Last week, an ESRB leak revealed that Final Fantasy IV was being ported to mobile and computer platforms. By coincidence, I happened to be playing Final Fantasy IV right now, specifically the Nintendo DS remake. Why was I playing a game that is almost 10 years old (more if you mean the NES original version, but anyway…)? Well, it’s a symptom of a problem I often have where I get excited for a game and start playing it when I first get it, but then something comes up, I don’t have time to finish it and I never get back to it. I a similar problem I’ve had with some books. Books, like video games, are lengthy experiences and when some time has passed and the plot isn’t fresh anymore, I can’t bring myself to just finish the thing without a refresher, so I always start from the beginning. When I’ve already failed to finish once before, this means I tend to wait until I know that I’m going to have the time to finish. In the case of an RPG, that can take awhile.
Anyway, this has all been a lengthy way of getting around to my wondering why some games seem easier to get back to than others. I realized that it comes down to intimidation factor. I played an obscene amount of Pokemon earlier this year and I realize that Pokemon is so easy to go back to because it’s super friendly. The whole thing is framed a fun adventure, there’s lots of people to help you, and the worst that happens is you lose a match and “white out” which is a weird form of denial about losing that is part of the greater brand of weird that exists in Pokemon. But I digress. Far from being friendly, FF IV is filled with hostile environments and situations that make it clear that it is you, the player, versus the game in a battle of attrition. For example in the desert after meeting Rydia early on, if you grind for experience points in the desert before going into the next dungeon, you occasionally and randomly come across an overpowered sand-worm that slaughters you in two hits even though all the other enemies in the area are weak. This kind of thing happens all the time in the game. You can die at any time and God help you if you don’t save after every little bit of progress. This is a game where the first of the four elemental Bosses “dies” than after you cross the bridge to get your reward, attack you from behind so all your weak support characters are in the front line and can get mowed down. The game constantly tries to trick you and every time you make it to a town, there is a palpable sense of relief.
Of course (and this is something I’ve mentioned before on this blog), with greater adversity comes a greater sense of achievement. I’m about halfway through my current play through, but when I finish I know I’ll remember for a long time my experience with FF IV and the satisfaction that came with overcoming it. With Pokemon, the long term challenge comes from the after-game content and the player vs. player modes. The single player story has always been a bit of a pushover. Still, I feel like many more people have finished a Pokemon game than have finished a Final Fantasy game.
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