So, about two years ago, I began a mission to beat all of the numbered, original canon Final Fantasy games. No Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core (though I’ve beaten it and it’s wonderful), no Final Fantasy X-2 – just the original, numbered games.
Since then, I’ve beaten 4, 5, 6, 7, and 13 (which I just finished tonight).
Anyway, I was scared that some of the games wouldn’t hold up to my childhood memory, kind of like the way that Thundercats doesn’t anymore. But, strangely, the opposite has mostly been true. Here is my current rundown:
Final Fantasy IV (DS version)
SUCH A GOOD GAME!
The characters, the plot, the trip to the moon, the new localization… YES! I remembered a lot of the game, so I was tentative to try it again. I played for a while, then stopped for some reason, then picked it up again. Oh right, I saved inside the giant and couldn’t get out. Then I did, bought some items and level grinded (ground?) for a while and then was hooked until the end. The scoring of the OST was really nice too.
The DS version is painfully unbalanced. I would trounce the enemies for 20 random battles in a row, then die on a usually-useless enemy. That’s a common criticism, so I’m not too beat up on it. Oh, and how does Yang come back in the end? And Palom and Porom? It appears that I overlooked some plot holes in my youth…
Final Fantasy V (GBA version)
Exceedingly better than I remember.
I first played FFV when I was in high school, but it hadn’t been released in North America yet, so I was playing it on ZSNES with a fan translation patch on my sketchy HP. The battles were choppy, there was a click delay between the game and keyboard… oh, and I was playing it WASD and I really wasn’t interested. I got to the Big Bridge and stopped. When I picked it up on GBA about 10 years later, it was a wonderful experience. Great localization, some very under-represented music (in the franchise, I mean), iconic moments, the introduction of Gilgamesh. Oh, and a KILLER update on the job system from FFIII. The versatility built into the party was amazing. I really enjoyed the experience. Also, the Phantom Village was really creepy… like, really creepy, especially when you encounter it in the Void in the end AFTER seeing it trapped in time during the second world.
Other than Galuf, I wasn’t terribly interested in any of the characters. I mean, I wanted Lenna to find her dad and all, but the game really became about getting Exdeath in the end and less about the characters. I also didn’t really like Exdeath very much as a villain (though, I did like how he came from a tree). There was something quite unconvincing about him. They did a better job of him in Dissidia than in the actual game.
Final Fantasy VI (GBA Version)
It’s my favourite game of all-time and it still holds up.
I was scared that this game would just be my youth again and it might actually be terrible when I tackled it in my late-20s. Thankfully, I was wrong. I could pick this up and play it again today. The storytelling, the characters, the sequences, the battle mechanics, the Espers, the magic, the customization… and, of course, the music. While I don’t like the music in the GBA version as much as the original, the structure of the OST (as in “all of the songs working together as a unit”) is remarkably strong. I care about all of the characters, their stories, their struggles, their backgrounds… It is almost the perfect game (second only to Super Metroid, which is a perfect game).
Critics over the years have slammed the customization in the game because it’s so easy to make your characters god-like. Level them up, give them all Ultima, equip them with the myriad of amazing weapons/armour/accessories in the game and… it’s over? Actually, there’s some truth to that. I found that I got too strong too quickly and the challenge of the game was compromised. Granted, it was still a wonderful experience, but it’s nice to die once in a while 🙂
Final Fantasy VII (PSP port)
Strangely, better than I remember.
Yeah, it was great. While I don’t love this game as much as VI, it still has a place in my heart. What I really noticed this time around was how fast the battles actually are. I mean, the earlier games are engaging, but VII’s battle system moves so quickly that I really had to stay on it all the time. The music is classic and hearing it all in context again – well, most of it. The story actually made more sense this time too, which is always nice.
While I’m very patient with graphics, this pill was a bit tough to swallow. Great 2D will trump bad 3D anytime (does anyone remember Earthbound 64 before it became Mother 3?) and FFVII hasn’t aged very well. Graphics aren’t nearly as important to me as they are to the rest of the world, but it’s worth saying. Also, “One-Winged Angel” has been played, arranged, orchestrated, remixed and performed to death, so it was an anti-climactic final battle. I know that it’s a crowd pleaser, but there is so much other amazing music in that game, like the Main Theme, J-E-N-O-V-A and all of Red XIII’s music. Work those more, please!
Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)
Mixed, but generally good.
After playing VII and VIII (scratched Disc 3, so we’re on a break), XIII is an incredibly beautiful game visually. The voice acting is beautiful, Masashi Hamauzu did a lovely job with the music, the battles are fast… it’s quite good. I beat the game tonight and I really enjoyed it. I cared about the characters too: I loved Lightning and Fang, I enjoyed Sazh and Snow and Fang, and I grew to love Hope and Vanille. I loved both the worlds of Cocoon and Gran Pulse too!
The unravelling of the story was terribly awkward. I didn’t get what was going on through the first half, though I eventually put it together just before I got to Pulse. The Datalog was handy for that, but I shouldn’t have had to check it, just write the game better! Also, the positioning of the villain was poor – who am I fighting against anyway? Dysley? Orphan? The Cavalry? Raines? I felt like I just wanted to beat the clock before my brand turned us into l’Cie. Also, Final Fantasy, you need to stop invented so many goddamn words: l’Cie, fal’Cie, Primarch, Crystarium, Cie’th… Seriously, too damn much.
Also, your locations are SO beautiful, why not introduce them organically. I’m walking and then, all of a sudden, I’m in this beautiful place for no reason, or Taejin’s Tower, or whatever. Can a character just say “We’re almost at Oerba, but if we have to go this way, we’ll have to go through Taejin’s Tower. Legend has it that *yadda yadda yadda*” That way, the audience at least knows that it’s coming and that it’s a normal part of the environment!
(I still did get emotional in the end, so it’s okay.)
Next stop, beating Final Fantasy VIII! I’m on the 3rd disc, but it’s too scratched to continue, so I’m off on an adventure of my own now…
Until next time!