A Very Nerdy Review of Final Fantasy Dimensions

Final Fantasy Dimensions is a role playing game for Android / iPhone that is really quite good. For the sake of our googling posterity, here is the transcript of the most memorable line from any final fantasy game EVER:

The Mask: On this continent lie the ruins of the great Lufenian civilization.
Glaive : And I suppose that’s where this “Meteo” is sealed?
Graham: Exactly what is this spell supposed to do?
Alba: You don’t mean to summon a meteor so that the lifestream comes together and you can be reborn as a god, do you!?
The Mask: I…what? No, we’re going to make the world whole again.

(For the uninitiated, Alba just gave a flippant summary of the plot of Final Fantasy VII and probably all final fantasies in general — momentarily catching the narrator off guard.)

Speaking personally, I liked Alba from the beginning and as a result have always tried to make her the center of the party by trying to max out her offense. My most memorable fight was with Leviathan, when I had THREE white mages and Alba as a dark knight buffed like there’s no tomorrow (literally, with last stand boosting offense for about 20 seconds before the character dies) — last stand, beserk, and haste, shell, protect. It was the only way I could beat it, I was pretty underleveled — but boy, that battle went fast with her dishing out 4000+ criticals. I think I beat it before the doom counter hit.

This is also probably the best final fantasy I’ve played — out of V, VI, VII, IX. Well, Tactics definitely comes out on top. But I love this game for several reasons:

INTERESTING STRATEGIC CHOICES

The leviathan fight is one of the few fights from Final Fantasy I can remember. Here are my other favorite fights — in no particular order:
1. Terra v. Humbaba (Final Fantasy VI) — not at all that strategically interesting, but the moment when the game suddenly got dark. Protecting the children from a monster that emerges out of the earth occassionally to devour them — whoa, this game has changed.
2. v the Cardinal (Final Fantasy Tactics )– I think I died about 10 times before I pulled out all the stops and desperately cheesed my way to victory with four knights casting speed breaking. Here, the strategic choices fit the mood — it became, win at any cost, against — THAT THING (the game’s theme suddenly shifts into cosmic horror here) as opposed to, get loot, level up slowly, enjoy the countryside. It was a moment when the strategy synergized with the theme
3. v Lavos in (Crono Trigger) — another case where it took me a good hour to finally beat it — after coming so close, and trying so many different combinations. Here, that synergy was in effect too — as Lavos for the first time takes on a horrifying as opposed to a naturalistic character.

But out of all the final fantasies I’ve played, this is probably the most strategically interesting one “stock” — that is, not counting efforts to “push the system to the limits” via self-enforced challenges, etc. All final fantasy games become pretty interesting if you try hard enough, but this one is strategically interesting pretty much from the beginning — with definite character “builds” and a great deal of synergistic effects between characters and within a single character. In any case, it is a huge step up from Final Fantasy VI and VII, which to be honest had quite a horrible system, where characters are mostly undifferentiated, outside of a few limit breaks. Every character could learn every spell, no one ever used the status-inducing spells, and cast magic until it dies worked pretty much every single time.

As a side effect, you really start to (1) differentiate between the characters and (2) create your own stories or personalities. Chrono Trigger had strategically (and not just narratively) differentiated characters, which was really lacking in Final Fantasy VI. But there was no character design system in that game. FFD in fact has both — you can argue that the characters themselves lack personalities, but that is actually a feature and not a bug. The job system differentiates the characters strategically based on your own whims — subtly, through time. For example, as I said, Alba is kind of like the rogue — high damage output. I made Diana the white mage. Glaive, who I really didn’t like, took up what I thought were the support jobs — but then he became unexpectedly powerful — which in itself is an interesting “narrative” development — the narrative of someone who was on the sidelines, the straight man, excluded, but who suddenly comes to play an important role.

INFLUENCES FROM D&D / ADVENTURE TIME / ETC.

There is definitely a strong dungeons and dragons influence here. In fact, that Alba zinger is probably not exceptional. The entire game is often seems quite aware of the “fetch quests” and the “more sweet loot” sort of mentality. The Alba quote really brought it out into the forefront, if only for a moment. The scene there is of The Mask, either a dungeon master or some important non-player character trying to coordinate the playes into some sort of quest, being momentarily disoriented by a well-placed zinger by one of the more snarky players but nontheless courageously carrying onwards. The entire tone of the game is much lighter, seemingly aware of its own inconsistencies or deus ex machina moments — in a subtle but definitely recognizable nod to pen-and-paper role playing games.

Here’s to hoping that the next iteration will be just as good — able to merge East and West, perhaps even to a greater extent — ie, to combine the emphasis on unscripted, strategically oriented character-development central to Western role playing (roguelkes, dungeons and dragons, etc.) and the scripted, sentimental, dramatic, and narrative role-playing that characterizes the East.

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