostalgic” take. Hard to justify a $16 price if the game had looked like it was made for…wait, let me look this up again…the NTT Docomo i-αppli.
My only real complaint about Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is that it’s not Final Fantasy IV. I said earlier you don’t need to play one before playing the other, but I think I’m actually happy I played this one first. That’s because Final Fantasy IV is better; much more involving. If you played that first, I can see how The After Years would be a letdown to all but the hardest of core Final Fantasy fans.
But that doesn’t mean this isn’t an enjoyable game. You’ll face many random battles, you’ll need to level grind, and you’ll need to engage in plenty of trial and error as you work out your battle strategies. But the system is still fun, and there’s enough variety in the characters and their abilities to hold your interest until the story really kicks in towards the end. That $16 price tag means your more likely to stick with it until then, and you will be rewarded for that.
Requirements: iOS 4.3 or later
Compatibility: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch (optimized for iPhone 5)
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0