Part 1: Sprachauswahl
Unlike the SNES original, FFVIA comes with a language selection and we are obviously going to auf Deutsch spielen.
It used to say just Squaresoft, but those days are over. Forever.
The first couple of seconds are quite similar to what we're used to...
...but the title screen is not quite the same.
One neat thing here is that it doesn't actually let us try to load a save unless we have one. As we start a new game, that is the only option we get here.
VIDEO: Watch the intro.
AUDIO: Or at least listen to it while you read.
The new script is pretty much better than the old one in every way, though nostalgeeks may about some specific lines being replaced. I certainly enjoyed some of those lines as well, but all in all I am quite happy to see them go in exchange for a generally better written script.
Rather, the question here should be: "could Square make an interesting game out of this if someone didn't repeat that mistake?"
(The answer is "no", by the way.)
As the intro text fades, three armoured mechs stomp into view. These are our inevitable cameo characters: named after Star Wars characters, but dressed in red shirts straight out of Star Trek, let's give a warm welcome to Biggs and Wedge.
Now, B&W look exactly alike, both in sprite form and in their menu portraits, so it's going to be hard making them stand out. But, seeing as I'm calling them B&W anyway, I'm going to colour code them (for the brief moment they're in the party - oops spoilers). Just remember Black is for Biggs, and White is for Wedge.
Hard to believe an esper's been found frozen there a thousand years after the War of the Magi...
Bah! Probably just another wild goose chase...
I don't know...
They wouldn't have let us use her unless they were confident that the information was good.
I hear she fried fifty of our Magitek armored soldiers in three minutes... Kinda makes your skin crawl, doesn't it?
That's us. Wave to the nice man.
Relax. With that thing on her head, she's a mindless puppet.
The girl won't even breathe unless we tell her to.
They leave the same way they came (hint: not by jumping over the edge to their deaths).
The scene that follows is pretty well known, and I won't deny that the music in this part is very nice, even if the graphics are no longer as impressive as they were when this first came out.
The three armoured suits steadily plod towards Narshe in the distance...
...while the credits roll in the sky and the city slowly appears over the horizon.
Plenty of famous names up there, but listing them all would take more time than it's worth. Watch the video if you want to see them all (and I recommend doing that because it's pretty cool).
Naturally, moving is the last thing on my mind. Let's check out the menu now that we're in charge.
Unlike the SNES version, FFVIA keeps the "job" descriptions of each character, and ?????? is a "magitek elite". At this level, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though. Biggs and Wedge are cannon fodder, but they are physically stronger and tougher than ??????, despite their lower levels.
Our stats are fairly generic JRPG stuff and there's really not much need to go into detail. Instead, we'll do something about that boring window colour.
We are an invading force, but since we're clearly in the right here, I suppose these guys are classed as terrorists and that makes it perfectly fine for us to kill them when they try to defend their homes.
AUDIO: Battle Theme
Biggs and Wedge both have the same commands in battle: Magitek, which opens this menu, and Items, which does exactly what it does in every other RPG ever. The beams deal elemental damage as the names imply, and they are all overkill for this stage of the game. Heal Force is also pretty self-explanatory, and it's also overkill, recovering somewhere around 200-300 HP for a single character - far more than our maximum.
...and ice beams in action. Both one-shot the grunts.
This is a dead end, but there's no point in leaving anything unexplored.
?????? has a much better selection of Magitek commands, and another option that will become important later. Bio Blast does poison damage to all enemies, Banisher is basically an instant kill, Confuser causes enemies to spaz out and attack their own team, and Magitek Missile is an obscenely strong single-target attack.
Confuse is actually very useful, but it's wasted on these guys, since they're entirely harmless.
Banisher in action. The wolf disappears to regions unknown.
