FINAL FANTASY VI: BRAVE NEW WORLD / Square / Super NES
 
 
Final Fantasy 6 is an excellent game, but there's one major criticism of it -- that the magic system, which allows every character to learn any spell in the game, effectively breaks the game in the latter half. The temptation to simply give every character the most powerful spells like Ultima, plus greatly diminishing returns for physical attacks and special abilities late in the game, drove virtually everyone who played the game to wind up with a party full of chibi-Gandalfs by the time they got to the end.
 


Brave New World is a ROM patch that aims to de-emphasize magic and bolster the individual skills of each character, ideally leading to more strategic, balanced and interesting gameplay. As you may have inferred from the 2/5 on the way in here, I believe it completely fell on its face instead and turned the game into a frustrating, unplayable mess that you probably won't get more than five or so hours into before giving up on.
 
 
 


Here's the thing -- the knock on FF6 for being "easy" is a little overblown. It wasn't hard, but it certainly wasn't without challenge. The point at which you can "break" it with overpowered spells doesn't come until relatively late, and you still need to intentionally engage in quite a bit of optional grinding in order to have a bunch of ridiculous death-dealing Ultima slingers. I get the sense that the designers focused almost totally on the World of Ruin experience, not really thinking so much about how these tweaks would affect the early going. And the early going absolutely sucks.
 


So here's how it goes now. One of the big things is that only certain characters can equip certain Espers. The level cap has also been lowered to 50, and since you need to rely more heavily on each character's special abilities and the unique stats they draw on (like Stamina for Cyan's Bushido ability), you have to more carefully manage what Esper you have equipped at each level-up. All of this potentially adds a much more strategic bent to things ... IF you can get to that point, as you don't get Espers until a good 10-12 hours into the game.
 


Up to that point, either the developers weren't paying attention or they were actively trying to make you hate the game for some reason. First of all, knowing the level cap is now only 50, it behooves you to level as little as possible until you get Espers. The trouble here is that most of even the piddly common enemies have had their stats cranked, their turn speed cranked, and often have some powerful new multi-hit ability thrown in just for the hell of it as well. Even if you're willing to grind, it doesn't really matter because level-based gains are miniscule and the total equipment in the game has been vastly reduced as well.
 


So this is all manageable initially when you have Terra, because dealing with the newly-cranked difficulty is largely a matter of smart buffing / debuffing. Terra can at least Slow the enemies, negating their primary advantage, which is that they often get two turns to your one. That all falls to shit when the party splits up at the Lete River, however, because Terra is only in one of those groups.

The first sign of trouble is actually the Ultros fight just before that. Ultros gets two turns to your one, Slow doesn't work on him for some reason, and if he chooses to hit Banon then do the full-party tentacle attack he'll knock him down from full health and kill him with no way to prevent it. You're basically just forced to save-state-scum and hope he doesn't pick a particular attack sequence.
 


The Locke-Celes sequence is only manageable because it's short, but you can still screw yourself if you don't enter the cave with a huge pile of healing items to survive a long, grindy fight with the TunnelArmor (now Hell Rider or something). The Sabin-Shadow-Cyan sequence is where things go absolutely to shit, though. Nearly every battle with common enemies is like a boss battle, and the only means of getting through it is to pile up a ridiculous amount of Dried Meat and Phoenix Downs for the aftermath of every fight. You can muscle through with this strategy (if you have enough patience) as far as the Serpent Trench. It stops working there because you can't heal in between battles, and even with one enemy left, you can't heal in-battle either because they use multi-hit spells that outpace your ability to recover. The first group of four Anemones nearly kill you, then the second enemy group uses their superfast turns to quickly finish the job.
 


The more I think about it, the more this patch really seems to proceed from a set of faulty assumptions (and also some serious hubris in believing they could do it better than the original developers -- game balance is a REAL slippery thing). FF6 was a little easy, but it wasn't disgustingly easy, certainly not enough to ruin the game. And breaking the game largely came down to self-discipline on your part; nobody MADE you teach everyone Ultima and give your whole main party X-Magic and the Genji Glove/Offering. And a huge part of the vanilla game's appeal is exploration, something ruined when overly intense battles and a high encounter rate are pushing you to get out of any area you're exploring ASAP.

None of this would matter if this was simply billed as an advanced difficulty patch for super-hardcore fans. But it's tooted around the Internets (and described in the included patch readme file) as being "appropriate for newcomers" and a superior replacement for the vanilla game. Nope on both counts. I doubt total newcomers will even make it to the Serpent Trench, and this is simply not as fun to play as the original.
 
 
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