Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Final Fantasy VI

Today, a guest article written by Sergei Servianov, on what Final Fantasy VI meant for the youth of the time, and the fantastic musical scores that accompanied it.

There’s a lot of argument regarding the nature of games writing, with some readers craving something deeper than arbitrary scores and pseudo-objectiveness, and others decrying any attempts at floral prose. Some like hard-hitting investigative features such as those by EDGE and GamesTM, and others want something deeply personal.

Well, whatever. I’m not about to argue with where writing should go.

This article was recently posted by my good friend Sergei Servianov on The Gamer’s Quarter forums, and I felt it needed greater exposure. I’m sure different people will appreciate it for different reasons, or possibly not all, but several points made it really resonate with me.

Sergei talks about how videogames of this calibre occupied a unique time, before the internet and improved means of distribution enabled greater choice with regards to various entertainment and artistic mediums. Speaking with generations prior to mine, it was only in adulthood when they came to appreciate more artistic things – their youth was occupied by sports, cheap comics, simplified children’s books and lousy TV. For the generation who grew up with games such as Final Fantasy VI though, it granted access to artistic worlds of thought and melancholy storylines which, for the time being, had no equivalent for teenagers. (though I fully expect a whole wave of rebuttals to this statement)

I also relish any piece of writing which is brave enough to criticise Final Fantasy VII, which for me was a bloated and overrated mistake which influenced far too many developers, ruining a lot of potentially good future games in the process.

While the fabled last issue of The Gamer’s Quarter exists only in the minds of its writers, even if you never followed the publication this eulogy is well worth reading for anyone who appreciates the 16-bit era.


Preaching the Truth from the Edge of Kefka's Tower: A Hymn to Final Fantasy VI

By Sergei Servianov

Whenever I think back to my wasted youth, I can't help feeling a tang of bitterness at not having had my fair share of sex and adventure. There wasn't much of that going on in my teenage years; nothing at all, actually, if we're talking about sex. There was a lot of shame in those days and that makes me want to curse the RPGs.

I want to curse them, but I can't quite bring myself to do so. I'm listening to the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack right now and realize that you can't quite argue with something this good. Sex is one of the few things that makes life worth living, I love fucking... Even so, you can't refute Final Fantasy VI , because the argument that it presents is unimpeachable. Yes, of course, the cool guy faction in my crania sniggers at this, they're mocking me as I write. But they are wrong. They know all too well about what can satisfy the body and the steps that need to be taken to make it so. But they are the enemy and will always be the enemy. Cool is the enemy of all that is good in this world. Cool will never understand the beautiful and runs from the truths of this cold, dark universe like a cockroach running from light. I'll ally with the cool to get laid, but that's as far as my allegiance will ever go.
Final Fantasy VI is pure refutation, an argument in 32-meg form against the vileness of this world. There are few artifacts of our generation that have withstood the test of time as well as Square's Super Famicom masterpiece. I can't imagine a single twelve-year-old of my generation with any soul at all smirking at it. It's way too serious a work for that to happen. It was something that millions of people would play and declare allegiance to. And it deserved all of it. One of the few videogames that did or does.

Where else could we have found such art? Movies? Well, the Americans of my day didn't have Miyazaki's stuff on file, so that was out. The Disney films seemed pretty profound in those years, but they haven't aged well. I have a hard time justifying my obsession for the Lion King back then. Music? There was no proper music for those who hungered for more. Classical music, you say? Well, classical music was boring and didn't talk about anything that we wanted. There was something cheesy about it, too. It didn't seem serious at all. Comics? We didn't have manga back then and the stuff that we did have was beneath contempt.

No, it was in videogames and in videogames alone that we could've found our arguments.

You just couldn't help but love those characters. They were better than most of the people you went to school with. They probably still are. They had honor and meant what they said. And their wonderful personal themes, composed by Nobuo Uemastsu at the height of his power, were something that you hoped you would have for yourself one day. I know now that that's impossible, but how great it is to imagine walking into a bar and hearing Shadow's reedy music playing in your head, drowning out the shitty rap that's trying it's best to make the bar seem like the “decadent club scene” from a bad American action movie.

