June 25, 2014

Final Fantasy III - Dey Terk 'Er Jerbs

There's nothing quite like a Chocobo party, cuz a Chocobo party don't stop!  Really though, it did stop at some point.  At that point, Shen and friends leave and head west a little, coming to the Ancient's Village, which is definitely not the place to be for a hip shindig.  No, it's full of oldsie bonesies who can't even manage to do the mashed potato or the Charleston.  Regardless, they do have some sweet gear for sale and soon the gang is down to a few hundred gil.  Next, they head to the valley of the Gurgans, where the elders there tell Shen about the tower of Odin.  Within the tower is the generator that keeps this continent hovering over the rest of the world, which is covered mostly in water due to the initial massive earthquake.  The Gurgans inform the Shenster that trouble is afoot at the ol' tower and they should proceed there, posthaste!  Any delay could mean the entire continent crashing down into the dreadful water world below.  To get inside, the elders give Shen the magic of Toad, which allows the party to change into the very thing that the spell is called.  Thankfully, the party doesn't have to stay in toad form while in the tower, just a quick change in order to access it.  After defeating the medusa that was messing with the generator, Desh's memory comes back to him as he realizes that he's the ancient guardian of this tower.  In a heroic move, Desh flings himself into the generator in order to fix it, though his survival is doubtful.

*sniff* I'll always remember that sloppy makeout
session we had at the Chocobo party.

With the tower stablized, the characters are now free to sail the rest of the floating continent's oceans.  Heading west, the party discovers a cave filled with dwarves (lali-ho!) who are quite distraught that a villain named Guzco has stolen one of their two sacred horns.  Hot on his tail, the group dives below an underground lake (utilizing Toad magic again) and soon catches up to Guzco.  Something occurred during the fight that kinda pissed me off, but first some background.  The magic in the Final Fantasy games up to this point aren't exactly known for favouring the non-damaging and non-healing spells.  Status-afflicting spells rarely work and even when they do, they don't always work the way they are suppose to (FFI is notorious for this).  FFIII has a number of information gathering spells, such as scanning for an enemy's elemental weakness.  T-Bone had bought the Libra spell, which allows him to see a foe's current HP.  It works well enough on minor enemies which — well, who cares about the HP of an enemy who'll die in one hit from a fighter anyway.  So, Libra is pretty much only going to be useful again boss creatures, but...

Nope!  But at least T-Bone wasted his turn!

Come on, FFIII, this is just an info spell; it's not going to break the combat by paralyzing or stunning Guzco or anything, dammit.  Anyway, after defeating Guzco, the party returns the horn to the dwarves, only to have Guzco show up and steal both horns and then bugger off to the nearby Cave of Fire.  The party must quickly give chase again before Guzco unleashes the power of fire.  Upon reaching him in the chamber of the Fire Crystal, Guzco seems fairly confident that his newfound flame powers will be able to easily handle Shen and his homies.

Guzco v2.0 gets a harsh lesson
in elemental opposition.

After putting Guzco on ice (permanently), the party receives four jobs from the Fire Crystal: Thief, Knight, Hunter, and Scholar.  With four jobs and four characters, it seems like every character should be getting an upgrade; however, this is not the case.  The thief sucks since the only weapons available to the class are mithril daggers from way back at the beginning of the game.  The hunter is okay but uses up arrows, which the group doesn't have a whole lot of at this point.  Most importantly, none of the new classes are strong magic-users (the hunter gets some white magic).  This is actually good news to me; I'd dislike it if the "old" jobs immediately became obsolete after acquiring new ones.  Plus, I really like the black mage sprite, for reasons not related to Final Fantasy at all.

Orko: the original gangsta.

The big drawback of having new jobs is having enough space in the inventory to switch them around.  Before changing jobs, characters must remove all of their equipment.  With over half the inventory space taken up by consumables, the remaining slots get filled quite quickly, especially since the new job will most likely not use any of the original equipment.  So, the party is forced to sell off the old equipment and hope to find and repurchase it later should a character want to slip back into a previous job.  Except that FFIII totally has this base covered in the form of an alternate storage space that is placed throughout the world and accessed by using a cheap, common item.

Fat Chocobo likes carrots (though wouldn't
chocolate-covered peanut butter
bacon make more sense?).

With F.C., mass job changes become much more manageable and even goes so far as to show which classes can equip which item as they are scrolled through (ordinarily, this is only shown in shops).  On one hand, if the functionality for all this extra space exists within the game, why not just allow the party to normally have access to it?  On the other hand, Fat Chocobo.  At any rate, while some members of the party play with their new jobs, a messenger arrives at the dwarf cave to tell the party that Tokkle is about to be burned to the ground.  The valiant heroes suit up and rush to the scene only to promptly be arrested by soldiers sent by Lord Hyne, the evil mage originally responsible for the sacking of Tokkle and enslaving the populace of Argass Castle.

