Final Fantasy Marathon Look-Back, Part 1

kh2-2016-07-20-22h22m33s689

Since we wrapped up the FFVI Journal last week, we decided to take the opportunity to do a celebration here at Marathon Recaps and look back over the past two eras of Final Fantasy: the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. And it won’t just be me: for the first time you’ll be hearing Kyle’s thoughts here as well! With many of these games, it’s been years since we last played them, and we wondered if a good look back might have changed out opinions. So here’s the plan: this week, Kyle and I will alternate talking about each game, giving some time-aged insight into each. Next week, we’ll be back with two Top 5 lists each: our Top 5 Worst and Top 5 Best Moments in the Marathon! Be sure to be back for that!

Since I didn’t want either of us to “go first” or “go last,” I decided that we’ll alternate our positions.  First Kyle and then me for FFI, then me and then Kyle for FFII, and so on.

Kyle says: Coming at you from another perspective writing wise about our grand adventures. We’ve gotten through a good chunk of the Final Fantasy series thus far, but there is still much much to today. On this day however we look back at what we’ve accomplished.


Final Fantasy I

ff1marathon-2015-02-28-02h11m45s177Kyle says:

Ahh the wonderful beginning of it all. Well, no, not quite. Before the beginning of our Final Fantasy journey, there was Megaman and Trauma Centre. As far as first games went however, this game had quite a bit to offer.

The story might have started suspiciously. You are four heroes coming on a boat from an unknown land who have been prophesied to save the lands. You get your choice of four characters that can have the same or different classes. Naturally having all of the same class will make it more difficult, even if just for equipment scarcity sakes. After a certain point, your characters can promote these classes to a better version. For those max stat wishers, this meant staying to stay as low level as you could to get the most benefit. Like Lance in Brigandine when you kept him out of battles until he became a King, this wasn’t really necessary.

We went with a mixed party, and had our first encounters with the Four Fiends, a concept that is a staple for many of the other games of the series. While the story wasn’t overly complex, I think it did a fair job of keeping your interest. Later instalments would be better about reminding you of where you were supposed to be. I guess most games just aren’t like Breath of Fire III.


ff1marathon-2015-03-01-21h54m50s203I say:

A lot of the time I look back at Final Fantasy I and think “Ah yes, the textbook unremarkable JRPG”… which is strange, because it has so much going for it that let it stand out. You can choose your own party members, you can let them permanently die for extra challenge, there’s a weird time travel plot going on in the background. The list goes on. So why am I so utterly convinced of its genericism?

I think the plot hurts it, most of all. While the idea of an apocalyptic world has a little weight, the game rarely depicts itself as such, and the time travel bits are all shoved to the end as if by a giant metanarrative bulldozer. Meanwhile the character selection mechanics only make me realize how much the game benefits from being small and compact, to allow you to replay with new parties. It’s sort of like the gameplay-focused cousin of Undertale: Undertale uses its small length to allow you to replay and re-experience its narrative, and Final Fantasy does it to allow you to re-experience its gameplay. Nuts to the story!

Unfortunately, this gameplay focus and general blandness makes me look back at FFI like some kind of prototype or platonic ideal of an RPG. What is FFI, I say, but the moment RPGs stopped dragging their hindquarters through the mud of level grinding of early JRPGs and the inchoate feature splurge of early WRPGs? In that way it really is just the textbook JRPG, and it’s a good thing it didn’t go any further, because everyone else trying to “go further” went in directions that have aged very poorly. So congratulations, FFI: you’re stable. You’re prototypically stable.

The big consequence of this is that FFI has no banners to fly either, beyond “stability from an era of instability.” When I want to play FFI these days, it’s not because I want to play FFI per se, it’s because I want to play something prototypical, something simple, something close to the bone of the genre. So congratulations again FFI. You’re simplistic, too! And sometimes that’s what I’m looking for. The rest of the time…?


Final Fantasy II

ff2marathon-2015-05-17-19h51m42s688I say:

I like FFII far more than it deserves. I said it right up front and the years haven’t changed it: the poor game just doesn’t work. The fact is that the FFII system came into its own only two games later, during FFLII (and even that needs patchwork), and any remake that keeps FFII close to FFII instead of remaking it as a new SaGa game is doomed to failure. Maybe one day they’ll release it as a new level-based FF game and “fix” the problem by wiping the problem out, but that seems a little much to me (as a SaGa fan, I’d prefer they just transplant a later-gen SaGa system!). The gameplay’s not all bad.  I like having customizable main characters, but customizable guest characters was a great chore and Soul of Rebirth only redeems so much (while being something of a chore itself!). Even Kyle and my errant, dutiful grinding in a fairly recent version was no match to the system.