Yes, THAT music, it's hard to write about it now because so many horrible people have expressed their appreciation of it. Yet, that's its strength and the strength of Final Fantasy VI as a whole. It is impervious to either praise or criticism. It merely sets up its argument, presents you with the greatest graphics, music, and story that you'd seen, heard, or read up to that time and asks you if you still want to continue on in the real world; a reverse Matrix.

Many a twelve-year-old heard that call, but few followed it wholeheartedly, boarded that Phantom Forrest train. Many more than was to be expected, though. I'm pretty sure that if you were to gather all the true believers in a single place then you could easily get a Tienanmen Square crowd scene going. I can imagine it now. Hordes of plump and skinny losers of all races, howling like mad, whacking the chained unbelievers on their way to the Gulag of the Cool with their FF VI cartridges, while a grinning “ice teeth” Hironobu Sakaguchi – Mao Suit, liberation cap – waves to them from the castle walls.

Though daydreams don't get you far in this world, so let's recall the characters, for our sake and theirs.

Make no mistake about it. They are still beyond you and will always be. If one can imagine a life as blissful and attractive as Setzer's, I'd like to hear it, lounging around a floating casino, taking his share of sex and drugs without a hint of nagging puritanism. As lame as it may look right now, that man was our libertine, our Byron. Then there's Shadow, a ninja loner, the idealized self-image of every boy that went through high school uncool, whose touching story of woe was presented with a minimalism that was ignored by RPG creators then and now. And like all good things, he was doomed to perish. You could never quite save Shadow, no matter how you may have wanted to. Or what about Edgar, who dresses like like a mix of a decadent 19th prince and a modern CEO, part chainsaw murderer, part ladies man. Kefka, while somewhat overrated as a villain, has many moments of delight as well, having the most fun of any JPRG character in history. Gleefully committing mass murder; an angel/ clown / punk rocker hybrid firing lasers from his trash tower. Yes, Square really sent in the clowns there and the clowns were scary. In fact, Kefka, despite being the villain, steals so many scenes, gets so many great lines – recall him laughing at your party during the final battle, calling them a bunch of walking self-help cliches – that you can tell that the creators' hearts were in the right place. It's no coincidence that Kefka's Tower is greatest piece of music on a soundtrack famed for great work. I don't know if it's scary or not that the appeal of Kefka is much more real to me now than as a child.
And then there were the set pieces. There are so many to recall that you can open up any random save from a copy of the game bought from a Japanese “recycle shop” and be assured of stumbling upon something wonderful. The big Moogle battle, the type of thing you kept in your head while playing Magic: the Gathering as a teenager, stuffed animals whacking werewolves on the head with maces. The struggle on the Floating Continent, with that great scene of Kefka kicking the Old Man of the Empire offstage like a bag of rancid garbage, followed by Shadow playing a lethal game of WMD goddess statue chess with our favorite clown.

Sadly, the same things cannot be said for many of the RPGs that came after it. Genius though it may be, Final Fantasy VI has given rise to many a false prophet ( though the critics rightly place the blame on the massive success of the game's Playstation sequel). The most offensive example of this is Xenogears: the pitiful banner of the most pathetic nerds of this Earth. It's so puerile that talking about it feels dirty and unsporting, like making fun of a cripple. It's just depressing to think about and that's that. It's not so much a game as the sad story of Hitler's Germany branded onto a CD: so much talent, so much great music and art wasted in the service of a laughable ideology, an insipid narrative.

Many other works have faired better. Persona 4 comes to mind, even though it's FF VI's direct opposite. It celebrates the cool, sneers at the nerds, and goes out of its way to glorify those loathsome high school days. As a counter-argument it works much better than I could have expected. Its music is poppy tunefulness compared to Final Fantasy's neo-romantic nobility, its story a big Yay !! for this world and its people. It's the closest that we've come in the Japanese RPG genre to “maturity.”

Make no mistake, I'm not mocking it. I love the game dearly, it's the only modern game that I can stomach playing these days. Though its worldview will most probably never inch out the one that Final Fantasy has instilled in me. I also have the utmost contempt for the perfunctoriness of its villain. It's a sad state of affairs that the game makers of today don't even bother making a halfway decent counter-argument against our world, won't even make the villain fun. The heroes' argument in Persona 4 boils down to the same thing that the popular kids prove wordlessly every day at school, “We're cooler and totally have more friends than you, loser.” A very bad way to cap off a game that had a lot of good in it.