Hey, c-come now, fellas, can't
we at least have a fight first?

After meeting the king of Argass Castle in Hyne's prison, the party swiftly escapes via Mini magic through a hole in the wall and make their way to get the revenge on Hyne (dumb soldiers forgot to take our equipment).  Talking with every NPC pays off as the party knows that Hyne has a weak point, although he can change it if he so desires.  Enter Xero the Scholar, who has a special ability to scan a subject and determine any weak points.  It costs him a turn but is well worth it when combined with the elementally diverse Yauch.

Poor Hyne, he doesn't realize that Yauch's
only level 3 spell just happens to be Ice.

Even more hilarious is that, when Hyne gets frosted by Yauch, he uses his switch weakness ability, which ends up being weak vs. cold again.  Shrugging his shoulders, Yauch sends another Ice 3 to Hyne's dumb ass and he's put on ice (permanently).  With Hyne gone, everyone returns to Argass Castle and the king gives Shen the Time Gear, who gives it to Cid in Canaan, who uses it to infuse the sailing ship with the ability to transform into an airship and back.

Airship, transform and roll out!

This incarnation of the airship still can't clear mountain ranges but it can get the party off the floating continent and down to the rest of the world, which is almost completely covered in water.  There are just two places that can be visited: a shipwreck and a temple of water.  At the shipwreck, Shen finds a priestess of water, Elia, who is sick but easily cured with an antidote.  She then accompanies the party to the water temple and opens the way for them to slog through a dungeon and defeat the Kraken guarding the Water Crystal.  A new crystal means new jobs and Water isn't as stingy with them as Fire was.  Check out this list: Geomancer, Dragoon, Viking, Karateka, Magic Knight, Conjurer, and Bard.  Along with getting new classes, the world water level drops significantly after a raging quake and many new land masses appear, complete with functioning towns somehow.  Shen and the others are caught in the water cave and black out, only to awaken in the town of Amur.  Some dick named Goldor has chained up the precious airship so it looks like the gang will be stuck here for awhile.  That's alright though — time to experiment with all these new jerbs and do a little grinding in the process!

June 12, 2014

Final Fantasy III - Looks Like A Job For...

Before continuing on with the grand adventures of Shen & Co., I simply must address some of the gameplay elements and visual details that FFIII serves up.  First, the whole issue of whether or not a character should auto-target the next available enemy should the enemy selfishly die before the character's turn (just a reminder, I'm actually a fan of letting the attack go to waste).  Here, the attack does carry on to the next enemy, chosen at random rather than the next enemy in line.  This seems like a nice compromise to me; those who still want to efficiently spread the damage around by choosing targets can do so, while button-mashers won't bitch about losing attacks.  However, this applies only to physical attacks; magic-users still have to choose the target of their spells very carefully.

The levelling system is also quite different from the previous two games, thanks to the job system.  Attributes are static for each job class and the values are dependent on the character's level.  This means that when a character changes a job, they are immediately useful in their new profession.  None of this having a level 10 mage-turned-fighter keeping their low strength but still having their, now useless, high intellect.  In addition to the normal XP-based levels, there is a separate Skill level which is tied directly to the current job a character is doing.  Job skill raises seemingly at random but it might be influenced by how often a character does an action associated with their job (e.g. fighters doing melee attacks, mages casting spells).  I think skill affects the stats derived from the main attributes (so stuff like attack strength, hit %, defense, etc.) but I'll have to keep a closer eye on it to know for sure.

And now, the one element that causes Shen to spring the most boners of all... DUAL WIELDING FOR EVERYONE!  You think that shit is just for rangers or fighter-types?  FFIII says "HELL NAW!" and lets everyone play.  You can even dual wield two shields if you are so inclined (actually not a bad idea for mages in the back row).  Final Fantasy II incorporated global dual wielding as well, except that it didn't work.  And yes, each weapon is animated during combat.

K, there is entirely too much text and not enough pics going on up in this piece so let's switch gears and talk about some of the splendid visual touches that FFIII has.  You know how a lot of older games tend to screw up the spatial relationship of objects when in an isometric or overhead view?  For example, having a large tree that looks like a character sprite should be able to go behind it, only to come to a dead halt when the character runs into the "top" of the tree.  Not so in Final Fantasy III.

500 gil to those who can spot the Shen.

The game is also loaded with lots of little extras that serve no purpose other than the temporary amusement of the player.  Previous FFs had a few of these as well, such as a NPC in a town doing a little dance when talked to.  At a time when developers had to pay more attention to the overall byte size of game, I appreciate the mindset that said that these little extras just had to be part of the game.

I could shoot this cannon all day.

