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Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

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Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, released in Japan as Final Fantasy IV the After Years: Return of the Moon (ファイナルファンタジーIV ジ・アフターイヤーズ -月の帰還- Fainaru Fantajī Fō Ji Afutā Iyāzu -Tsuki no Kikan-?) is a Japanese role-playing game developed by Matrix Software and published by Square Enix, and is the sequel to Final Fantasy IV. Originally released in Japan in 2008 as a mobile game with the title Final Fantasy IV the After: Return of the Moon (ファイナルファンタジーIV ジ・アフター -月の帰還- Fainaru Fantajī Fō Ji Afutā -Tsuki no Kikan-?), an enhanced WiiWare port of the title was released in North America, PAL regions, and Japan in 2009.[1][2][3]

The game was rated A by CERO[4], 7+ by PEGI[5], PG by the OFLC of Australia[6], and E by the ESRB.

Set 17 years after Final Fantasy IV, The After Years follows the original cast and their descendants in episodic tales as a new villain appears, setting into action a mysterious chain of events that threatens the fate of the Blue Planet.[1] Largely utilizing assets, locations, and mechanics from its predecessor, the title nevertheless incorporates higher quality character graphics and several new gameplay systems.[7][8]

Gameplay

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years uses most of the gameplay features of Final Fantasy IV, including random encounters and the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, which it originally popularized. It also retains a number of the graphical enhancements from the Wonderswan Color and Game Boy Advance versions of Final Fantasy IV, while further improving the quality of character sprites to a level comparable with those of Final Fantasy VI.[7]

The battle system uses a new feature called the "Age of the Moon" (月齢 Getsurei?), which reflects the game's lunar phases, which change as players rest at inns, with each of the phases altering physical and magical attack powers for both player characters and enemies. Certain rare monsters also only appear during certain lunar phases.[8]

The game also introduces a new type of combination attack through the "Band System" (バンドシステム Bando Shisutemu?), known as a "Band" (バンド Bando?) ability. Similar to the Double and Triple Techs of Chrono Trigger, these allow two or more characters to coordinate separate commands into a single new attack at the cost of MP from all involved. Band abilities are said to be extremely powerful, and there are over 70 different Band abilities in all.[8]

Plot

Following the events of the original Final Fantasy IV, the second moon leaves the Blue Planet's orbit and there is a period of peace as Damcyan, Eblan, and the Village of Mist are rebuilt, while the Kingdom of Baron comes under the rule of Cecil and his wife, Rosa. However, 17 years later, the second moon has reappeared in the sky, much closer to the planet than it was years ago, and the unchanging Crystals begin to emit a soft light; however, the meaning behind these events remains unknown.[1]

The game revolves around Ceodore (セオドア Seodoa?), a young man who is the son of Cecil Harvey and Rosa Farrell, two of the protagonists from the original, both of whom return along with most of the other main cast members and a number of entirely new characters.[7] Amongst these new additions to the cast are the Hooded Man (謎の男 Nazo no Otoko?, lit. "Mysterious Man"), a wandering swordsman enshrouded in purple robes who is strangely familiar with Cecil's previous adventure, and the Mysterious Woman (謎の少女 Nazo no Shōjo?), a female antagonist able to summon Eidolons, who attacks the kingdoms in search of the Crystals.[1]

The storyline of the game unfolds through episodic chapters, released roughly once a month, each primarily focused on a specific character. These chapters utilize foreshadowing, cliffhangers, flashbacks, and a nonlinear narrative structure to build the world setting and both explore and expand upon the mysterious events befalling the Blue Planet.

Part 1 — Return of the Moon, The Last of the Red Wings, and The Return of the Dragoon

The story begins as characters from the first Final Fantasy 4 notice the appearance of the second moon. This is of great concern to Cecil and Rosa who remember their previous ordeal on the moon. Meanwhile, Ceodore sets out with Wedge and Biggs on his test to become a member of the Red Wings. At the start of the story Ceodore is a nervous young man who is afraid he will never step out of the shadow of his famous parents. As his test begins he descends into a cave to obtain the Knight's Emblem, which turns out to be a rat's tail. Wedge and Biggs explain that the purpose of the test was to show him that he already had what it takes to be a Red Wing, he just needed to prove it to himself.

As the Red Wings start home the player takes control of Cecil, Rosa, and Cid as they defend Baron from an onslaught of monsters. After surviving several waves of attacks they meet the Mysterious Woman. Cecil asks Cid to take Rosa to safety as he confronts the intruder. The woman summons Bahamut and defeats Cecil.

