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APFFRT 4 Round 1: (13) Final Fantasy V vs. (20) Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

APFFRT 4 Round 1: (13) Final Fantasy V vs. (20) Final Fantasy IV: The After Years – August 5, 2013 2:29 PM (edited 8/5/13 10:29 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
Here we have a matchup between the sequel to FF4 and... the sequel to FF4?! Funny that these should be matched up. I've only played extremely brief snippets of the After Years, and I've never been too impressed. We'll see if a bit more time can change that.

Game 1: Visuals
TAY does an excellent job of looking like how you remember FF4 looking, but in actuality being better. Battle sprites appear to be untouched, likely for nostalgia purposes, but backgrounds and maps seem a bit more detailed and colorful. Best of all, the game has switched to FF6-sized sprites outside of combat, complete with FF6-style animations for them. And Cecil now has discernible eyes! What will they think of next. The only real complaint I have is that the graphics are a bit bland. Also the game is widescreen but clearly intended to work even in 4:3 mode, so there seems to be a lot of wasted space. The darkening of the sides of the map in dungeons is probably intended to be atmospheric, but it's just kind of strange.

I've never been particularly fond of FF5's visuals, and 30 minutes of playing hasn't changed that. The background graphics are actually quite nice, far superior to those of FF4. However the combat sprites, particularly monsters, just have a style that doesn't appeal to me at all. The animations are even less interesting - a single sword swing per attack compared to FF4's two, for instance. FF5 does have some nice character animations, like the eye-popping bugout look and all the laughing.

FF4 and FF5 are pretty similar in terms of graphic quality, and TAY's graphic style is "like FF4, but better." It's pretty clearly the more attractive game, since it's doing basically the same thing but with more detail and in widescreen. FF5's greatest visual strength over FF4 is in its character animations, and that's one of the main areas TAY improved on.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years leads 1-0

Game 2: Audio
I don't know what it is about the fabled SNES sound chip, but even on Wii the same tunes I loved from FF4 somehow seem to sound worse in TAY. They're still great tunes, even if I was getting pretty sick of the battle music after a while (more on that later). The sound effects seem to have the same problem, but I can't put my finger on what it is. The sound is sort of grating, somehow, and I think they may have changed the mix. For instance, the bass in the battle music (which I love so very much) is a bit less apparent here than in the original. It's all just a bit off.

I don't like FF5's audio any more than its visuals. The overworld theme is too upbeat (is it unfair that I also complain about FF2's being too depressing? oh well, too bad!), the boss music is lame, and most everything else is meh. The basic battle music is pretty good, and I have a soft spot for the "panic battle" music even if it's kind of objectively bad, but that's really all I can say in favor of FF5's audio.

This is another case where FF4 probably would have beaten FF5, but unlike graphics, TAY seems to have downgraded the audio. Still, it's better than FF5, and TAY jumps out to an early 2-0 lead.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years leads 2-0

Game 3: Combat
The new mechanics in TAY seem potentially interesting, but practically they've been nothing but annoying. Moon phases dictate which abilities are effective, and they start you off doing half damage with a lone attacking party member. There are fights seemingly every few steps, all of which are trivially easy but can take a while to finish. Going one against four and needing two shots to kill each monster is boring enough when the monsters only get one or two attacks in, but doing it dozens of time with practically no breaks is quite annoying. When I switched over to Cecil, it was more of the same, though the power levels were a bit different. It seems all of the battles thus far have been trivially easy for plot reasons, though the two exceptions weren't bad. There is still plenty of strategy to be used here when it's warranted.

I literally have yet to see a command other than Fight and Item in FF5 combat, because I only unlocked jobs as time ran out. Still, for nothing but repeated Fight commands, it's not the worst. I have a large party with varied levels of damage potential, so there is at least some thought that goes into my actions. The Wingrapter boss fight even caused me to use items and hold back a bit.

This is a tough one because TAY's combat is objectively more interesting, but I spent most of my combat time wishing I was doing anything else. it was just too frequent and repetitive. However, the boss fights were more involved and dangerous (which is to say, they involved more healing), though in one case that was entirely because I only had one party member. It feels kind of wrong to give TAY the win, but the fight with Biggs, Wedge, and Ceodore against two Belphegors was excellent, and nothing I did in FF5 even comes close to that.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years leads 2-1

Game 4: Advancement
The only upside to all the fighting is that I gained a ton of levels for Ceodore, the presumptive main character and son of Cecil and Rosa. Sure, I only gained one worthless spell from the levels, but it was a noticeable uptick in effectiveness. He also gained a cool new ability that temporarily doubles his power, but leaves him extremely weak afterward. Everyone has at least a few spells, and the combination move system is great because it seems to reward experimentation. That's all quite theoretical since I haven't had two permanent party members at once, though.

I gained a few levels in FF5, but no items and nothing else of any note - until the very end. I was literally in the "you got jobs!" cutscene as time ran out, but that changes everything. Having six jobs to start with, despite being in a four-person party, is pretty nice. There are a lot of decisions to make right away. Do you use a Blue Mage and try to get some skills that won't be available again? Do you use a Thief and sacrifice some offense for long-term gain and items? Use a monk and go cheap on equipment? Plus, customizing jobs with other abilities is great. You know, in theory.

