4th July 2014: The Final Fantasy, Perhaps
After the debacle of the Playstation Network getting hacked back in 2011 I never saw it fit to give Sony my card details. So when I wanted to buy Resident Evil 2 a couple of years back I did so using a PSN card. However this gave me extra funds in my account that I didn't really know how to spend. It was quite a while ago, May 2013 in fact, that I decided to use up the funds by grabbing Final Fantasy 6 and Final Fantasy 9, as I'd never played 6, and had never owned 9.
I've never owned any Nintendo console, so my first Final Fantasy was 7 on the PS1, which I really loved at the time. However, it's number 6 that's widely regarded to be the best Final Fantasy game ever made, and back in March I finally began my journey through its madness. I know. I don't work very fast.
Before playing this I was well aware my tastes have changed since 1998. I haven't played FF7 in well over a decade, and though I consider it my fave game of all time for its story, I have long believed I would struggle to play it again due to its mechanics and random encounters. That belief has certainly been reinforced while playing through FF6.
Very much a game of two halves, it started out very much reminding me of number 7, being fairly linear and story driven. However, unlike 7, you very quickly get to explore the places of the world, and fairly quickly gain an airship to travel around. Still, during this time, the game makes it clear where you've got to go and what you've got to do, but allows you to fly around and do your own thing if you wish.
In contrast, the second half of the game is weird. You get absolutely no story or instructions to guide you, other than it's your task to kill the final boss, Kefka. At that point in the game though, the low levels of your characters dictate that such an attempt would be pointless. It's up to you where to go, what to explore and how much to level up before going into Kefka's tower.
Instead, the game is laden with secret little things to find and do. Number 7 had a few hidden cut scenes, like when visiting the Shinra Mansion basement or Lucrecia's cave, but in this game there were loads of little scenes that flashed up out of nowhere, and entire side missions that would become available, depending on what I was doing or which characters were in my party. I can't even begin to imagine how many things I missed, and it's left me with a feeling that I learned very little about the characters, meaning I don't really care for any of them. Some people probably enjoy that there are so many things to find and do, but for me I'd rather at least all the big back story scenes be mandatory.
The lack of story and focus was not the only problem with the later sections of the game. I certainly did not enjoy the required grind to level up enough of the characters and have them learn enough magic to be useful going into the final confrontations. Number 8 had a lot of grinding in order to draw magics, but I don't remember anything of the sort necessary in 7 or 9, unless you wanted to fight the WEAPONs. Maybe it's an even number thing. It's just not something I care for.
But by far the main issues were down to the downright pathetic attempt at porting this old Nintendo game to the Playstation platform. I've seen footage of the original Nintento version on Youtube, and it has none of the issues this version has. Incredibly slow load speeds in between battles and sections, battle menu freezes, and sluggish controller response times plagued me every step of the way. Also, in the iconic opera scene, there's some very strange video/audio sync issues which made the whole section really hard to get passed as correct timing is necessary.
The other issue which also annoyed me, which was not port-related, was the fact that you can not see your character's MP or max HP when you're in a battle. I'm so glad they made that info available in later games, because there's no excuse for it not to be there.
For all its bad points though, the game was still playable. It says something about how bad 13 was if I've managed to get through this game with all its Playstation issues, when I couldn't face 13 for more than a few hours.
As far as number 9 is concerned, I struggled to get through it the first time when I borrowed it from Scoob. After this experience it's unlikely I'll play it, or any Final Fantasy, ever again.
Here's some images of my adventures through this very long game: