Welcome to the Save State Cblogs! In honor of Chad Concelmo's awesome Memory Card series, we decided to continue his legacy.
Remember that one moment from your favorite video game? You know, that one you made a special save file for just so you could easily experience it again? Well, that's us!
Every so often, we write up about moments in games that had an impact on us, either by making us feel super happy, super sad, or a moment that showcases how awesome videogames are! These are the special moments we saved and want to share with the world.
It is strange for me to think that for anyone slightly older than I am, every game was something that they got to experience - something new, but something within memory. For everyone younger, games as we know them were something that are just a given. Growing up today, children might see their parents playing games on the Xbox 1 and PS4, and wax nostalgic about those good old days. As for me, I remember picking up certains games - Secret of Evermore, Earthbound, and 7th Sage, to name a few. But then there were games like Bubble Bobble, Mario, and Joe and Mac that I just always remember as being there. One of the games that I took for granted was the original Final Fantasy. I only remember playing it half from memory, and half from the amazing strategy guide that Nintendo Power provided:
Also, ohmygod nostalgia.
There were many fantastic moments in that game - from the brutal fight with Astos, the Hall of Giants, backwards talking brooms, sailing the open seas, and the absolute freedom of flying aboard a sunken airship. In fact, just thinking about the fight with Bikke fills my heart with childlike glee. And then there’s the soundtrack! But no, today, I wanted to focus on the Flying Fortress, home of the Wind Crystal.
After acquiring the aforementioned airship, you and your party fly out to the desert to find Mirage Tower - home of the Wind Crystal, defended by the last of the four Fiends, Tiamat. The previous 3 fiends were positively monstrous. There was Lich - who polluted the earth, Kary - who guarded the crystal of fire inside of an active volcano, and Kraken - who sank the water crystal to a shrine under the sea causing the oceans to rage. Each Fiend was exponentially more powerful than the last, and each was on a scale like no other.
It is interesting how the game communicated the sense of enemy size to the player. The maximum number of enemies the grid could hold was 9, in a 3 by 3 formation. If the enemies were larger, they were held in a 2 by 2 grid, and this was reserved for giants and trolls. Then, finally, there was a spot reserved for Fiends: ancient wicked monsters, larger than giants, and more powerful than time itself. They took up the entire screen. Every other fight in the game let you select which target you attacked, but the Fiends only allowed you to select your command...were you planning on hitting something else? It really gave a sense of scale to these monsters, and made the fights feel unique, and grand.
The four Warriors of Light ascend up Mirage tower - a pillar made out of sandstone in the middle of the desert - you fight your way through a fairy tale, taking on gorgons, chimeras, vampires, and the occasional blue dragon. Eventually, at the apex of the tower, you find your goal: a transporter, along with...a robot? Sure, why not. He informs you that you need a CUBE to use the transporter, which as a prepared adventurer, you totally have. Upon activating the machine, you are whisked away to the Sky Castle. The Sky Castle contrasts the Mirage Tower as a labyrinth of metal and technology. After fighting your way through more mythical menageries, you finally reach the top floor. At the apex of the tower there is a single, ominous bridge, only wide enough for a single party member to cross at a time. At the end of the bridge, you see the object that you have been looking for: the crystal, and the final Fiend. One by one, the party starts to walk on the bridge.
Now, there are two very distinct things that can happen on the bridge: the first is nothing remarkable. You make it to Tiamat, and the fight begins. Incidentally, Tiamat is one of my favorite bosses in an RPG, for a very specific reason. See, the manual gives what bosses are strong and weak against. In the case of Tiamat, he is weak against BRAK (unfortunately, not from Space Ghost fame). BRAK is a black magic spell that has a chance to instantly kill an enemy. It was often more fun to see if it would be easier to kill the final Fiend in this game, a monstrous multi headed dragon, by punching him to death or instantly killing him. It often feels like a race between the two halves of the party, which is really amusing considering how powerful some of the other Fiends will be. You could walk in to this area underleveled if you were lucky!
Speaking of luck, something else can happen on that bridge, and I remember the odds very clearly. One in sixty four. For reference, that is a one and a half percent chance. Your party may not know it, but that number should have them quaking in fear. The player does. After reading about what happens every one in sixty four times you try to cross the bridge, you don't just press the up button on the dpad, you mash up. You mash it like it makes you run. Because if you don’t….
As the party crosses the bridge, a distinct whistling sound is heard. Looking forward and backwards, there is nothing. It can only be coming...from above? A massive explosion soon follows, leaving nothing but a mushroom cloud in its wake. The two mages, unfortunately, didn’t make it past the initial blast. The black belt is badly injured. As the fighter tries to make heads and tails of what happened, an audible thud comes from the other side of the flames and smoke. The sound of gears grinding, steam pumping, pistons pushing suddenly becomes sickeningly loud. As it clears, you finally see what happens: the WarMECH. A gigantic bipedal beast of a monster has sprung to life, and acquired your party as targets, launching a preemptive Nuclear before you could even react. The fighter draws his sword, and begins to attack, only to meet the hardest steel his sword has ever known. The WarMECH switches targets, and, with a single stop and gut wrenching crunch, removes the black belt from the fight. The fighter, ever the warrior, tries valiantly to find where a weak point is, but unfortunately his efforts are fruitless. The entire party lays slain feet from their final objective, and the key to salvation of the world. An electronic eye scans the battlefield and finding no signs of life, the WarMECH returns to his hiding spot, activating a sleep protocol, waiting for another unfortunate band of adventurers to make the same mistake.