The saddest thing is that we still don't have the vocabulary – nay, the poetry – to celebrate Final Fantasy VI properly. Most of the praise that this profound little anti-Earth has gotten is as clumsy as its criticism. The words aren't here yet, but we're coming close... they're somewhere, to be sure, stashed away in the brain of some basement-inhabiting uber-dweeb romantic, waiting for the right moment to emerge. Final Fantasy VI is like Lovecraft's Old Ones, bidding its time, influencing the aesthetics of the world in ways we can't – perhaps, won't live to – ever see.
The War of the Magi has never really stopped and Final Fantasy VI will no doubt continue its unseen jihad, unnoticed and unheard until our blessed day of reckoning. When the silly works of today will be nothing more than a footnote in the Final Fantasy-era of art history.


  1. I'm saying it even before reading this text: I LOVE THIS GAME! If I were not good at holding my tears, this would be the game that made me cry. Many times.

  2. Interesting article. I have to admit, Servianov's writing style is a bit grating for me. By turns brimming with purple prose and empty posturing, it was a bit too much for me this morning (this blog is the first place I check when I get to my office every morning).

    Having said that, I agree with his basic argument that FF VI offered a glimpse into another world for youths who were receptive to it. I was 12 when this game came out. Though I excelled at most subjects in school, I could hardly be thought of as erudite. I rarely read for leisure; was clueless when it came to the arts. FF VI, in its own way, helped turn that around.

    What struck me most about the game then was the music. The impression of hearing the melancholy tones of the synthesized cor anglais as the Magitek soldiers marched onto Narshe was something of a water shed moment for your's truly. The game itself, needless to say, won me over completely. It is to this day my favorite FF game. But it was the music that suddenly lit upon this somewhat feckless youth a light into a better world. The music obsessed me. I remember taping the music off my TV onto a portable cassette player just so I could have the pleasure of being able to listen to it again and again. But it wasn't enough. My mind suddenly began to seek out music; a music that could give expression to desires and thoughts that remained wordless and unknown in this 12 year old. I got lucky. Around this time, my father happened to play for me a CD with Ravel's Bolero on it. I was hooked. 15 years and some 5000 CD's later, I have become an avid lover and enthusiast of classical music. But not just that. Music for me opened up doors to other realms: poetry, fiction, religion, philosophy, history, sociology, etc. All these I devoured greedily. My cramped apartment with 3000+ books stands as proof.

    Now rapidly approaching my 30's, I read anywhere from 4 - 12 books a week, am well versed in the arts, well informed politically and culturally, successful in my career... all in all, I've turned out to be a rather solid citizen. Some may doubt this. Let them. But I can attest with honesty of the great benefit that a work of art--be it music, film, book, or (in this case) video game--can work on a kid with ears to hear. I certainly wouldn't be the man I am today if it weren't for FF VI. I suppose I was onto something as a 12 year old, after all. The child truly became the father of the man.

  3. FFIV > FFVI when it comes to emotions and music, IMO.

    Good article though, even if it is a bit awkwardly poetic.

  4. Such an interesting article. The man makes truly spot-on remarks about the game. I wonder what could have happened to the whole package if it was released on the PSX, would it have been the new VII? I believe most of the charm this game has is that is the last old school FF released. And the most solid. VII and VIII went to experiment so many modern things, IX was kinda of a mixed bag, and from then on the series has never returned to what it once was.

    Truly, VI will remain one of the finest examples of what made Final Fantasy special and loved.

    (Now, if someone does something like this for Final Fantasy I, it would be amazing. I grew up with that game, althought it hasn't aged well.)

  5. Zack- Really? FFIV's plot has not aged well...

    Don't really agree about the oversimplification of Persona 4's plot out of principal. When oversimplified, anything can look stupid.

    I should get around to beating FFVI, although I could not get into it at all the last time I played it. Maybe it's because I beat the awesome Chrono Trigger (which in my opinion, had better music than FFVI) right before that.

  6. Forgive me if this still sounds bitter and all over the place, I've been typing stream-of conciouseness into my monitor and then editing, so umm yeah...

    "Zack- Really? FFIV's plot has not aged well..."

