Becoming bored with C64 emulation, I decided to turn my roving eye to even more illegal emulation pursuits. This time, I decided, I would use emulators for games machines I've never actually owned as well as ROMs for games I've never actually owned! A small step in my criminal career, I know, but all long journeys start with small steps. Except long car journeys, which start with engaging first gear. So here I am, engaging first gear. Excuse me if I ramble.
Now, I have to admit that I've been getting into RPGs lately. For years I thought I just didn't like them, touched only by the Ultima series which didn't so much float my boat as sink my canoe, but all credit to my girlfriend Sarah for getting me into the Final Fantasy series. I must say I'm enjoying myself very much making up really stupid names, slashing monsters from fifteen feet away and complaining about getting my arse handed to me by sharks. 'Hey,' I thought, 'why don't I ingratiate myself with retrogaming RPG nerds everywhere and write an article about my experiences as a newcomer to Final Fantasy?'
Why not indeed.
I'm gonna talk about each of the Final Fantasy games I've played, give all the silly character names I used, list what I liked and didn't like, and put my finger on where the 'WHATCH' factor comes into play. What is the WHATCH factor? In a lot of the FF games I've noticed that after a while you invariably reach a stage where your next course of action is shrouded in mystery. I call this the "WHAt The Chuffin' Hell am I supposed to do now" moment, and it does seem to be something of a universal theme.
Anyhoo, without further ado, let's begin!
Final Fantasy 1
Silly names used: BOOM, KILL, ZAP!, JEEM
What I liked: Apart from the fact that I couldn't really play the game without being reminded of 8-bit Theatre. I thought the characters were just cute as a button. And I love the delicious irony in the title seeing as this game has ten sequels.
What I didn't like: The music from my NES emulator tends to grate against the old eardrums if you know what I mean, but that's hardly a fault of the game. And also, why the fascist four letter name restriction? You do know that if you only give them four letters you're just begging them to use swear words, don't you, Mr. Squaresoft? I'm sure we're about 40 letters short for Japanese swear words, but even so...
WHATCH factor: Set in almost immediately after I saved that stupid princess (do princesses ever do anything except get rescued in Nintendo games?) and went off to save the world. I wandered about, acquired a ship, crossed the sea, then got beaten up by giant spiders. I don't like to think I suck at these games 'cos I try to kid myself that I'm better than everyone else.
Final Fantasy 2
Silly names used: YAHTZE, ROB, PAUL, LUDO
What I liked: Nice beginning. Nothing helps my confidence more than getting soundly whipped by enemies against whom my chances go into minus figures. Also, nice to see the name restrictions have been relaxed, but still not enough for me to finish spelling my name.
What I didn't like: I lost Paul! One of my most-loved characters disappears at the start of the game. I just couldn't look at it after that.
WHATCH factor: I gather I'm supposed to be in some sort of resistance movement, but after some general faffing about I found myself in this weird town full of stick figures and just gave up in exasperation
Final Fantasy 3
Silly names used: POOKY, WHELK, SPAMMO, TERRY
What I liked: Aww. There's something so endearing about the way my characters would sit on the floor and burst into tears when near death. I'm sure if cancer patients adopted the same attitude the scientific community would be more motivated to come up with a cure.
What I didn't like: Why, exactly, am I controlling a quartet of preschoolers in armour, anyway? I felt kind of awkward about giving them ickle swords and shields and pointing them in the direction of amassed hoards of darkness. Also, translation horrible was.
WHATCH factor: Almost right from the start. My preschoolers really didn't get very far. Sarah told me you can assign jobs to the little tykes, but my investigations into this claim bore little fruit. I shrugged and moved on, gratefully leaving that horrible NES midi far behind.
[FF4 omitted due to lack of FF4]
Final Fantasy 5
Silly names used: TWINK
What I liked: Ooh! More than 16 colours! We're moving into classy stuff now! And ... big yellow birds you can ride! And women dressed as men! It's Shakespeare brought to life on my 14-inch. Monitor. Yes. Monitor.
What I didn't like: Why am I only allowed to name one character? Shucks, guys, handing out the silly names is half the fun for me. I just can't adhere myself to characters with those weird-arse fantasy names even if they are women dressed as men.
WHATCH factor: I got pretty far in this one, but then I got stuck wandering around some maze of a ship engine room and there are only so many random encounters this boy can take.
Final Fantasy 3/6
Silly names used: GLUE, ROGER, TOAST, BONK, NORMAN, MUFFIN, GRRR, BROOM, PASTRY (so far)
What I liked: Now this is what I like to see! Characters I can give silly names left, right and centre. This is undoubtedly my favourite game in the series. I just can't get the opera scene music out of my head and I'm just in love with those little white cat things. Kupo! Plus the magic chick woman looked so hot when she turned into a white thing with pink hair. Excuse me if I sound shallow.
What I didn't like: I was getting my arse repeatedly handed to me by that octopus fellow until I realised I could move characters into the back row. They should advertise this more, I feel. And why is it that whenever you enter a fight the thing you find yourself locking horns with on the battle screen looks precisely sod all like the thing you originally pissed off? These things matter! And I wish they'd make up their minds as to which number this game is in the series. It came after 5 and before 7, what more do you want?
WHATCH factor: Still playing this one, I'm afraid, but being consistently having my bottom gift-wrapped by this big purple thing in a mine cart. Where do all these bosses come from? Do they evolve naturally or are they grown in tanks especially to make my life miserable?
So there you have it, my friends, the chronicles of my more recent adventures into the immoral. I'd also like to send a shout out to Chronotrigger (silly names: YAHTZ, FOOD, ZYGOT, SPUNKY, PRUNE etc), which I'm also enjoying very much, although arse-handings-out are often and excruciating. I need to get out more. Kupo!