But what I really like here is the story and its various memorable set-pieces. You do real footwork here, with few magical artifacts just waiting to spoil the plot, no destined heroes, and most of the drama is something that happened after the chips fell, not years before in ancient myths. But it’s not all low fantasy: and the bad guy has you completely outclassed and outmanoeuvred with tornadoes and the armies of hell, so it keeps that JRPG magic in its own unique way.

Too bad it’s dragged down by its obnoxious gameplay, and its grindy post-game, and a certain lack of character and substance that leaves its praise-worthy story (in my eyes) still only surface deep. This is no Suikoden II, is what I’m saying, but it’s also no typical Final Fantasy, and I can respect that too.

Plus, it had Guy, and Guy was Great.


ff2marathon-2015-05-21-01h10m46s548Kyle says:

One of the most off-beat games to date, Final Fantasy II tossed a lot of new game mechanics at you that could make you rather frustrated.

Often considered the black sheep by many, this game required you to use weapons and spells I battle to gain greater proficiency with them. Another interesting design choice was the incorporation of keywords that you could say to just about anyone. Some of these yielded nothing, others had you jumped by guards, and many were used to continue the story. This game also jumped on the Resistance group idea, one that many, many games would follow as a base idea later on.

Our Resistance warriors took on an evil Emperor and saved the land itself. The game had a mix of somewhat normal circumstances, then big huge magic parts. There was also an additional quest that we went on afterwards that was a side story for those who died in the game. Overall the game was more interesting in theory then in actual gameplay.


The Final Fantasy Legend

ffli-2015-06-10-06h58m04s028Kyle says:

The beginning of a new series. Later instruments will do a better job of bringing some characterization to the party, but here it will only come in very limited portions. Speaking of limited, welcome to an eight slot inventory system for your characters. Humans will feel this the worst when you have them properly equipped. Especially if you want to do something silly like have spare weapons or a potion. Thankfully Humans are able to power up quickly after about the second world. I think the game kind of expects you to, honestly.

Mutants (or Espers) had a very complicated system of levelling up. They also had random skills come up every now and then which went from game breaking in certain points, to downright useless (oh hi Sleep. Yes we know you’re there). As noted, no, you don’t get as much choice in exactly what you get.

Overall the promise of the game is fighting to get to Paradise. That’s it really. No big political aspirations, no environmental message. This left our group feeling a bit out of touch with some of the worlds’ plots. That might also be because we went and broke any social structure they came across. Oh well.


ffli-2015-06-20-14h22m00s225I say:

The longer I study it, the more the fractured nature of FFLI comes to bother me. A stage-based RPG! Having grown up with the game, you’d think I’d enjoy the concept, but it seems weaker now than it did as a kid. FFLI is still held together by its mythic core narrative, but I start to feel that its extremities might stray just a little too far. I begin to wonder if the game really needed these things. The weakness of the second world? The genre shifts of the third and fourth worlds – nice as the fourth may be? And then I think… am I really advocating a game just because it has a good First World and hub (the Tower)? No, of course not, so the answer must be that I’m not really advocating FFLI at all.

Still, that mythic core really is something else, something you don’t find in any other game except in a sprinkling in FFLII. It means struggling with the mechanics unfortunately, which still haven’t fully matured from FFII (and outright lie to you) but it’s not as bad as FFII itself, just a bit slow and cumbersome, and it takes solid minutes of menu-diving to level up your Humans and argh! Why is this game so much worse in hindsight?

I suppose FFLI is better than the sum of its parts. Like, considerably. What it might need more than anything is an interface upgrade, which I might one day find in the Wonderswan remake. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine the remake fixing everything.  No one would ever dare change the elements that really bother me since it would require tossing out three-quarters of the game – I wouldn’t take my advice, either!  In the end, FFLI, despite its strong centre, is probably doomed to stay one of my lower-tier Final Fantasy games for a while to come, but give it time.  Some other game is bound to push it into the middle eventually.