    That is a very odd statement to make.

    A plot is timeless, man. If you enjoyed something, you can go back and enjoy it again. That's like saying Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is a horrible book because it's old.

    I don't mean to flame here, but whenever someone makes these "artistic" kinds of writings as opposed to "technical' or "objective", it brings out a lot of nonsensical pretentiousness like this. Seriously, the author thinks that there are no words to describe FF6? HOW ABOUT "REALLY GOOD SNES RPG". It's a game (albeit a classic), not a gift from God.

    What did this article accomplish, other than taking the long way around to say "FF6 is a damn good game, yo."? Problembar is the only one to touch on it's artistic merit, and even then most of his post is about how other things in his life came about because of FF6, not about FF6 itself. I'm pretty sure it was the author's intention to inspire further discourse on how he thinks FF6 is a pinnacle of artistic vision, so the fact that said discourse is not happening is not a good sign for this article.

    Arrrgh, you see? Now I'M rambling about this stuff! >_< I've gone through highschool (havent decided on a college yet), so this might be very far below the intellects of the article author and people like Problembar, but this is honestly how I feel: This article is a masturbatory GameFAQs review ran through a thesaurus. It is terribly wanky and utterly pointless, except as a barometer of Sergei's taste in gaming. Sketcz probably won't approve this comment now, but at least I'm being honest instead of ass-kissing in the name of net civility.

  7. I totally agree with Zack here. Though there are apparently no words, "nay poetry", to describe FFVI, "wanky" aptly sums up the tone and quality of this article. It reads like a bad nightmare after reading too much third rate Oscar Wilde. Somebody get this Servianov a copy of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style stat!

    Like I had said before, I am in agreement with the author's basic premise that for many kids of the era, FFVI represented their first glimpse into a world beyond the mundanity that surrounded them. I'm not referring to the ability of a game to "transport" the player into "new worlds", doubtless though this one could. I'm speaking about something rather more subtle. FFVI represented a gateway into a whole other realm of feeling and thought.

    Growing up in an "urban" area with a totally broken school system (thank you, LAUSD), kids like myself had scarce opportunity to come in contact with higher culture. You were more likely to find Goosebumps than Goethe in your school library. My peers had what in retrospect was shitty taste in.. well, just about everything. But how could they not? Who was there to point out a better way for us? What frame of reference did we have to banish our ignorance? But for a few receptive children, nothing spoke more directly to us--and here I am in total concord with the author--than video games. FFIV was a great game that I still enjoy today. FFVI was something that, at least for me personally, was beyond being a mere game. Though I hardly knew at the time I first played it, FFVI would mark then end of my childhood. In my life, FFVI was a water shed moment; the beginning of my maturity.

  8. Zack- Er, I never said anything about FFVI. And yes, the plot of FFIV did not age that well. Your comment about The Jungle wasn't exactly the best comparison. The Jungle is literature...Final Fantasy IV has a pretty 2nd rate plot. It was good at the time because there was nothing better. Now it's pretty mediocre. Just because classic pieces of literature are timeless does not make every attempt at storytelling just as everlasting (think of a better word than everlasting, and pretend I said that :)).

    I don't see why everyone is hating on this article so much. I think it's great, and it's just his opinion.

  9. There are a few things about FFIV that are really silly in retrospect, like all the times where someone sacrifices themselves, and in all but one instance, pops up later and rubs it off as a flesh wound. The core of the plot, though, is pretty good. Plus, there's a certain charm in seeing squat little sprites hop and spin around melodramatically.

  10. I don't think it's a case of people hating on the article itself. No one is disputing his opinion. I'm certainly not. What Servianov is trying to express has much of value. Too bad that his point was fettered to such a clumsy and nearly grotesque archness. There's a reason why you don't find articles written in this fashion in The New Criterion or in Standpoint, say. It's frankly embarassing and it does the cause you're trying to serve no good. Servianov's heart is in the right place--if only his pen could have followed.

  11. FFVI was my second-ever rpg, and my first jrpg. Super Mario RPG preceded it; I swapped that game for a classmate's copy of VI. The manual alone was intimidating. I'd seen the art and screenshots in Nintendo Power, and to me, FF was up there with Koei games -- the hardest of the hardcore.

