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Final Fantasy IV: The After Years Square Enix, Nintendo Wii, June 2009

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years by Square Enix
Square Enix
(800-3,700 Wii points)
The audience for this game is a very specific person. When you finished Final Fantasy IV nearly 20 years ago, were you left wondering what kind of stuff went down after Cecil and Rosa got married? Did you want to know if Rydia and Edge hooked up once and for all? And what was the deal with Kain running off to the mountains? If you answered "yes," then Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is the greatest game you may ever play. If not? You're not gonna like it.

Much like Gradius ReBirth and Mega Man 9, this new Final Fantasy tells its story in an appropriately retro way, specifically keeping its graphics, sound, and gameplay squarely rooted in the Super NES era. It refines the original game engine with slightly better graphics and remixed music, plus new sound effects keep things from sounding too old. The game robs the vaults for maps, creatures, and items wholesale to the point where anyone who finished the original once or twice is going to know exactly where to look for secret potions and tents. This game feels more like a "second quest" than a new game. Oh, and if you want the entire game rather than just a snippet, it's significantly higher than the 800 point price tag. If you're a hardcore fan of the original, you'll probably begrudgingly pay it and enjoy every last minute of it.

The Game in 140 Characters or Less

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. Did you like the 1991 original? Here's more, it's $37. Non-believers need not apply.

Control, Attacks

With the standard Wii Remote, the game plays like an NES game-- rotate the controller and enjoy. I primarily used the Classic Controller, which plays a little bit more like the original Super NES layout-- with a few differences. "A" still selects menu commands, but you only need to push "R" to run from battles, and "Y" rather than "L" will cause your character to change in the overworld maps. This may not mean much to you if you didn't love and live for the original, but that's OK-- you have absolutely no reason to play this game unless you're the kind of person still carrying a torch for this game.

Between the maps and the battles, it plays just like the game on which it is based. There's an "active time battle" system which is code for "if you dawdle too long, you're going to get attacked." This keeps things frantic, ensuring you won't have time to navigate the menus without being set on fire or otherwise roughed up, unless you decide to hit the pause button. Retro gaming fans, you'll have no problems getting a grip on this one.

New to this sequel is a Lunar system, which is entirely appropriate given the ties to the celestial bodies in the original game. Depending on the moon's phase-- I don't know which of the two moons, but one of them-- your powers will be changed. Your magic might be hampered, or your weapons might be enhanced. Whatever benefits you receive are given to your enemies as well, which means your tactics may change slightly and some battles might last a lot longer if you don't prepare accordingly.

The other big addition is the "Band" system, which is basically a slightly more complex version of the "Twin" magic used by Palom and Porom in the original. Basically, characters with a relationship can join together to unleash a specific attack, but both must be focused and living otherwise you're hosed. It's useful on some boss battles, but ultimately it's just another gimmick to make the game seem far more different than it actually is. I didn't use it a lot, but I could see how I might use it in some later battles.

Graphics & Sound

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you this looks like a Super NES game on steroids. Specifically, this looks like a game that mixes raw data from the original with some modern-era portable-remake enhancements, which makes it feel closer to a late-era Super NES game. Aside from some clever fades to prevent owners of widescreen televisions for seeing too much of a map in a dungeon, it looks and feels just like what Square released with the launch of the Super NES those many years ago. You're going to feel right at home here, unless, of course, you missed it the first time around. In which case you will no doubt dismiss it as high-grade retro rubbish.

It's worth noting that in the entirety of the game I played, from the opening to the end credits (with its crappy rehash of the overworld theme music, thanks for nothing), recycles enemy sprites. The bosses are lame recolored basic enemies from the original, and there's really no new monsters. I guess this makes sense because why on Earth would a planet's fauna change significantly, but as a gamer it's a bit of a downer to be so slavish to the original. Another downer is in some areas, like the cave of Mist, you'll stumble on random encounter enemies as strong or stronger than the bosses you've encountered. You'll recognize them as being strong creatures from the original, as they look the same, but consider this just another warning to save frequently.

Downloadable Episodes

You are not buying a full game when you download the 800 point title. Rather, you're getting three chapters out of 11. All 11 will cost you $37. Currently available-- we just grabbed it the night this review went live-- is a "Rydia" chapter for 300 points. I enjoyed the game to the extent I will likely end up springing for the DLC so I can play the whole game. This isn't a referendum on this game, which is enjoyable, but rather on the 1991 original. If you've ever liked a game so much that you wished it would never end, this is about as close as I can come to recreating that feeling, even if I'm an old and cranky man when the game when the chance arrives.

The main package as covered in this review nets you roughly 4 hours of gaming before you get to the "end credits," which is of course merely one ending before you can buy the rest of the game and continue down the road. While I adore the game, its presentation, and even its wafer-thin but oh-so-fun and 16-bitty story, this whole concept of me not being able to play more of the game is infuriating. After the credits roll you do have the option of playing random fights with your saved game to earn a few bucks and kill some time, but being unable to play more of the story is genuinely frustrating. Were this any other game, I'd probably throw my hands up in the air and tell you how angry I am. Unfortunately, this isn't just any other game, and Square Enix managed to tap the nostalgia vein hard here.

See below for additional episode-specific detail.

Is It Worth It?

On one hand, I enjoyed every moment of this game right up before the credits rolled-- so I want to see more games made in this way, right down to the original play mechanics and old-timey sprites. On another, I'm not a fan of cliffhanger endings like this game threw at me, so I'd like to see it not do well enough to influence other developers' pricing structure. It's like if the original Final Fantasy II/IV ended right after Cecil, Palom, Porom, and Tellah hopped off the Serpent Road in Baron. Something cool is about to go down, and even though you shelled out $8 for a game with minimal development effort, you don't get to see it. If anything, it shows that Square Enix fully understands the value of their IP and how much their fans are probably willing to pay to play. If someone tried to do this with an original franchise, it would be unlikely this would be a remotely appealing game. At least Telltale makes it feel that each episode of its game could stand alone, rather than compelling you to drop another few bucks just to see a new chapter/side story.

