Saturday, March 1, 2008

Final Fantasy Flight, Part 1

I live in Silicon Valley and work in the advertising field for a moderate/large internet company. However, my family lives in Southern California. Every so often, I fly out to visit them and use the weekend to drive to Los Angeles and see my orthodontist.

I'm not sure what it is about the combination of San Jose Airport and Southwest Airlines. But in the 30 or so flights I've taken, I've been delayed over half of the time. The result is that I've become proficient in keeping myself entertained. I've gone through all the portable Zeldas, Marios, and Kirbys as well as the Metroids and Castlevanias. But next on the list is Final Fantasy. I'm referring to the GBA version, of course since emulating the original is like elective torture.

The GBA version is much easier. Your characters deal more damage, take less damage, can dash in town, and have a lot more starting gil. You're no longer limited to dinky little potions that you have to buy one at a time. 'Ineffective attacks' are gone too, meaning if a character targets a monster that another character just killed, the game will redirect the attack to the next available monster rather than just attack the air. Most importantly, you can save the game whenever you want. In the original, you had to trek back to the inn and pay a fee to save the game.

I'm sticking with the default characters: warrior, thief, white mage, and black mage. I have nothing against the monk and red mage, but I really like the thief's long term potential (ahem... ninja). Meanwhile, black and white mages are pretty necessary if you want to get all the crucial spells like Teleport.

The warrior is named Kevin, of course. To be honest, I never use my own name in place of the main character. But hey, I'm on a plane and just had a rum and coke. I'm feeling adventurous. As for the other three, Garret is named after the main character of the Thief games, Lewis is inspired by C.S. Lewis, and Weasly is the ginger kid with the goofy faces from Harry Potter.

So bam. The game begins. And just like the original, the heroes are plopped in front of Cornelia, the kingdom formerly known as Corneria.

The heroes are now called the Warriors of Light rather than Light Warriors, a change that's like changing Final Fantasy to Fantasy, It's The Final One. Longer, but not better. Also, the dancer no longer calls herself Arylon. She just asks you if you want to dance with her, and then proceeds to not dance with you.

So yes, I talked to the first soldier I saw, who promptly escorted me to the king. Huzzah! Except... the king wants me to go kill the evil knight Garland and rescue his daughter. If I don't do it, he won't build a bridge to the mainland. Then, the four heroic looking people who magically showed up outside a town holding crystals that match the description of a great prophecy that says they will save the world and most certainly are the ones foretold will have to just wander around the island endlessly. Okay, saving the princess it is.

Back in the town of Cornelia, I decide to go shopping. I remember in the original, if you neglected this step, you'd be creamed by the endless bands of savage imps roaming the grasslands. Here, not so much. But nevertheless, I maxed out all the weapons and armor. Surprisingly, I still had enough gil to buy all the spells and a couple of potions. The king is more generous in this version with his funding.

Since I can only learn 3 of 4 spells. I decided not to get Dia for the white mage. I figure there aren't many undead monsters this early in the game and I can always get a stronger version of Dia later. As for Weasly, I bought all the spells except Sleep. In all the Final Fantasy games so far, has there ever been a time when the Sleep spell was actually useful? By the time you have the stats to make the spell effect consistent, you're strong enough to fell the enemy in one hit.

Anyway, I spent the next 20 minutes wandering around Cornelia, grinding on the imps (now called Goblins). Then, I moved my way up to Chaos' Shrine and passed by the Earthgift Shrine, one of the new bonus dungeons in the GBA version. There was a statue of Lich, which is quite the spoiler. But hey, the creators probably didn't care because they assumed everyone who would buy this game already played it before. Insert snide remark about Square Enix rehashing Final Fantasy games to fund its Dragon Quest endeavors.

I found Garland chewing scenery in front of an ominous black orb. They changed all of the heroes' crystals to actual crystal-looking shapes but neglected to change Garland's. Oops. They also kept his meme-worthy "knock you all down" line. But knock us down he didn't. A few Fire spells from Weasly and he crumbled away.

As promised, the king built me a bridge and Princess Sarah (they added an 'h' to her name) gave me a lute. Neither gave me free weapons, armor, or funding for the rest of my journey. Gee thanks. I'll remember how helpful you were after I save the world.

At this point, the flight attendant told us to turn off all portable electronics to prepare for landing. So we'll pick this up on the return trip. Stay tuned.

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