    I've never heard any criticisms toward VI that weren't asinine. Maybe you're just not fond of FF in general, or you prefer voice acting in your games. That's fine. What ISN'T fine is people hating on VI because it doesn't share the cinematic and narrative perfection of its next-gen sequels. For some reason, whenever one is discussing Final Fantasy, it takes the discussion out of reality. You're no longer talking about kid's games with a certain degree of belief suspension. FF games -- EVERY game -- is held to a ridiculous standard that only a current-gen game could meet.

    I don't play Atari games because they were before my time and I'm put off by the graphics. That's valid, and I understand if someone (and I've met guys like this) who refuse to play Chrono Trigger on principle. What principle? The Akira artwork is too reminicent of DBZ, and they figure, where there's smoke there's fire, so I'd better not play this faggy-looking jrpg. Okay, fine.

    But now, people who profess to be FF fanboys cry "overrated!" whenever VI's name comes up. Overrated? Maybe. It was only considered to be one of the greatest rpgs of the nineties.

  12. To whoever asked, I don’t have moderator privileges for editing comments, so let’s keep this civil.

    As someone who professionally is a sub-editor/copy editor (mainly technical, occasionally narrative – though this is seldom if ever reflected in my online writing, which is haphazard at best), I think the Strunk & White comment was a little harsh. The elements of style was one of the earliest books I bought, it’s on my shelf right now, and it’s my bible. On a technical point I didn’t find anything overly wrong with the article, and I didn’t find the prose to be too laboured either. They're not classical literature, but then this is just a blog, where people talk about videogames, and in that context I liked it.

    Perhaps my view is partially coloured by the fact that I consider Sergei a friend, but I have read a lot of work, both professional writers and amateur hobbyists, and I honestly don’t think this is bad.

    It was posted unedited, I should point out.

    I dislike a lot of personal pieces of writing, because often they’re too long, too laboured and stray off the point too much. In contrast I found Servianov’s to be fairly concise, and the personal anecdotes I found to be relevant and there was only just enough to get the point across. I certainly recall being 16, hormonal, playing an RPG and wishing I was getting laid like in so many adolescent films.

    What follows were several succinct points regarding the game, the music, the characters and the story, while making a couple of good critical points towards rival RPGs. I personally don’t think that highly of FFVI, but I really enjoyed the writing enough to read the piece. It’s one of the better personal pieces of writing out there.

    Plus, to add context and contrast... In commercially published literature there is an incredible amount of really badly written trash which, I feel, receives undue praise. One example which repeatedly infuriates me is Cormac Mccarthy, an author who I loathe and whose prose I regard as not even being correct English. He receives a Nobel prize, has books in the Oprah club, and has his books turned into major films. Some regard him as one of the greatest writers of our time (I can’t remember where I read that quote, but some critic definitely said it). Yet the man hasn’t the slightest grasp of how to formulate logical sentences in a way that doesn’t send me into a blind rage. His writing is worthless and an insult to everyone who writes.

    I'd rather read Servianov than Mccarthy.

  13. McCarthy sucks (not even the Coens could make that story interesting), but Sketcz your "lesser of two evils" argument doesn't even apply here because no one is comparing this article to anything else. Believe it or not you can say you don't really care for something with having to demonstrate something you do care for.

    If Mr. Servianov really thinks that FF6 is better than sex, well good for him! It takes all kinds, man. But sooner or later you're going to have to step back and let him come to terms with the fact that not everyone shares this opinion.

    I mean, seriously, come on. Reading over this again it's like you're trolling us and I fell for it. He implies (second paragraph) that FF6 is better than sex for chrissakes!

    But the clencher is somewhere in the middle of all that purple prose: "The most offensive example of this is Xenogears: the pitiful banner of the most pathetic nerds of this Earth."

    You know, I'm not a fan of Xenogears either, but I've never seen one of those "pathetic nerds" write about the game with such fervent wankery as Servanov and this article.

  14. I guess I'll be an ass-kisser and say I liked the article.

  15. Xenogears is far from bad; it's just not original. You got your standard jrpg toupe involving judeo-christian myths getting 'debunked' and the heroes etting off to kill god, or some greedy entity masquareding as god.

