Last week over on Scott Keith’s “Blog of Doom”, I put out a question to some of my fellow posters. I asked which of the turn-based Final Fantasy games they would recommend to someone who wasn’t a fan of the genre. I’ve long since wanted to give one of the classic Final Fantasy games more of a go, so I wanted to get some opinions. A few of the classic games were mentioned, but the winner was by far Final Fantasy VI (or Final Fantasy III was it was known in North America at the time of its release). My interest piqued, I decided to give the game a go, and I must lament that I didn’t like it.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Final Fantasy VI is an exceedingly well made game that pushes the Super Nintendo hardware as far as it can to deliver the best experience possible. It looks good, it has an excellent soundtrack, interesting characters and a good story. However, try as I might, I just cannot get on board with the turn-based combat it forces the player to employ. So, despite all it had going for it and all the brilliant things it brought to the table, I just didn’t enjoy playing it.
I take no delight in this whatsoever, but the harsh reality is that I just don’t think this sort of gameplay is ever going to appeal to me. Outside of Pokémon Yellow, I have never really found a turn-based game that I’ve enjoyed. I’m not sure of the exact reason why this style of gameplay doesn’t tickle my fancy, but I think there are two clear contributing factors as to why. The first one is that you can’t choose when to fight in these sorts of games. You walk around the map not knowing when a battle is coming, and often times they pop up at inopportune times when you just want to get through to the next section of the map.
Final Fantasy VI does give you the option to run away from battles, but often when you do try and flee, it takes a long time to successfully escape, and you often take a bunch of hits in the process, which means the benefits of running are negligible. It’s not like Pokémon where you can run away before the fight itself even starts and thus be able to escape without taking a single hit. One hilarious example of the unreliability of running from fights came in one part where two of my party were able to get away, but one was left behind, meaning they then had to take on four opponents all by themselves. It got to the point where I was dreading taking another step just in case yet another fight started up again when I just wanted to get the story up and moving again.
Having so many fights wouldn’t be as much of an issue if I actually enjoyed the fighting mechanics, but that brings in the second reason why I don’t really dig turn-based combat, which is that I never really feel like I have any real control over what is happening. Attacks seem to dole out random damage, and it often feels like the computer just attacks you because it can. Games like Dark Souls have difficult combat, but you always feel like you are in control of your own destiny and that you can win provided you read your opponents’ movements and attacks carefully before countering accordingly.
In turn-based combat, it often feels to me that you don’t have that control. Now, it could just be that I’m not particularly good at playing turn-based combat games, and if I was better at it, then it would feel like I had more control of what was going on. I’m willing to accept that part of why I don’t like these sorts of games is because of my own lack of aptitude as opposed to the combat itself not being my kind of thing, but regardless, I just can’t get on board with this sort of gameplay.
Again, this is a massive shame because Final Fantasy VI really has a good story about magic re-entering a mechanised world and the population, heroes and villains alike, dealing with the effects it has upon them. The villains are not afraid to ham it up and be as cartoonishly evil as possible, and that’s incredibly entertaining. The writing is funny, the protagonists are likable and it all just looks and sounds top notch. The best thing that came out of my time playing Final Fantasy VI is that it showed me that fans of the genre who haven’t played it before should really give it a go, as I honestly can’t see how they wouldn’t like it.
If you are a Final Fantasy fan, J-RPG fan or someone who thinks a game like this sounds fun, then I strongly recommend that you give Final Fantasy VI a go because I think you’ll really enjoy the experience. I’ll probably head off to YouTube to find a let’s play so I can see how the story progresses because I was definitely interested in what was going on, and I’d like to see how it all turns out.
The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”
Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald Scale when we decided to leave