The biggest visual drawback so far (and it's a big one) is that when the party wins a battle, their victory dance consists of just two fist pumps while in a regular standing position.  Compare this to the high energy of the second Final Fantasy, where the party did a celebratory dance and then excitedly raced across the screen, eager for their next encounter.  Perhaps the more subdued victory action found here exists to show that the characters have matured since their FFII days.  The showy exuberance of their youth has faded into a somewhat more solemn appreciation of yet another triumphant battle.  Course, since the world of FFIII has nothing to do with FFII, this theory is totally bogus unless I want to get all metaphysical and talk about spiritual descendants transposing across parallel universes.  And since I have yet to pick up the adventure from whence I last posted, I think I'll just shut my pie hole and continue on.

After leaving Canaan, the party decides to scale the nearby mountain, attempting to reach the summit.  Before getting there, however, they are all snatched up by the dragon Bahamut and taken to his nest.  In FFI, Bahamut was the one who granted the characters the ability to upgrade their respective classes after doing a fetch quest for him.  In FFIII, Bahamut seems to have lost his high dragon intelligence and now functions more like a bird.  After being dropped off in the nest, the party finds another person hiding named Desh, the love interest of a NPC in Canaan.  He's lost quite a bit of his memory but is eager to join the group anyway.  During the discussion, Bahamut returns and is quite pissed off that his babies haven't devoured us yet.  Desh makes the quite rational suggestion that everyone gets the fuck outta dodge.

Would it help to confuse it if we run away more?

After that close encounter with certain death and somehow surviving the leap off the summit, the party finds themselves on the other side of the mountain range with just a forest nearby.  The group soon meets a tiny new friend who informs them of a hidden village just to the south of their current location.

Uh... you're called little people, you stupid midget.

In order to enter the town of little people, the party must first become one with the little people.  Luckily when Desh joined the group, he also gave Shen the Mini magic spell which shrinks everyone down into their fun-sized versions.  The town of Tozas is at hand!

Adorableness meter reaching critical mass.

A hidden road from Tozas leads to a new area but it must be traversed while miniaturized, meaning physical attacks do almost no damage (magic still works as normal).  The hidden path is short and straightforward, so Shen and the others just flee from each encounter.  Once on the other side, the party returns to their normal size and find a Viking base.  The Vikings are in a jam since the sea monster that they worship, Nepto, has been destroying all their ships recently for unknown reasons.  The party heads to Nepto's nearby shrine and takes a look at the statue carved in its honour.  On closer inspection, it seems that the statue is missing the jewel normally in its left eye socket, leaving a gaping hole instead.  Once again, the party decides to Mini-Me themselves and enter the orifice.

Gross!

Inside, the dungeon is longer than the road from Tozas and the party has less success attempting to flee every encounter.

Although, how can you not love
those miniature 8-bit corpses?

After three failed attempts, clearly some new strategy needs to be applied.  T-Bone and Yauch switch from their respective fighter and monk jobs into black mages so that everyone is capable of casting magic.  With magic operating at full capacity, battles are winnable and soon the party has recovered the ruby which fits in Nepto's statue.  Nepto's voice reaches the characters as he explains that the gem holds his mind and without it being in place, he reverted to an animal-like state.  With Nepto appeased, the Vikings give their ship to the group who are now free to sail the high seas and access the rest of the continent.  I rather liked the forcing of job changes in this area and I hope the game puts me into more situations where I have to evaluate the best mix of jobs for the... er... job.  For now though, the party heads to the nearby town of Tokkle, only to find it has been ravaged by soldiers from Argass Castle.  Shen will not stand for this kind of injustice — NO SIR! — and so the party races to the castle, hooting and hollering whilst banging their weapons together, whipping themselves into a frenzy... only to find a completely abandoned castle.

Dest, invoke the squatter's rights spell.

Leaving the mystery of Argass Castle behind and still hankering for a bit of a row, the gang heads west, only to bumble into a forest clearing with a trio of Chocobos!  Instead of riding them around like normal, though, Shen decides to defuse the raging testosterone of the group by decreeing not just any party, but a Chocobo conga line party!

♪ La Cho-co-bo—cha!  La Cho-co-bo—cha! ♫

Ummm... yeah... we could be here awhile.