    Xenosaga was vastly worse than Xenogears, which at least had an incredible OST and nice characterization; the sequels were just about platinum haired, immature dieties with too much time on their hands trying to wreack havoc as entertainment, a subject already covered (and done better) in Persona 2.

    As for the, 'better than sex' remark, I think he was trying to put across his feelings of being a social misfit as a teen, and video games had a hand in that; but he can't condemn them fully because games like ffVI are an art form. That part resonated with me because I also used games as a retreat from life, to an unhealthy degree.

  16. People who write about video games tend to enjoy hyperbole.

    I wouldn't exactly called Xenogears "not original", because that concept was pretty novel to the Western RPG playing audience back in 1999. I think it, along with FF Tactics, popularized it, even though other games from the 16-bit era (mostly Megatens) played with the same themes. I would agree with you if you were talking about its association with Evangelion which, it doesn't exactly rip off, but is heavily inspired by.

    Xenosaga III is actually really good though! Too bad it took them that long to straighten things out.

  17. I had to read the comments, go back reading the article, take a nap, read it again, play 5 minutes of FF VI, talk to my boss, do some work and read the comments again. My final thoughts? I stand on what i said. True, the article is not going to win any Essay Competition, his love for the game is kinda over the top, etc. etc. etc. But what? I think Sketcz said it right: it's a blog, to talk and discuss about games. Period. And it's someones opinion, i don't think we should make a fuzz out of it.

    For example, i love Final Fantasy I for NES. It was very special for me. I could go on and on praising his place in history, how awesome is the concept, how Dragon Quest has nothing on it... and ignore how badly it has aged, how Square has overdone remakes of it, how silly it is nowadays... But really, what's the point? Opinions. That's all.

    P.S. I forgot, it's the intarnetz, we're supposed to be like that.

  18. This commentary certainly got a little heated in the day since I last checked it.

    First off, let me say that I meant absolutely no offense to any of the staff at HG101. As I had mentioned in my first comment, this blog (and the HG101 site) are the first places I visit each morning when I switch on my computer at the office. One of the reasons that I have enjoyed HG101 since I first heard about it through my brother some two years or so ago was the very high quality of the writing to be found here. Quality writing in journalism is a rare find these days and never more so than in video games journalism. So it a sincere pleasure for me to read and reread the articles found here and on the main site.

    In regards to the Strunk & White comment, it is very clear that it serves as Sketcz's bible. One only needs to read a paragraph of his to understand that here is a person who not only has something to express, but rather more importantly, has the tools to do so and knows how to use them skillfully and artfully. I cannot say the same for Servianov. His indulgent style is stamped clearly with the voice of a person who has much to express, but has neither the tools nor discipline to write effectively. It goes beyond merely opinion. This is just bad writing, objectively speaking.

    Don't misunderstand me. I don't believe at all that good journalism ought to be dispassionate and cold. You only need to read the journalism of Chekhov, Orwell, and Buckley to know better. Nor am I against authors with ornate writing styles, given that the likes of Lispector, Mishima, Walser, Proust, et al are my daily bread and butter. But as someone who themselves has been a copy editor (albeit for Spanish publications), I can only say that had it ever crossed my desk, Servianov's article would never have made it to print. Indeed, his article stands out from other articles in HG101 if only for its comparatively poor quality.

    Writing is a deceptively difficult craft. Most people figure there's no trick to it. Virtuoso violinist, surgeon, architect, etc.--all these professions wear on their sleeve the diligent study and long hours of practice required to practice it. But writing is a skill that most everyone possesses at least in very rudimentary form. So anyone feels they can do it. But there's the rub. Writing, like any craft, takes much skill, practice, discipline, and not a little bit of sheer talent on the part of its practitioners. Servianov, I feel, has none of these qualities.

    As I said earlier, this is all too bad, because his essential point is valid and very admirable. I am in complete agreement with the sentiments he is expressing. But for me, noble ideas alone do not make for good writing.

    I'll pass on Servianov and McCarthy and stick to Sketcz and Lispector.

  19. I wasn't trolling, or trying to stamp on other's opinions of any piece of writing - to me it always seems weird and wrong on some forums/websites where opposing views are censored. So I don't want that to appear the case here.

    But, for better or worse, by deciding to republish his article from another source, I felt the need to put forward a counter argument in his absence - one which I sincerely felt.

