Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is a bit of a rollercoaster. It slumps regularly, losing its way and giving in too easily to the worst aspects of the JRPG genre. But when it hits its peaks, it's as fine as any of the other early entries in the series.
Not that it can really be classed as an early entry. Originally released in 2008 for smartphones in Japan, this episodic sequel to Final Fantasy IV has been refitted with the same 3D engine that powers the iOS version of its predecessor and released in a single chunk.
It makes for an odd mix of old, new, and somewhere in between, and while that combination is never jarring, it never quite meshes into a cohesive, entertaining whole either.
The game is broken into a selection of smaller stories, each focusing on a character or a group of characters. You need to play the first slice of the adventure, starring Prince Ceodore, first, but once that's over and done with you're free to pick your way through most of the rest of the story in any order.
The format is an unfamiliar one, but the gameplay will be instantly recognisable if you've ever played any of the first seven or so Final Fantasy games. You wander around a dungeon, fighting random turn-based battles, and progressing through a story that spans an entire world.
The first hour or so of the game is about as dull as it gets. You play a variety of characters, never really getting a handle on who any of them are or why they're out there adventuring. You're too strong for most of it too, knocking enemies out with a single blow.
It adds to the disjointed feeling that permeates the game, and having to sit through the various battle animations just to tap a few buttons to slay some horribly underpowered and not particularly frightening fiend is painfully dull.
The big change in the battle system involves the cycles of the moon. Depending on what phase the moon is in, different powers will be stronger or weaker. It plays a stronger part later in the game when you've got more control over your party, but it can act as a hindrance when you've only got a couple of characters and they're both being nerfed by the celestial body.
Everything here is a little ragged around the edges, and the 3D graphics in particular look uninspiring on a Retina display. So much so that you find yourself pining for some sprites to shake things up a little.
It leaves the world feeling empty and bland, full of chunks of similar coloured scenery and uninspired backdrops that look lazy and unimpressive on a screen with the crisp quality of a modern smartphone or tablet.
The UI is similarly bland, and while the controls have been streamlined for a touchscreen, with tapping on interactive objects replacing buttons, sometimes you'll find yourself having to tap the same things a couple of times to get things to work.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years certainly isn't a game that's going to convert gamers to the charms of Square Enix's long-running RPG series, and it asks for a lot of knowledge about the comings and goings in the first game if you're really going to enjoy it.
But there are entertaining moments here, and places where the real majesty of a developer that's on top of its game, and fully in charge of its series, shines through. For most though, they're going to be too few and far between.
If you're desperate to complete your Final Fantasy set then this isn't the worst game you're going to have to play to do it, but it's certainly one of the most lacklustre.