June 03, 2014

[Game 045] Final Fantasy III (NES - 1990)

Translation by Alex W. Jackson, Neill Corlett & SoM2Freak

Whilst us plebs in North America still had yet to experience the awesomeness that is the first Final Fantasy, our gaming bros over in Japan were already kicking it with the third installment in the series.  FF3 blends elements from the first two games while adding some fresh ingredients as well.  The most notable of the new additions is the class job system, which has been a mainstay ever since.  Characters are free to change classes whenever they like, although the frequency of changes are limited by the amount of capacity points the party has.  Caps are gained through combat, just like gil (gold) is.  Cap costs also vary depending on how closely related the two classes are (e.g. a Red Mage switching to a Black Mage is cheaper than going to a Fighter).  The initial set of jobs are the same as what was available in the first FF, with the exception of the Thief class.  The majority of classes are not available at the beginning and must be unlocked as the game progresses.  New jobs come in bunches as they are gained by finding and conversing with the elemental light crystals which the story revolves around.  As with what seems like >50% of the JRPGs out there, the world is currently in disharmony between the forces of light and dark and only a handful of spunky orphans can possibly restore the balance.  Before the gang of youths even get access to the first set of jobs, though, they all start off as Onion Knights, which is the suckiest class that ever did suck (unless one grinds them to a ridiculously high level; then their stat gains go through the roof).  A brief introductory adventure has the group of friends falling into a fissure after a recent earthquake and discovering a cave which, of course, is packed with monsters.

Babby's first class meets a select
choice of nightmare fuel.

It's within this cave that the quirky quartet stumble across the first of the light crystals which dumps the responsibility of restoring world order on them.  But the crystal makes up for this by granting access to some classic, er, classes.

Comes with a much-needed wardrobe change.

After admiring their new threads, the party bids farewell to their adoptive father and head out of the hamlet of Ur to seek out the remaining crystals.  Their first stop is the nearby village of Kazus, which is built near a mithril mine from which the citizens make their living from.  Kazus has recently been cursed by a djinn named Jinn, rendering all the inhabitants as ghostly outlines, though they can still walk and talk like normal.  They can't handle items, however, and so no new equipment can be bought until this Jinn character is dealt with.  Unfortunately, Jinn is located in the Cave of the Seal which has a lake blocking off its entrance.  Fortunately, one of the ghosts in Kazus is Cid, the airship engineer found throughout the FF series.

I'll take the airship but I can't guarantee
that I won't just bugger off with it.

Getting access to the airship this early in the game fills half my circuits with joy and the other half with disappointment.  I'm always happier when I have an airship in my possession but I like to work my up to the airship and earn it.  Come on, FFIII, transportation mode progression is suppose to go: land, sea, then air.  At any rate, the airship performs admirably and gets the party across the lake to the cave where Jinn resides.  While searching the cave, Princess Sara from Sasoon Castle joins, although she doesn't help in combat at all.  However, she does possess the Mithril Ring, which is the only thing that can seal Jinn away after he is defeated in combat.

You might think you're hot stuff, Jinn,
but Shen is as cool as I-C-E.

After extinguishing the djinn, the quixotic quintet travel to Sasoon Castle to get their bangs trimmed a bit and maybe get some highlights as well.  Oh yeah, and to seal away Jinn forever.  Sara would like to join the party, but deep down she realizes that there is only room for four characters in the battle screen.

Also, the princess job is pretty
worthless outside the monarchy.

With the princess out of Shen's hairdo, he is free to roam around Castle Sasoon, looting at will and pilfering at whim.  The castle harbours many secret passages; some are marked by an obvious flaw in the wall tile (à la Ultima IV: QotA), others require a little more intuition.

No illusionary walls are going to keep ME
from stealing your hard-earned treasures.

Even Princess Sara isn't safe from the sticky fingers of Shen and, in his audacity, he even decides for the party to take a nap in her bed while she's still in the room.

Princess Sara begins to doubt the wisdom
of the light crystal's choice in heroes.

With Sasoon Castle sufficiently sacked, it's time to progress to the next area but the only way out of this little valley in the mountains is blocked by a huge boulder.  It's so huge that even the airship can't fly over it (or any of the mountains for that matter).  Hrmm, does FFIII take place previous to FFI or FFII, before Cid had mastered the construction of airships?  Further proof comes after Cid suggests installing a battering ram to destroy the humongous boulder.  A bold, and seemingly stupid, plan but Shen doesn't have any better suggestions, so Cid goes ahead with his crazy idea and duct-tapes a tree trunk to the airship.

With predictable results (except
for the surviving part).

I don't feel particularly bad about losing this airship, since it barely functions as one as well as coming too early in the game for my liking.  Low level characters should have to do a fair amount of walking anyway — helps to build up their endurance, dontcha know.  A short ways south lies the town of Canaan, where Cid gets dropped off to take care of his ailing grandmother, but not before promising to be of more help in the future.

Try making one without particle
board and pine resin this time.

Shen and the others actually cure Cid's grammy gram with an elixir found hidden right in the town.  This turned out to be a much better solution than Cid's method of standing in one spot near her bed.  Well, at least now Cid can focus on making that airship, though methinks that Shen will have to hire a certified inspector before piloting any more of Cid's flying death traps.