The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, part 6
So far, a lot of stuff has been happening in The After Years, albeit mostly to disconnected individuals. The first four tales were all pretty well self-contained and didn’t really cross over with one another at all. Moving into the fifth tale, though, it’s high time that some of this stuff started pulling together. Not coincidentally, the entire point of this particular tale is to create a larger framework for all of the various cliffhangers that we’re up to.
Unfortunately, it winds up treading over some… uncomfortable territory getting there. As in veering close to a certain (terrible) show about a whole lot of elemental ninja. Please don’t make me type the name.
But let’s leave that to one side. It’s a new year, it’s a new tale, it’s a new adventure. So let’s get started with a bunch of ninja acting like, well, ninja, doing like a ninja do. No, they are not shredding on their electric guitars while riding their totally sweet motorcycles, we’re talking closer to the traditional concept of ninja.
You probably guessed this from the class under discussion alone, but if there was any doubt left, this time around we’re dealing with Edge’s Tale – The Pulse of Babil. Which starts off with him beating the living snot out of his four disciples, each of which is aspected toward a different one of the four major elements in the game. Because of course they are.
Edge actually demonstrates himself to have grown up a fair bit since the end of the first game, pointing out that the world is theoretically at peace and it might be time to put down ninjutsu as a lethal art. That changes when he recognizes the presence of the moon, leading to him taking a leave of absence from the castle… or trying to, anyway. His apprentices ask to take on the job instead of him, and what follows is a tale in which all four of them have mini-tales exploring various goings-on around the world.
Gekkou of Fire is sent to investigate the impact crater, but he arrives before Yang and Ursula do so. He sees Not-Rydia confronting the monks and chases after her, offering his silent apologies to the monks that his mission is to find information, not avenge them. He tails the girl and the monks for a bit, and it’s a fine place to grind to make sure that he’s got a little extra experience under his belt for later. No auto-refresh spots, but the enemies go down quick.
At the end, Gekkou faces a choice – he can join the remaining monks in assaulting Not-Rydia, or he can hang back and observe. You’d think that the correct choice is the stupidly noble one, but no, the best choice is to stay where you are. A small monument is erected for the lost monks by Gekkou, with some regret, but he has to get the information back to Eblan. Good ninja.
Zangetsu of Earth is embedded with the dwarves, for… no real reason whatsoever, seeing as how there’s no need for him to be disguised whatsover and the dwarves are not at war with Eblan. So he’s just sneaking around there for no reason. Then, when he sees the Tower of Babil light up, he makes the least inconspicuous departure of all time and runs through a small dungeon chiefly for the purposes of having a dungeon. So it’s kind of ridiculous.
Izayoi of Water is in Troia, disguised as an Epopt trainee, figuring out most of what is already obvious to the player by this point because Palom’s tale just happened. She scales the Tower of Trials for no adequately explained reason, sees Babil glowing, and then hitches a ride on Palom’s ship. As much as the idea here is cool, it kind of falls apart in execution. It’s a series of vignettes further compressed into what is itself a vignette, and the overall feeling is that you’re kind of moving through existing setpieces rather than deriving anything new. At least it explains why Edge knows some of what he knows for later, I suppose.
Tsukinowa of Air, last but not least, is embedded in Mysidia. Porom knows that he’s hiding something, but she lets it go; soon thereafter, we find out she’s heading to Mount Ordeals, which prompts Tsukinowa to follow her. Yes, it’s another short linear dungeon thing, nothing terribly interesting about it. It does serve as a bit of a preview of what’s going to go down once Porom gets her own tale, so that’s something.
After all that’s done with, you are finally in control of Edge again and have to go through the passage to the tower of Babil for (if you are playing this chronologically) the third time. It’s inconsequential. Once you actually reach the Tower of Babil proper, several scripted fights kick off in which Edge’s apprentices rejoin him; apparently if they do wind up dying during their missions, they don’t show up here, which is a nice touch. Edge also proceeds to be screamingly disgusting when Izayoi rejoins because she mentions that she’s more concerned with being a ninja than with her gender; I’m going to choose to read that as Edge being gross rather than a subtle take that by the developers, just to finish my day on a happier note.
Once the group ventures a bit further into the tower, they find Not-Rydia, and Edge has a vision of his parents as well as Rubicante. Not-Rydia throws some insults out, but Edge stays cool until she summons Ifrit. This kicks off an extended chase sequence with her summoning Ifrit while Team Ninja tries desperately to stay out of harm’s way, ending with the whole team jumping off the tower… and, coincidentally, landing on the Falcon. Yes, it’s fixed, and there are Rydia, Luca, and the Man in Black. Edge recognizes him… but the revelation of identity will have to wait for another tale.
Edge’s challenge dungeon is a time trial; you have to move through as quickly as possible, and that also includes trying to pick up treasures and the like along the way. In theory, it’s neatly appropriate; in practice, it got tedious fast, especially since I had the poor fortune of getting every other treasure other than the all-important Adamantite before that finally dropped, including upgrades for the four apprentices that were never going to be used again outside of this tale anyway.
But, then, that’s sort of Edge’s tale in a nutshell. It’s a neat idea, but it’s far too grindy for what it is, and there’s obviously some big gaps between the idea and the execution. After a slightly more promising start, the tales have been rather steadily downhill, so here’s hoping that the next installment is going to be a little more satisfying than what’s come before.