Alright, so I'm starting to feel better, but it's the start of final season (horrific timing on my part), so I've fallen way behind. Blogging is, alas, one of the first things to go. And to make things worse, I've found myself enmeshed in a massive time-waster (see below).
About a million of my friends told me I had to play Final Fantasy VI (aka, Final Fantasy III). Now, I love the FF series, so it didn't take much persuading, but what really sold me is the claim that VI was better than VII, which, to my eyes is the highlight of the series. So I downloaded an emulator and started it up. And, in the spirit of what Ann Althouse might call Mixed Blogging, I give you my preliminary thoughts (from what I surmise to be about a third of the way through the game (in the cave to the sealed gate).
Okay, let's get the first thing out of the way: it's amazing. I love it. That said, it isn't quite up to VII or even IX (which I seem to have a disproportionate love for compared to other FF fans). A couple of my gripes are pure technological. The graphics are obviously much better in VII, but that I don't care about as much (though it is amazing to think that VII came out just 3 years after VI). What I really miss is the 3-dimensional movement. That is frustrating and can really slow you down, especially where diagonal movement is necessary. The gameplay feels slightly less intuitive than the other games (which is partially--but only partially--because I don't have a manual): I shouldn't have to look up an FAQ to figure out how to change Espers. But by far the most infuriating thing is how you can't run without "sprint boots" equipped. So I either have to waste a relic slot, or I crawl across the game like I'm a dinosaur in a tar pit? Spare me.
The plot is stellar, as all FF games are (though it does not outstrip any of the other games). The characters are strong, but I feel like none stands out and truly pulls me in. There is no equivilant of, say, a Vivi here (I prefer VII to IX, but Vivi is simply the baddest character around. He rocks out.), someone who rules both in and out of the battlefield. It also suffers from the recurring flaws of the FF series: getting lost is very easy (and in a tough dungeon, nearly fatal), if you zone out when the dialogue tells you were to go next, you can be in serious trouble (there has been more than one occassion where I've stopped playing an FF game entirely because I left for a week and forgot where I was supposed to be going), and if you accidently exit a zone, you can miss a heap of important dialogue. This last problem seems even worse in VI, because they skimp on the warnings ("Are you sure you want to leave? (Yes) (No)"). On at least one occassion, I talked to characters out of order and missed what seemed to be a crucial plot twist.
This is all focusing on the negative, but the game really is awesome. Just not quite as awesome as its successors.