Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

Final Fantasy III SNES title screen
Today I'm taking a quick look at Final Fantasy VI on the Super Nintendo, or at least that's my plan. It's an RPG though so I'll probably end up playing it for hours. Oh ignore the title screen by the way, it lies. This was the third of the series to be released in the West, so they renumbered it for the US version to avoid confusion (funny how that never works).

Annoyingly it didn't make it across to Europe though until eight years later, in March 2002, by which point it had gotten its proper title back again (and was ironically the sixth numbered FF game released over here anyway, after 7, 8, 9, 4 and 5).

I'll admit right now that I'm not coming into the game entirely clueless this time as I have actually finished this once before. Though I had my face buried in a walkthrough the whole time and I wasn't actually paying attention, so it'll basically be all new to me.

PlayStation
Like FF1, 2, 4 and 5 (but NOT 3, weirdly), FF6 was given a PlayStation port with a brand new CGI intro, showing off some of the characters and setting the scene.

It mostly shows the character above leading a pair of soldiers through a high tech military base, where they all climb aboard giant bipedal robot walkers while the villain Kefka watches with villainous glee. No sign of any crystals though surprisingly; they seem to be sitting this one out.

PlayStation
Whoa, that is a serious jump in technology from what I've typically seen in an FF game so far. I mean the people I met in FF5's world hadn't even figured out how to make a boat move without sails yet. This Magitek Armour must look awesome stomping around in game.

Oh. Sadly the Magitek walker turns out to be a little underwhelming in the actual game. It looks more like pair of cyborg pants. Also now our hero's suddenly wearing purple now and has dyed her hair green. I guess the CGI team were more concerned with staying true to the concept art than actually matching the game they were supposed to lead into.

It turns out that she's actually a sorceress captured by the Empire and given a Slave Crown to force her follow their orders. The orders in this case being to stomp through this snowy mining town and find an Esper, whether the inhabitants like it or not. And I'm guessing they don't much like it, as these two mummies are coming over to start some shit.

The battle system seems to be more or less identical to Final Fantasy V, with each character able to choose a command when their bar has finished filling up. The main exception being that this time I've started off with the ability to fire missiles at people.

Also hey I've got Star Wars characters Biggs Darklighter and Wedge Antilles on the team! Uh, I mean Vicks and Wedge sorry, and sadly Vicks doesn't have a badass moustache like Biggs does in the film.

Oh of course the path through the town would lead to a cave, where else would the Esper be? I mean I realise that there's only a limited number of settings you can put in a game like this, but c'mon the last four Final Fantasy games have all started with a cave level and it's getting a bit old now.


A FEW RANDOM ENCOUNTERS AND A BOSS BATTLE LATER.


Well I've found the Esper, frozen in a block of ice. It was happily minding its own business down here until the miners discovered it and it does not seem happy to see us.

Oh shit, it just vapourised Wedge and Vicks! They were my favourite characters so far (and basically the only characters seeing as the sorceress currently has her mind bypassed by a Slave Crown.) The Esper zaps her with lightning, there's an explosion, and everything goes black.


SOON.


Well the good news is that Terra's got the Slave Crown off now and has remembered her name (it's Terra, duh). But the bad news is that she can't remember anything else. Plus everyone in town is kinda pissed at her now and she needs to escape through the caves.

Fortunately a squad of these little white bat things called moogles have turned up to protect Terra from the wolf men (caves sometimes have wolf men in you see). Now I get a minigame where I have to switch between the different moogle teams and move them to engage the wolf man teams as they slowly walk up the level. If they meet I'm dragged off into a regular battle, except I'm controlling a team of moogles. A bit random, but whatever.

Fortunately the moogles prevailed, saving Terra from the random wolf man invasion, and now I'm finally free of the caves! I'm not quite free to rest up in town and buy some equipment yet though, as everyone here is still kinda sore about that whole 'agent of the Empire invaded the town in robot legs and neutralised all resistance with missiles' thing earlier. Fortunately I've found an ally, a treasure hunter called Locke who wants to convince Terra that she was brought to the island for a reason and that she has a special destiny.

Uh, I mean he wants to recruit Terra for the resistance against the Empire because of her rare natural ability to use magic. Time to hightail it southward to Figaro.

Whoa, they've upgraded the overworld this time around with a Mode 7 perspective effect. Plus I've even got a minimap, though it's a little misleading without the mountains marked on it. Still, I'm sure I can figure out which way south is.


SOME EXPLORING AND RANDOM ENCOUNTERS LATER.