Meanwhile, the airship carrying Ceodore encounters several monsters. The airship crashes killing everyone but Ceodore. Realizing he is the last of the Red Wings, Ceodore sets out on a long journey home. He is almost defeated by a group on monsters but is rescued by a Hooded Man. As the two head towards Mysidia the player alternately takes control of Kain as he sets out from Mount Ordeals towards Baron. Along the way Kain gathers the Crystals of Air, Earth, Fire and Water on the request of the Mysterious Woman and eventually takes Rosa as well. Kain states how he is going to kill Cecil so he can have Rosa for himself. Ceodore, the Hooded Man, and Edward intercept Kain in front of Cecil's throneroom. At this point it is revealed that the Hooded Man is in fact Kain, and the Kain that has taken the crystals and Rosa is Kain's "dark half." After their duel the true Kain wins and becomes a Holy Dragoon. In addition to his jump ability Kain can use White Magic as well. Kain, Ceodore, Rosa, and Edward continue on their way to meet Cecil as the first part ends.

Part 2 — Planet Eater

The second story begins with Rydia, Luca, and Edge on board an airship in the subterranean world. A man in black mysteriously falls out of nowhere and takes control of the airship, directing it towards Baron. As the party approaches the castle they witness meteors from the second moon bombard the world. They return to Baron Castle to find it sealed by a magical force field. The four travel the world searching for their lost friends, encountering the Mysterious Woman again, and helping Rydia search for the missing Eideons. After breaking the Mysterious Woman's control over Titan, Shiva, Ramuh, and Ifrit they are able to enter Baron Castle and find Cecil threatening Ceodore, Rosa, and Kain. After freeing Cecil from the Mysterious Woman's control the man in black reveals himself to be Golbez. The second moon is getting closer to the Earth and the party realizes they have to find a way to stop it. Boarding the Lunar Whale they land on the second moon and descend into its depths. At this point in the game it is possible for the player to switch out party members by returning to the Lunar Whale or by accessing inter-dimensional elevators.

During the descent the party encounters several bosses from the other Final Fantasy games like the four elemental fiends from the first Final Fantasy, most of the bosses from Final Fantasy 4, and several enemies from Final Fantasy VI including Ultros, the Ultima Weapon, the Ghost Train, and Doom Gaze. Eventually, the party encounters Cecil's evil side, the Dark Knight. Once the Dark Knight is defeated Cecil returns to the Light and regains the ability to use white magic.

Once the party reaches the bottommost depths of the second moon they discover the Mysterious Woman they have been encountering is not a single individual. Each Mysterious Woman was part of a group of beings created to retrieve the crystals. Venturing further they encounter an entity known as The Creator. He reveals that his race died out due to a failure to evolve. The Creator decided that the universe should not be allowed to be overrun with inferior species so he created the crystals and sent them to various life-sustaining worlds as a way to monitor the progress life on those planets made. He determined if the world did not evolve to its fullest potential it needed to be destroyed, and Earth was next. After the party defeats the Creator the moon starts to break apart. The Mysterious Women turn on their "father" and defeat the Creator so the party can escape. As the Creator dies he thanks the party for defeating him, indicating he may have felt some regret for his actions.

Once the party returns to Earth the characters return to their various homes to resume their lives. Cecil informs Ceodore that he shall serve in the Red Wings under the command of Kain. Cecil also orders all of Baron's airships to be disarmed and instead be used to help the other kingdoms rebuild after the devastation caused by the second moon.

Release history

Mobile version

Originally released to the Japanese mobile phone market as Final Fantasy IV the After: Tsuki no Kikan, the first two installments of the episodic game were released in Japan on February 18, 2008 for NTT DoCoMo FOMA 903i compatible phones, with the Prologue available as a free preview and Ceodore's Tale as a paid download. A series of eight supplemental installments were then released in monthly intervals through September. This was followed in October by a free semifinal installment, The Gathering's Tale, which required only that the player have completed the supplemental Kain's Tale. The game's finale was released in two parts in November and December. Square-Enix also began releasing the installments, with a delay, for au WIN BREW compatible phones beginning on May 15, 2008 and Yahoo! Keitai compatible phones on November 4, 2008 (a complete list of compatible phone models is available on the official Japanese website).[1]

WiiWare version

Beginning on June 6, 2009, an enhanced port of the game titled Final Fantasy IV: The After Years began being released in the United States on the Wii through the WiiWare service, with releases in PAL regions and Japan following shortly thereafter. Though the game retains the episodic format used in the mobile version, the release structure has been modified. In the WiiWare version, the player purchases the core game, or "Main Story", for 800 Wii Points, which includes the Prologue, Ceodore's Tale, and Kain's Tale, while the additional supplemental installments are released as add-ons for 300 Wii Points each. The first, Rydia's Tale, was released along with the "Main Story", and the following episodes are slated to be released at monthly intervals in groups of three for the US and Europe, and in bi-weekly intervals in Japan. The semifinal episode and the two-part finale are combined into a single final installment, The Crystals, slated to be available for 800 Wii Points.

