The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy IV -Interlude-, part 1

I don't expect it to last, but it'll be nice while it does.

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

So let’s tell the story of why I didn’t play the Final Fantasy IV remake on the DS, and the convoluted story that is the sequel to the original.  Because by my own rules, it could be argued that the remake is closer to being the default for Final Fantasy IV now, especially as that’s what’s up on Steam at the moment.

See, when Final Fantasy IV was being remade, the developers had a clever idea.  If the players wanted more story, why not give it to them?  Why not have a companion piece produced showing what happened after the events of the main story, showing the next generation of characters many years down the road?

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years started life on mobile phones, then as a series of downloadable installments.  On the PSP, the whole thing was packaged into a single game, which essentially took the remake version that was released for the Gameboy Advance (i.e. minus the improvements in the DS release) and added a new feature.  Which brings us to today’s piece, a bonus piece of content between Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, bridging our way to a sequel that I’m pretty sure no one needed.

All joking about the blandness of Final Fantasy IV aside, I do actually really like this approach, because it overcomes one of the major problems with a sequel to any of these games.  I’ll be discussing it more once I get up to Final Fantasy X-2 in two years or so (and I’ll have to see how close this projection is to my actual timeline when I get there), but any given game in the series is by its nature a self-contained story.  That means that sequels are retrofitted on to try and look like parts of a unified whole, something that works about as well as bolting a minifridge to your skateboard and trying to convince people that you’re a cold storage truck.

By contrast, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years doesn’t try to follow up or tie into that conflict (at least, not to my knowledge); it’s a very different thing set seventeen years later.  The cast has had time to mature, grow older, develop as people.  The sequel doesn’t have to directly follow up and be part of the same overarching story.  Which makes -Interlude- kind of odd even without its funky title styling, since it’s tying separate things into a unified whole… but enough preamble, let’s get on with the bonus.  Which, sadly, does not allow me to simply port over money and prestige from my end-game save file.

The story starts out with what appears to be Rydia collapsing in front of a crystal, followed by a mysterious voice calling to Cecil.  Then he wakes up to find Rosa telling him that he’s overslept on his first day of school… er… that it’s time to go to Damcyan to celebrate its reconstruction.  No explicit timeline is stated, but it can’t be too long after the first game concluded.  So Cecil walks to the airship and… then off we go to the Feymarch, in control of Rydia.  Kind of a sudden swerve.

Much, much later.

Hey guys, I’m the prelude to the main conflict here!

Rydia pilfers some treasure chests and speaks with Queen Asura, who wonders if Rydia is going to leave for good; Rydia responds that the Feymarch is her home, but she needs to go see the rebuilt Damcyan.  Then wham, back to Cecil in the airship!  The rebuilt castle looks pretty nice, and after a moment of exploring Cecil and Rydia head up to see Edward.  He takes a moment to address the assembled group (the Mysidian Elder, Palom, Porom, Yang, and one of the ladies from Troia) and shows off the hidden door to the castle’s crystal chamber.  Palom and Porom rush in, Cecil heads in after them to grab them, and then as he’s about to leave the crystal chimes at him.  He writes it off as imagination.

Back at the party, we’re told that some monks from Fabul have been found beaten and unconscious, so Yang heads off to check it out and avoid bringing the party down.  Cecil and Rosa offer to go with, because that’s how they roll.  A bridge has been built, thereby allowing the group to reach Mount Hobs without the hovercraft.

The guard at the entrance warns the party that monster attacks have been increasing, but everything here falls in a round or two of punching and swording, so it’s not exactly a high-stress environment.  Factoring in Rosa’s Healing Staff just makes the whole thing even more of a walk in the park.  It sort of raises the question of why the game didn’t just go ahead and deck everyone out in their endgame gear.

When she was younger she was a real bombshell.

Maybe the Dad Bomb is just mad because we killed his wife in the first game?

After a bit of walking, the group finds the monks, who start to mention Yang’s wife before being attacked by a Dad Bomb in a nice callback to the Mom Bomb from the original game.  Not much of a fight, though, even when he uses his big explosion near the end.  The two monks sign on without ever actually saying what happened to Yang’s wife, the whole gang heads to Castle Fabul, and then it turns out that Yang’s wife was just, you know, having a kid.  At which point he decides that rather than going to his wife, he’ll go train the acolytes.

Yang is an idiot.

Anyway, Yang decides to show up for the birth after all once Cecil and Rosa arrive, and he asks Cecil to be his daughter’s godfather and offer a name.  Unfortunately, Cecil volunteers the name Ursula, which made me quite unhappy; I had been looking forward to entering “lolmnk” in the Enter Your Name field.  Ah, well, there’s always Namingway.

Cid shows up with Palom, Porom, and Luca in the Falcon, stating that monsters are emerging from the Sealed Cave.  Cecil, of course, agrees to go help, while Rosa offers to come along but quickly gets overcome with a case of the vapors.  Or the pregnants.  Probably the pregnants.  So the group heads off in the Falcon to the dwarven lands; meanwhile, we briefly see Edge heading off to Damcyan.  Cid expresses approval in Luca’s developing skill as a shipwright, and the airship lands right by the Sealed Cave.

As before, this dungeon contains one of my favorite enemies in the original game, the Trap Door; they’re a fair bit harder to deal with now, as the team can’t rapid-fire them down in a single term.  Frankly, the difficulty of this segment swings dramatically upward, which is just a little bit offputting.  Still, it’s managed risk if you play carefully and accept that someone’s dropping each time the doors use Ninth Dimension.  At the bottom of the dungeon you have to fight the Demon Wall again; it’s a bit rougher than your original fight against it, but it’s still not too bad.

Once the group steps inside the crystal chamber, they find… Rydia, of all people, passed out by the crystal.  She’s acting pretty unusual, but the group decides to bring her back to the Falcon.  She’s also missing all of her summons, which seems just a little bit suspect.  Once out of the cave, she declares that “they’re calling me,” although she doesn’t specify what she means or even really look at the rest of the group.

This is probably fine.

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About expostninja

I've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.

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