06.5 Final Fantasy VI, FF7

Near the end of Final Fantasy VI I got well and truly stuck for the first time, having no clue how or where to find my next lost party member. I’m upset I couldn’t beat the game without help, but I’m glad for the guide because there was NO way I would have worked it out without help. Regardless, I was finally able reunite my entire team (while finding the final two hidden characters too!) and make my way to Kefka and the end-game.

I finished the story of Final Fantasy VI on Day 137: May 17, 2015.


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Now I may get a bit of flak for this, but after finally completing Final Fantasy VI I must say that I’m pretty torn on how I feel about it. I mean, it’s a great game; there’s no doubting that at all. But is it truly so deserving of its perpetual praise I’ve heard so much about for so many years now? I’m honestly not so sure.

My biggest issue, as I’ve stated already in past articles, is the shear size of the cast. Fourteen playable characters is just too many, even if three of them are superfluous and optional. For a game I beat in 35 hours, at least half of which was spent in battles, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to introduce and flesh out each one. In fact, once you reach the World of Ruin, it’s completely possible that you’ll make your way to the end of the game without finding half of them.

That’s right: after reading up a bit I found that you can potentially complete the game with just Celes, Setzer, and Edgar in your party. What would that mean for the ending? Would Terra suddenly show up in her Esper form and help us escape Kefka’s crumbling tower? Which of those three would talk smack to Kefka during his pre-battle monologue? Who would save Celes in her ending credits scene if Locke doesn’t show up? It’s a bit ridiculous.

Now personally, I made it my mission to explore as much as I could, and I did manage to get the whole team back together (aside from Shadow, who allegedly died a completely meaningless and ambiguous death), and I thought it was neat finding these little side stories for each character, like Cyan’s familial closure or Terra learning to control her esper strength. Those moments are brilliant in and of themselves, but you can actively choose to bypass them completely. This is kind of absurd. Why go to the effort of making them pivotal characters for the first half of the game, only to leave their fates up in the air for the second? I don’t like it.

Having said all that, Final Fantasy VI did a lot of things right when compared to its predecessors. For one thing, five games in a row is more than enough rehashes of the same plot played out in new ways. It was an absolute delight to not have a single mention of “Warriors of Light” or “the four crystals” this time around. The important crystals were Magicite, and the espers were certainly one of the most important aspects of the game, but the story was nowhere near that of Final Fantasy through Final Fantasy V.

FFVI dared to stand out from those before it, and it worked so incredibly well; from the steam-powered era of magitek armor and castles that can travel beneath the desert to the Mode 7 views when riding atop a chocobo to the drastically more mature themes, this is definitely not a game to be missed.

Actually, maybe ‘mature’ isn’t the right word. It’s more depressing than anything. Cyan’s family is poisoned right after you meet him, Celes is tortured and tested on, and later attempts suicide, Locke’s former partner is in a coma because of him, Setzer’s partner died in an accident when they were racing airship; you get the idea. There is so much tragedy and pain in each of these characters’ lives, and it’s not always easy to watch it unfold. Perhaps that’s one reason so many people love the game is because they have specific characters they can relate to. I’m not sure. The biggest tragedy, as I said before, is not making all of those scenes mandatory. You learn so much about everyone from optional scenes, and I feel they’re all noteworthy enough to not be missed.

Something else I liked about the game is that while Terra is your first party member and widely considered FFVI’s main protagonist, she’s really not. Everyone is. When the world goes to hell and you wake up a year later, you’re not playing Terra; you’re playing Celes. As I said before, you don’t even have to have Terra present and accounted for in order to beat the game. In a sense she paves the way for Final Fantasy XII’s Vaan. They’re both the “main characters” in their games, but mostly because they bring everyone else together. Of course there is MUCH more importance and depth to Terra than Vaan, but hopefully you can see the line I’m drawing here.

Regardless of the complaining I did, this is absolutely the first game I would want to replay for completion. There are so many optional side quests, mini-missions, bonus boss fights and the like that I didn’t experience or complete, either because I didn’t know how or I straight-up didn’t know they were there. This is the first Final Fantasy that really feels like my kind of Final Fantasy; one that’s open and massive and has plenty of stuff to do aside from the main story. Despite all the depressing themes, there is so much fun to be had in the game – you just have to go looking for most of it.