Final Fantasy III

ffiii-2015-07-16-00h01m20s427I say:

I’m still not fond of this game. The 3D remake, I mean. One of these days I will play the original but it has yet to happen. In the meantime, the remake retains its open faults: shallow character work, irrelevant challenge replaced by randomness and grinding, and a disrespect for what, by all reports, genuinely did work in the original.

Much of what did work in FFIII (and wasn’t damaged by the remake) also suffers in the context of newer products. The job system feels better cooked in FFV, the light and darkness dichotomy is better served in Kingdom Hearts (although KH has yet to dedicated quite as much of its time to an evil nation of Light!), and even its greatest moment, the world destroyed, has been arguably topped by FFVI.

This all said, in the years since I published the FFIII Journal for the first time, I picked up experience with some of the real grindy games of the industry, one of which we’ll be covering elsewhere on the blog. Nowadays I don’t feel quite so bitter towards FFIII 3D. I still think a grinding focus has no place in Final Fantasy’s main storylines (post-game stuff, sure, although even that I think could do without) but compared to worse examples that will show up in the Marathon in good time, FFIII just made the mistake of coming to the Final Fantasy party instead of the level-grinding party next door at Enix and Atlus. I suppose it’s better the grinding be a small problem than a big one, right? Urm… a moderate-sized problem? …A problem big enough that it discourages me from playing the FFIII 3D ever again? One of those things.  Hey, I said I felt less bitter towards FFIII, not that I’m not bitter.

I suppose the short of it is that nothing’s really changed about my impression of the 3D FFIII games… with one exception. I did respect the game enough to pick up another copy on sale on Steam to replace my lower-resolution, arguably-incomplete DS version. Maybe time and trials (“trials” here meaning other parts of the Marathon) will teach me to like FFIII retroactively. Probably not something I’ll like very… highly, but I can see the remake changing from dislike to like, or at least neutrality, so long as playing the original doesn’t ruin things in hindsight.


ffiii-2015-07-22-22h23m51s107Kyle says:

Welcome to more tragic circumstances involving the crystals of the world. We ended up playing the iOS remake, which hosted a good amount of changes. Many of these changes I thought were for the better, but I imagine there is a purist somewhere who is crying out in agony.

The game does a good job of utilizing the Job system in this game. You unlocked more Jobs as you progressed and saved the Crystals. All of the Jobs though needed their own specific equipment, which means through most of the game you’re likely going to be broke for most of the game. Thankfully, as long as you can have a variety of Jobs on the run, you’ll likely be ready for anything they can throw at you. The game also has a cool down system of sorts that discourages you from bouncing around Jobs all the time.

This was a fun game. I know that seems simple to say, but it was enjoyable. I think there were only a handful of bosses really gave us trouble. Usually those were because we had to have a specific Job for everyone to be. I will say this game made me hate the Mini status effect though. So much hate.


Final Fantasy Legend II

fflii-2015-10-24-14h36m13s703.pngKyle says:

Are you ready to explore the new worlds that are full of Gods? Well good! Because we’ll not only be meeting them, but we’ll also be beating them up and stealing their power from them.

The worlds in this game are influenced by MAGI. These MAGI give great strength, capabilities, or magic to those that weird them. These are how you’ll be learning a lot of your abilities here, even ones that will help find other MAGI in case you got lost.

The premise of this story is kind of interesting. Power corrupts, and that is shown in great prevalence here. How do we fall in? Well, our Dad told us to help out before running off on us, and it just seemed like a good thing to do. The fact that we ourselves take all this power into us for own own personal gain totally makes them the bad guys, not us. Right?

Weapons having durability, and some MAGI having only limited use will make you need to either save your good things for when it counts, or just finding other ways to get through it.

Killbot2000 will never forget what happened these days. The rest of the party would eventually fade, but not our Dragon Sword wielding Tank menace.


fflii-2015-11-04-18h44m47s710.pngI say:

Ah, the little game that should have. The amazing premise, the intimate father/child story almost a decade ahead of its time, the worlds of just the right size with generally interesting self-contained plots, the interconnected worlds… and then the redundant MAGI, the chop-shop localization, the comical censorship, and of course the great failure of its eleventh-hour difficulty.

