The Final Fantasy Challenge: Final Fantasy II

I jumped into Final Fantasy II a couple of days after finishing I. From what I read, the iOS ports of both of these games are from the GBA combo-port of I and II called, unsurprisingly enough, Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. From playing both games I can say with a fair degree of certainty that the subtitle is completely meaningless.

But I digress, the most immediate thing to stand out as different from the first game is that this one has a story. Actually, plot is a better word to use there seeing as how the characters and narrative arc are rudimentary, and it doesn't really provide a reason for you to give much of a shit about what's going on. Even with that said, it's a huge improvement over the plot of the first one (fill four crystals, fight boss, along the way chill with an elf prince and fight pirates) and might be indicative of the kind of silly melodrama I'm going to find in future entries in the series.

I immediately liked the art style in this one more than the first.

Seeing as how this one didn't make it to places not called Japan when it was originally released, a short plot summary might be in order. The main characters Firion, Maria, and Guy are orphans (no mention is ever made about their parents or how they already know each other) that barely escape death at the hands of a world-conquering evil empire, who meet the last of the anti-imperial rebels, and end up single-handedly saving the world from said evil empire. This would be a happy ending if it weren't for the fact that half of the towns in the world get blown-the-fuck-up along the way. That was actually the most interesting thing to happen in the whole game. There being not one, but two events in the game which altered the state of the world is a surprisingly sophisticated thing to do considering the original game came out in the late 80's for the NES. It also makes the story surprisingly dark.

You can talk to people!

The second event that I referred to involves half of the towns in the game being supposedly destroyed and everyone in them killed. This claim gets backed-up by the fact that you can't enter those towns from the overworld afterwards. Once the evil emperor is killed and his evil empire toppled there isn't much of anyone left to celebrate. Entire civilizations are extinct, there's only one actual government and army left in the world and they only exist in one city. The world's economy has to be completely and utterly fucked by that point, seeing as how it was propped up during the war solely by four random adventurers coming into towns and dropping tens of thousands of gil on random shit. Years worth of resources and man-hours have been wasted on the emperor's crazy death machines, which in the end got blown up by those very same adventurers. There has to be an unmanageably large number of ex-imperial soldiers that are stuck far from their homes with their supply lines and central command having disappeared overnight. How many of them will say "fuck it" and become bandits? What about the insane number of refugees that have to exist? Are there even enough farms left in the world to support the remaining population? It would have to take centuries for the world to recover back to the point it was at before the war. The more I think about the state of the world at the end of this game, the more depressed I get about it. I suppose the fact that I'm even able to do that says all kinds of good things about the game. Or it says all kinds of not-that-great things about me. I'm not really sure which one it is yet.

The man loves his crystals.

The story isn't even the craziest thing in here. That distinction goes to the leveling system. This is by far the weirdest leveling system I've ever seen, it involves improving every aspect of the characters individually. That means the HP, MP, all of the attributes, spell levels, and weapon skills are leveled up individually for each character. The idea seemed to be that if a player wanted to roll around with a certain combination of warriors and mages, they could do so and organically alter the class on each character according to the play style. In practice, this was not the case. It took too long to level up the aspects of a character that were needed to turn that character from one class to another for it to be particularly useful. This resulted with me determining that Maria was gonna be a white/black mage, Guy was the tank, and Firion was a fighter/white mage hybrid. I rotated the weapons out for each character, not because of changes in the quality of the weapons but because the characters would reach an arbitrary cap for the weapon skills until a certain part of the game. Also, the fourth character slot that has about a half-dozen characters rotating in and out throughout the game was almost always filled by someone who was drastically under-leveled. Lastly, it was incredibly simple to grind the game in cheap ways and make all the characters overpowered; about a third of the 35 hours I put into this game was spent doing just that. Overall, the whole system was a complete and unmitigated mess, but in the most interesting way possible. At least this unique idea was eventually developed in a far better fashion in the Elder Scrolls games.

As always, a whole lot of this.

It needs to be mentioned that I liked the art style in this game much better than in the first, it just seemed more unique and detailed. My one complaint with it, though, is that the design for Firion is stupid and kinda disturbing on some primal level, I mean, the fuck?

