The first thing I did when I received Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection was try the new Interlude storyline. This tale takes place after the events in Final Fantasy IV, but before Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. Cecil, now the King of Baron, hops on airship for Damacyan with Rosa and Cid. Edward rebuilt his castle and invited his friends for a coronation ceremony, but the reunion is short lived. The group breaks apart with Cecil and crew heading to Fabul.
Despite what Square Enix told us earlier, the Interlude storyline is far from 15 hours. I cleared it in roughly three hours, a fifth of that time. Since it’s so short I don’t want to spoil too much. There are some cameos of the new characters from Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, but unlike the sequel the Interlude is linear. You cannot explore the world or even use most of the gold you earn. Part of the challenge is item management while exploring dungeons since you’re usually low on phoenix downs and Cecil (due to prolonged peace?) forgot how to cast Raise. The battle system in the Interlude is exactly like Final Fantasy IV. There are no band attacks or phases of the moon, but you do get to use different parties. While characters level up, you never get to see Palom, for example, cast Meteor even though he can if you level him up enough in Final Fantasy IV. One more thing about the Interlude…. Trapdoors are back.
After clearing the Interlude I jumped into Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. The sequel to Final Fantasy IV puts the spotlight on Cecil and Rosa’s son Ceodore who just joined the Red Wings. His first task is to retrieve the Knight’s Emblem from the cave where Cecil acquired the Rat’s Tail almost two decades prior. Ceodore has to face most of this quest alone, but being gifted with White Magic from birth makes the intro dungeon a breeze.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years has a modified battle system. Similar to Chrono Trigger, there are combination attacks called Bands. You need to search for these on your own by testing different commands (Fight, Magic, Peep, etc.) during a battle. Once you find a band you can select it from a menu as long as you have enough MP for the attack. Bands require two or more characters so there is a bit more wait time than a standard attack, but bands deal more damage and can exceed the 9999 damage limit in rare cases. The moon also plays a role in the game by boosting magic and weakening special attacks or vice-versa. By staying at an inn you can change the moon’s phase to your advantage, a strategy that comes in handy when you have assigned party members.
Almost every playable character from Final Fantasy IV returns in The After Years, a little bit older and a lot weaker. Cid still packs a punch in his golden years, but Rosa and Rydia forgot almost as many spells as Tellah. Square Enix added a handful of new characters like Yang’s martial artist daughter, a scholar who throws gil, and a squad of ninja called the Eblan Four. Other characters like Luca, the little dwarf girl with the Calcabrina, are party members in the after years. Each main character has their own episode to follow and after you complete Ceodore’s tale most of them become available. In the original mobile phone version and on WiiWare, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years was sold in parts. Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection includes all of the episodes on UMD.
Since this is a sequel, you’ll explore the same world and map from Final Fantasy IV. While it’s neat to see what happens to the Blue Planet post-Zeromus, The After Years may be a little too familiar at times. You battle the same monsters and some of the dungeons are exactly the same. A few have been remixed so you explore different parts of the Mist Cave and walk through the Devil’s Road (it’s actually a dungeon with teleporting spots). Even though it feels a bit like fan service at times (perhaps most so with Kain’s quest), the bite sized tales are neat to see since each character from Final Fantasy IV gets their turn in the spotlight.
At last we’re at Final Fantasy IV. I played this last since its the most familiar of the three parts in the package. This version of Final Fantasy IV is based on the Game Boy Advance release. Dummied attacks from the localized Super Nintendo version like Cecil’s dark wave are in and so are spells like protect. The extra dungeons with ultimate weapons from the GBA game are in too. However, the augment system and a few cutscenes from the Nintendo DS version of Final Fantasy IV are out. Square Enix touched up the translation again too, but the biggest change is without a question the graphics. Bullets, the game’s developer, made all new sprites and spell effects (yeah for fire bubbles and Bahamut appearing from space). Everything is in sharp 2D with a few oddities like alligators, which were giant in other versions, tiny in comparison to other monsters on PSP.
With two games in one package Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection has plenty of content to keep RPG fans who don’t know about intergalactic whale spaceships busy. Perhaps, only a smidge of new content for the die hard Final Fantasy IV fan that bought every episode of The After Years. Out of the two groups, I think the latter will enjoy Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection more.