Now, at the end of the FFLII Journal, I talked about how it might be hard for me to ever go back to the game. I don’t really feel that way anymore, but it really is helped along by a hefty serving of nostalgia. The game’s heavy faults are hard to ignore. Maybe if the remake ever made its way over here, the problems might be patched up (some of them, anyways) but that’s not really looking like a possibility, unless the SaGa DS remakes one day see release on the PC like FFIII.

But do any of those faults make the poor game bad? Not really. I’m just sort of resentful, like someone with a new car and a new dent. You were so close, FFLII. So close to doing everything right, but then you did so many things so drastically wrong. The next time I come to play this game, it’ll definitely be with caution, but only a little. After all, only the ending really throws everything out with the bathwater, and that’s not so bad. If nothing else, I got to walk away knowing my childhood attempts to beat the game weren’t any worse off than the one I made as an adult, and that’s a relief, too.


Final Fantasy Adventure

ffa-2015-11-14-02h27m26s026I say:

Ah, the little game that couldn’t. Where I might harsh FFIII for bad balance and FFLI for lying, none of those games has moment-to-moment gameplay problems. FFA is different, since FFA is outright poorly done. At least it’s the ambitious kind of “poorly done,” the kind where things went wrong because they were trying too hard, rather than that they weren’t trying at all. Still, I don’t quite see myself coming back to FFA anytime soon, not when it has not just one but two remakes on the market. When the only things wrong with your game are coding, just-barely-antiquated design, and the mistaken belief that your plot has a happy ending, a remake will fix at least one of those! Maybe even two!

There really is a good game in here. Boy meets Girl. Boy loses Girl. Boy meets Girl again. Boy loses Girl again. Boy falls off buildings. Boy continues meeting Girl, falling. A classic. Three of the four classic Fiends, multiple weapons, it all should be great, and I’m sure that once I eventually do get to playing one (or both!) of its remakes, that I’ll enjoy it all over again. But the original…?

In the end, I can see where a whole series came out of this little game, but that doesn’t leave me with much of an urge to play the prototype ever again. What little charm it ever had has been exhausted by my familiarity with its faults.


ffa-2015-12-02-18h51m16s375Kyle says:

A bit of a surprising turn of events happens with Final Fantasy Adventure. Mostly we have up trying to expect our protagonist would realize something was not a good idea. Whether it be staying the night in an incredibly questionable place, or just telling our friend, “No, seriously, get out of here, you’re cramping my sword arm”.

One of the last games where we would have control of one character at a time, this game would later help form the Mana series. The control system was very much like Zelda, but that was to be expected.

At the heart of it all, different weapons could help serve different functions, which encouraged their continued use to an effect. Magic for our character wasn’t largely used unless the enemy we were facing needed it. Our guest party members could be asked to help, each having a different ability. Fuji had a great healing ability which would keep you fighting. Others were… Not so splendid.

While it wasn’t a large game, direction could be a tricky thing to figure out at times. Without looking at a guide, I think it would have taken us a lot longer to figure out needing to walk in a figure eight pattern.

Thankfully we didn’t really take dirt naps often, so there was that at least.


Final Fantasy IV

ffiv-2015-07-26-00h19m15s860Kyle says:

Coming to the stage! One of the first games with a large roster of characters! Are they all good? Well… hmmm… Well combat efficiency isn’t the only thing you care about right? Oh good.

This game starts off strong, and does a fair job making the reason as to why various party members continue onward. Each character had a unique skill to them, which further helped making some choices meaningful. With this large a cast however, some of these characters are on a thin timeline for being around.

Overall the game was quite entertaining, both from a gameplay perspective and just from things we likely should have not found as funny as we did. There were multiple dungeons, some spanning quite a long time, making it tricky at times. Thankfully it never quite hit really frustrating. Even when it did, something unbelievable would happen.

Cecil Harvey, you did not start as a very good man, and no, I’m not convinced you ever really got out of it. You’ll be ok, Rydia, there there.


ffiv-2015-08-20-02h04m16s509I say:

Oh FFIV, you comic tragedy. Such a strong start, such a piddling middle, such a tragic, laugh-out-loud crash in the late-middle. Sometimes I think FFIV is the heart of the Marathon. It was certainly the most fun we’ve had, the great disaster. The man who curses children. The plot that can’t hold a straight face. Kyle and I lurking reaper-like over dry and dusty characters, waiting for them to drop dead. What an experience!

