For the character development, the fourth installment goes in another direction than the previous games. The group size is now a maximum of five, with the second and fourth slot being in the back. During different parts of the storyline, characters leave or join your group and each one is locked to a certain job type. Each character has a single experience bar, and when leveling up, unlocks abilities and spells related to that character. Near the very end of the story, the game unlocks the possibility to choose what characters to bring to the last dungeon. For most of the game though, you are playing what the game tells you to at the moment. There are a couple of optional areas where an event is missable because of this, because the character needed for it to trigger might already have left the group if you get there after progressing the main story.
The game's story starts in a darker and more serious tone than previously. The main character, being a general in the fleet of the king, is ordered to do some pretty bad stuff. He soon starts doubting himself, and what follows is the classic theme where the character throughout the game turns into the hero that later saves the world. The side characters that are encountered and are part of your group also add their stories to mitigate the otherwise pretty direct storyline.
There is really not much more to say. The game was very enjoyable, it leads to a pretty epic finale, and has a story that kept me invested in the game. It goes back a bit on the complexity of the character development, but still stays a solid game in the end.
After finishing the game, there are some possible extra content in the form of a dungeon that has different challenges depending on which characters you bring with you. It gives you a bit of character background through these as well. It was pretty fun to try it out, but I did not feel like playing it through with all the characters.
Bundled with this version of Final Fantasy was Final Fantasy: After Years. It is meant as an epilogue to IV. I did not enjoy this extra content at all. It reused already played areas and bosses from the original game. On top of this it forced some annoying party restrictions and game mechanics, and was built up around stand-alone episodes that did not interest me much. I actually just stopped playing it in favor of going to the next game in the series.