Sunday, October 2, 2011

The First of Many to Come

 Fighting plays an important role in every Final Fantasy game, whether it be fighting the armies of a totalitarian empire or a protagonist fighting conflicting emotions. Nearly each entry in the main series begins headfirst into a scripted battle (read: not randomized), and this 'first battle' may or may not have some significance to the plot. I'll be looking over and commenting on the first encounter of each Final Fantasy, so grab your swords, shields, and gunblades as we look at the first steps of each journey.

"I will knock you all down!"
 In the first Final Fantasy, there really wasn't a 'first battle' that threw the player into the action right away. No, instead you'd have the choice of entering the city of Cornelia for the first time or surveying the surrounding landscape, (but the prior choice is a smart one). One could argue that the first battle is either a random encounter (most likely with IMPS) or the first encounter with Garland in the Temple of Chaos. I like to think it's the latter since it's more significant and the actions the player makes before fighting Garland (exploring Cornelia, buying equipment, grinding, etc.) act as a buildup to that moment. This beginning contrasts to later entries in the series; buildups to the first encounter are instead evoked through opening cut-scenes.

Where's the suicide option?!
 Final Fantasy II is one of the least played Final Fantasy games, so I'll go over the premise. The main characters of FFII are Firion, Maria, Guy, and Leon, all of whom are friends and live in a peaceful village. One day, the village is overrun by the Empire's forces and the four young ones are forced to flee. As they were making their way to the forest, they were ambushed by four knights, and this is where the first encounter (and the first scripted battle in the series, to my knowledge) comes in. The player controls all four characters and can choose what to do, although running from the battle is hopeless. Even more hopeless, though, is winning the battle. One is forced to do battle against Knights from the Empire, who are late game enemies, using four very weak characters. The first battle creates a sense of hopelessness that is evoked many times throughout the game by characters such as Princess Hilda and Gordon. It also depicts just how evil and powerful the Empire is; even killing innocents to take power.

 Final Fantasy III is one of the most magical in the series, in my opinion. The player takes control of four kids who are playing 'onion knight' in a cave just outside their home village of Ur. Out of nowhere, an earthquake shatters the ground beneath their feet and they fall further into the cave. This is where the game begins; putting the player into their first battle against three goblins. This was actually a little different in the DS version of FFIII, since the four party members were given their own names, plots, and character attributes. The player starts with one character, Luneth, and is forced to face off against a single goblin. Or was it three?

 We now exit the 8-bit era and enter glorious 16-bitness. Final Fantasy IV was the first in the Super Famicom trilogy, (and was what launched Nobuo Uematsu's career to stardom, arguably). The first battle in FFIV is a scripted one, similar to the first in FFII but this time you don't have to die! No, in fact, the player will always win. The battle is actually a set of encounters; the first being a battle against three Arimans, and the second against a Zu. Like I said, they're scripted so there's no control for the player but thinking back to 1991, these battles were probably meant to emphasize the graphical capabilities of the Super Nintendo.

 Final Fantasy V holds a special place for me, although it's one of the least played titles in the series. After a cutscene or two, we see the hero of the game, Bartz, for the first time. He's camping out in a forest with his chocobo pal, Boco, when they hear a meteor crash-land nearby. When they check it out, they see a pair of goblins ready to take away another party member, Lenna. Bartz heroically jumps in to chase the goblins down, prompting the first battle of the game. Once the battle is won, Lenna is saved and so begins the journey of a world... maybe three.

 Final Fantasy VI (although some of you older folk may remember this classic as FFIII on the Super Nintendo) is nostalgic game for many people. If you were an advent Super Nintendo gamer, you may remember the opening scene; an unnamed, minted-hair girl accompanied by two soldiers who are all using mech-suits called Magitek armor. With these suits in possession, they storm the village of Narshe. The first battle shows '???',(aka Terra/Tina), being ambushed by two Resistance fighters, although the battle is actually against two wolves. This opening scene plays an important role in setting the tone and atmosphere of the game.

 Well, we got through the first six Final Fantasies. In a later post, I'll talk about the other games in the series, up until XIII. 

No comments:

Post a Comment