The After Years is a conflicted little sequel. It’s unnecessary in concept and quite mercenary in building itself from the original game’s graphics and music, yet it evokes the mood of the original Final Fantasy IV so well that I can’t help but enjoy it. It’s comparable to getting a pet that looks and acts just enough like one you had when you were twelve. You’re not the same and neither is this new creature, but the connection is there somehow.
One interesting point of The After Years concerns Rydia, the summoner who started off Final Fantasy IV as an orphaned little girl and finished it as a grown woman, all thanks to the sievelike logic of video games. Rydia didn’t wear much in the original game or its DS remake, and she wore even less in the illustrations for the Japanese cell-phone version of The After Years. Square decided to change that for Western audiences.
This is how Rydia appears on the official Japanese website for The After Years.
And this is how she appears in the official art for the game’s North American release.
I refuse to pretend that the changes aren’t for the better, as Rydia’s frilled metal bikini now resembles actual clothing. It’s not the sort of thing you’d wear into caves packed with slavering beasts, but I learned not to demand adroit realism from Final Fantasy a long time ago.
Of course, we could always go back to Katsuya Terada's Rydia art from Nintendo Power’s first Final Fantasy IV feature in 1991.
We probably shouldn’t.