|System: Wii (WiiWare)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Matrix Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jun. 1, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The After Years also introduces a new banding system that lets various characters in your party team up to deliver super powerful attacks. Band attacks must be uncovered through experimentation in battle with different characters engaging in different tasks simultaneously. Noodling around pays off if you do uncover a new attack, but failing to do so simply wastes your party members turns in combat. Also, certain characters come and go frequently, so its often tricky to remember to test out combinations when the plot fires up. This system will likely get a lot more play as the chapters continue.
Since the main characters focused on in the debut chapter are fighter variants, random encounters (of which there are many) quickly devolve into blind single-button mashing exercises. Youll have some white magic spells and a few special abilities at your disposal at different times, but these skills are really only necessary during boss encounters and rare occasions where you bump into a tougher batch of baddies. This will hopefully be remedied in future expansions as different character types with special abilities and broader magic powers to draw from return.
Clocking in at about five to six hours with a minimal amount of level-grinding required, the core portion of The After Years progresses very linearly, driven heavily by the story. Being railroaded through the adventure without much freedom to deviate from the main path isnt as much of an issue as youd expect. Even though youll re-tread some of the same locations, similar terrain, and even tackle a few boss encounters from Final Fantasy IV, the strong plot progression makes it worthwhile. In the coming months, a series of shorter side quest chapters revolving around individual characters stories that tie into the main plot will be released, and completing them will let you import character data from each into the final lengthier chapter slated for release later this year.
The After Years is an unusual experiment for the Final Fantasy franchise, but its one thats already working its powerful magic on us. The story is smartly structured to tease you along, intermittently revealing important and interesting tidbits, before leaving you hanging. Rydias Tale, the first of the optional DLC chapter installments, is already available to ease the withdrawals that set in. This series is a must have for Final Fantasy IV addicts, though new players might be scratching their noggins trying to keep up. Stay tuned for our additional review coverage as the series progresses.
CCC Staff Contributor