The funny thing about FFIV is that it just needed another editing pass… and maybe a few years hung out to dry. I know, because I’ve been playing the 3D version (on PC) and it fixes so many rudimentary mistakes. Cecil apologizes to Rydia for forcing the Fire spell on her (in a somewhat hidden piece of dialogue since it’s a new addition, but still). Troia doesn’t treat its matriarchy quite like a gimmick. There’s nothing they could do to fix, shall we say… Cid, but an effort wasn’t just made, but was wildly successful! I’m still not a huge fan of FFIV 3D’s balance changes, but they’re still better than FFIII 3D’s, so that’s still ahead of the curve.

But in the meantime, I’m just glad we got to experience the hot mess that is the original FFIV, which started off higher and more respectable than even FFLII, lost its focus and did the Marathon’s greatest pratfall to date. I’m sorry to anyone who liked it, but to me the original game hardly holds water, but the potential finally came through in its wonderful remake, so I think things balanced out.


Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

com-2015-10-14-08h33m33s996I say:

In hindsight, for all the fun we had with TAY, it was probably the Marathon’s second drag, after Mega Man and Bass and before… well, you’ll see. TAY took ages, and it’s not like we were having trouble hanging out back then, oh no, the game is just ruthlessly overlong. Perhaps, then, there’s something to be said for its cut back final chapter in the 3D remake, but I’m still disappointed at that game cutting the FFI-VI references, so I’m still not 100% sure…

That said, for all the drag, I find myself looking back on TAY fondly. I enjoy the multiple chapters, I like starting the low-level game multiple times (even though I know others don’t), and I like the references and inter-party conversations. What I don’t like is the need to grind (coming to expect that by now, I’m sure), the wild character imbalance, and all of the plot’s reruns. TAY was strongest whenever it was doing something new, so it probably goes to show that TAY rarely did anything new.

Still, I’ve been waiting for a chance to replay TAY almost since we stopped. Something about me is just still fond of the old game, but I’ve been waiting out until I finally finish replaying FFIV again. That day may come soon, if I ever get off my ass to finish the Giant of Babel, so who knows? Maybe I will see how the 3D version of TAY works?

Or maybe not, I mean cutting out those references still feels like a really big mistake and…


tay-2015-10-21-18h12m09s848Kyle says:

Say this with me, “The Interlude never happened.” Goooood, good. This will make things easier. Technically the third game in this series, the After Years promised to continue the story a few years later from where it left off. No, the Interlude did not happen. No, stop it, even this chapter doesn’t reference it at all. Shoo!

The After Years cranked up the silly factor by quite a bit. Characters had half baked plans that only seemed to make sense because the story needed it to. The good part was there was quite a lot more freedom in your party make up. Well, except for certain boss battles that could not actually be finished properly (or at all) without them there. At times this could kind of get frustrating, especially when we needed to bring the band back together. In the first title things got silly sometimes, but then they found a way to get back on the right rails; not really the case here. You’ll likely join us in saying, “Why aren’t you dead?!” Many a time.

This game offered out a big opportunity for challenge if you wanted to try getting everything. Those super weapons aren’t going to just hand themselves over to you without a fight, especially between trials, and just some of the optional bosses.

In the end it made a kind of sense for a conclusion. Kind of. Bloody Space Whale.


Final Fantasy Legend III

ffliii-2016-02-08-01h59m02s813.pngKyle says:

The final bit to its own part, and Legends III held quite a few surprises. Now packing some more story elements to it. While the system overall hasn’t changed much, there is some parts that might make you cry. What would that be you ask? Time Travel!

You start in the present day when a being known as the Water Entity is flooding the world. You courageous heroes are set to the task of beating it and saving all the timelines (that being Past, Present, and Future). The grand tale starts in a fight, where you learn you’re in a simulator for battle. It was encouraged that we train here until everyone reached Level 5, but I think we were too busy snagging our guest party members gear to be bothered to do that.

With guest party member in tow, this brings us to five active party members. Unfortunately guest party members tend to come ahead of you level wise, but can’t keep progressing themselves. It does give a hint of how much you should train.

It’s a timeline story, which means some spots really don’t make sense. There is also a doctor who has no morals. Humans are just vessels for bombs don’t you know?


ffliii-2016-02-26-19h06m45s329.pngI say:

Oh, my childhood love, I had to play you twice for this Marathon (once with Kyle and once for screenshots) and I think we could do with a little time apart? The various things that make FFLIII novel – time travel, a customizable vehicle, Lovecraftian enemies – have been gradually sanded away by repeat play, and I don’t think I’d even be that eager to play the remake right this moment, but given time I’m sure I’ll be back.

It’s been said that good emergent gameplay will bring a player back for years, but a good linear mechanic can only strike once. I’ve never agreed with that second part but I will agree that the mechanic can dull on repetition. Therein lies FFIII’s trouble: neither the time travel gameplay, the vehicle customization or even the Lovecraftian themes has much of a real bearing on the game at large, and so they only “strike once,” even though gameplay elements and even themes to a lesser degree should have more frequent returns. It’s just hard to enjoy FFLIII once you know where everything is and what everything does, because despite its best attempts (the morphing system) it really is as generic as FFI.

Nevertheless, I’m eager to one day play this game’s remake, even if it has to be a while from now. Because I’m just… just sort of tired. From playing the game twice. That’s all. You understand.


Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

ffmq-2016-03-02-14h45m18s482I say:

My opinion on FFMQ has perhaps actually improved since the Journal, which was in fairly high spirits to begin with. That’s funny, because the game has nearly every fault as its older sibling, FFLIII, except the key point where I didn’t have to play the stupid thing twice in a relatively small span of time. I’ve actually wanted to play FFMQ again since, and not least of all because my SNES controllers are too broken to play a game that isn’t menu-driven!

FFMQ just has so many bells and whistles that I can truly appreciate now that I’ve played all the previous Final Fantasy games. Multiple combat sprites, Zelda-like focus on individual items instead of turning them into numbers in disguise, secondary characters with… well, potential, which is more than I can say for the NES games, FFLIII, or, um… the FFIII remake, even if FFMQ’s characters don’t come close to IV or even V. Also the mix of puzzle gameplay and pre-placed monsters corrects the, in my opinion, serious problem of the Lufia games where you forget what you were doing because you were jumped by enemies mid-puzzle without having to divide the game into arbitrary puzzle rooms and not-puzzle rooms, or anything like that. Hell, it’s a problem with every game. Maybe I’m just sick of random encounters at this point! Food for thought.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say FFMQ was particularly great or even particularly bad, I will go so far as to say something particularly ridiculous, like “it was aggressively okay.” Look at ’em trying so hard! Except for the places where they didn’t! Actually, that kind of mixed, development intensity is exactly FFMQ’s problem. Great design ideas and music, floppy writing and uninspired combat. Similar to FFA, you can tell it was intentional, which takes the edge off, but like FFA the problem is so fundamental that it’s unavoidable. At least FFMQ is just shallow and lite, rather than FFA, which is grating like two gears crunching together to churn out a game, but—oh, sorry, FFA, I know your section is over, I’m just—yeah, okay, I’ll move on.


ffmq-2016-03-22-23h06m44s052Kyle says:

It’s the little Final Fantasy game that wanted to, then fell a couple of times. [Ed. I’m glad we both decided to go with this joke.] In the mystical days of the 90’s, when game developers thought we still needed to be handheld through a game, this gem came out as one of my favourites for its sheer simplicity. Intended as a beginners RPG, this game had some elements that made it easier than the standard fare.

One thing that I loved about this game compared to many others in the series was the equipment. Minus two pieces of equipment which you buy, all the rest of your gear you earn by exploring dungeons. The added benefit was that the next weapon or armour you found was better than the previous one of its kind. No silly resistances or other abilities to have to consider.

Was it a simple story? Most definitely. Was it one of the few games that we thought we’d breeze through merrily? Certainly did.


Final Fantasy V

ffv-2016-01-06-19h10m40s994Kyle says:

Are you ready for some jokes? No? Well too bad! Because slapstick humour is going to hit you at all angles with this one.

A return to the job system was nice. With each fight, you got experience towards mastering skills of the various jobs. Your character could have secondary skills from other job skills that they had learnt, giving a great deal of customizing options. Funny enough, Freelancer (your starting job) becomes one of the strongest ones out there once you start mastering other jobs.

This all starts with a meteor crashing into the planet, and ends with the big bad learning the destructive magics of the Rifts. The job system helped keep the combat side of the game interesting, allowing us to map out how we wanted each character to turn out (as there was no chance of us maxing out everything). Poor Bocco, always forgotten.

