The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, part 11
My impression of The After Years has been kind of mixed, but I don’t think you can really talk about the game thus far without pointing out that it is, in fact, nine smaller games. At this point, the actual events have all taken place over a very short span of time, and the characters in these stories haven’t done a whole hell of a lot, especially due to the fact that there’s no space for upward motion. Ursula and Yang get two hours of development, awesome, but they don’t show up in any significant fashion in the prior or later tales.
In short, the whole thing doesn’t feel like a cohesive whole at this point, just a series of vignettes that are trying to link together in a vague fashion. But this is the point when everything does link up and all of the characters come together. After lots of hints and little pieces of the whole picture, the last chapters start up, and they reveal what’s going on, why we’ve had all these thin rehashes of old bosses and encounters, and what it’s all supposed to mean.
So it’s time for the whole thing to start feeling like a Final Fantasy title.
Originally, there were three final chapters for Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. The remake puts them all into a single final chapter, which is probably a smart move since there’s no practical benefit to importing a save file twice. Just like Kain’s tale, as we fire up The Crystals – The Planet Eater, we get to import save data, only this time it’s from all the stories that came before.
Well, almost. We don’t get to import data from Ceodore’s tale, since it’s supplanted by Kain’s tale. Still, once you have everything loaded it reveals a pretty impressive network of 15 playable characters getting imported, which is sort of nifty. They just don’t make games with this scope of characters these days, probably because most of the ones here are totally useless. Onward!
We kick off with a cutscene that flashes about a bit – Golbez is on the airship with Edge, Luca, Rydia, and those other losers, people in Agart see meteors falling from the moon, Harley is holding down the fort in a panicked Damcyan, you get the general idea. Then the moon itself starts falling, which is obviously not good. On the Falcon, Golbez takes control of the ship away from Luca, flying toward Baron Castle, where Kain and company are about to face down Cecil. Title catch and let’s go!
Our starting party is Rydia, Golbez, Edge, and Luca. The group is locked out of Baron Castle, unfortunately, but there are a few people left in the town of Baron to speak with. Not much of consequence, though. You can also start sorting equipment on to people, which is keen. Once everyone’s properly kitted, it’s time to start figuring out how to get into the castle. And look, we have an airship!
As with any game that gives an airship, the first order of business is looting various spots around the world and cursing whoever decided that this airship should ask you if you really want to launch every single launch. Once you’ve finally done all of that, it’s time to start getting the party together, starting in Kaipo, which is… overrun with sylphs now, for no reason. Also, Yang and Ursula are there, also for no reason. So it’s over to Fabul to just replay that whole sequence where smacking him made everything better.
I’m not kidding, that’s what happens. You also get the Sylph summon and a quick flash to Baron Castle where nothing of interest happens other than the Mysterious Girl being, well, mysterious. Stopping in Troia reveals that the whole place is frozen over, so it’s time to rush over to the Lodestone Cavern and save Palom. Because the plot demands it.
The Lodestone Cavern is actually not that bad, and once we pick up the Recovery Rod Rydia basically gets to act as an ersatz healer. At the end, the party runs into Shiva, where the goal is to beat the stuffing out of her without killing her outright so that Rydia can reclaim the summon. It’s not difficult. Palom, Leonora, and Troia in general thaw, and we’re down to just a handful of missing people to find. We also flash sideways to Baron again, where Cecil and Kain briefly duel, which of course means that Kain attacks and then Cecil rebuffs him with plot power. Yeah. In the plot.
In Agart, the group runs into the Mysterious Girl again, and she summons Titan, who once again uses the landscape-shaking powers he has in story stuff to knock the group into a cave. The group figures out that it needs some form of defense against his attacks, which leads them to Mysidia; Ramuh engages them there, and once again we need to beat him down without killing him. Inside the main building, Porom is shielding the heart of Mysidia and ultimately collapses, but she’s alive.
Flash to Baron, Ceodore tries to protect the plot-weakened Kain. Flash to Agart, the gang takes on Titan, Porom Floats everyone, Titan comes to his senses. Flash! Savior of the universe!
In Eblan castle, the whole place is burning down like gasoline rags in a furnace, which naturally means Ifrit’s about. Edge has a bit of a grudge match against him, has a vision of Rubicante again, and ultimately it all ends the same way you’d expect. You can also stop by the Eblan Cave for a few more goodies here and there, along with the revelation that the Tower of Babil has been reactivated and the exact same thing is happening again as in the first game, yes.
The team flies to Mist, where it turns out the villagers were making one last effort to keep the Mist Dragon under control and out of the Mysterious Girl’s power. Since Rydia’s freed the other Eidolons, she gets this one back as well. It’s enough to open the door to Baron Castle, which will serve to finally bring this whole story full-circle.
In Baron, Cecil has summoned Odin, and the group that’s been locked in there all along beats on him for a bit before Odin decides he doesn’t like beating up his citizens (and some bard from Damcyan, but that’s not important right now). Cecil collapses, Golbez bursts in, introductions are made, the Mysterious Girl gets angry. The ensuing boss fight has her finally playing like a summoner, pulling out Leviathan and Bahamut to Rydia’s dismay, but she’s still not too hard.
Everyone other than Golbez is pretty psyched about taking her down. True to form, four more of her show up immediately afterwards, grabbing the dead one’s body and warping off with the Crystals. Golbez summons the Lunar Whale, and the team is off to the evil moon to start facing down the Girls and doing whatever it takes to make sure this isn’t the end of the world. Like, again.
Boy, it’s nice to not have a challenge dungeon this time around.