I said yesterday that I would write today about my experience trying out the Final Fantasy X demo. And I will, but perhaps some background of my history with Final Fantasy first. And I’m going to want to point out how some things have changed, which will make more sense if you have some idea of what they’ve been changed from.
Back in college, a good friend of mine got into VII. Really got into VII, kept going on about how good it was. Sounded like there was a lot to it, but I didn’t have access to it at the time.
A few years later, I picked up a PlayStation second-hand. This was at the point where there were still PS1 games in the stores, but only just. I picked up VIII and IX new. I think Origins (I+II) and Anthology (IV+V in the European version, the Americans got stuck with V and VI and no IV PS release) may have been in the store, but I didn’t get them at that point, I did pick them, VI and VII up later (probably ebay). III was the only release from I-IX, that didn’t get a PS1 release anywhere.
I played lots of VIII and IX at that point. Didn’t finish them until much later. They were easy to play for days (maybe weeks) in spare time, but then I’d take a break, forget what happened, and find it easier to start over to remember the story, than to continue from where I left off…
VI I played through on the emulator, and I was multitasking while I did it, it was easier than going to the console and a dedicated screen.
A couple of years ago, a Nintendo DS was a family present, and one of the games that was also part of the family present, was III. So I did get to play through that one.
I’ve played some VII on-and-off with kids, on the emulator up here (I had them skip a part where Cloud goes into the mansion in drag).
I’ve played I, II, IV and V a little bit, mostly to test that they worked.
The stories take place on very different worlds. IX, getting back to the series’ roots, was more castles, villages, dragons and magic. VI had much more of a steampunk vibe, VII more cyberpunk. VIII is a bit more difficult to place, with mixed elements. There are significant parts with a sci-fi look.
The stories might, in some cases start fairly small – IX starts with a theater troupe on a mission to kidnap a princess, VIII starts with Squall having to pass a couple of tests of his ability as a warrior. The characters soon get swept up into a much larger, world-threatening story. In VIII, a sorceress from the past wants to compress all time to take control of it. In VII, we find out pretty quickly that the life is being sucked out of the planet, to meet energy demand. In IX, someone’s trying to fuse the planet with its dead twin, which will turn out catastrophic for everyone we care about.
There are many common elements through the games, that are sometimes implemented differently. Armour generally works out fairly similarly. You tend to start with something like leather armour, and work your way up throughout the game. Your characters often have job classes: something warrior/knight-ish, something leaning in the healing direction (usually a White Mage), something to cast more harmful spells on your enemies (often a Black Mage). Thief. Some games (III, V) you can choose, some (IX) you can’t.
Magic varies wildly: in III you buy magic from shops throughout the world, and it comes in different levels. Each character has 3 magic slots for each level. It also comes in White, Black and Grey varieties. Some job classes might not be able to use all colours, some might not be able to use any. In VIII, you draw magic from draw points or enemies, and you can plain cast it in battle, but there’s more benefit to “junctioning” it to various character statistics, such as Hit Points, Strength, and a bunch of others. VII, various materia (including magic), you link with slots on your weapons, to make your fighting more effective.
Summon creatures are treated differently by different games as well. A lot of them recur, but some appear only in one game. And they’re referred to differently in different games as well. In VI, they’re called Espers, and they actually have a good reason to help you. In VIII, they’re “Guardian Forces”, GFs. In IX, they’re Eidolons. Most games, as I recall, you give the command to summon them, when you tell the characters what to do, and then they appear when it’s the character’s turn to take the action. In VIII, after you tell the character to Summon, their HP counter gets replaced with the GF’s, for a countdown period before the GF appears. Therefore, the GF is vulnerable to attack and the character isn’t.
In trying the X demo, obviously there’s only so much of the game that they’ll show you, which is fair. They don’t give you much of an idea about the story. They show you the opening movie, and two game segments, the first of which has a bunch of FMV. I couldn’t, as far as I could tell, have a look at equipment screens, and see what you could fiddle around with there. Unsurprisingly, they don’t just let you wander around the world map. In the areas they give you access to, there’s minimaps with indicators of where you are, and where you’re heading to.
The second sequence showcases different battle styles. One battle tells you to use a summon creature, here called Aeons. There’s a big innovation here, the summon creature appears, replacing your whole party, and you give the Aeon commands instead of your party. You basically control it for the rest of the battle, and of course it is vulnerable to attack during this time.
I thought that was a pretty neat idea, and a logical progression from VIII.
They also showcase straight battle, and the use of magic in battle, which aren’t that different to previous games. There are special abilities which you can use for a limited time, after a certain amount of battle: more like the Trances from IX than anything else. But without the characters glowing purple.
The other big innovation, which also seems like a good idea, requires some more background that I haven’t given yet.
Some of the earlier games have 4 characters that you use for the duration of the game. I and III are like this, II has 3 that stay, and the fourth is variable. Most of the other games have a large roster of characters, whom you pick up as the game progresses. In these games, you are given the opportunity to switch which ones you’re using, sometimes at specific points in the game, and for some segments you can change them at any time.
In these larger cast line-ups, in the final battle, if you lose a character, they might be replaced by another. The VI finale is like this, you can choose the order you want your characters to appear in. This is about the only time when your lineup changes during a battle.
In the second playable segment of the X demo, there’s a point where it tells you how to swap out a character mid-battle. One imagines technical limitations have prevented this before, but it seems like a great idea. I wonder how it changes the dynamics, because you could not worry about healing mid-battle, just swap out characters until the battle’s done, then Tent everyone better (assuming that mechanic remains).
I know I’m late to the party on this, and I was recently drooling over the VII Remake trailer for PS4, and have been following the long, long development of XV (also PS4, neither released yet). And watched the trailer for the X HD remake. Probably be very late to the party on all these, as well. Never mind, I like retro, one day these things will be, too. for no, that was a nice, brief excursion into slightly-less-retro-land.