Now that we have all but the finale of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, here are some of my thoughts on each chapter. It’s kind of bizarre how all-over-the-map the quality is on these, but if you love FF4 anywhere near as much as I do you shouldn’t have any trouble getting through any of them. Even the ones that suck.
This is the longest chapter, and it’s pretty disjointed because it tries to mash Ceodore and Kain’s story together. It doesn’t work very well from a storytelling perspective, and it can be downright hilarious at times. For example, at one point Kain has to traverse the same dungeon Ceodore did earlier in the chapter, and all the treasure boxes are back. If the two chapters were separate this would make sense (since each chapter would be independent), but as it is it just looks sloppy.
Ceodore is kind of a whiny brat and for most of the chapter he is accompanied by a boring character simply called Hooded Man. There’s a great scene at the very end, and Rosa and Cid hop into the party for the clear save (so you can use them in the challenge dungeon), but a lot of what you do in this chapter involves hammering Attack. The chapter is a pretty good mix of old areas and new ones, including a couple new twists on old areas.
I wish they’d given Ceodore’s team a little more variety. He desperately needed a black mage. The clear save gives you three white magic users, which is interesting from a strategic perspective, I guess.
I really enjoyed this chapter. Rydia and Luca get some good dialogue and you have full run of the Underworld for most of the chapter. No one else gets that kind of freedom. (You’re kind of stuck in one spot on the clear save, though.) Rydia loses her Summon magic as part of the plot, which I think works pretty well because it means you have to rely on black magic instead. I don’t think I’ve ever had her use black magic in the original. I mean, why bother?
Luca is a fun character. She has Cid’s Analyze ability plus an attack ability that… doesn’t really do anything her regular attack can’t. Of course “Attack” and “Special” are affected by different phases of the moon, so if one of her moves is red she can just fall back on the other.
Luca’s dolls Calca and Brina are party members for the first half of the chapter. There’s a subquest involving super-rare monster drops that, rumor has it, will allow you to use them in the upcoming finale as well. GameFAQs has information on how to game the system and guarantee the drops, so I’ll probably do that. It involves running the challenge dungeon quite a bit, but the dungeon is short and pretty easy.
This chapter was a stinker. It has two new dungeons, one of which is incredibly long and dull. Outside of that you’re just rehashing the Fabul scenario of FF4, right down to defending the castle against waves of monsters. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they were the same monsters.
Ursula is just like Yang except she gets a critical hit ability… but she doesn’t get it until the very end of the chapter. Maybe I’ll get to play around with it some in the challenge dungeon. There’s a lot of time dedicated to Ursula’s backstory, but it isn’t very interesting so you can feel free to just ignore it.
Three nameless monks join the party for much of the chapter, which is infuriating because at any given time you have to have at least two of them on the back line where they can’t do much of anything.
Great chapter, one of my favorites so far. Palom and Leonora have an even better rapport than Rydia and Luca do. Much of the chapter is spent in a new area that is structured to teach Leonora black magic, which she learns one spell at a time. The way she has to learn a weaksauce version of each spell before mastering it is cute, and of course Palom already has the -ra versions of those same spells.
Palom-as-teacher works really well. He’s actually developed quite a bit as a character; he’s not a punk kid anymore, but an arrogant and slightly jaded young adult. The twist at the end of the chapter is pretty sappy, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
The game puts a fresh spin on the Magnetic Cave; since both your characters are mages, you get to explore it without working against a penalty. I thought that was cool. When I get to this challenge dungeon I’ll need to save up 50,000 gil for a super-secret Troia pass, which I’m certain won’t be disappointing in the slightest. Nope.
Edge’s Ninjatastic Spy Brigade
I really enjoyed this one as well. The chapter begins with Edge sending four of his ninjas on solo spy missions, which basically means they each get to explore a dungeon. (One is an old FF4 dungeon, one is a brand new dungeon, one is revisiting a new dungeon from Yang’s chapter, and one is a new area of a dungeon visited in Palom’s chapter.) Then they all converge to take on the Tower of Babil.