As far as the music goes, I also generally prefer this one to the first. I think that the Chocobo Theme is gonna end up being my favorite track in the whole series, though I may be proven wrong.

In the end, I found Final Fantasy II to be more interesting and engaging than it had any right to be. If it did anything, it strengthened my resolve going into III, and boy, did I need it. More on that later.

P.S. How could you not play the game that goes with this poster?

Favorite Song (that isn't Chocobo related): Tower of the Magi

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The Final Fantasy Challenge: Final Fantasy I

Well, let’s begin with the elephant in the room: I used the iOS version. I did some research on the different versions of this one and it came down to either having to track down a copy of Dawn of souls for the GBA or downloading it in like 20 minutes onto my iPod. I chose the latter.

Now, I know that I can’t speak to any aspect of the original version, since from what I’ve read this version has more differences than similarities with the original. Though, from that same information I will say that I would have never been able to get an hour into the old NES version. Thus my opinions are only on the remake for iOS.

Doesn't tell you much in the beginning

Because of the methodical, turn based nature of the game, it works pretty well with touch controls. From what I read, the combat was updated from the original to be far, far less of a motherfucker. In fact, I found this to be rather manageable. Of course, that could just be a function of my being a tedious bastard and grinding every time the battles started to get even slightly difficult.

The most striking thing I found about the game was just how little there was driving the plot forward. Yes, I know it was made in '87 but coming in as someone with modern sensibilities this is initially kinda jarring. It can be summed up as: short beginner quest to save a princess, the world starts ending and you find out you need to go find four crystals, you find them, you go find the boss, you fight him, the end. There’s side stuff you gotta do along the way involving an Elven prince, pirates, and an airship, but it’s not much. Even with the grinding the whole endeavor took 25 hours. Though this might be a side effect of it being made easier with each remake.

That may be the most significant thing to take away from this game. When you strip out the punishing difficulty of these old NES era games, like this version did, there really isn't much to write home about. That’s a “no duh” kinda thing to say, but when you look at how much reverence some people have for old games like this it creates a stark juxtaposition between nostalgia and reality.

But I digress, I still actually found the game to be rather enjoyable. The simplicity works in favor of the mobile format, especially with the ability to save at any time and it’s persistence during sleep mode.

How do those thunderbolts even get down there?

Special mention needs to be made to the art design and the music. It was consistently strong throughout and the music will stay with me for the rest of my life, probably. Also, an odd effect of the particular way it’s designed is that I became attached to my four party members even though they had no personalities. I can even name them four months after beating it: Argus, Ellla, Puck, and Zok in that order. That strikes me as a strange quirk of human psychology that I am ill-equipped to properly analyze.

Favorite song: Matoya’s Cave.

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The Final Fantasy Challenge: Intro

Even though I've been playing video games for most of my life, I have had very little experience with the Final Fantasy series. I once played about 15 hours into XIII a while back and that's about it. So, a couple months ago, I took it upon myself to play all of the numbered Final Fantasy games. This may seem crazy, but it’s actually rather tame. The rules I defined for myself were:

  • The versions I play will be whichever ones I can get my hands on the easiest.
  • I don’t have to play the MMO’s.
  • I don’t have to get 100% completion.
  • I have to read/ pay attention to all the text/dialogue they throw at me.
  • I can use game guides, because I want to actually finish these older ones.

The games and versions I plan to play are as follows:

  1. Final Fantasy I (iOS)
  2. Final Fantasy II (iOS)
  3. Final Fantasy III (DS)
  4. Final Fantasy IV (DS)
  5. Final Fantasy V (PS via PSN)
  6. Final Fantasy VI (PS via PSN)
  7. Final Fantasy VII (PS via PSN)
  8. Final Fantasy VIII (PS via PSN)
  9. Final Fantasy IX (PS via PSN)
  10. Final Fantasy X (PS2)
  11. Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)
  12. Final Fantasy XII (PS2)
  13. Final Fantasy XIII (X360)
  14. Final Fantasy XII-2 (X360)
  15. Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns (X360) (when it's released)

As of right now I am about halfway through Final Fantasy III. I'm gonna write my impressions of these games from the view of someone going in cold and with next to zero investment in or nostalgia for the series. Hopefully this will be interesting. If you've played a lot of these games and want to say mean things about my views on them, feel free to do so.

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