Home > Chronological Challenge, Clearing The Backlog > Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge pt 9

Clearing The Backlog: Chronological Game Challenge pt 9

And so, my adventure into the history of my video game collection continues! We’re still on 1994, and so far this year’s been pretty fun! And it looks likely that the fun continues, as this week we have the first Final Fantasy game, a classic from my childhood, and an inevitable Mega Drive Collection addition.

If you’re not caught up on the challenge, take a peek at the Chronological Challenge tag which handily links you to all the existing blogs on this so far, so you can follow my whole journey so far. But for now, let’s continue forward!

Final Fantasy VI

Publisher: Square | Developer: Squaresoft | Year: 1994 (Japanese release)
Original System: SNES
Played on: PS2 (2001 PlayStation re-release, original disc)

Goal: Defeat Kefka

Actual Outcome: Kefka was DESTROYED!

Opinion: Confession time. Every game in this challenge has been started from the very beginning and worked all the way through (or failed spectacularly). However, this game is an exception. A few years ago, I played through Final Fantasy VI and failed to finish it. I reached the final dungeon and struggled to get through it. I knew I had some grinding to do. So I put down my controller and said “I’ll come back to this save some day.”

Today is apparently someday. So bear in mind that most of my views here are based on memory rather than what I just played (although I am factoring that in too), so things might be a little hazy.

So anyway, Final Fantasy VI is constantly battling with its PS1-based immediate successor for the title of Best Final Fantasy. And it’s easy to see why. FF6 has a lot going for it, with a fun battle system that offers the right amount of challenge, and characters unique enough that party-swapping feels useful and necessary.

But there’s also the plot, which is incredibly impressive for a SNES title, causing the viewer to feel despair at the bleakness of a lot of what happens, while still offering plenty of laughs where appropriate. The story is an epic, taking us from a band of rebels wishing to dethrone an evil empire, to hope springing up in the face of a literal apocalypse.

There are great moments throughout – the famous opera scene, which later gets paralleled in the first harrowing section set in the World of Ruin. The Phantom Train sequence which features the sadness of a brave warrior witnessing his people departing for the afterlife. The sheer weirdness of Ultros, who pops up occasionally and makes the player wonder what the hell is happening. And at the heart of it, there’s he fact that every main party member has a well-thought-out backstory.

FF6 is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, but it’s not without its problems. The game is marred with glitches that need to be factored into your battle strategy or else you could easily screw something up. Some characters are utterly useless and wrench control away from the player for most of the time, and I found myself never wanting to use them as a result. The World of Ruin sometimes feels like an awkward place to navigate without the use of a map or a guide, and the fact that it’s easy to wander into the final dungeon when you were incredibly under-levelled wasn’t exactly something that pleased me (and, of course, led me to put the game down for months before I finally came back and finished it).

But despite this, the happiness I felt from hearing the boss destruction noise in Kefka’s final battle was telling that this game was exciting and tense in all the right places, and it definitely is clear why so many hold it up as their personal favourite over that other game we’ll be seeing when we reach 1997.

And again, I think we can all agree that any game that lets you suplex a train is a good one.

Earthworm Jim

Publisher: Virgin Interactive (EU) | Developer: Shiny Entertainment | Year: 1994
Original System: Sega Mega Drive / SNES
Played on: Wii Virtual Console (Mega Drive version)

Goal: Launch the cow and then go on to defeat The Evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed Slug-For-A-Butt

Actual Outcome: Died on Level 5

Opinion: Back when I owned a SNES, this was a game that I never managed to finish, despite how many times I played it over and over. There was a level called Down The Tubes, and part of this involved a submarine vehicle that you had to pilot through a winding rocky course. Hitting the sides caused damage to the submarine, but you also had limited time due to the air supply slowly running out. A ludicrously long sequence of this seemed impossible to me as a kid, and it made me frustrated that I could never beat it.

When it got released for the Virtual Console, I snapped the game up again, and discovered that this long course has a hidden air refill that the game never tells you about. A hidden air refill that’s basically essential to beating the level.

This is an indication of how difficult Earthworm Jim is. It’s a game that’s weird and designed to keep you on your toes, but because of this it also doesn’t explain itself very well.

And yet, I love how bizarre and challenging this game is. Part of Earthworm Jim’s charm is that it constantly throws new stuff in your face and expects you to figure out what on earth is happening. It should be maddening, and while it certainly is to an extent, it’s not so bad that it puts you off ever wanting to play more.

But I am slightly biased. This is a game from my childhood that’s stuck with me for years. It’s a game that I’ve always found entertaining in its silliness and I hold it up as one of my favourite classic titles. Even if I have never finished it because it’s so goddamn hard!

Dynamite Headdy

Publisher: Sega | Developer: Treasure | Year: 1994
Original System: Sega Mega Drive
Played on: PS3 (part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)

Goal: Defeat King Dark Demon

Actual Outcome: I wasn’t paying attention

Opinion: I’ve mentioned before about how some 2D platformers prove how difficult it is to make the genre charming by how bad they are at doing it. Dynamite Headdy is another one of those games, and again, it’s a Mega Drive Collection title.

Dynamite Headdy’s problem is that it’s far too busy. The protagonist is garishly-coloured. The enemies are garishly-coloured. The platforms are garishly-coloured. The backgrounds are…well, you get the idea. This is a game that assaults you with its art design, to the point where it negatively affects the gameplay too.

Not that the gameplay is much better. The titular character is slightly stiff in his movements, and while there’s a head-switching mechanic that supposedly gives you new abilities, in practice most of the new heads add very little.

Overall, Dynamite Headdy felt too busy in its art design and too bland in its gameplay to make me care enough about it.

And that’s it for this week. Stay tuned to my YouTube channel and my Twitter and I should be back next week!

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