If you remember back to last August when I first started talking about Final Fantasy IV, you might remember that I also started talking about Final Fantasy V. Or at least I mentioned that it was a thing, because as much as people like to claim that Final Fantasy IV got toned down because Square believed American gamers were stupid, that’s not what happened But it is what happened to Final Fantasy V.
Of course, Final Fantasy V doesn’t have the allure of Final Fantasy III as forbidden fruit, since it was the first of the three unreleased games to make the official jump to North American shores. Ironically, this took place long before its obvious inspiration came out here. Final Fantasy V is a pretty direct spiritual sequel to Final Fantasy III, you see, in both terms of story and mechanics. It’s also a game that kind of relies on a knowledge that Square was pretty certain most players just didn’t have, which wound up killing translation on the vine and led to a completely different game.
Reading the descriptions of anime on Netflix made me wonder why I’d ever cared about it.
It wasn’t as if I really needed to; I had just finished watching through Star Trek Voyager and needed something new to watch, so I was browsing through shows. I was glancing at anime because, hell, it’s been years since I’ve seen an anime that I genuinely enjoyed, despite the fact that anime was central to such important parts of my life like “meeting my future wife” and “starting me on my current career path.” So I was flipping through, looking at some of the shows that had gotten critical praise, and…
Crap on a stick. Was anime always just a parade of teenage breasts and shitty premises?
I still think there are loads of wonderful stories that anime has given us over the years, and I’m reluctant to say that it’s somehow modern anime that’s the problem; there have always been terrible shows designed to serve as high-velocity fanservice dispensers. The problem, in part, is me. Novelty made these things appealing enough to overlook when I was younger, but once the novelty light gets yanked away I start to see what was always there.
It’s all over but the shouting now. If you’ve managed to build a party that could reach this far into the final dungeon of The After Years, you’ve gotten everything on lockdown. Time to wrap up what has been one of the most bizarrely drawn-out sequels in the franchise, which is saying something when there are only three games in the franchise that have had actual, direct sequels at all.
The problem I have, of course, is that there are really two stories being told through the game. The first is the overarching plot regarding the Mysterious Girl, the Crystals, and so forth. That’s about 50% interesting and 50% rehashes. The second, though, are the individual stories with bits of character development and so forth. For reasons known only to the designers, the conclusion basically abandons those individual stories altogether, despite the fact that the individual tales sort of left them halfway to being finished. Instead of bulking out this conclusion with those smaller resolutions, well, you read the last column. It was bulked out with 20-odd bosses.
It occurs to me at this point that I have been in the world of Final Fantasy IV for 28 columns now. Seriously, this is number 28! It started in August of last year! How did anyone spend this much time working in this world of all the possible settings?
Well, in the case of The After Years, by recycling a whole lot of the first game. But no time to whine about that, we’ve got a final dungeon to explore… soon.
Once you’ve finally had the very final dungeon opened up, you actually do get something else unlocked. Remember all that Adamantite that we were stockpiling all through the game? Turns out that can be used for something, specifically for some powerful equipment. It’s taken us the entire rest of the game to get here, sure, but now we’re finally here and we can go get ourselves some valuable items by turning in seemingly irrelevant items that we had been hoarding through every single tale. Meanwhile, all of the other treasures from the challenge dungeons have been summarily replaced.
I want you to take a look at the picture up there. Really look at it. I want you to stare at the outfit, at the character wearing it, and I want you to realize that in the world of fighting games, this is progress. Big, forward-moving progress. Even though she’s still dressed up in an outfit that’s entirely impractical for fighting, complete with heels, no support for her chest, and thigh-high stockings.
Video games, despite the best efforts of trollwads that want to scream about the mere idea that a woman might be involved with a game at some point during production, are slowly growing up. The stuff that was de rigeur a few years ago just isn’t acceptable any longer. But you wouldn’t know any of that by looking at fighting games, which seem to be stuck back in their popular heyday of the mid-90s. The question is why? Why are we at a point when the game industry as a whole seems to be growing up, but fighting games haven’t actually gotten any better?