Edge’s ninja team consists of Japanish Name, Japanish Name, Japanish Name and Japanish Name. I’ll never be able to keep them straight (and neither will you), but they are unique. Edge is the strongest, of course, and still has his Steal/Throw/Ninjutsu abilities. Each member of Ninja Team Alpha is a bit more specialized; they each learn only one type of Ninjutsu magic and each get one special ability. (One can Steal, one can confuse enemies, one gets Kain’s Jump and the last one can Throw.)
There are a lot of cool Bands in this chapter; it’s worth hitting a Bands FAQ to find them all. Also worth noting: if a ninja dies on his mission, he’s gone for good. I only had difficulty on one of the four missions, and ended up doing a bit of farming around a save point, but it wasn’t too bad. This is the only chapter where you get a party of five unique characters. I look forward to the challenge dungeon.
Porom’s chapter is unique in that most of it is played in flashbacks. Flashbacks in TAY use the old character sprites, so the early parts of the chapter are the Porom and Palom you remember, running around and getting into trouble. I enjoyed this part even though it mostly involved re-treading old territory.
The second half of the chapter overlaps with Kain’s quite a bit, and ends without you learning anything new. That was disappointing. Porom’s only new companions are a pair of generic mages; that was disappointing too. It almost feels like they didn’t really know what to do with this chapter… it’s just kind of there.
Another stinker. Well, not entirely. Edward and Harley are both fairly weak, so they get three generic guards in the team with them. Harley is Edward’s no-nonsense secretery and most of their will they/won’t they relationship is pretty painful to witness. Harley has the Gil Toss ability, but I didn’t find any use for it yet. Maybe in the challenge dungeon.
Edward gets to travel through the Waterway dungeon three times. Two of those must be done alone. The game gives you a nice shortcut for one of those trips, but really, it would have been better to just give me the frickin’ Hoovercraft instead. Remember, guys? Edward has a Hoovercraft? It’s like Damcyan’s secret treasure or whatever? Heck, tell me It was parked over by Kaipo if you want, just to force me through the Waterway once. I can buy that.
The chapter rehashes not one, not two, but three plot points from the original game, word for word. I rolled my eyes at all three. You will too. There’s a little bit of overlap with Yang’s chapter. Maybe these two were done on a severe deadline.
Interestingly, Edward and Harley each start with a unique accessory: Edward gets one that increases the gil monsters drop, and Harley gets one that doubles the effectiveness of items. I immediately swapped these so Edward’s Salve ability would be amazing. I wonder if there will be more accessories like this in the finale.
This chapter is hard, and not just because it involves some of the endgame dungeons from the original. Golbez only gets black magic, and only a small selection at that. Fusoya gets every white and black magic spell, but has a severe MP handicap. The only recharge point is a long walk from anywhere. One random encounter in particular is almost a total crapshoot; you either get lucky or you die. Maybe I missed something.
Nevermind how silly it is to be affected by moon phases while you’re wandering around on the moon.
Fusoya’s stupid recharge ability is still utterly worthless, and neither of Golbez’s specials (Pressure and Taunt) seemed to do much of anything. The end of the chapter involves Golbez looking back on his FF4 shenanigans in flashback, which is insanely cool. The overall plot (which has been pretty piecemeal until now) really starts to get moving towards the end of this chapter.
On the whole though I did enjoy this chapter quite a bit. I also appreciated how Golbez and Fusoya get to kick the crap out of the invincible bad guy that had been curbstomping all the other characters until now. Not that it helps them much, of course!
So the finale comes out next month, meaning I’ll get to import all my stuff over, spend six hours going down the Bands checklist, and finally finding out what the heck is going on in the plot. In the meantime I’m going to spend some time working my way through all the challenge dungeons and hopefully getting a better feel for some of the new characters. The game is structured, I believe, in such a way that every character who comes back for the finale is in someone’s clear save except for Luca’s dolls (if they come back) and Cecil.
The challenge dungeons are unfortunately set up so that you can only get the best stuff out of them by spending hours and hours and hours farming, or hitting a FAQ. Using said FAQ it took me about two hours to get everything I wanted from Ceodore’s dungeon, and Rydia’s is going down in short order. This is pure grind, of course, but hey. It’s FF4. I don’t mind.