CoN 20th Anniversary: 1997-2017
Reviews of the FF Stories

Posted: 12th January 2017 05:17

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-FF1-

Not half bad, but dry as dirt. It was interesting to see sci-fi elements included in an RPG after Dragon Warrior had zero of it, but to be frank, they are far more tacked-on than in Phantasy Star which was out around the same time. The player characters are mute; not a plus or a minus but simply an indicator of the kind of story that is being told. They have no internal conflicts because their identities are meant to be supplied by the player or players. The general themes center around man's struggle to cope with elemental forces, sort of a man-vs-nature quest story that ends with a megalomaniacal twist.

-FF2-

The first FF was kind of a nature hike compared to this. I mean, there is more walking in FF2, but you're not exactly on an investigative mission; you are assisting rebels in overthrowing a world domination-hungry Empire. The themes of this one are a little more centered around the purpose of the game's main agents; warriors. It could have been that someone said, the first game has a lot of warriors you can be, let's have them fight a war. War histories are good because they show something dire happening where a lot is at stake. Drama requires conflict, and always comes at a price, so war, which is full of conflict and quite costly, is great for generating drama. This shows up every once in a while in the series.

-FF3-

We return to the silent protagonist angle here, and the story's themes return to the first games (man vs. nature, the quest, etc.), though there are now far more compelling side stories that are less slice-of-life/overthrowing the kingdom stories (though those are present as well) and more interesting bits of writing. A water maiden is the only person left after the world is covered with water (something wrong with that Water Crystal, I'd wager), there are four old men in Amur who think they are the real Light Warriors, interesting color touches like that, which serve to add some character to a game that after all has four mains with spoken lines, but almost nada personality. They tried to have their cake and eat it too, and the cake is actually quite good.

-FF4-

Everyone talks about how FF4 was a dark turn for the series, but I don't really see that. Each FF was created by a separate group of people, though there were regulars on the team too. Each time a new team was formed to make a new game, though, they agreed that they would not try to copy any other game in the series. FF always re-invents itself with each new installment, whether it be in story, gameplay, or source code, even. FF4, then, I like to think, is more of a representation of the fact that better hardware not only meant that they could make it look nicer and sound nicer, those things also influenced the variety and depth of emotion the characters could express. It isn't much, but hanging your head and raising your hand are interesting gestures for a sprite that small to be able to make, and not look unrecognizable. Those things happened right here. The basic positive and negative emotions were fairly clear, though I could never figure out what spinning was supposed to mean. Why do character sprites (think Cid) spin so much? They spin while they're jumping, they spin (extremely fast) in place, etc. Anyhow, the thematic elements this time are kind of complex. It's basically a hero's journey, but it is kind of unique in that fairy tale heroes generally are perfect heroes. Cecil kind of flies in the face of that. He starts the game as someone who has agreed to do something he knows is evil because he is so stolidly lawful and limited in his thinking (not to mention self-nullifying to a fault) that he cannot disobey orders he knows are wrong. That's actually a really loaded character description, and it's all necessary words you know. Nothing in the first three games was quite so complex. As the story goes on, it sort of left turns from the Hero's Quest, and becomes a Rebirth story, where Cecil begins to change and learn who he really is.

-FF5-

And this one takes kind of a left turn all its own. The series had been growing more complex as it went on; FF4 is kind of light-years ahead of FF3. But FF5 was kind of shocking in its simplicity. The gameplay engine was given far more development time than the story, and it kind of shows. The story is far more stripped down and basic than FF4's was, and this is evident in that it starts with (as FF1 and FF3 do) a nameless main character. You may change Bartz's name if you wish before he is introduced. I don't believe this was meant as any kind of look back at the NES games, for nostalgia's sake. As mentioned above, FF teams all choose their own ground. FF5 is simpler than FF4 because the meat of the programming went into the Job System. The story is a bit less, how to characterize it? Busy, I guess you could say. While it's not without its character development moments (Bartz, Lenna, Galuf, Faris and later Krile are fleshed out characters who speak), the mains aren't exactly distinctive, and none of them has abilities the others don't, with the exception of gendered equipment. The themes of the story are back to FF1 and FF3's man vs. nature themes, only this time, a sort of man-vs-nonexistence twist is thrown in that makes it far more psychologically complex. This theme is not really elaborated on, and it's kind of ok that it's not (a speech from Exdeath about the meaninglessness of existence? Yeah, sure). FF5 doesn't try to be more than it is; it respects the fact that it is a video game, and is not afraid to indulge in a little silliness. It is just a game after all; have fun.

