The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, part 13

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

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

It occurs to me at this point that I have been in the world of Final Fantasy IV for 28 columns now.  Seriously, this is number 28!  It started in August of last year!  How did anyone spend this much time working in this world of all the possible settings?

Well, in the case of The After Years, by recycling a whole lot of the first game.  But no time to whine about that, we’ve got a final dungeon to explore… soon.

Once you’ve finally had the very final dungeon opened up, you actually do get something else unlocked.  Remember all that Adamantite that we were stockpiling all through the game?  Turns out that can be used for something, specifically for some powerful equipment.  It’s taken us the entire rest of the game to get here, sure, but now we’re finally here and we can go get ourselves some valuable items by turning in seemingly irrelevant items that we had been hoarding through every single tale.  Meanwhile, all of the other treasures from the challenge dungeons have been summarily replaced.

Not many people will be around to hear it, but is that really the point?

This is the way the world ends,
This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang but with a –
Wait, actually, it’s going to include a moon crashing into the planet, that’ll include a bang.

Adamant gear is pretty keen, insofar as it’s class-agnostic and provides all-round stat boosts.  It includes the only shield that casters can equip, which makes it even more valuable.  I grabbed a helm, two shields, and a set of armor.  You can also farm tails from various rare enemies in the dungeon if you’re so inclined; I was not.  Onward, to the Lunar Depths!

Finally, we have a new tile set.  The enemies here hit a fair bit harder, but nothing too interesting happens until we descend a bit (and see a brief Cecil and Golbez scene) to a room with four teleporters.  Head off the the upper left, and who are we revisiting now?  Lich.  Yes, now it’s time to just hammer out classic bosses, including several bosses that didn’t exist until later games but which got backfilled via the Final Fantasy I remake.

You know I think that part’s keen.

Lich is a pushover here, though – a couple of Firaga spells and a concentrated pounding from Ursula and Kain had him spitting out his own ribcage.  Marilith doesn’t fare much better.  Kraken, however, requires at least a bit of strategy, and Tiamat is a bit tougher still with her lack of weaknesses to exploit.  I still would like to see these guys moonlighting and teaming up with the archfiends from these games, but you can’t always get what you want, et cetera.

The enemies down here tend to be enormous HP sponges, but most of them don’t actually do a whole lot of damage with the majority of their attacks, which is nice.  Fun fact I found here about how the game handles Doom: if someone gets hit by Doom while already Doomed, it resets the counter.  Yes, a couple of my party members were able to totally bypass damage that way.

A little bit further down, Kain and Golbez chat, followed by a face-off against four bosses from Final Fantasy II.  King Behemoth hits hard and is a mild challenge to clear through, especially with his end-of-fight Meteor.  The Iron Giant is basically a weaker King Behemoth, which is no big deal.  Astaroth is even easier, as his big gimmick is busting out third-tier spells which can be reflected back at him and aren’t terribly powerful in the first place.  Beelzebub, on my run, was the easiest of the batch; he cast a few spells healed through with the Sylph summon, and the physical members of the group pounded him into paste quickly.

Continuing on down, and we get a scene with Kain and Cecil about that whole almost killing one another thing.  (Those jokers, so silly.)  As you probably would have guessed, it’s time to jump in to Final Fantasy III bosses now.  Cerberus is a complete pushover despite retaining his usual speed.  Ahriman, meanwhile, is kind of an interesting ride; he only has two abilities, a party-wide Doom and Haste.  So it’s a matter of trying to repeatedly have enough people not-doomed and juggling timers, in short.

I somehow like the sheer stupidity of this guy's name more every time I talk about him.

“Okay, Akihiko, you’re up. Name for the boss that’s less stupid than Two-Headed Dragon.”
“Twinhead Dragon!”
“Great. Okay. Super.”

Twinhead Dragon sadly loses the name of Two-Headed Dragon and also like to paralyze people, so he’s annoying.  He falls to a concentrated assault of Leviathan and punching.  It’s interesting to note that the group keeps making oblique references to the placement of these bosses in their games of origin; here, everyone’s talking about the power of darkness, while the last batch everyone talked about hell demons.  (They sort of drop those not-really threads quickly, though.)  Last but not least is Echidna, who can be largely negated with a quick pre-battle Float; she still has a couple of other attacks to kill people, but they’re not terribly scary.

Further down, it’s obviously time to start in on the Final Fantasy V bosses, and the first one is… Omega.  True to form, he’s an absolute beast, complete with a defense that can shut everything in the game down, a number of attacks that can inflict huge amounts of damage, and more than decent stats beside that.  No rinse-and-repeat strategies here; just trying to keep the party up and moving while simultaneously mounting as much of an offense as possible.  After many Ethers and X-Potions and rounds of Leviathan, the bastard finally goes down.

After that fight’s done, it’s down a little further to fight Gilgamesh, followed by a quick scene with Ceodore and Kain.  You can fight Shinryu as well, but I elected to bypass that (he drops a sword, and Kain’s the only one who can use the sword, second-best sword or not) and move straight on to Atomos after a bit of maze navigation.  Atomos just spams Meteor, easily handled with some Slow, some Haste, and some Shell.  I’m impressed how well this party setup works as a whole – Ursula’s speed and free heal can do wonders for a variety of situations, Rydia always has options with Sylph and her summons, and Porom’s healing is outstanding.  It’d be nicer if any customization existed in the game, but oh well.

Which will probably kill everyone, but you can hardly blame them.

When they figure out how to do it, these guys are just going to blow up every possible moon as soon as possible.

We get a scene at the next rest point which is actually really cool – the Whisperweed starts working again, meaning that the moon has gotten really close to the planet.  It’s a neat and effective nod to up the stakes.  Then we’re on to the Final Fantasy VI bosses, which is one game past the point that this conceit really worked.  The first four games really had bosses that worked as a linked group of four, but the later games really didn’t.

Anyhow, it’s a fight against the Ghost Train first, which is pretty inconsequential if you swap rows before the fight.  Then it’s time to take out Ultros, who as always is pretty easy with a bit of gimmickry here and there.  Being Ultros, of course we get some lecherous comments toward the female party members, which takes up the majority of the post-battle dialogue.

The next floor hosts Deathgaze, who true to form is fought as a random encounter and who frequently runs away between fights.  It’s a cute nod to his original appearance in Final Fantasy VI.  He’s not actually very difficult, though.  Once he’s down the only remaining boss is Ultima Weapon, who is an obnoxiously bulky damage sponge and can theoretically unleash hell with Meteor if so inclined.  He never did for my fight, though.  As expected, he drops his eponymous weapon.

A bit more searching on the floor teaches either Palom, Porom, or Leonora the Dualcast ability.  Dualcast is great, obviously; I slapped it on Porom, making her an even more solid spellcaster.  This is only available if you kill Deathgaze, and it’s a neat idea I wish the game had explored more, unlocking abilities for victory rather than just items.  Ah, well.

We’ve run through every pre-polygon game in the series, we’ve killed a whole lot of bosses, we’ve been doing this for so long that it’s unlikely anyone remembers what the plot was meant to be at this point.  So let’s end this dance already, shall we?

Tune in next week for the 29th round, in other words.

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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