In both versions, the player is able to save their character's status, equipment, settings, etc., at the end of gameplay, and can also further explore each Tale to discover new items and complete special tasks. The player's saved data will ultimately carry over to the game's final installment.

WiiWare Release History
Main Story
Tale # Tale Title Cost Release Date
1 Prologue: Return of the Moon</br>Joshō "Tsuki no Kikan" (序章 『月の帰還』?) 800 Wii Points June 1, 2009 (NA)
June 5, 2009 (EU)
July 21, 2009 (JP)
2 Ceodore's Tale: The Last of the Red Wings</br>Seodoa Hen "Saigo no Akaki Tsubasa" (セオドア編 『最後の赤き翼』?)
3 Kain's Tale: Return of the Dragoon</br>Cain's Tale: Return of the Dragon Knight</br>Kain Hen "Ryūkishi no Kikan" (カイン編 『竜騎士の帰還』?)
Optional Scenarios
Chapter Tale Title Cost Release Date
4 Rydia's Tale: The Eidolons Shackled</br>Rydia's Tale: The Phantom Creatures Shackled</br>Ridia Hen "Tozasareta Genjū-tachi" (リディア編 『閉ざされた幻獣たち』?) 300 Wii Points June 1, 2009 (NA)
June 5, 2009 (EU)
July 28, 2009 (JP)
5 Yang's Tale: The Master of Fabul</br>Yan Hen "Fabūru no Shifu" (ヤン編 『ファブールの師父』?) 300 Wii Points July 6, 2009 (NA)
July 10, 2009 (EU)
August 4, 2009 (JP)
6 Palom's Tale: The Mage's Voyage</br>Palom's Tale: Mage, to the City of Forest and Water</br>Paromu Hen "Madōshi, Mori to Mizu no Miyako e" (パロム編 『魔道士、森と水の都へ』?) 300 Wii Points July 6, 2009 (NA)
July 10, 2009 (EU)
August 18, 2009 (JP)
7 Edge's Tale: The Pulse of Babil</br>Ejji Hen "Babuiru no Kodō" (エッジ編 『バブイルの鼓動』?) 300 Wii Points July 6, 2009 (NA)
July 10, 2009 (EU)
August 25, 2009 (JP)
8 Porom's Tale: The Vanished Lunar Whale</br>Porom's Tale: The Magic Ship That Vanished into the Moon</br>Poromu Hen "Tsuki e Kieta Madōsen" (ポロム編 『月へ消えた魔導船』?) 300 Wii Points August 3, 2009 (NA)
August 7, 2009 (EU)
September 1, 2009 (JP)
9 Edward's Tale: Star-Crossed Damcyan</br>Gilbart's Tale: Star-Crossed Damcyan</br>Girubāto Hen "Hoshi Otsuru Damushian" (ギルバート編 『星落つるダムシアン』?) 300 Wii Points August 3, 2009 (NA)
August 7, 2009 (EU)
September 8, 2009 (JP)
10 The Lunarian's Tale: The Blue Planet That Was</br>Tsuki no Tami Hen "Tsuioku no Aoki Hoshi" (月の民編 『追憶の青き星』?) 300 Wii Points August 3, 2009 (NA)
August 7, 2009 (EU)
September 15, 2009 (JP)
Final Episode
Chapter Tale Title Cost Release Date
11 The Crystals: Planet Eater</br>The True Moon's Tale: Planet Eater</br>Shingetsu Hen: Hoshikui (真月編 『星喰』?) 800 Wii Points September 7, 2009 (NA)
September 11, 2009 (EU)
September 29, 2009 (JP)
Note: With the exception of the Main Story, all installments are purchased from within the WiiWare title itself.</br>Only the Main Story (i.e. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years) is purchased directly from the WiiWare online store.