-FF6-

Boy howdy. The big one. The one that kind of stomped its foot and said to the games industry, "If you wouldn't mind." So much about FF6 was vehemently iconoclastic. There were so many elements in it that had never or were never thought to fit into JRPGs before. Cecil and Rosa were a romantic couple, but a bit too perfect. FF5 kind of drops the romance angle early and doesn't really pick it back up. FF6, however, is not happy to settle merely for taking the romance angle and doing it better, it eats, sleeps and breathes romance. Think about it. The game starts with a beautiful woman being saved by a swarthy adventurer, but then seems to be setting up a love triangle, but then abruptly switches to being about familial love, in terms of biological and surrogate and disciplinary. Then it finally comes to the point of no return (if you'll pardon the pun) with the Returners' Hideout. The game asks you the question here "Do you trust me?" and you are given a chance to answer Yes or No. It also is not meaningless (Your answers of No are limited to 3, and change the story if you use them up). The game is telling you "Your choices matter." It goes on from there to split and fragment into so many themes and subjects, that it almost becomes something akin to an epic poem. Suffice it to say, they kind of took every kind of plot and story they could think of and threw them into a blender. The game is just packed with so much story, all dramatically appropriate and never overstated. It's not really the feel good movie of the year, but it does have quite a bit to say. I've never really played its equal.

-FF7-

Final Fantasy 7 was kind of a weird moment for me. I was happy the series was so successful, but some of the things they started to include in the story were starting to bug me. All the same, what separates FF6 from FF7 is how fleshed out everything is. FF6's world makes a damn good attempt at fleshing itself out, but never quite gets there. FF7, on the other hand, is practically flesh, bone, sinew and dna. This thing is really deep. This is the deepest story of any FF game, and the most heartbreaking as well, to be honest. Its theme is kind of strange; it's a Rebirth story masquerading as a Hero's Quest. The hero thinks he is on a quest, but discovers he is simply being manipulated. That's kind of when the story really starts to transform, and it kind of takes a while. If you notice, this is identical to the thematic components of FF4, but without the inclusion of any kind of binary morality. FF4 had clear good and evil, but FF7 is the opposite; Bugenhagen even says that Holy might wipe out humanity as well. At any rate, the game's real depths go right down to the questions of how a person's identity is formed, and how they can then, after having their youthful enthusiasm and drive shown to be an illusory and inadequate motivation, continue to motivate themselves with it, whether it represents painful memories or not. You'd be surprised how often someone has trouble motivating themselves because the memory of how they were taught to do the thing they must do is traumatic.

-FF8-

This one is kind of...different, in more ways than one, and it is not a bad thing, really. It is a Romance Tale, with kind of a comedic bent (common for Romances), but there are dire elements to the main plot that kind of overshadow the comedy. Anyway, unlike most Romance stories, it is also a Rebirth Story. Squall starts the game as a total jerk; over the course of the game, he meets Rinoa, who somehow causes him (however it happened, maybe we'll never know) to question his childhood trauma of loneliness and abandonment (Squall is one of several orphans, and his older sister Ellone was adopted away from him). Through his questioning, he begins to understand that to truly accomplish the things he wants to do, he must grow into a person who is not merely determined to win, but fights with passion for his friends and loved ones in his heart. He grows into a more well-rounded person in this way, and FF8's story is of Squall ceasing to berate himself internally and come to appreciate and accept love from others.

-FF9-

Forget it, there is too much. It's the same as FF8 except the girl is the main character, but it never tells you that or indicates it in any way...except that she is the first character you're shown and told about (I know her waking vision of the boat in the storm is not explained until millions of hours later in the game, but it is characterization nonetheless). It has elements of any and every story you can think of everywhere and is relentlessly dense in its episodic storytelling. I do not think I've even seen all the dialogue that is possible to see in it, and maybe I never will. I have a soft spot for this one, as I'm sure many do.

FFX-XV I either haven't played or don't care for.

This post has been edited by Spooniest on 13th January 2017 01:55

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