Figaro turned out to be a castle sitting in the middle of a desert. Seems a bit of a dumb place to stick a castle, but what do I know?

Like in every Final Fantasy game so far, I march up through the castle in a straight line to the throne room to speak directly with the King. After he's finished giving Terra the finger, King Edgar explains that he's interested in her magic ability and that she should feel free to relax and wander about the castle. And then he and Locke leave the room and just abandon her here.

You promised you'd stick with me until I got my memory back, Locke! You bastard!

Uh, did I skip a bit of text explaining what to do next? I mean it was annoying enough in Final Fantasy IV when they trapped me in a castle like this at the start until I eventually stumbled across my room, but this time they haven't even told me what I should be looking for!


LATER.


Well Edgar's definitely not down here in the jails cells. Though I'm sure I've seen that wolf man before. In fact this is all really familiar somehow.

Final Fantasy V (PSX)
I've figured out where I saw him before. He was in a jail cell in one of the castles in FFV! He's the exact same guy too: Lone Wolf the Pickpocket. Is it any wonder I feel like I've done all this before?

Though damn you can really see the massive improvement in art between the games. It's funny how taller characters and few extra tiles makes such a difference. There is one thing that bothers me about the art though (and probably exclusively me).

The sprites all bob up and down on side view but not on front view. It's such a stupid nitpicky little thing to care about, but it's the kind of thing I notice when I'm bored out of my mind wandering around a castle.


EVEN LATER.


Shit, I think I just walked out the back door. Well fuck it, I've found store rooms and jail cells, bedrooms and libraries, I've been up to the tallest towers and down into the lowest basement (then got kicked out because it was dangerous), and Edgar just isn't here. Locke neither, the two of them have gone and left me here.

So I'm leaving. I'm walking out into the desert alone and I'm going to find something else to do.

On second thoughts maybe I'll go back and hang around closer to the castle for now. At least until I've levelled up a little. Terra's got some decent magic but she's only got so many shots before her MP runs out and needs a refill. Plus these enemies are able to paralyse her for a few rounds, leaving her entirely helpless while they knock chunks of her health away, so it's nice to have a safe haven nearby to rest at.


FOUR LEVEL UPS LATER.


You... son of a bitch.

It turns out that Edgar was sitting in the room that he left me in the whole time. The one room I didn't think to look in, because I already knew he wasn't there. Except he was! AGH!

Well I can't say that I much enjoyed being left to wander around another fucking castle searching for the trigger for the next bit of plot. Though maybe I'm just suffering from castle fatigue after playing so many FF games in quick succession.

Anyway the plot is finally moving again, so enter the villain! Kefka is the Imperial officer who sent Terra after the Esper in the first place and he's keen to get her back on his team, even going as far as threatening King Edgar if he doesn't hand her over.

Unfortunately threats aren't Kefka's strong point. I mean sure he's quick to think up ways to make people suffer and he can deliver them very convincingly, but the purpose of a threat is generally to make people do what you want in order to avoid unpleasant consequences. Kefka is very fond of unpleasant consequences though, so before the King can even decide what he's going to do about Locke and Terra he finds his castle's already on fire and the three of them are forced to make a run for it.

As they make their escape, King Edgar reveals that he and Locke are both members of the resistance against the Empire and that their mentor Banon would really like to meet Terra because of her magical powers, as magic will be the key to winning the war against the Empire.

And then the two of them suddenly freak out the first time I use magic in front of them! Yeah guys, it turns out that the sorceress you recruited solely for her magical gifts... can use magic, big shock! Though this may be the first and only time anyone has ever been amazed by basic magic in a Final Fantasy game, and it's nice to see it treated with a sense of shock and wonder for once.

I like how that fluffy eyeball monster is just sitting there waiting for them to finish being crazy and get back to fighting. He looks so bemused by it all.

Anyway I soon made it through another cave and reached the first proper town I went around talking to the NPCs as I've been conditioned to do by those five other FF games, until I reached this ninja who didn't feel like responding. Fair enough I thought, I can't expect everyone to have thought up a random comment to say to me, and he is just some guy minding his own business with his dog at the bar. But Locke seems furious about this breach of RPG protocol.

NPCs have to say a line when you press 'action' on them, that's the sacred JRPG rule. It doesn't have to be anything helpful, but they have to say something and this guy is blatantly breaking that rule, at least that's how Locke seems to see it. I was honestly wondering if the two of them were going to come to blows over this, until Edgar stepped in and defused it.

