Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Final Fantasy I & II

                       I wish new games had 84 page handbooks
Final Fantasy I
++ Warmech
++ Essentially began the JRPG formula of today
++ Moderately Difficult
+ Some character variety and customizability
+ Somehow managed to spring 12+ spiritual sequels
+ Mindblowing graphics
+ Nuke Spell
+ 30-40 hour long NES game
-- Lots of grinding
- Doesn't have much of a storyline
- Certain generic parties are vastly superior to other sets of parties

It's the rosebowl of JRPGs! Well not really, Final Fantasy is not the first JRPG in general but the familiar formula that we see today originated more or less here. That formula is essentially "grind, dungeon crawl, kill boss, repeat" Eventually a storyline was added to the games but the formula remains unchanged in most JRPGs. (Vagrant Story's formula is more like "dungeon crawl, plot bomb, get massacred for a while, kill boss, repeat") While I could just give it a 10 for originating the formula I'd like to actually review it realistically. The combat is mildly strategic though its mostly all about figuring out which spells/abilities/characters are overpowered and exploiting them to the fullest (again much like every other JRPG since).

Apart from the Warmech the game isn't all that difficult if you grind a bit and pick the right sort of party. If you pick a very weak party type then expect a lot of trial and error until you succeed and of course even more grinding. Naturally trial and error and grinding are both staples in modern JRPGs that are at all worth playing difficult. There are particularly powerful enemies that you can face very early on to powerlevel quickly that I'm sure most people know about, if you do so the game doesn't take quite so long but generally every boss for a while will be easier than those random battles.

Overall this game is still relatively playable even now (though you can get the Origins version/rom if you want it to look a bit better), which is an accomplishment in and of itself. Unfortunately its not all that fun or challenging after the first time. Unless you're powered solely by nostalgia I'd recommend going through once just for the hell of it and then moving on to something better.

Final Grade: 8/10
Final Fantasy II
+ Has a storyline!
+ Somewhat experimental
+ Feels slightly unique despite never being released in the US until the early 2000s
+ Introduces Dragoons
--- Dumbest leveling system imaginable
-- Moderately Easy
-- Physical abilities dominate spells

No, not Final Fantasy IV starring Kain and Cecil, Final Fantasy II of only Japanese release fame. For whatever strange reason they decided to confuse us by not confusing those young americans in the 1990s by calling IV II and VI III. This game isn't too horrible, but it is not the happy nostalgia journey of the previous game by any stretch of the imagination.

To level up in this game you just hit your opponent several times and hope at the end of the battle that you get a stat boost. To boost defensive stats you wait until they hit you. At least in the newer versions this results in beating the shit out of yourself to get infinite HP boosts and defensive stat bonuses while still occasionally getting attack bonuses. If this were not an option I can't imagine how tedious the grinding would be. As a direct result of this you're much more likely to wind up with physical attacks being much more powerful than spells, a horrid precedent that seems to be quite popular even now. Spells are the "Fantasy" part of these games in combat but yet just whacking someone slowly with a sword is generally how you kill shit the fastest, alas.

Once you figure out the levelling gimmick you can boost everyone's stats in every random battle and have no real incentive to fight more difficult enemies than the starting areas,' you can overlevel the entire game at almost the beginning and then steamroll the rest. Yet another dangerous precedent that seems all too common these days. While this game is far from unplayable its still not remarkable in any way except for the failings. It does actually have a plot and characters that talk though, so that's a bonus. Of course that plot is pretty much drivel, but it's an NES game so that's fine.

Final Grade: 6/10

A few days ago I emerged victorious in the semifinals of my Fantasy Football league despite being down 40 points with one part of my team to go. The Chicago Bears defense! With 4 sacks, 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, and a Kick Return TD I somehow emerged victorious.

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