This is a game that capitalizes on 16-bit nostalgia, right down to the price. If you recall, Square's first Super NES Final Fantasy cost $59.99-$69.99 back when it was first released. While an unpleasant reminder of how expensive old-school RPGs used to be, it's a sign of the old Square you knew and love (or hated) remaining an important part of this otherwise lovely game. If you thought the series basically got a little too complicated as graphics entered the third dimension, this game feels like a treat from an alternate timeline created specifically to scratch our itch for such things.

So, uh, A+ for effort, if nothing else it's lots of fun and I love the style. But with the name of this site, we'd pretty much have to. This is a purely nostalgia-driven purchase, if you think you'd like this based on your experience with the franchise, you'll likely have a good time.

--Adam Pawlus
July 1, 2009

Other Links

DLC - Rydia's Tale

Rydia's Tale
June 1, 2009
(300 Wii points)
Every RPG needs some mysterious girl. And her dwarf friend... and their two creepy robot doll friends. Rydia's Tale brings the green-haired heroine back to the Underworld to explore the land of the summoned monsters and to expand upon the brief scene in the earlier episodes in which we saw Rydia thrown out of a throne room when some bad stuff went down.

The gameplay is exactly the same as the rest of the game, with the big surprise and quasi-spoiler being that Rydia can't summon a damn thing. Only four characters are playable in this adventure, three of which are playable for the first time, and two of which are repurposed from a boss in the original game. Clever! During this adventure you pretty much can explore the entire underworld except the Tower of Babel, plus you can check a brand new dungeon in the overworld when that's all finished.

Obviously I'm trying not to spoil much for you, but it provides a good challenge. Some regions are downright devious while others are cakewalks, but you may find going through some areas with two underpowered characters and limited skills to be something of a challenge. Speaking of challenge, Namingway becomes "Challengingway" and after you complete this adventure, he has a new "challenge dungeon" for you to fight through to find treasure and other items. It's really a neat idea to give you more to the game after you think you're finished.

These side quests aren't essential to the main story, but it was fun enough that fans of the game would be sorry to miss this one out. It doesn't shed a ton of light on the story, but you get to explore some new and familiar areas with some pretty difficult odds. What could be more fun than dungeon crawling, 1991-style? The entire quest should run you under 5 hours, more if you spend time exploring all the caves and making the most out of the bonus dungeon after completion.

--Adam Pawlus
July 9, 2009

DLC - Yang's Tale

Yang's Tale
July 5, 2009
(300 Wii points)
While Rydia's tale seemed like a pretty good value-- you got to explore the whole underworld, you got an airship, you had plenty of new characters-- Yang's tale seems like a giant ripoff. Pretty much the entire quest replicates what you saw in Final Fantasy II/IV with Yang. In other words, you go to Mount Hobs. You get attacked and have to repel invaders from the throne room. You get a ship, get attacked, and get stranded somewhere. Really, note for note, this is little more than a remix of the original game right down to the battle with the Mombomb and a boss you fought in the previous adventure, which itself was just a repurposed basic enemy from the original game. Only two new "dungeons" are added, one of which is aped from Final Fantasy V's various meteors concept.

Adding insult to injury, the entire game took me under 2 hours, and that's with some grinding in there. That's right, I took my time, found all the treasure, I leveled up. Sure, there's the bonus dungeon, but the prizes I'm finding going through it so far aren't worth the effort. To grind away a few hours it might be fun, but the game is so light on anything of interest that you may as well skip it. The only thing this mission brings to the table is a short development on the relationship between Yang and his daughter, Ursula. There are only a handful of playable characters, specifically Yang, Ursula, and random Yang trainees which are basically hobbled versions of Yang.

After finishing this adventure I was genuinely surprised it had ended. "That's it?" With Rydia's quest, I actually felt I got slightly more than I would have expected. With this game, I feel they owe me. This adventure does wonders in pointing out the shortcomings of selling RPGs bit by bit, specifically some adventures offering far more than another. I wouldn't feel bad if I got this as part of a complete game package, but as a separate purchase by itself I feel like I got taken. I'd probably have been fine skipping this one, and if you're cheap with your points I suggest you consider giving this one a miss.

Oh, and spoiler alert-- Yang doesn't say "Achoo" anymore.

--Adam Pawlus
July 14, 2009

Game Reviews

Arcade Games
 Godzilla Kaiju Wars VR

PC Peripherals
 MT80 White Mechanical Keyboard

Nintendo Wii
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
 Main Game
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
 Homestar Ruiner
 Strong Badia the Free
 Baddest of the Bands
 Dangeresque 3
 8-Bit Is Enough

 Kurulin Fusion
 Thexder Neo

Xbox 360
 Bubble Bobble Neo
 Bust-A-Move Live!
 Comic Jumper
 Connect 4
 Encleverment Experiment
 G.I. Joe: ROC
 Gel: Set & Match
 Hard Corps: Uprising
 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
 Lode Runner
 Mega Man 9
 Puzzle Quest Galactrix
 R-Type Dimensions
 Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection
 Space Invaders Extreme
 Space Invaders Infinity Gene
 Splosion Man
 Trivial Pursuit
 Zombie Apocalypse
 Zombie Wranglers
Walking Dead
 Episode 1
Wallace & Gromit
 Fright of the Bumblebees
 The Last Resort
 The Bogey Man

 GameBoy Advance SP Famicom Color

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