Without the drama, the WarMECH (official spelling), has a 1/64 chance of spawning. More often than not, if you are just getting to Tiamat, he will kill you. He typically gets a preemptive strike on your party as he spawns. Out of a maximum health of 999 for a single party member, his strikes can do upwards of 250. For a fighter at this point in the game, it is about half their health. For a mage, it is almost nearly death. But for those truly unlucky souls, the WarMECH has been equipped with one special technique. A spell so powerful, even the most experienced of wizards have to prepare days just to emulate it once: Nuclear. Nuclear is the hardest hitting spell in the game, and it hits all party members. An inexperienced party can be wiped by a single cast. This means that your entire climb up the Mirage Tower, your fighting through the Flying Fortress? It was for nothing. Do it again.
But the fun doesn’t stop with his offense. The WarMECH is only weaker than 1 enemy in the entire game: Chaos. The last boss. This randomly spawning monster is worth more experience It has nearly the same defenses as the last boss as well, meaning that it laughs off most of your attacks. It offers more experience, and more than five times the gold of the boss you are about to fight if you manage to defeat it. If.
You can watch the fight here:
First of all, can you imagine playing the game without a guide? I never did. I always knew that he was lurking. I knew that the moment I stepped on that bridge, there was a chance that I was dead. I was dead, and all my progress was lost. With every. Single. Step. But to a new player, that bridge is just a bridge. Maybe you played the game five times (not an unpopular idea, back in the days when you only had a few games), and never gave that bridge a second thought. Nothing more than an odd design meant to ratchet up tension? Then, out of nowhere, comes a monster slightly smaller than a boss, who clears out your entire party in an instant. How cool would that be? The low percent chance of it happening means that anyone encountering him ‘blind’ will fall into a state of shock and awe - pun intended. Every time you see that bridge, you feel that terror. You have to make a choice every time that you get there: how much progress are you willing to lose? Do you want to run the whole temple again, or is now the time to back out...you know….just in case.
But more than that, this isn’t just an optional boss, or anything like that. He may like look Final Fantasy’s origin story for enemies like the Emerald Weapon, and things of that sort, but that is incorrect. When you kill a WarMECH, it isn’t gone. That thing is a robot, and this fortress is mass producing them. They are always there. Always watching. Always waiting. The fact that there are infinite amounts leads to, in my opinion, one of the most fun side activities in the game...farming them. As you prepare to make your way through to the Chaos Shrine to break the endless cycle of the death and rebirth of Chaos and the Fiends, you finally gain enough power to fight this monster head on. This typically involves a black mage who can cast Nuclear himself, along with FAST on the main source of damage, usually your black belt. The White Mage typically buffs the entire party, heals the entire party, or casts FADE, the only offensive spell in her repertoire. The DPS classes do their best to take out the WarMECH’s massive 1000 hit point pool.
I also just wanted to touch on his attacks, just for a minute. I don’t mean to put too fine a point on it, but he only has 2 attacks: null - no description, just hits, and usually two. In my mind, this was always a cold, hard stomp on whichever party member was closest. The second attack is Nuclear. Nuclear…just...wow. This is a spell that your party can get by finding a secret magic shop, tucked away in the back of a town, and have minimals casts of. Not only is the damage massive and the attack spammable, but it is named after the ultimate tool of death. If my memory serves, he is also the first enemy in the game to be able to use this spell - in the past when the Fiends are at their full power they can also unleash this, but the WarMECH is the first to use it in the present. The psychological effect of being nuked by a bread and butter enemy is just intense.
Apparently this guy feels like he needs a guard?
I know that when I played this game with my brother, we would grab a sheet of paper when we started the farming route. With each mech we killed, we would draw a little silhouette with an X through it, signifying our victory. It only takes about a dozen or so to level your party to an absurd level, but it is a long grind. Typically, the first WarMECH takes out all of your resources - health, magic, items, bodily fluids...Later there comes a point where you can take on two or three in a single run.
For me, the WarMECH is probably the first thing in a videogame I ever feared, and it covered every aspect of that fear. It starts off with a lowly one and a half percent of finding you...lurking in shadows, not quite charged up, whatever mythos you give it, you know that it is there, and every step you take it could be the final steps you take. Every fight you encounter on that tiny bridge is a sigh of relief. Then just seeing it..it was like spotting a shooting star, only it was heading right for you. You get the chance to marvel at its beauty before it erases you from existence. Almost a badge of honor to be wiped from it. But maybe it doesn’t kill you. Maybe you can run. Flee. After seeing the terror, maybe there is a way to escape. Then later, it is the apprehension that you might be prepared for it this time. Standing up to it. And when you finally triumph over it? Wonderful. Just pure awe. Then to finally return to where it lived just to hunt it down, just to prove that you can. To silence the nightmare, to assure yourself that you are capable. It really comes full circle.
The WarMECH is so many wonderful things. It is the skulking terror that keeps you on your toes. It is an unholy, unthinking robot that doesn’t flinch at the use of nuclear weapons to take out 4 humans. It is a faithful guardian to a 2000 year old god that controls the sky itself. Then later, it becomes a test of your mettle. A badge of honor. Then, finally, it becomes another number. Another one down. Another mob. Another monster. Then you know that you are truly ready, having conquered all that the world can throw at you.