Square Enix’s Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is a strange beast. While there have been a number of sequels and spinoffs to official FF games all of them were based on post-SNES era games. Yet, in 2008 SE released this direct sequel to FFIV to the Japanese populace as a mobile game, and would eventually launch it in the US first as a WiiWare port and then as part of a compilation on the PSP. Now, iOS users finally have a chance to check out After Years although there really isn’t much to enjoy.

In making the transition to iOS, After Years receives a great looking 3D facelift. Gone is the classic 16-bit art style, replaced with visuals highly reminiscent of the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV. While it’s obviously based on the 3D engine used to recreate FFIII and FFIV, as was the case with those titles’ iOS ports After Years looks much better than anything you’d see on Nintendo’s portable system. In fact, other than a few minor cosmetic improvements, the game’s visuals and interface look exactly like the iOS port of Final Fantasy IV. Fans of the series have a lot of opinions regarding the 3D engine, but I’ve enjoyed the updated look and that continues with After Years.

screen1024x1024-14For a lot of gamers, this will be their first foray into the world and story of After Years, which picks up  about a dozen or so years after FFIV. Unfortunately, I found the new characters and overall story to be pretty lackluster. The new PCs, which include the likes of Ceodore (the offspring of Cecil and Rosa) and Luca (King Giott’s daughter) are a bit shallow in terms of character development and just don’t have the same caliber of personality that all the original FFIV team had. Alas, even those characters take a hit in After Years as the game’s writing just felt subpar compared to the rest of the series. I don’t know if my expectations were too high, but when I can call out instantly who the “mysterious” allies are that join you, there’s something wrong with the story.

I’m also not a fan of the game’s episodic nature. Each of the main characters have their own mini story complete with their own cast of characters which all eventually lead to the main arc of saving the world yet again from an extraterrestrial menace. I also found the whole ‘episode’ system to be disjointed and not really cohesive until you get to the ending tales. This is particularly due to the option for players to play most of the episodes in whatever order they want. It’s obvious that this is a leftover from the game’s mobile/episodic roots, but it still leads to an overall story that is not greater than the sum of its parts.

screen1024x1024-15My issues with After Years’ story also extend to its gameplay. There was far too much grinding and not enough story development with each episode. Considering that several episodes also feature throw-away characters that require grinding but aren’t necessarily seen again, it makes the necessity of the grind even more frustrating. The one new feature, Band Abilities, (which are basically Chrono Trigger's Dual/Triple Techs) is interesting but doesn't really add much to the game. There's also far too much of an emphasis on revisiting old areas with little in the way of actually updating the locales with new places to go. This issue does diminish a bit the further you get into the story, but I still encountered enough of it in the first half of the game that I could see a lot of folks just putting it down in frustration.

I am a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series, particularly when it comes to the pre-PSX titles. I also hadn’t played After Years before and was fully expecting this to be a wondrous romp through nostalgia. Unfortunately, that feeling never came while playing through After Years. I can’t pinpoint which of my above issues lead to this absence, but regardless, without that nostalgia all you’re left with is a mediocre at best RPG with too much recycled content. Huge fans of FFIV will probably want to check it out After Years regardless, but honestly, I don’t think you’re missing much.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Lazer Kat

    I read nothing but negatives, yet the game still gets a 3/5?
    I'd have enjoyed reading any of the positives you thought the game had.

    • handycapman

      Welcome to TA. Where 3 stars means bad and 5 means average.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Welcome to TA. Where it doesn't matter what we rate a game, someone has something to say about it. ;)

      • Onikage725

        It's a fair enough point, though. The review seems to give it a "skip," but a 3/5 typically indicates flawed but enjoyable. Unless of course I'm mistaken.

      • MrSpud

        Welcome to TA. Where it doesn't matter what we rate a game, Eli has something to say about it. ;)

      • defunct32

        Eli has a sexy speaking voice, though, so all is forgiven.

      • Nektarios

        To be fair, I thought this review was spot on

      • HansKaosu

        Get rid of the score system

      • 21tigermike

        It's still a Final Fantasy game from Square! Of course they're not going to give 2 stars.

      • Cat Astrophy

        The price deserves at least a 2 star dock though.