Here's an absolutely fascinating and not at all pointless bit of trivia. The 'PUB' signs in the original release were changed to 'CAFE' for the US version. Perhaps because the idea of a drunk ninja might be upsetting to small children, who of course generally look up to ninjas as a role model, I don't know. Who can truly understand the mind of a censor?

Anyway I didn't come here for drama, I just wanted to get some shopping done, and look! They've finally added equipment stats to the shop screen for the first time in a Final Fantasy game! I can even see a glance if it's better than what I already have equipped by looking at the little arrow next to the characters, it's amazing! I can't believe it took them six games to add this in, but I'm grateful to have it now.

The job system from FFV is nowhere to be found so I can't switch between character classes to get new abilities. Though I can equip relics to get similar skills, such as Sprint Shoes to double my walking speed, and True Knight to... man I don't even care about the others right now, I just doubled my walking speed! YES!

Fully equipped and loaded with supplies, I headed north to meet with the resistance and found myself in... another cave. Like I said earlier, I understand why the series has a lot of caves, especially as they use mountain ranges to separate areas on the overworld and there needs to be ways through them. But variety would be nice.

Past the cave I met a new character, Sabin, twin brother to King Edgar, who quickly hijacked my story so he could have a dramatic fight with his rival. Of course the rules of 16-bit era JRPGs clearly state that his rival must be three times his height, drawn in a different style and never move, but I think he can still take him.

Sabin's got his own unique special attacks, called Blitzes, each triggered with a different combination of button presses like the special moves in a fighting game. I remember first time around it took me forever to get them to work, but it made perfect sense this time. You just input the moves after selecting the 'Blitz' command, while the arrow's pointing at Sabin. Maybe they should have thrown a button input box on screen at the appropriate time to avoid any confusion.
 
Alright, Sabin's solved his drama and the plot was given back to Terra just long enough for her to finally reach the resistance HQ!

The leader, Banon, explains that he's interested in her magic and that she should feel free to relax and wander about the cave. Aw crap, not this again.

I suppose I just have to go and talk to all my party members to make Banon reappear. Or maybe not, who knows? Being able to walk around freely and chat to people is a whole lot less fun when it's mandatory.


TIME PASSES, URGE TO SNAP GAME RISES.


Anyway I eventually ran into Banon again and he asked if I wanted to join his cause. I immediately replied 'no' and walked away. Let them come find me if they want my help, I'm sick of running around looking for them.

But yeah obviously the game wasn't going to continue until I came crawling back them and I soon ended up joining a crack team taking a wild river rapids ride to that snowy mining town to investigate the Esper from the start of the game. If Banon falls in a battle I lose, so I'm making sure to fight as many battles as I can along the way to level him up before the inevitable boss fight.


LATER, AT THE INEVITABLE BOSS FIGHT.

 
This Ultros squid thinks he's some kind of comedian. I think I'm massively overlevelled and in a team with a guy who can suplex trains, so basically he's fucked.

By the way, I love their sunglasses. Sure it's actually an indicator revealing that they've all been inflicted with the 'blind' status and are in fact suffering from reduced accuracy, but they look like they're out of Reservoir Dogs so I can live with that.

The boss went down with a careful application of both the 'fight' command and the 'blitz' command (with a little healing when necessary), but then Sabin got cocky and managed to blitz himself right off the raft.

So now I have three parties to play as: Terra's team racing towards the mining town, Locke trapped in an Empire occupied town, or Sabin floating down a river. I'll go with Locke first, because why not?

Hmm. I'm not going this way then I guess.

Locke's scenario seems to based around going through every building and entering every room until I stumble across a way to get past the Empire's guards to the to the next area of town. And then I get to do it again, and again, and again.

Plus I have to beat up a lot of innocent people and steal their clothes. Seriously, he breaks into a merchant's room at the inn, says "I'm gonna pound your face!" and then he goes and pounds his face. No random battles here, just the precise application of violence against harmless traders.

Fortunately all this tedious walking back and forth around town eventually served a purpose when I picked up another character held prisoner by the Empire. She's a magic user too, making Terra immediately less unique than anyone thought.


MEANWHILE, IN SABIN'S SCENARIO.


As Locke was busy rescuing Celes for the team, Sabin eventually drifted back to dry land and teamed up with that ninja from the pub earlier, to chase after Terra's team and hopefully reunite at the mining town.

Then to make things even more complicated, this new character called Cyan has just found that his wife and child have been poisoned by Kefka and has sworn revenge! So the three of them soon join up, and steal a ride.

