Final Fantasy VI: Special Interfaces

If Final Fantasy V was a big experiment in different character abilities, Final Fantasy VI is where they started experimenting with different ways to activate those abilities. Several characters have special interfaces in the place of the series of menus that is game’s standard for most interactions.

The simplest of these is Cyan’s “Sword Technique” interface. As he gains levels, Cyan gains a number of different sword moves, and each move has a number. When you select “SwdTech” in the combat interface, a progress bar starts filling up, waiting for you to press a button. The bar is labelled with numbers; pressing the button activates the technique corresponding to how long you waitied before pressing it. It’s an interesting approach to take in combination with the ATB system, because you can imagine weighing the power of the more advanced moves against the time you have to spend standing there waiting while the monsters still attack you. But since this also makes you delay giving orders to the entire rest of your party, it seems hardly worthwhile. So in practice, I almost never use anything other than Technique #1. Maybe this will change as I learn better techniques, but I’m tentatively willing to call this particular UI experiment a failure. And it seems Squaresoft agrees; I don’t think they reused this interface in any later game.

Sabin’s interface, now: that’s been passed on. Sabin is an expert in unarmed combat, and has a system apparently inspired by the special moves in Street Fighter-style fighting games. When you select “Blitz” in the combat interface, you have to press a series of buttons and/or D-pad directions, such as left-right-left or triangle-square-down-up, to indicate the move. If you enter an invalid combo, Sabin does nothing. And that’s a serious possibility. Not only does it require memorization (or, alternately, note-taking), but I find that the moves containing diagonals can be difficult to execute: a sequence like down-down/left-left pretty much has to be done in a rolling motion, and it’s far too easy to roll too far or not far enough with the controller I’m using. Still, it’s a lot easier than doing a special move in a real fighting game, because you can take your time and don’t have to worry about being interrupted.

Setzer’s special-move interface, on the other hand, is entirely timing-based. Or rather, if you’re me, it’s luck-based, but gives you just enough illusion of control to make it feel like you might be able to get the effects you want if you could just time it a little more precisely. It’s one of those slot-machine-like things where you get to stop the spinning wheels, one by one, by pressing a button — get them to match, and you can do a devastating magic attack, or summon a random summonable for free, or various other effects. Effects aside, the basic interface here is one I’ve seen as a minigame or bonus round in a few other Japanese games, including Pokémon and, in a slightly varied form, Super Mario Land. I suppose there are people who have mastered the skill and excel at getting Japanese bonuses. I personally can never do anything with it, and was glad when I acquired an artifact that replaced the Slots interface with something I could actually use: a skill that lets Setzer simply deal damage by throwing money at the problem. The interface to that? You just select it in a menu.

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