  • defunct32

    K, now awaiting FFVI; My Body Is Ready!

    • sbnewsom

      Hopefully redone the same way. :-)

      • defunct32

        Definitely will! 2D may be nice and nostslgic but it

      • defunct32

        Ugh! I hate when this happen! Anyways, yes, 2D sprite may be nostalgic but a breath of fresh air in 3D form wouldn't hurt, I'm excited! I still have my GBA if I want to revisit the past.

      • fr33z33

        Problem here is, that SQEENIX is quite lazy. If there hasn't been a re-done version before, they won't overhaul just for iOS/Android. As seen in FFV

      • defunct32

        Oh wait, sorry, no, the graphics won't go TAY's route but FFV ... Meh, good enough anyway.

      • Onikage725

        What about this, though? Quite a surprise to see this game show up remade in this way. Though I suppose it was easier, as many of the map and character assets already exist due to the FF IV remake.

      • themostunclean

        Um, THIS game was specifically remade for iOS. Did you even bother reading the article?

      • fr33z33

        Yeah that's ture. But they've had most of the assets already from the original FFIV remake. Remaking FFVI in this way would be a HUGE undertaking. Much more than FFV, and they didn't even bother with it for iOS.

  • Ramaz1234

    I guess I'll wait for Final Fantasy:Agito. But honestly I havnt really played any of the FF games at all and have no idea what the chronological order is lolol. But I may pick. Pick up Final Fantasy IV in the mean time.

    • Alex

      Honestly, don't even bother. Get yourself a ps2 for dirt cheap and buy FF7, 8, 9, 10 (must have), 10-2, and especially 12 (absolutely must have). All immensely better games that will sadly never see the light of day on a mobile in any form other than possibly an emulator.

      • XvEsunavX

        And let us know when you experience the joy of killing yiazmat in under an hour! It's the best!

      • Ramaz1234

        What about the newest Final fantasy that just came out

      • ImJPaul

        Listen to all that advice except for 10-2. Never play 10-2. Worst final fantasy ever made. Oh and pick up Chrono cross and legend of dragoon too. Two of my favorite ps1 RPGs ever.

      • Soarel

        You didn't like 10-2? Oh, go cry in the corner while everyone else enjoys the party. 10-2 brought a lot of fun and imagination to the series.

        Also, it's not the worst. Have you even seen the dreaded hallway?

      • defunct32

        No need to drag him across the hallway ala FF13; not many are huge fans of FFX-2 but no lie I love it, can't wait for the Vita version, the dress sphere system is marvelous.

      • Onikage725

        Ha it's funny...that Lord of the Rings ripped off FFX, but was paced like one long corridor. Squenix apparently took notice.

      • Alex

        I only added it in because it finished up the storyline. I agree that it wasn't the best, but certainly not the worst. I forgot to add Chrono Cross (trigger was boring in comparison).

      • sagek

        Can't agree less, the quality of the story telling and the experience as a whole is much better on the pre-PS Final Fantasy games, but most people won't appreciate this because going back to a 16-bit JRPG after having grown up with 32+ bit games is almost always a no go... a coat of paint won't fix that. A pity, but thankfully us old people will be here to keep the truth about these works of art alive ;-) But seriously, as has been said many times by many people, you will almost always love the FF games that came out during the time you were young (up until now, since the franchise seems pretty dead story quality wise)... it affects the way you are able to enjoy time consuming games (I don't have time anymore to grind for hours and hours, something I actually enjoyed back in the day), etc. FFIV, V and IV are works of art in the eye of many a beholder, so if you can look past the paint, and have an youthful mind, these games are a real treat.

      • shortandnoisy

        This. Most people will never appreciate the older, but better Final Fantasy games just because of modern games and their effects.

        ImJPaul almost had it right with the comment on X-2 but either didn't play or forgot about XIII, that was the worst experience of Final Fantasy I ever had. I tried to play through it all just because it's Final Fantasy, but in the end it became too painful trying to fight through the broken mess that resulted from trying to revive a once great franchise by modern standards. Such a shame...

      • Alex

        Can't agree more. That's why I left it off the list. It certainly wasn't the worst, but it was missing the charm the series had. The story felt forced as did any emotional attachment.