I suppose I’ve waffled on long enough and pissed off plenty of you by now, so I’ll wrap things up and move on to my opening thoughts on Final Fantasy VII below. Note that this is the first time since Final Fantasy II that the latest game didn’t top the ranking! Scandalous!

Time to complete: 34 hours, 26 minutes before final battle; ~35 hours total
Modes of transportation: Walking/Running, Magitek Armor, Chocobos, Blackjack (airship #1), Falcon (airship #2)
Chocobos: Present! Used to escape Figaro Castle early on, then available (but never essential) for rent from stables
Mogs/Moogles: Present! A group hides away in the Narshe caves, and Mog is the first playable party member moogle
Overworld: Present! One world presented in two segments: The World of Balance and The World of Ruin
Summons: Present! Nearly 30 espers to obtain, they and their world are pivotal to the plot; Terra is half-esper
Cid: Present! Cid Del Norte Marquez is a father figure to Celes, and plays a limited role
Biggs & Wedge: Present! Their series debut lasts only for the prologue, accompanying Terra to Narshe’s esper
Notable series firsts: Biggs & Wedge, Cactuars, first story not focused on “the 4 crystals”

Current ranking:
1) Final Fantasy V
2) Final Fantasy VI
3) Final Fantasy IV
4) Final Fantasy III
5) Final Fantasy
6) Final Fantasy II


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FINAL FANTASY VII

Final Fantasy VII is going to be an interesting game for me to talk about, to be sure. This was my first Fantasy, but it was certainly not my final Fantasy (lol uc wut i did ther). I have to admit from the beginning, since this was my first, it is also my rose-tinted glasses game. I completely embrace the fact that I see the game as potentially better than it is, simply because it is the one that started my RPG craze, just as it is for so many others. As such, I am going to do my best to justly praise and criticize FFVII without letting nostalgia get in the way.

So first thing’s first: the game looks like crap.

Well, that deserves some elaboration. Specifically, the character models look like crap. Final Fantasy, II, and III on the NES were all naturally simplistic, but impressive for the time; they now look quite dated. Then IV, V, and VI entered on the SNES, and the pixelated sprites looked downright charming; they still hold up remarkably well today. But while the jump from pixels to polygons was revolutionary in 1997, to look at Final Fantasy VII today compared to the games that came before it and those we’ve seen since, there’s simply no other way to put it.

For how renowned the FFVII is, it’s just not accessible for modern gamers who look at it and see fucked up Duplo Blocks. Their faces are flat and emotionless, which is made up for by surprisingly effective body language that was fairly difficult to convey in older games. Luckily there are some saving graces. The battle sequences, for instance, showcase the first non-midget characters on your team. Instead of a party of tiny people fighting a massive boss, your team actually looks like proper people when you fight. Pair that with dynamic camera angles and enemies that actively move, battles are just delightful and feel so fresh.

Also of obvious note is the introduction of proper cinematics. I loved the way Final Fantasy VI used some battles as a stage for opposing forces to chat in a cinematic style – that was truly inspired – but starting the game and seeing the glow of the Lifestream on Aeris’ smooth face, and watching the view pan out to cover the entirely of Midgar is so great. This is surely some of that dirty nostalgia poking its ugly head, but I just loved it. The FMVs in FFVIII and FFIX and everything else thereafter only improve upon what FFVII starts, but that’s just it: FFVII started it, and not without flair.

Now I ended my gameplay today just after Don Corneo’s mansion, and I have to point something out. For all of you folks who have wanted a Final Fantasy VII remake, just remember that means seeing Cloud dressed in drag and potentially sharing an uncomfortable bath with a dozen gay dudes in 1080p. Think about that, won’t you?

On that note, I’ll call this a wrap until next week. Catch my daily musings on Twitter (@zacharyplyons), and I’ll be back next week with more thoughts on Final Fantasy VII.

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