Our cousins had a Super Nintendo before us, but it wasn’t Super Mario World or Smash TV that captured my imagination. Final Fantasy IV (FF2 in the U.S.) was my first exposure to JRPGs.
I feel in love. The graphics were so good you could see the character get into bed. (In full armor, but who cares?)
And the gameplay? Wow. The plot of an epic fantasy with combat strategy akin to tabletop. Incredible. Beyond platforming and racing.
There was just one problem, though, after I finally got the game:
As usual, I was grounded.
Since I wasn’t into sports or sleepovers, “grounding” meant I couldn’t play video games. Even if I had a brand new one.
Fortunately, I had an ally: My brother Brandon. We came to an arrangement: If I couldn’t play the game, I at least wanted to see it played. Brandon was happy to oblige.
Break out the popcorn.
Brandon forged into the new frontier with me beside him. We laughed together at the jokes, mocked spoony dialog, collectively gasped at twists of plot.
Many of the bosses were jokes…others, not so much. This One Boss, though, I’ll remember ’til the day I die.
Deep in a dungeon, our heroes just completed their quest when a nearby wall sprang to life and progressed inexorably towards the party.
Imagine the trash compactor scene in STAR WARS, except without R2-D2 to hack the network. The boss also had a mechanic which is quite common now, but was new to us then: A DPS Race.
DPS Races are boss fights with hidden timers: After a predetermined period, the boss becomes infinitely more powerful and can quickly destroy your team. The “race” is whether you can perform enough damage (DPS=”damage per second”) to finish the boss before he finishes you.
Once the wall reached the party, every attack killed a hero … crushed by the wall. Very realistic; this is known as Gameplay and Story Integration. With a party of five heroes, five attacks was all you could survive.
Returning to the trash compactor scene from STAR WARS: After a minute Luke’s dead. A few more seconds and Leia and Han are also doomed. Game over. Reload your last save and try again.
Fortunately, though, Brandon didn’t suffer a Total Party Kill. He had a secret weapon:
Kain the Dragoon. Kain’s primary attack is jumping off screen to pounce many seconds later, raining death from above. Not super damaging, but this was useful: while Kain was offscreen, he couldn’t be attacked.
The other four members of the party lay comatose. “Swooned” was their on-screen status; we called it “dead.” Kain jumped, the Wall looked for people to attack, Kain landed, and jumped again before the Wall could finish him. If the Wall landed just one hit on Kain, game over.
But Brandon was quick: Kain stayed airborne and out of reach.
How long the fight lasted, we don’t know. We felt like we were gasping for breath by the end. How long had it been since we saved? How long could Kain keep it up? The fight would be over any second, but who would be the victor?
Brandon was victorious. The eight-hundredth-thousandth time Kain landed, the wall perished. Relief.
Edge, the party ninja, scoffed, “A petty trap.”
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