      • heresandypandy

        10-2 and 12 were horrendous; both marked the beginning of the end of the series as we knew it. Play 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Then pretend the Final Fantasy ceased to exist.

      • TripMX

        Final Fantasy XII (PS2) is one of the greatest FF games to ever grace consoles. SquareEnix put many years of work into this game, and the result was a pristine quality experience for the more open-minded. SE tried a new system, and I liked it, not to mention pushing the PS2 to unimaginable heights. BTW, FFIV is my favorite FF game.

      • defunct32

        This! Agreed so much, I completely understand those who can't get into, it's fine! It's the same for FF13; I don't like it but if you do, more power to you though I made of fun it sometimes and so many jump at me, ouch!

      • Alex

        12 was one of the best. The gameplay was a lot of fun, the story was excellent, slow at first. I thought that 12 was going to be the worst, but after a few hours, I was hooked. It was an amazing accomplishment in FF history. I gave all the older FF games a chance, but I couldn't form an emotional bond with the characters like I could in the newer series and the world maps in the older games were terrible and boring to navigate. I found the older games just tedious. Take Chrono Trigger which didn't even COMPARE to Chrono Cross. Chrono Cross's multi-character story lines and gameplay were innovative and fun and added replay ability. Something all the other games were lacking as their story lines were quite linear.
        13 wasn't exciting. It was beautiful to look at, but the characters were boring. I felt like I was watching a rerun.

      • Cat Astrophy

        12 is horrible unless you play IZJS.

    • curtisrshideler

      I, too, love 7 & 9. But since I can't have those in my pocket, 3 & 4 are a good substitute. I'm still playing through 4, but I'll probably get 4TAY just to play through more of a FF story. Sure I'm excited for 6 as well, but even the worst FF games in my pocket are more enjoyable to me than most other RPGs on anything.

      So, don't let this review scare you away. They are really well-made mobile games!

      • ImJPaul

        Ya. I'm enjoying this game. No, it's not FF7 but it's well done and entertaining.

  • hoodwinkedfool

    Is this a review of the iOS game, or a review of what they think the iOS game will play like based on the PSP and WiiWare versions? All the screenshots are from the AppStore also... I was wondering how the review went up so fast. Kinda shady. Maybe be upfront about that stuff in the future.

    • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

      Of course it is a review of the iOS version. The reviewer received a pre-release code for the game, which is pretty typical for reviews that go up the day of a game's release.

      • hoodwinkedfool

        Did they though? I know on larger sites covering bigger consoles this is common practice but although Touch Arcade is big in the iOS world, I don't think Square notices it. Not even a screenshot from the iOS version? That's odd, even by Touch Arcades weird review standards.

      • hoodwinkedfool

        The reviewer doesn't mention things that anyone who has played the iOS version would notice and comment on, like NPCs spinning while talking.

      • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

        Lol, yes! Squeenix sends review codes to sites a whole lot smaller than we are, it's really not as weird as you think it is. The screens in the review are from the app store. I agree they are ugly, and we try to take our own screenshots when the app store ones are ugly like that but it's not always feasible.

      • themostunclean

        It's the biggest iOS gaming site so yeah, when Squeenix is releasing a game that has been specifically revamped for that platform, I think they'd notice. What world are you living in?

  • https://twitter.com/rp2dasea rp2dasea

    Thanks for the review Eric, I've been enjoying FF IV on iOS the past three weeks and reliving the fun I had when it first came out on SNES years ago. For those who haven't gotten it yet, I highly recommend it.

    I'd never heard of The After Years and was intrigued when it popped up the other night. Glad to see a review that speaks to the merits of the game rather than just regurgitating the app store description. I'll wait until it goes on sale in a year or so.

  • Inaba-kun

    Not sure why Square keep making iOS games with 3D visuals which wouldn't look out of place on a PS1. A modern iOS device lies somewhere between PS2 and PS3 level. It's time to move on from super chunky models and blocky, low-res textures.

    • https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDistillery Scot Damn

      Agreed. I'd prefer the slick revamped 2D sprites like they did with FFV than this 3D nonsense.

FINAL FANTASY IV: THE AFTER YEARS Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3