So now Sabin is getting a crew of his own together too and I've only just met the guy! It's a big change from what I played of FF5, which kept my party to a the same core four members. In this is seems that everyone with more than two lines of dialogue eventually joins the team and gets their own story.

Oh by the way that enemy I'm fighting is supposed to be in the exact same vehicle my guys are driving. The same one from the CGI intro too. The game just doesn't give a fuck about art consistency sometimes.

(Still, bloody good pixelwork in my opinion.)


MUCH LATER.


And then after randomly suplexing a supernatural steam train taking the ghosts of the recently deceased to the final resting place, the team went and found another guy to recruit. This is just getting ridiculous now, I feel like I've stumbled into Final Fantasy 6-2: Sabin's Adventure by mistake. What was I even meant to be doing anyway? Something about an Esper in a mining town? I vaguely remember taking a river ride on a raft...

Oh by the way, Sabin LOVES to throw himself off waterfalls and into rivers. He must have done it at least three times by now. Well I suppose it is the fastest way to travel (aside from a ghost train of course.)

Okay fine, here's an animated gif of him suplexing the phantom train a few minutes ago. Don't ask why we ended up fighting a train in a haunted forest, I have no bloody idea.

Don't worry, the train survived in the end and the ghosts on board all made to the afterlife. We didn't doom every human who is and ever will be to be trapped on this plane, fated to wander the world in spectral form for all eternity and never know rest. Though we came pretty close there.


ANYWAY.


Three and a half hours after splitting up, the group finally reunites and gets Terra to the Esper, only for my main character to immediately turn pink and fly away from the party. Well that was a big help wasn't it? Good job the resistance went to all that trouble to recruit her.

I think I'd better turn this off now, before anyone else tries to join my team and drag me through another cave.


Final Fantasy VI is definitely the best looking of the six 2D FF games, and a clear step above FFV in graphics, but the story's all over the place so far and it loves to come to a dead stop until I've found the right plot trigger NPCs to chat with. I suppose Square had the expectation that RPG players are naturally eager to run around talking to every NPC they can find to absorb every fact they can, so there'd be no harm to making it mandatory at certain points. That way the developers could make sure that players have received all the plot critical information before continuing with the story. Personally though, when I get boxed into an area I get impatient and start skipping through dialogue so I can get back to the game.

The gameplay appears more or less the same as in the other SNES FF games, except a little more polished perhaps, and it seemed fine to my untrained eye. The addition of unique skills without a resource cost, like Edgar's tools and Cyan's swordtechs, helped make random encounters a little less monotonous, though I still found myself holding back on magic until boss fights to conserve my limited mana. Which is a shame I reckon.

Oh and the way it kept passing along the protagonist role made it hard for me to get attached to any of the characters as if they were my character. FFIV also mixed up the party frequently, but at least that was clearly Cecil's story: no matter who else joined the team I was always playing as Cecil. This seems to be mostly about Terra so far, but she's just as likely to suddenly turn bright pink and fly away from the player's control as any of the characters. Perhaps even more so!

If the story had stuck with the one team, or been more obviously split between parallel storylines like FFVIII, I may have enjoyed it more. But as it is it just felt like a stream of loosely connected ideas with no focus and I couldn't get invested in any of it.


Anyway, that's what I think about the first few hours of Final Fantasy VI, aka. Final Fantasy III, but feel free to leave a comment telling me what you think and explain how I'm wrong about everything. Opinions are welcome.

5 comments:

  1. Final Fantasy VI is one of my favorite games!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha, Edgar DOES flip Terra off. I never even spotted that before. I bet it's on purpose. The Japanese versions of these games are borderline risque, and something like that is near-unnoticable enough that the localization team can leave it alone.

    This is my favorite Final Fantasy game (aside from maybe 12) but I agree that it lacks focus. There are too many characters for any of them to really get the development that they should be getting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest I think he was just supposed to be waggling his index finger, kinda hard to tell though when his hand's only 3 pixels wide.

      Delete
  3. FFVI was the first final fantasy game I played so my perspective is a bit different on it. To me the other games seem to lack characters by comparison. FFVI is, to me, a story about a whole group of people and the world they live in but with Terra being the main protagonist. The story probably focused on her less because she was a female as female protagonists were relatively new in the gaming world at the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree with ya!!
      But I think of Celes as the protagonist!! She is my favorite, at least XD

      Delete

Semi-Random Game Box