    I didn't think he actually meant FFVI is better than sex, rather like johnnyfog said, as a social misfit in his teens FFVI was a form of escapism which in turn built an appreciation for more artistic things.


    Back on the topic of games, since arguments about prose could last forever, FFVI has to me always seemed part of an interesting Squaresoft holy trinity for 16-bit RPG fans: comprising Chrono Trigger, FFVI and Secret of Mana. FFV I'm going to overlook due to it not being officially released until much later. As for IV, that just upsets my trinity description.

    A lot of people like all of them, while others have a very strong preference for just one. In these comments we've had one who prefers and one who dislikes Chrono Trigger.

    Personally, my defining RPG was Secret of Mana. FFVI was close, and CT I didn't enjoy because at the time it didn't seem serious enough (two kids and a talking frog?), but SoM from start to finish was a long series of losses. From the separation of the lovers when Dyluck is sent to the front, through to various characters deaths and the ending.

    And yet it seems to be the underdog in the trinity. Does anyone else have strong preferences for one over another?

  20. Yes, I was probably a little harsh on FFIVs plot. It's just upsetting when people call it one of the best video game storytelling achievements of the time. It's not really that great IMO.

  21. This is a minor point, but I must say that beating up on Final Fantasy VII is about as far from "brave" as one can get. No title has ever suffered so severe a backlash from the gaming community. Whining about Final Fantasy VII and denouncing it as "overrated" has been a shibboleth of hardcore gamers for the past ten years. And frankly it's getting tiresome.

    FFVII is far from perfect, but it's a tender, open-hearted little game sprinkled with a few genuine, human moments. And let's face it: that's about the best we can hope for. Commercial pressures and the collaborative nature of game development have always prevented games from aspiring to literature--and will continue to do so). The political and human insights that distinguish great books like "1984" and "Ulysses", and great films like "Waltz with Bashir" and "Eternal Sunshine...", are largely absent from games. Gamers like to boast of overcoming "challenges" in games, but developers know that our thirst for "challenge" doesn't extend to the unsparing exploration of certain themes and subject matter. Exceeding the comfort zone of the typical game consumer (young white men) is a recipe for failure. The best we can hope for in such an aggressively pandering, commercial industry are games with a few personal, sincere moments that remind us that another human being wrote what we're playing. And Final Fantasy VII has that.

    None of this should be taken as a criticism of Final Fantasy VI. I've played it to completion several times, and believe its timeless musical score, art design, and gameplay will reward many future playthroughs. But it's not great literature: it's a disjointed, occasionally dry, poorely plotted shonen drama punctuated by a few moments of genuine humanity. In other words, like Final Fantasy VII, it's pretty much the best we could hope for.

    Having played Final Fantasy VI to completion several times, I remain baffled by fan claims of its literary merits. It's a lovely game on the whole, but its dry plot and two-dimensional characters have nothing
    The most any adult could ever hope to derive from these sprawling, disjointed commercial ventures are a few moments of human

  22. Granted, I didn't get around to SoM until the psx era, but the translation neutered it for me. I know Woolsey did his best with what limitations he was given. A lot of the plot, which is superficial to begin with, is left to conjecture. Normally it wouldn't matter, except I felt it drained the emotion out of the more heartful scenes.

    Worse, SoM (and, by proxy, Secret of Evermore) are absolutely daunting games because I'm never sure when to stop grinding. Level up your spells each time you get a Seed, and you'll rape the game. Level them up naturally, and you'll be too kill the boss. SoE is even clumsier: Alchemy is almost superflorous when compared to charged melee attacks. I consider SoE to be one of the great overlooked rpgs, but the game engine really baffles me.

    Having beaten Seiken Denestsu III, I can say the leveling system strikes a better balance, even though it's a given that -- unless you want to grind -- you'll have to stock up on stat-raising seeds to beat the toughest sons of bitches, like Genova.

  23. "You could never quite save Shadow, no matter how you may have wanted to."

    I guess the author of this story didn't like FF6 as my brother and I did, because we knew before walkthroughs that you could save Shadow.

    Also, LATE on my end.

  24. I went to the ancient castle to level up and when i left and returned to figaro castle half of my characters disapeared. has this happened to anyone else