Monday, February 3, 2014

TEXT PLAY: Final Fantasy 6 (SNES; Square 1994): Issue #001: Vap-O-Rub

By Vicks.

Well, OK, not the pharmaceutical company mentioned above. Vicks was actually the Woolsey translation of the character's name, originally part of the Biggs and Wedge duo seen here. From what I understand, this was kind of a recurring joke in Square games at the time, through at least Final Fantasy 8, where they'd reference Wedge Antilles and Biggs Darklighter, from the first three Star Wars movies. I know in this game, and also in Crono Trigger, they change Biggs to Vicks for some reason. I think they do the same in one other game that came out around this time, Secret of Mana, I think, but don't quote me. I know the original three Star Wars movies were pretty good, but I'm not sure about the change of names.

Anyway, enough with the trivia for now. I'll get to more later, but on with the game for now.

As our story begins, we see three people riding mechanized armor to the edge of a cliff overlooking the mining town of Narshe. The two barely distinct imperial soldiers, who do all the talking at first, are Vicks and Wedge, have been ordered to take a mysterious and as-of-yet unnamed woman to Narshe to find something called an Esper. Both men find it hard to believe that one has been uncovered when the common belief is that they all vanished a thousand years prior.

Wedge is worried that their charge might go nuts on them and kill them both because she's got “super-ultra-mega” magic power as well as the same armor they do. Not quoting the game there, but it'll do. Vicks reassures him that as long as she's got the mind control helmet on, they've got nothing to worry about, but just to be safe, they put her on point and march on the town.

When they get there, it's not exactly a “We are the Borg” moment, but the resistance from the local militia doesn't really put up much of a fight, either, especially at first. The town itself is guarded by militia men and their dogs, which, judging by the in-game name, must be something like huskies of some sort. On the way into the mine, we're met with guards who bring mammoth-like creatures with a special attack. Farther into the mine itself, we get our first random encounters of the game, as opposed to the fixed-point battles we had up until this point.

As we enter the mine, Vicks and Wedge comment that the Esper was “found in a new mine shaft, perhaps this one.” when there's really no perhaps about it, because we're only given one place to enter. At the far back of the tunnel, we have the first boss fight of the game, against a compound monster called Whelk. Perhaps his first name is Lawrence? I must say, this was an easier fight than I remember, since it's pretty easy to spam the attack the monster is weak to, as everybody has access to it.

With that in mind, I should point out that this is one of only two times that the game lets us do much with the MagiTek armor units I mentioned earlier, and the only time they really got creative with its powers. Vicks, Wedge, and the unknown character all have access to beam weapons based on fire, ice, and lightning elemental magic and a healing power, and the unknown character also has powers based on poison, a power called “X-Fer” and a projectile as well.

In past Text Plays, this is where I'd stop and pick up in a new issue, but this game is a little different, as it's a perfect example of Square being at its best when it comes to storytelling in its games. As a result, there's a couple more things that will happen before we get to our first decent place to break.

Once the Whelk is defeated, our party moves on to the chamber it was guarding. This is where we see our first Esper. It is indeed frozen in ice, and it's called Tritoch, as is revealed in what looks like another battle scene, but really isn't . This Esper seems to have a psychic connection with the unknown character, which freaks Vicks and Wedge out, with good reason, as a moment later, Vicks and Wedge are vaporized or sent into the void, or something. The unknown character has a different reaction, as there are sparks between her and the Esper, and then they both glow briefly.

Our story then cuts forward an unspecified amount of time, to a house in Narshe, with the woman, now minus her mech and the mind control device, waking up from her experience. The man there says that she'll remember things as time goes on. The woman then remembers that her name is Terra, and the man tells her that she's coming around more quickly than most others in her situation.

Just then, some other imperial soldiers come along to take Terra and her associated equipment back to the Empire. The man tells Terra to sneak out the back of his house and escape into the mines. It almost works, but Terra is spotted by the soldiers, who look an awful lot like the Narshe militia men from before in this version. Since they weren't in position to catch her there, Terra does get away into the mine, but not very far, as the guards do corner her there, where Terra falls down a hole and gets knocked out and has a dream about what the game's villain, a crazy dude named Kefka, did to her to get her into that spot.

Meanwhile, a guy named Locke shows up at the man's house and gets briefed on the situation. The man calls Locke a thief, which is his character type, but he prefers the term “treasure hunter” instead.

Locke's assignment is to make sure Terra gets through the mine safely and get her to a place called Figaro. While he's there, Locke is also supposed to ask the king for help. As the man explains in an obvious but necessary bit of exposition, if Narshe wants to stay free, it'll need “help from the Returners, a rebel organization.”

The good news is that we're spared having to go back over the same ground with Locke, because we'll be back here several times over the course of the game. The better news is that we're also introduced to one of the coolest mechanics in this game: the multi-party battle. We'll see this a few times in the game. In this case, most of the characters used in these battles are NPCs called Moogles, which US audiences saw for the first time in this game, as I recall. The basic principle here is that we've got three parties of characters that we need to use to defend Terra against a horde of monsters and then take out the leader. In a bit of foreshadowing, Locke is in one of the teams, and another character, a Moogle named Mog, is in another team. It's wise to use him, because he'll be in the pool of playable characters later on, and it's nice to have a start on his special ability development, a dance move.

Once again, the associated boss fight here was easier than I remembered. Since I had pretty much three shots at this one, I went in with what I thought was my flimsiest party and won on my first try.

Once that battle's over and done with, Locke carries Terra out of the mines so they can escape Narshe and get help in Figaro. Just as Locke opens the secret exit to the mine, Terra comes to and asks what's going on. Locke explains that he's there to help get her to someplace safe, and the pair heads for Figaro.

Although it's not related to the plot, there's a training room in Narshe, meant to explain things to new players. I'm not new, but it's worth going in all the same because there's some decent items to be had, and they'll come in handy.

With that, I think I'll call this a good place to stop and pick up next issue with the trip to Figaro next time, in Issue #002: King Pepe Le Pew. I know this was a little long, so I'll try to keep the next one shorter.

Until then, folks, stay safe, have fun, keep gaming, and DFTBA!

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