Good Old Reviews
The Bridge of the Warmech

Stew Shearer | 4 Apr 2015 12:00
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Final Fantasy is a game that had me deeply and thoroughly scared on not one, but two separate occasions.

The first time was, admittedly, of my own construction. My brothers were playing the game for the first time and were probably about three-quarters of the way through it. Then, one weekend, they went away to visit their father. With them absent and me now raring to give the game a sporting try, I decided to start a new game, play for a little bit and then just not save my progress. Unknown to me at the time, the very act of clicking "New Game" erased the old file. I soon realized my mistake and spent the rest of the weekend living in abject terror of what my older siblings would do when they got back and discovered I'd nuked weeks of hard work. Suffice it to say, I survived.

Final Fantasy itself, meanwhile, hit me with a horror that still stands as one of the most memorable I've ever encountered in a video game. Toward its end, you and your band of Light Warriors need to invade the Sky Castle, a high-tech space fortress that houses the game's final elemental orb. It's one of toughest dungeons in the game, in no small part because of the presence of the Warmech. Put shortly, I was terrified of Warmech. Now admittedly, some of my fear owed to my pre-emptive knowledge of his existence. As I mentioned in last week's review, I had a copy of Nintendo Power's Final Fantasy strategy guide. In its chapter on the Sky Castle, it made a point of describing the Warmech as a particular threat to watch out for, something driven home by the dungeon's monster chart. While most of the other monsters in the Sky Castle had only a few hundred hit points at most, the Warmech came endowed with a whopping 1000HP and even had access to Nuke, the most powerful spell in the game. Just looking at it on a piece of paper, I knew that things would go badly for me if I had the misfortune to run into it.

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As much I might be able to blame simple anticipation for my fear, however, there were also some smart choices on the part of the developer that helped the prospect of fighting the Warmech feel genuinely suspenseful. The most obvious was its positioning in the dungeon. The area where you encountered it was the last room before you fight the Sky Castle's boss: the air fiend Tiamat. Tiamat, by himself, is already an imposing foe strong enough to take out an average player party at that stage in the game. Even a victorious fight against Warmech could easily leave you too battered to survive the subsequent bout with the fiend.

Making matters far worse, the original Final Fantasy gave you no way to save inside dungeons. Completing the Sky Castle meant surviving from its beginning to its end, all in one shot. That might not sound too difficult, but it really must be stressed how easy in Final Fantasy it was to waste your resources and screw yourself over. Like pretty much all of the old RPGs, Final Fantasy drew a lot of inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons. Its magic system didn't use magic points like the franchise does in modern days. You had a set allotment of spells for each day and once you used them up, that was it. You'd have to go to sleep (a.k.a. save your game) to get more. This made managing your spells a matter of paramount importance. If you wasted all of your resources fighting something like Warmech, there wouldn't be any point in trying to take on a titan like Tiamat. You'd be better off just hitting the Reset button.

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