The Happy App

On Feb 6th, happiness came available in the iTunes App Store.

Ok, not really, right? Because we all know “You can’t buy happiness.”

Wrong.

It sells for $15.99 under the (perhaps confusing) title, Final Fantasy 6.

Want a powerful but flawed and inexperienced female protagonist whose choices may shape the world around her? Forget Katniss and Tris, and go with Terra (or whatever 6-character name you choose).

Need a roguish hero driven by love and loss, torn between the girl he hopes to bring back from the grave and the woman whose life he does manage to save?

Royal twin brothers split up over responsibility and duty? One who took the throne, and one who fled to the hills?

A general cast out by the Empire she loves, because she wouldn’t forsake her ideals, fighting against a madman in charge of a powerful army, willing to murder whole cities to get what he wants?

How about a boy raised in the wild, cast away as a baby by a mad father, seeking restoration of the relationship?

Or a knight who loses his wife, his son, his king, and his kingdom, seeking vengeance on those who would use treachery where they cannot prevail in honorable combat?

Any one of these arcs can make a story worth telling. Not enough selling points?

How about this: Steampunk.

FF6 (FF III when it was released originally in America on the Super Nintendo) introduced a fantasy world with the industrial revolution in full swing. The whole storyline is about mixing magic and technology (and also people). Scenery ranges from rolling plains, dark forests, mountain passes, rural villages, up to the ironclad streets and metal walkways of the Empire’s capital. The game starts you off stomping around in mechanized suits with Magitek lasers.

FF6 was into Steampunk before it was cool.

Then there are the character powers, which tickled my nostalgia oh so right. More varied than any game that springs to mind, FF6 gives each playable character something to set it apart from every other.

  • Thieving from monsters.
  • Absorbing magical attacks.
  • Using a variety of tools (including an automatic crossbow, drill, and chainsaw) in battle.
  • Performing martial arts super-combos using button sequences like Street Fighter.
  • Triggering a wait timer to build up and release insane attacks.
  • Throwing stars (or all sorts of other objects)
  • Rolling dice or slot machines for special effects
  • Sketching copies of enemies to fight for you
  • Being a yeti. (‘Nuff said.)
  • Learning to mimic monster special attacks
  • There’s probably more but I haven’t unlocked the rest, and I don’t remember. And yet, each new character unlocked in the story brings the same reaction: “Oh yeah! That guy! He does that awesome thing in combat. Sweet!”

    I was a Hadouken-throwing beast in Street Fighter II, to the dismay of my brother and his friend. Sabin’s SF-style move Aura Cannon won my heart from the get-go, and it’s just as awesome now as it was back then:

    20140218-165637.jpg

    FF6 includes the requisite slew of magical items and trinkets with various powers. They quickly amass, providing options and opening up combos of benefits to the thoughtful player. There are plenty of FAQs and guides online for character gear optimization, but it’s also not so complex that a new player couldn’t figure their way through.

    The plot and dialogue maintain the right level of humor and avoid being too campy or melodramatic, unlike some JRPGs, which leave me asking “What the heck is going on, and why do I care?” Just as before, I quickly became invested in these characters and interested in their stories.

    The new version provides a helpful clue button and expandable map in the upper left corner, in case you forget your overall goal at the moment, kupo!

    The music is top-notch for the era. It is no overstatement to say absolutely nothing compared to what this game brought to the SNES in the 90s, and the game still holds up well today. (It was ranked #3 on a list of best SNES games ever, right behind Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid. I think there’s some worthy debate to that ranking.)

    On top of all that, FF6 was one of the first games to use the SNES’ graphics scaling capability. And it executes that perfectly. Whether riding a chocobo, marching Magitek armor toward a town, flying an airship across the skies, or following a flying character around the map, FF6 gave gamers a touch of 3D in their usually flat world.

    But if you ever played FF6, you probably already knew all that.

    So, what’s wrong with it?

  • I often have a glitch if other apps are open. The game seems to start then blanks out. In fact, it’s just another open app, and swiping over gets me going on the game. But you can imagine that was disconcerting to see first, after paying 16 bucks.
  • The touch screen controls can be tricksy and false, Precious. This leads to wasting abilities or opportunities, and general frustration when you’re bumping into a wall trying to get down some stairs.
  • There is a “fast forward” arrow button in combat that lets the game run your characters for you. The AI seemed fine at first, but then it started making horrible decisions, like wasting 250 HP potions to heal 3 HP. After advancing the story and trying again in a different area, I am seeing sound decisions from the AI. But I include the above example as a way it sometimes goes wrong, just because it frustrated me.
  • Not really something “wrong,” but I’ll warn any old player who might have forgotten some details, there are decisions you can make with permanent effects. Wait for Shadow to catch up! Also, “save early save often” applies here. No one likes reaccomplishing the same parts of the story.
  • I recall my delight at finding some Final Fantasy games on the App Store a year or more ago. This was the first game I checked for, and I left crestfallen. I kept coming back and hovering over the “Buy” button on different games, in the hopes that perhaps just maybe it might bring back some of the joy teenage me remembered getting out of FF6.

    I never bought any of them, though I’m sure they’re fine games in their own right.

    Then this popped up on the new releases, and my decision to buy was immediate. I started the game with trepidation – what if like so many other “amazing” things from my youth (G.I. Joe and Transformers cartoons, for example), I look at this in horror, realizing all its flaws?

    Those fears were pushed down from the start, and utterly quelled under the feet of Magitek armor marching into Narshe once I reached the initial credits screen.

    This is not just nostalgia. It’s a portal back in time and space to a place of joy filled with people I loved and never thought I’d see again.

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