Self-inflicted challenges and I have a long and lengthy relationship, due in no small part to my love of Final Fantasy Tactics. An idle conversation among fans started the Straight Character Challenge – a full group of characters, all the same class, making maximum use of the game’s mechanics and taking down every battle from start to finish. It took a long while, but every single class proved possible, albeit in many cases through abuse of the AI and odd little loopholes in the game’s coding.
I was never a super-active part of the community there, but I was active for a while, and I still admired the challenge a lot from the sidelines. The thing is that self-inflicted challenges both do and do not factor into a game’s difficulty. Sufficiently complex games lead to the creation of more such challenges, and they’re interesting, but they also don’t tie into the actual game at all. And, in some cases, they get co-opted by the developers for just that reason.
If you take nothing away from this series of columns, aside from the fact that I really enjoy this game, let it be this: the remake does a whole lot of things that aren’t to its credit. The last set of jobs is this in a microcosm.
See, in the original version of Final Fantasy III, the jobs were not anything remotely approaching balanced. Vikings were completely forgettable, for example, having nothing to recommend them aside from HP and some weapons that weren’t needed. Scholars were a joke. And everything in the game was outclassed by the last two jobs you got, which didn’t become available until the last dungeon of the game was well underway.
When Matrix Software remade the game, they really wanted to ensure that all of the jobs had some purpose. Certainly, the remake succeeds in making some of them far more viable – I just listed a couple of them, but even Geomancers, Bards, and Rangers became more viable with the remake. But the last set of jobs now includes Ninja and Sage, and it kind of makes a mess out of things. The efforts to “balance” these jobs ultimately just make the last set less interesting.
Guys? We need to have a talk. You’ve been making video games for a really long time now, and I’m not going to pretend you aren’t good at it. I wouldn’t have a job or one of my major hobbies if you were. I like video games!
Please stop making me regret liking video games, though, because you thought that in the middle you would be so clever by including these minigames.
Let’s not mince words. These are not clever additions. At best, what you’re accomplishing here is padding out the length of the game through a horrid minigame that no one would ever want to play. At worst, you’re making Animal Crossing, a franchise of games that is literally nothing but these minigames strung together. Or, if you’d rather, it is every tedious part of every MMO ever, but without the part where after all the tedium you get to stab orcs in the head. So when you’re approving your final design documents and such, if these minigames show up? Send that shit back, because it’s not done yet.
My cats have a pretty standard routine at this point that passes for the two of them fighting, and it’s kind of hilarious. They’ll both be perched on their hind legs glaring at one another, but neither one of them wants to actually hurt the other, just sort of whap the other around. The result is that for a couple moments they look as if they’re just going to glare or pounce, then one of them smacks the other without claws, and then the whole thing devolves into kitty paw-slaps and yowls. A confused mess of angry fur and smacking.
Hammerfight reminds me a lot of that. Not in the sense of adorable cats, but in the idea that it’s a confusing mess of a slap-fight. It’s got a fascinating and engaging premise, totally, but it’s an idea that never does a good job developing beyond that, and interesting aesthetics and concepts don’t make for a good game.