FFVI uses the "Active Time Battle" system, or ATB. The bars to the right slowly fill up as time passes (faster or slower depending on the character's speed) and once one of them is full, that character can take action. I see what they're going for with this, but honestly, I just find it tedious; I prefer games that cut out the "sit there watching the bars fill up" bit, such as FFX or most SRPGs. However, the fast forward key makes everything better.
The guards run off after we beat their dogs, and we're too big to follow them, so it's back to the main path.
Two battles here; first with the silver lobos, then the guards. Neither of them goes well for the terrorists.
The pincer attack doesn't do much to stop the party, but later on, these will be pretty annoying. Enemies get first strike, and I'm pretty sure taking a hit from behind deals double damage.
Right now, the only thing of importance is that ?????? gains a level. Sweet! I bet her stats are totally awesome now-
Characters in FFVI do not gain stats at level up, just HP and MP. At least, not for the time being...
That's the last line of defence. The mines lie ahead. Let's go in and take their oil. Espers. Whatever.
This must be it.
AUDIO: The Mines of Narshe
This sits just inside, and it tends to mean something big and mean is going to attack you pretty soon.
A strange light fills the air.
No. It's easy.
Step two. See? Not hard at all.
All the previous encounters were scripted, but there are random encounters inside. They are all pathetic, but this is an opportunity to heal up before the boss that's coming up ahead. The pre-emptive strike starts our team with full ATB bars.
There is a barred gate under that dialogue box, but Biggs backs up and...
...smashes it by running into it head first, as opposed to shooting it with his fancy FIRE BEAM or something that would actually make sense.
Biggs, you deserve whatever's coming to you.
We barely get past the gate before this guy shows up and sends out a Norse ice giant to kill us.
...or a giant snail. Either way.
AUDIO: The Decisive Battle
(Honestly, I generally don't like Uematso's regular battle themes much, but the boss themes are usually better. This one is pretty good.)
That things' a...! They must have trained it to guard the mines!
What are you talking about?
You know what this is?
Ever heard of a lightning whelk?
It's a monster that absorbs lightning...
...and stores the energy in its shell!
So whatever you do, don't attack the shell!
Fuck you Biggs, you're not the boss of ??????!
Also, this is what Magitek Missile does.
As you may have gathered from the conversation a few moments earlier, the boss counters any attacks aimed at the shell. It does this with Megavolt, a lightning attack that hurts pretty bad. It can target either one character for massive damage, or all for just "lots". (Unfortunately, I didn't get a capture of the actual attack, but it's pretty generic lightning stuff.)
Ymir's gimmick is that it keeps hiding its vulnerable head in the shell and popping back out. When it's out, it uses a shitty attack that doesn't really do anything, and can inflict Slow, which is why ?????? is looking somewhat odd in this shot. Slow slows (hurr) your ATB bar and is generally a nuisance.
Normally, the "hiding in shell" phase would be a good chance to heal up, but... that's kind of boring, isn't it?
What the game doesn't tell you is that Megavolt costs MP. And while Ymir's shell has a lot of HP, it doesn't have anywhere near as much MP.
It can counter with Megavolt six times. After that, it is entirely harmless.
Usually, the fight ends if you kill one of the two parts (which makes sense). However, both of them will drop an item, but you only get the item for the party you actually killed and normally that means you'll only get one of them. However, we do have a few options for multi-target damage...
Pictured: I've just killed both Ymir's head and its body at the same time.
(Thank $DEITY for the fast forward key, is all I can say.)
Well, back to the actual game. The Esper we're looking for is right behind the gate.
It does not like being disturbed.
AUDIO: Another World of Beasts
Something's not right...!
I'm pretty sure Biggs didn't order her to walk up and go "..." at it.
Wh-where's that light coming from!?
Wedge, where are you?
H-hey! What's going on!?
Wedge disappears. FOREVER.
Biggs quickly follows.
The Esper isn't satisfied with just killing the redshirts, however...
...and blows us the fuck up.
Game over, man.
(Spoiler: it's not game over.)