As much as I love Final Fantasy IV I never got around to playing The After Years, the cell phone/WiiWare/PSP episodic sequel to Final Fantasy IV released 17 years after the original game. Even so, playing the iOS version felt very familiar.
The game starts off like the original Final Fantasy IV did, on an airship with the Red Wings theme playing in the background. Ceodore, our hero, doesn’t have quite as much to cope with in the first few minutes as his father Cecil did. Whereas Cecil was wracked by guilt over the terrible things he’d done in the name of his King before his airship was attacked by monsters, all Ceodore has to do was talk to people. Moving Ceodore in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years for iOS was handled by putting your finger onscreen and moving it in one of eight directions. Sliding it further turned a walk into a run. When you were close enough to talk to someone, one tap anywhere when an exclamation mark was over someone’s head starts a conversation.
Making Ceodore talk to everyone triggered a cutscene that involved him complaining about the test he had to face to join the Red Wings and Wedge, the ship’s Captain, hitting him for his insolence.
The cutscene was a bit strange (aside from just having a grown man punch a child across an airship deck) because while it involved both choreography and lip flaps, there was no voice acting. Lines advanced and characters moved automatically, but things were silent aside from music and sound effects. I asked the attendant if the final game would have voice acting, and he said it would not… It still strikes me as strange that they’d add lip flaps for no voice work…
After arriving on Final Fantasy IV‘s Adamant Island, I had to steer Ceodore to the village of Mythril and spend the night at the inn to could enter the nearby cave during the full moon.
In the cave, I was introduced to the way moon phases affect combat (during the full moon, physical attacks did less damage and black magic did more), the bond system (which had Biggs and Wedge stand back to back with the camera spinning around them before slicing everything in their path), and the way that combat works with the touch screen (after selecting attack, you can tap on whoever you want to attack or choose them from the onscreen menu. Unfortunately, because my time was limited, I had to leave before finishing the entire cave.
Food for thought:
1. While the game deliberately apes the low-poly style of Final Fantasy IV for DS, it still looked very pretty on the tablet I was playing it on. Everything looks clean and runs smoothly, and that makes the low-poly style much more appealing. It also drove home the fact that Ceodore was significantly smaller and younger than his father was during Final Fantasy IV.
2. Every song in the game I heard was from the original Final Fantasy IV, note for note. While I love the music in FFIV, I would have liked to have heard new songs (or even more varied arrangements of the originals).