Okay, I’ve got a lot of ground to cover this week. From Final Fantasy V’s lovely ending the the stellar start of Final Fantasy VI, there’s plenty to say. So let’s get right into it, shall we?
I finished the story of Final Fantasy V on Day 114: April 24, 2015.
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I’m going to start this piece with a simple fact: Final Fantasy V is an excellent game. I feel like a broken record, but it surpassed all prior games in the series. Final Fantasy IV may have been the first game to offer a legitimately engaging and often emotional story, Final Fantasy V built upon that foundation to grow bigger and better. I stand by my previous claim that the only reason FFIV is more widely loved by western fans than FFV is because FFV never got the proper SNES release like FFIV and FFVI. Had it come to our homes in the 90’s like its predecessor and successor, it would surely rank just as high in many “best RPGs” lists out there today.
You see, Final Fantasy V takes the best parts of all the games before and makes them better. From FFIII we’ve got the job system, but so greatly refined and tightened. While FFIV had a great cast of characters, there were too many and your party was always changing. FFV gave you the same 4 characters to play from the beginning, right up until one of them died, when another character you were already familiar with took his spot. Even more important, the man that died stayed dead. The sacrifice was emotional, strong, and incredibly meaningful to the story.
It also picked up the story of the crystals introduced in Final Fantasy, and brought my 4 new Warriors of Light a fresh quartet of allies in the Warriors of Dawn. Meanwhile from Final Fantasy II we see… nothing. Truly, they built on what they learned from FFII by leaving all of that rubbish out of the mix entirely.
Final Fantasy V introduced the world to the adorable but deadly Tonberry, and the entertaining swordsman Gilgamesh. Characters like FFVIII’s Quistis and FFX’s Kimahri have their Blue Magic ability to steal enemies’ attacks thanks to this game. Perhaps a double-edged sword, this was also the first Final Fantasy to have complex enough mechanics to feature outright tutorials as opposed to a school you could enter and learn the basics at.
I’ve elaborated on most of this already in previous updates, but it’s all just so good that it’s worth mentioning again. Final Fantasy V is truly a criminally under-appreciated gem in the Final Fantasy family, and it you’re a fan of the series and haven’t ever played it, I urge you to remedy that.
Perhaps the weakest point of the game, and something likely to be fixed with FFVI, is the villain, Exdeath. At his roots he’s just a tree who wants to rule the world(s), but he never really feels like a worthwhile foe. After FFII, FFIII and FFIV featured end-game twists of the supposed main bad guy not being the head honcho in charge, I fully expected that from Exdeath as well. He’s a typically bland “bad guy” who just wants to power to rule everything, and that’s pretty boring. Every time I encountered him I expected the true antagonist to reveal themselves, but that never happened. Exdeath was the true antagonist.
Still, while Exdeath was a bit of a disappointment, there’s still no denying that Final Fantasy V is the best in the series to date. Let’s look at the stats!
Time to complete: 35 hours, 10 minutes before final battle; ~36 hours total
Modes of transportation: Walking/Running, Chocobo (Boco), Pirate Ship, Hiryuu/Dragon, Steam Ship, Black Chocobo, Submarine, Airship
Chocobos: Present! Bartz’s companion Boco, his eventual wife Coco (and their kids), and a black chocobo are all hanging around the world
Mogs/Moogles: Present! Helpful but reclusive, moogles live in their forest, hiding from outsiders
Overworld: Present! Two separate overworlds that merge into one
Summons: Present! Called espers, there are more than a dozen to be found
Cid: Present! Cid Previa is an engineer who fixes up and outfits many vehicles throughout the game
Biggs & Wedge: Not present.
Notable series firsts: Tutorials, Blue Magic/Enemy Skills, Gilgamesh, Tonberry
1) Final Fantasy V
2) Final Fantasy IV
3) Final Fantasy III
4) Final Fantasy
5) Final Fantasy II
— Final Fantasy Zak (@zacharyplyons) April 24, 2015
FINAL FANTASY VI
It’s been a while since I finished one game and started the next in the same week, but this time I went totally off the deep end and started playing Final Fantasy VI the same DAY that I wrapped up FFV. I did this for three reasons: 1) I’ve been falling behind, and I need to seriously make up some time. The games are only growing and getting longer. 2) Final Fantasy VI is easily the most hyped up game of the batch I hadn’t played before, and I’ve been quite eager to get into it. 3) I had the spare time! YOLO and all that.
So right off the bat, the game takes on a much different tone to previous entries. Instead of starting off in a castle or speaking to local royalty about a quest, you begin in a snowy, steam-operated town. Magic is nothing but a myth, and it all feels a bit more modern than prior titles. There’s a definite aura of bleak misery about the place, much different to the typical bright locales we’re used to.
The beginning is a bit comparable to FFIV in that you’re not entirely sure who’s good and who’s bad. Where Cecil was a good guy taking orders from bad people, Terra (our first female lead!) starts her journey being mind-controlled by the Empire to perform evil deeds. When she is rescued and back in her right mind, she finds herself afflicted with amnesia. Go figure. After Galuf in FFV I’m about amnesia’d out, but I have to admit I like the direction they’re taking with Terra.
Anyway, I’m a little over six hours in so far, and I’ve already had eight “main” party members, as well as a couple randoms that join my party briefly but are mere stand-ins until someone important comes along. Judging by my menus it looks like there will be 14 total mains, which to be frank, I find to be a ridiculous amount. I’m trying to reserve judgement until later in the game, as the game may do a marvelous job at fleshing them all out. Based on past experiences, however, I’m not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to change my party all the time as with FFII and FFIV.
Speaking of characters, I’ve often heard that Kefka is one of the most legitimately evil antagonists in the entire Final Fantasy franchise, and based on my first few encounters with him I’m inclined to agree. Sure, he’s typically power-hungry and wants to rule everything and everyone, but rather than just sending an army to kill the rebels, he’s happy to poison an entire river and effectively doom any innocent bystanders nearby to reach his targets. He’s unrelentingly brutal, with more than a dash of insane. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him more to learn more about his ambitions and reasons (if there are any aside from “he’s crazy”).
In fact two casualties from the river poisoning were the wife and son of Cyan, one of my main players. Even though I had only just met the character in-game, his sudden loss of wife and kin dealt a pretty heavy blow. It was so dark and twisted, and much more mature than Final Fantasy has previously been. Then that was followed up with the amazingly creepy Phantom Train, where Cyan caught a glimpse of his family passing over to the other side. When he heard their parting words, I honestly got chills. Galuf’s death in FFV got to me, but this is the first time anything in the series has given me goosebumps from the feels.
Let me reiterate: I am only 6 hours into this game so far. Shit’s intense.
Gone are the days of saving the crystals. There has been nary a whisper of the word yet (though I’m sure it will happen eventually), instead focusing on the power of espers, the politics of the empire’s cruelty, and Terra’s internal conflict as she remembers all the terrible things she was forced to do. It’s amazing how engrossing the game is. Surely a product of my generation, it’s often difficult these days to grow attached to miniature pixelated people, but Final Fantasy VI has excelled at it with record speed so far. Just another reason to wait and see how the game handles 14 back stories.
There’s already so much more I could say, from the gorgeous music to playing different scenarios with different characters as events unfold simultaneously, or the dynamic mode 7 view when riding atop a chocobo, but I’ve gone on enough already. I’m stopping here for this week. Surely there’ll be time to discuss these more another time.
So yeah, Final Fantasy VI. Going pretty friggin’ well so far. I look forward to what this next week will bring!