Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is the first Final Fantasy sequel numerically, though not the first that was actually released. Originally an episodic game for WiiWare, this sequel/remix of FF4 features SNES-style graphics, a new plot, and a whole lot of reused assets.
The structure of The After Years is reminsicent of Dragon Quest IV: each chapter features a separate set of characters, culminating in a final chapter that brings every character together into one big finale. Unlike the original game, the plot doesn’t heavily feature Cecil, which allows the game room to explore the various minor characters of the original. People like Edward and Palom and Porom get the spotlight they were never given previously, and a number of fun new characters are added to the mix as well.
Unfortunately, while the players in the plot are pretty novel, the plot itself is largely derivative of the original FF4. You’ll revisit almost every location from that game, sometimes several times, and many feature the same basic mechanics and enemy mix. There are a few new locations, particularly in the form of “challenge dungeons” you’ll find in every chapter, but nothing of any real substance until the finale. It’s fun to revisit old haunts, but it gets old pretty quickly, and the plot’s focus on mystery and putting off resolution doesn’t help.
Most of the game takes the form of the final chapter, which consists of a short plot introduction followed by a massively oversized dungeon. The first few floors are recycled from old content, but most of this final dungeon is brand-new. The enemies are not, however, borrowing from all of the first six Final Fantasy games. You’ll fight sets of bosses from each, and while the game does offer many opportunities to save or regroup, the constant boss fighting quickly becomes tiresome. The encounter rate would have been high even in the ’90s, which is even more frustrating in modern times.
If you like tailoring a huge party to your specific desires or hunting for rare items, there’s a lot to do in The After Years. However, much like the original Final Fantasy IV, you can overcome every challenge without doing half of the crazy stuff, making these special items feel somewhat extraneous. Only completionists need apply.
The After Years makes great use of the FF4 combat engine, using some mechanics (such as a separate timer bar for abilities) that the series didn’t follow up on, and most battles are pretty quick. The roster is incredibly large and there are dozens of discoverable combo attacks, though you don’t actually need to switch out from your favorite party in the final dungeon.
The bottom line is, if you loved FF4 and want an excuse to revisit the world, The After Years is it. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something new, you will likely be overwhelmed with the old. There is good stuff if you go look for it, but you’ll have to put in the work.