Development

First announced shortly before the release of the enhanced remake of Final Fantasy IV for the Nintendo DS, executive producer Takashi Tokita stated that while directing the remake, there was talk of creating an after story, as well as discussion about working on a new mobile title. Tokita, who had grown attached to the characters, having also previously worked as scenario writer for the original, decided that releasing the sequel in mobile format would be a good idea, as it would allow players to access the game only a short while after completing the DS remake. By releasing it in episodic format, he also hopes that players will anticipate future chapters in much the same way as an anime or manga series, rather than tiring of the game after completing it all at once.[9]

Though the look and feel of the game has remained largely unchanged from that of the original Final Fantasy IV, new gameplay elements have been incorporated, and Kazuko Shibuya, 2D sprite artist for the first six Final Fantasy games, has returned to create new, higher quality character graphics. Yoshitaka Amano has also returned as image illustrator, with character designs by Akira Oguro, a previous colleague of Tokita's and storyboard artist for Square Enix. Much of Nobuo Uematsu's original musical score for Final Fantasy IV will be included, though new compositions are also expected.[10]

After the mobile release, staff involved in the development of the game hinted that the title could get a release outside of Japan.[11] A rating by the ESRB for a Wii game titled Final Fantasy IV: The After Years was discovered in late February 2009, and was speculated to be referring to a North American localization of this game, distributed via WiiWare.[12] This would be officially confirmed at the 2009 Game Developers Conference.[2] Square Enix had also trademarked The After Years in Europe, hinting at a release in that territory as well.[13] This was confirmed with the opening of the official site, which has provided a PEGI rating for the title as well.[5]

The WiiWare port of the game features several graphical enhancements over the mobile version, including larger screen resolution, clearer menu screens and fonts, and improved character portraits. The English localization follows the precedents set by the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV, featuring similar writing and making use of the same translations of names and terminology. A handful of edits have been made to the English version, including the modification of Ceodore's official character artwork to Westernize his face, as well as alterations to several female characters in order to make their clothing less revealing.

Reception

Mobile version

On August 1, 2008, Square Enix issued a press release announcing that Final Fantasy IV: The After Years had reached a benchmark of one million downloads (not including downloads of the free prologue chapter) in the first five months following its initial release.[14] As of March 25, 2009, it has exceeded three million paid downloads.[2]

WiiWare version

Reviews of the WiiWare port of the game have been generally positive, with an overall score of 75% at GameRankings.com.[15] IGN gave the game an 8 out of 10, calling the story "engrossing but mysterious" and stating that the gameplay, graphics, and presentation, while "dated," are "part of the charm."[16] However, GameSpot gave the game a score of only 5.5 out of 10, saying that it had a "disjointed, poorly constructed narrative" and an excessively high encounter rate, and criticized "recycled" content such as the music, graphics, environments, and story.[17] The After Years was nominated for Game of the Year by Nintendo Power, as well as WiiWare Game of the Year.[18]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 A new tale about the moon is spun on mobile phones "Final Fantasy IV the After: Tsuki no Kikan" [Interview and Pictures] (2007-12-21). Retrieved on 2007-12-21.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Square Enix (2009-03-25). "Square Enix Announces New Downloadble Titles for Nintendo's Wii". Press release. http://release.square-enix.com/na/2009/03/25_01.html. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  3. Déprez, Régis (2009-07-08). FFIV The After Years: new images. Gamekyo. Retrieved on 2009-07-09.
  4. Square Enix Japan
  5. 5.0 5.1 Official United Kingdom Final Fantasy IV: The After Years site
  6. OFLC Website
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 V-Jump Magazine, February 2008 Issue
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Famitsu Magazine, March 2008 Issue
  9. Famitsu.com (2007-12-28). Takashi Tokita Talks Final Fantasy IV the After: Return of the Moon. Retrieved on 2008-03-20.
  10. Yoshi Sato (1up.com) (2007-12-19). More Details on Final Fantasy IV's Sequel. Retrieved on 2008-03-20.
  11. O'Connor, Michael (2008-09-20). Final Fantasy IV sequel coming to the west?..
  12. Hatfield, Daemon (2009-02-27). Final Fantasy IV Sequel Heads to Wii. IGN. Retrieved on 2009-02-27.
  13. Spencer (2009-02-23). FFIV Sequel Coming Here As Final Fantasy IV: The After Years?. Siliconera. Retrieved on 2009-03-01.
  14. Square Enix (2008-08-01). ード/EZweb対応の携帯電話向けロールプレイングゲーム「ファイナルファンタジーIV ジ・アフター -月の帰還-」配信開始から5ヶ月間で、有料版100万ダウンロード達成! (Japanese). Retrieved on 2008-08-03.
  15. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years for Wii. GameRankings. Retrieved on 2009-06-21.
  16. Jeremy Dunham (2009-06-17). Final Fantasy IV: The After Years Review. IGN. Retrieved on 2009-06-21.
  17. Lark Anderson (2009-06-17). Final Fantasy IV: The After Years Review for Wii. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2009-06-21.
  18. Nintendo Power 250th issue!. South San Francisco, California: Future US. 2010. pp. 73. 

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