ファイナルファンタジー

According to Wikipedia Final Fantasy "...began in 1987 as an eponymous video game developed to save Square from bankruptcy; the game was a success and spawned sequels." I got the first FF after my subscription to Nintendo Power provided a free strategy guide and I poured over the pages with unrelenting awe. This was no game of jumping on your enemies to thwart them or relying on unlimited ammo to slay an unlimited onslaught of adversaries. There had been games with swords and magic, but this game required character management, you could tell each of a four character party to attack, to cast magic (to heal, harm, buff, and debuff), to strategically implement the use of items in a large inventory, and if facing an enemy you could not handle, to run. It was a game that gave hours upon hours of gameplay, depending on your style. Where the older Mario games I can actually blast through, and worked on a speed-run of Mario 3, Final Fantasy required patience and days of play to complete. I was hooked when my Dad procured a copy of the game for me when I was 12, the Super Nintendo was just on the horizon, and more Final Fantasy games were on their way Stateside, but I was finally experiencing a game that would ultimately shape what it is I look for in a game.

I've played the first Final Fantasy to completion probably more than any other game, experimenting with parties, going to areas before I was actually supposed to be there. And, oh! the level-grinding. There are times when the level-grinding is, well, grinding, such as in the very beginning of the game when all you have to face in the forest surrounding the kingdom your party begins in is imps. But then there are times when the level-grinding is actually a challenge, the "hall of giants" section of a dungeon where every step greets you with an encounter with a powerful enemy that gives a lot of experience and cash. Or once you finally break free of the landlocked sea and I immediately went to "Crescent Lake" to level-up and buy the most powerful available weapons and armor at that point in the game. There was no straight-line to follow, despite a fairly linear story, you could tackle challenges at your discretion. And I did!

Final Fantasy II and III, on the Super Nintendo, also captured my love, III moreso over II, but to be honest, I got stuck on II and didn't complete it until much later, when I came to know it as IV. There's a lot of games that come out in Japan and never see the light of day here in the States, short of importing it and finding someone who can translate all the text for you. I never did that. So when Final Fantasy leaped from Nintendo to Sony's Playstation, I was actually upset, I was a die hard Nintendo supporter, I was offended! But then my friend Dave started showing me early screens and impressions of Final Fantasy VII and I was introduced to the fact that several FF games had been skipped over for the States, and one of my all-time favorite games, Final Fantasy III was actually number 6 in the series, I became enamored even more with the series, and VII was looking ever more awesome. I forgave, and eventually understood, Square's need to go with the alternate platform. Through Final Fantasy, I accepted Sony's entry in the console wars and became a fan of other games series' as a result. But to look at my Playstation library, it's mostly Final Fantasy! I now own most of the sequels-proper (I do not have Mystic Quest, the Game Boy iterations, Chocobo Dungeon...you see what I'm getting at) thanks to Square producing English versions of the previous games for the Playstation.

Now, to look at the series and how it's been produced, Square has provided three titles for each generation of consoles, I-III on Nintendo (which I now own I & II on Playstation and III on the Nintendo DS), IV-VI on the Super Nintendo (I own all of on Playstation now), VII-IX on Playstation (yes I own), X-XII on PS2. Here's where things got a little weird. XI was Square's attempt at a MMORPG, along the lines of World of Warcraft and such. I do not own this, though it was released on PS2 and PC...I've just never been much for the online-only, subscription necessary games. Also on PS2 was the first actual sequel to a Final Fantasy game, X-2. Not "ex" 2, but "10" 2. The pop-star Yuna was a little weird, but once you got past that and into the story of her search for Tidus, it was a heart-wrenching tale of love-lost, both for her and who she was actually hunting down. Yes, I liked X and X-2. I also like XII, even though some will say the gambit system was like an auto-play feature and detracted from what makes Final Fantasy a great game to play. I enjoyed it, there was that management aspect again, I could tell these people how to act under certain situations and criteria, and if they couldn't pull it off, I could step in and take a hold of the reins. Plus the story was enjoyable. That's what Final Fantasy has always drawn me in with, a long-form story, not counting the couple of all night level-grinding "cheats" I performed (I want my party to kick ass, okay?) XII took me about 70 hours to complete. There's entire television series' that aren't that long! And now, XIII on the Playstation 3 and XBox 360.

XIII was released on March 9 here in the States, but I only got it yesterday. As you're aware, I found out I lost my job at Hilti in February. Buying a video game for myself while facing unemployment seemed, selfish, to say the least. I've been feeming for XIII for years on end, ever since it was originally supposed to be released on the PS2. Months after its release, I've read mixed reviews and heard mixed impressions from friends. But I'm a Final Fantasy fan, I've already displayed that, so XIII was going to end up in my library. Yesterday I traded some old games I just haven't given any attention to in I don't know how long so...maybe someone else can let them collect dust. I got enough in trade value and two used copies on the PS3 were available. I'm sorry to Square-Enix for not buying it first hand, I want to support the franchise, but I'm being frugal right now.

I'm an hour into the game, and it's reminding me of X so far, in its gameplay. This is not an "open" world, not yet, I'm still in the "Hanging Edge," saving the L'cie (I think?) from being deported to Pulse. The graphics, first and foremost, one of Square's amazing strengths in video games, are amazing. Even the in-game graphics are blowing away some current games I've played. That's a staple ever since VIII, though. I'm impressed with the number of characters being introduced, I know which ones are playable through what I've seen running up to the game, but the number of NPC's (non-playable characters you non-gamers...course, you probably haven't made it this far, oh well, just in case) reminds me of the comparison I just made, this is like a television series, with main characters, supporting characters, and guest-stars. This is the type of game, if you're a fan of keeping up with the story, that is worth the purchase price, because this will last for days-worth of hours. So, yeah, so far I'm pleased.

And no, I'm not wasting my day away playing Final Fantasy, I just applied for a position at a local dentistry franchise and I also need to go mow the lawn at the other house. But an hour a night, maybe some more on the weekends, I could easily have a month or two of gameplay here. And I'm stoked.

OOO! UPDATE!!! Immediately after posting this blog I got a call for an interview tomorrow! So, nyaa!

Step Right Up