This was a game I had never actually finished on my own before. It made our cooperation a lot of fun for it. There were a few necessary grind sessions though. I think it mostly made use of Lvl 4 Death against a group of statues.


ffv-2016-01-22-13h10m47s387I say:

I might as well open up with it: as stands, FFV is my favourite game in the Final Fantasy Marathon. Too bad it has to contend with the Trauma Center games if it wanted to be queen of the entire Marathon, but it’s still sitting pretty on top of the other eleven Final Fantasy games so far. I’m looking forward to replaying the game (probably after IV and TAY) and giving the bonus dungeons a run this time around.

FFV has to its benefit exactly what FFLIII had to its consequence: its gameplay is the most emergent in the series (something FFIII 3D scuttled with its rebalancing) despite its linearity, allowing you to take on basically any Job Class you want at any time and produce genuine results and a unique party strategy. I admit, there’s probably something about my dislike of grinding in this. Others might prefer a game where only certain combinations of Jobs work at certain points, like a puzzle (ala the original Famicom FFIII). Me, I prefer this. This sort of system guarantees that I’ll be enjoying myself at basically any and every moment in the game, and that’s going to be hard to top in the future. The only low points are early on (arguably before the Water Crystal) when Job selection is narrow.  At least the game gives you almost all the jobs by the half-way point, correcting a flaw in FFIII on the Famicom.

Unfortunately, FFV’s story and pacing is lacking. Therein lie the gaps in its armour. If another of the Final Fantasy games can bring consistently good gameplay to the table just like FFV, and tell an excellent story or simply pace its gameplay properly, FFV will be easily dethroned. As it stands, FFV rests precariously atop a teetering narrative with a few good highlight sequences (the Clash on the Big Bridge, Galuf’s death), split up by frequent backtracking and a handful of dry and empty of submarine sequences. But as it stands, the gameplay is so excellent that it would be hard to top FFV. I look forward to seeing what the series will do to try.


Final Fantasy VI

ffvi-2016-06-13-08h57m27s030I say:

One of the reasons I wanted to do these write-ups is because Kyle and I are now so far removed from the early games in the series, the better part of a decade away from FFI (less so for me, since I had to rewrite the FFI Journal, but all the same). Unfortunately, FFVI is still fairly recent the odds of us having anything new to say about it was going to be rather slim. So for me, it’s all more of what you saw in the Journal. Quilt squares with bad stitching (great scenes, horrible transition work). The pointlessness of certain characters. Joking about sexual harassment.

It’s not all rough (I did mention those lovely quilt squares, yes?). The party selection I loved from TAY was introduced here when the party was split up at the Returner’s Hideout. The game does an admirable job of keeping the entire party in mind across the entire game, despite its sheer size. The Magicite system was fun, though not near as fun to me as the Job System from FFV . And the World of Ruin was fantastic, both in terms of narrative impact and the enjoyable gameplay of going around recovering party members, which easily tops its older brother, the Sealed Weapons of Kuza sidequest from FFV. And like all the other SNES-era games, I ended up buying my own copy after the Marathon, and have been eager to get back to it, all while scratching my head at the product for some of its critical slips. A game that’s definitely better than the sum of its parts.


ffvi-2016-06-18-20h01m49s557Kyle says:

Get ready for the Hype Train! This is in contention of the most beloved game of the series between fans. Get your pitchforks, because in our next round of the big games is its direct rival (you know, that little game known as VII).

This game boasts one of the largest party rosters to date. With the version we were playing, there were also dungeons that required multiple parties to go through for all the puzzles. This game also included Desperation Attacks (the gateway to the soon common Limit Break system). These moves were powerful and individualized, however their activation was kind of random meaning you may never see it.

Of all the games, this one really pushes the morality card, showing the need to stand up to an impressive force. Not all segments were equal however. Want to succeed at the Arena? Well, better hope you were grinding a whole lot.

Some claim that Kefka is the greatest of villains, saying he was the only one to succeed at his plan. I would have to disagree. Is the game still an emotional ride though? Absolutely.

Prev: Final Fantasy VI – Check, Check, Check, Check and Check
Next: Final Fantasy Marathon Look-Back, Part 2


Screenshots from World of Longplays (YouTube) or by me (FFLII and FFLIII).  See the specific Journals for the exact links!

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