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Let's get caught up: From Narshe to The Sealed Gate & Regarding Game Mechanics


RH

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Well, I had a lengthy post ready to go that I needed to proofread but I've been busy and then I had a browser restart and lost it. Luckily for you all, this means things should be shorter.

As I mentioned in my last post, I've restarted this game several times over the past 25 years and have never made it much further than about 10 hours into the game. It may sound like I've gotten bored with it, but I haven't. In fact, I believe that for any 2D game, Final Fantasy VI has the most amazing starting sequence I've ever seen and it makes me want to come back to it frequently.

The game starts on a mountaintop, and three characters are revealed—Biggs, Wedge, and a girl with a mind control crown. Immediately, you get a sense that there are problems ahead, likely caused by this crowd. Then, with a wonderful, slow build, your party walks to Narshe. The music and atmosphere at this point are amazing, and in my humble opinion this is the best part of the game that I've experienced!

But after the beginning, the game shifts and becomes a more traditional RPG for Squaresoft. I'm not saying anything rough or mean, but you are going to get a traditional 2D, top-down experience, and when you can finally fly, the game goes into a Mode 7 scaling mode.  All standard for a Squaresoft RPG for the SNES.

Previously, I've played both Final Fantasy IV and V. Both are excellent games and I maintain that FF V is my favorite 2D Final Fantasy game. The story of FFVI so far has been enjoyable and as I'm about to enter the sealed gate, I've enjoyed the discovery of how the full weapon, combat, and player customization works.

Final Fantasy VII has been my favorite Final Fantasy title and will likely remain as such. However, now that I've finally acquired and learned how the Esper/Magicite thing works, I can see the full evolution of what Squaresoft did with their RPGs and character advancement, which I missed from the jump from Final Fantasy V to VII.

In FFV, Square used a familiar mechanism of allowing each player to select a job class that the can level by JP experience. This mechanism existed before FFV and persisted after with titles like Final Fantasy Tactics. The real benefit of the job class system in FFV is that once you leveled up and mastered a class, your player could equip one class ability. For instance, you could equip White or Black magic. This meant that if you were fighting as, say, a monk you could have strong barehanded attacks but also cast healing spells. This novel approach provided a way for you to give each character a focus that could work well for their unique stats, while also allowing for some novel customization of ability pairing.  Neat!

In FFVI, it seems that they wanted to expand this capability with the Esper system. In FFV, it took a while to max out any job type, but with FFVI, maxing an Esper on a player isn't that bad. The benefit of maxing the Esper is whatever magic spells you've learn from an Esper, you've learned for good on that character. In effect, this approach is very similar to FFV but instead of having the limitation of choosing one secondary job function to equip, maxing Espers allows you to keep ALL of the Espers' magic abilities.

Even though I've not gotten to far into FFVI, I think that the Esper system might be a tad too powerful. I've currently maxed all of my current character's Espers abilities, and I did it in about 2 hours of grinding. Granted, I'm doing this on iOS, and it allows me to get 4x XP and AP with each battle but even if I only focused on my primary party members and spent, say, 2-3 hours leveling in a regular game, I could be in the same boat without cheating. I definitely feel that might be OP.

For further comparison, Final Fantasy VII seems to have learned from this mechanic and even further refined the customization of character abilities. Instead of equipping jobs or Espers, you now have Materia. Equipped Materia gives you numerous potential abilities. Instead of coupling spell or ability power directly with player leveling, it now levels the Materia item itself, as it is used, regardless of who has equipped it! To this day, I find this mechanic to be one of the greatest RPG mechanics I've ever seen. Part of the problem with a system like Job classes or Espers is that you can only level the strength of an ability by leveling the player. This function is is tightly coupled to the character. But with Materia, the strengthening of the ability is coupled to the ability itself. Or rather, it's coupled to the equippable item that gives the ability, which means maxed out abilities can be swapped around from character to character.

None of this is a complaint. I've enjoyed FFVI so far and I think it's unfair to judge it based on its successor. What I'm really pointing out is that jumping from FFV to FFVII, I didn't see an evolution in character upgrading and enhancing. Job Classes vs. Materia were two very different but creative mechanics. Espers are kind of in the middle. Instead of there being a big leap in variation, I now see it was an evolution of these series between FFV and FFVII, which helps me appreciate both of those games in a different way.

I've waited to make this blog post before continuing my gameplay. Hopefully, I can jump back in tonight or tomorrow. Let's see what happens when I strike out to explore... the next world!

 

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I don't know if you noticed, but which Esper you have equipped also affects which stats improve more when that character levels up, så espers really help shape your party. 

Personally I like this system much more than Materia because its tied to the characters! I always found the Materia system pretty silly because it ultimately didn't matter at all who I had in my party, I could just equip someone else with the exact same Materia.

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RH

Posted (edited)

13 minutes ago, Sumez said:

I don't know if you noticed, but which Esper you have equipped also affects which stats improve more when that character levels up, så espers really help shape your party. 

Personally I like this system much more than Materia because its tied to the characters! I always found the Materia system pretty silly because it ultimately didn't matter at all who I had in my party, I could just equip someone else with the exact same Materia.

First, yes, I did notice that. Fortunately I caught onto that quicker rather than later.  This also means I need to balance my player leveling so that if/when I get better Espers, I don't want to be at level 99 and have no way to further level stats!

Regarding Materia, though I can see your point, what I really loved about Materia was the way you could craft and couple the linking of the various abilities.  I know that individual players "no longer matter" but that's not 100% true.  Very few players had equipment that allowed for 4x double-pairing (IIRC) of Materia. Anyway, I prefer it, but to each their own.

Edited by RH
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19 minutes ago, RH said:

I don't want to be at level 99 and have no way to further level stats!

True, but at the same time.. If you get a party all to level 99 nothing in the game can touch you 😛

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