If I go by what I actually did during the 30 minutes, TAY wins easily. However, if unlocking a job system doesn't win you the Advancement matchup, then why is there an Advancement matchup at all? Things just got way more interesting in FFV than TAY.
Series tied 2-2

Game 5: Characters
Ceodore is constantly being berated for being a soft prince, and I can't say they're not right. Captain Wedge (or was it Biggs? I forget) is a huge asshole, but the other Star Wars stand-in is OK. I played Cecil for about three minutes, and in that time he left Rosa behind during an attack to protect her. All that really did was prevent combat from becoming a bit more interesting, though, so... thanks for nothing, Cecil. I don't know that FF4 was some pinnacle of character development, but so far TAY is kind of weak in that department.

Bartz is so boring that when the cute princess and mysterious old man go off on a quest after a mysterious meteorite touches down, he's like "adventure? nah I'm good." (And yet somehow he gets the "quest" essence - ha!) Reina isn't much better - she's kind of a stereotypical willful princess, except super nice and almost entirely devoid of personality. On the other hand, Galuf is awesome. He has amnesia, and he uses this to cover for when he makes incredibly stupid but awesome decisions like stealing pirate ships. Faris isn't bad either. A pirate captain with a mysterious pendant who frees the people stealing her* ship for REASONS UNKNOWN is at least interesting, if not necessarily logical. (*Technically at this point I'm still supposed to think she's a man, but since at no point did I ever get "man" from her sprite and its flowing purple hair, whatever.)

I'm kind of shocked that I have to give this one to FF5. I mean, these characters aren't exactly Shakespeare. But the competition is just not that strong - petulant princes lose out to dirty old men every time. That's just science.
Final Fantasy V leads 3-2

Game 6: World
This is the same world as FF4, but with only one moon. That's no small 'but', either - the single moon's phase greatly affects combat, and it also justifies some minor changes to the world layout. The idea of seeing the world as it has become with the second moon gone is probably the most interesting part of the game so far. Beyond that, there's not much to say, since I've only seen two locations. Although I could add that the Adamant Grotto has way too many (trivial) monsters in it.

So far I really haven't seen anything interesting about FF5's world. A meteor blocks one path, and there's a cave in the other. Apparently there's a castle, and some crystals, one of which exploded. Also there's some kind of water dragon thing that can pull pirate ships. I guess that's interesting? It's an effective intro for keeping you on the straight and narrow, but not so much for fleshing out the world.

I find myself strangely drawn to TAY's whole moon thing, even if it seems like mechanically it's more of a pain in the ass than anything. Neither game has shown me much to this point, so it really comes down to moon stuff vs. elemental stuff. I have to give it to the moon because the whole idea of "the wind stopped" is so silly I can't take it. I mean, what does that even mean? Is wind seriously the element, and not air? I assume there's still air. Just being stagnant. If it doesn't move at all, does everyone immediately suffocate? I just... don't know what I'm supposed to think.
Series tied 3-3

Game 7: Storyline
The writing is a bit ham-handed, but the story of TAY so far isn't bad. Prince Ceodore is off on his test to become a knight, and everyone (including him) seems to think he's either destined for greatness because of his parents or riding on their coattails. He gets in a jam, his latent powers awaken, everyone's sort of happy. But then a ton of monsters appear unexpectedly, attacking both Ceodore on his return to Baron, and Baron itself. That's as far as I've gotten, and I'm left wondering (as Cecil is) how monsters got in the castle without breaching the gate. The fact that I care is probably a good sign. Even if it is probably a basic, cliched betrayal/inside job plot.

Knowing what's going on, FF5's story is actually not bad to this point. However, in the context of 30 minutes, all I know is that some king thought something was wrong with the wind, and then it stopped. The wind crystal shattered, the king apparently died, and a meteor hit nearby. A princess snuck out of a castle and ended up there along with an amnesiac old man and a boring-ass traveler. Then, they stupidly stole a pirate ship, got caught, but were released for MYSTERIOUS REASONS. And the pirate captain is probably royalty, based on the also MYSTERIOUS case of her having the same pendant as the princess, not to mention a similarly unlikely hair color. Also all the king's guards are on the bottom floor of the shrine where he disappeared, and won't go after him, but they will let three complete strangers (including an old man and a pirate) take the princess to do so. At least they give her 5 tonics, right?

I don't know if it's fair to criticize FF5 for not making any damn sense, because you can do that for practically any RPG ever. And while TAY's plot appears to make logical sense, it's still ham-handed and dumb to this point. The main thing I like about TAY is that I want to see where it's going - well, if I had never played FF5 before, I'd feel the same way at this point. In the end, FF5 wins because I much prefer whimsical nonsense to asshole military bravado in my stories.
Final Fantasy V wins 4-3

Conclusion
FF5 wins in a dramatic (?) comeback. This has probably been the closest game so far, and to be perfectly honest, I'd rather have played more TAY in round 2. Still, I can't let that control my decisions (not too overtly, at least!).

Next Game: (4) Final Fantasy VIII vs. (29) Oblivion

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There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
Rating: Not Rated
Game 4 was some mighty bullshit Dowd. If you had never played FF5 before, you would have given that to TAY. Sounds like if you were 30 seconds slower you wouldn't have even been able to judge the FF5 class system.

Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
I spent like half an hour going back and forth on game 7. But I stand by game 4, for two reasons. First, although jobs didn't unlock until time was up, there was about a four-minute span since the last save point, so there was almost no way I wasn't getting to them. (And TAY had a longer overrun anyway, albeit not by much.) And second, in TAY I gained a total of one ability (which was a plot point, not actual 'advancement') and one spell the entire time I played. In FFV I unlocked six classes with six different abilities (although no spells).

To put it another way, if I had given game 4 to TAY, it would have been way easier to accuse me of bias than the way I did it. Smile

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There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
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