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WEEK IN GEEK: It’s a week of adventure as Andrew literally leaves the state while D. Bethel brings a journey to a close. Along the way, Andrew talks about playing Final Fantasy V on iOS while also dipping his toe into the meta-craziness that is The Stanley Parable while D. Bethel is actually having fun (?!) with season 2 of Netflix & Marvel’s Jessica Jones.
For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.
-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“Main Theme” by Sylvester Levay (Theme song from Airwolf).
-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
My journey into Final Fantasy continues with the second part of my ongoing series! This time, I actually advance the “storyline” a bit and even find a boat! And by “find a boat,” I clearly mean “take a boat from a bunch of stupid pirates through the use of excessive force.”
The “crossing the bridge” sequence is one of the more memorable moments of the game for me, which I suppose makes sense because it’s so different from the rest of the game. When you consider that the original release simply started with the player in front of Corneria/Cornelia (no cinematic intro) and very little was said outside of single text boxes, that bridge crossing was the closest the game had to a scripted story sequence. It’s the kind of game element that Final Fantasy would later become inundated with, but in the original 1989 release, this was the only one. If you compare it to some of the games contemporaries, that single sequence stands out as sort of a big deal.
As a kid, I never thought too much about how the game is “staged” based on what you can get to. First, you get the bridge to the north. Then, you get a boat, but the boat can only really go to one other place. Eventually, you blow a canal to the outer sea and can go to one or two more places. Then you get an airship. Although it looks like you’re in a big, open world to explore, you’re really not. I suppose I contrast it to the original Shining Force on Sega Genesis, which divided the gameplay into discrete chapters. Once you finished Chapter 1, you moved on to the area of Chapter 2 (and couldn’t go back). At this point, I could not say which method I prefer. Perhaps, when I get to a game that’s more “open world” I’ll have something different to say.
One of the things that became apparent to me during this part of the game was the totally wacky pricing structure within the world of Final Fantasy. It’s always sort of a weird joke when you compare prices of things. At this point in the game, it cost me 80 Gil to raise a character from the dead while it cost 50 Gil to stay at the Inn. A suit of fancy armor was 450 Gil, which is a hell of a lot more than 80 Gil. Of course, it’s a fantasy world and the whole idea of how the economy changes in the presence of the ability to raise the dead is the kind of thing nerdy economists write papers about.
Growing up, I was one of those kids who didn’t have an original NES. I always had PC games to play (and I played plenty of them), but there was always something magical about the NES. I never felt like any of the PC games I had could capture the awesomeness of something like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. Luckily, a friend decided it would be an acceptable choice to let me borrow his NES for a few months some time back in 1989 or 1990, and I finally had a chance to catch up.
At one point previously, a different friend of mine demonstrated Final Fantasy to me. It reminded me a lot of the Ultima series, one of my favorite PC RPGs, which got me really excited. Unfortunately, I did not have a copy of Final Fantasy and the prospect of buying a game for a system I did not own was obviously unacceptable. Luckily, this was the era when video stores rented NES cartridges. The store my family regularly went to had two copies of the game, so I rented it one weekend and started playing.
Many Friday and Saturday night rentals later, I finished the game (with a fair amount of assistance from the official Nintendo Power Final Fantasy Strategy Guide, borrowed from yet another friend). As it was my first JRPG experience, I enjoyed it quite a bit and made a point to get myself some sort of video game console so I could play more of these games. I always kept my eyes open for JRPG ports on the PC, but that was a relatively rare event in the 1990s.
Looking back, it occurs to me that one of the things that appealed the most to me as a PC RPG player was the linearity of the game. Where a game like Bard’s Tale or Ultima threw you into “the world” and let you figure it out on your own, Final Fantasy was a relatively directed game. You begin the game stuck on an island with only one dungeon to explore. When you complete that, you get to move onto another land mass with a cave and a city to explore. Each piece gives you access to a little bit more of the world, but that little bit ends up being the next bit you needed.
I will undoubtedly have more to say about the game as I continue to play through it, but here’s to the beginning of the Final Fantasy. Final, insomuch that there have been some twenty something sequels.