Thursday, September 18, 2008

Final Fantasy VI: Rages and the Veldt

Gau from Final Fantasy VI is one of the most unique characters in RPG history thanks to his distinctive Rage ability. Instead of making basic attacks, Gau has the ability to enter a berserk-like state and thus emulate the characteristics of almost any monster in the game. If used properly, this ability can make Gau the most versatile and powerful character in the game. However, it seems that most players never discover this. Back when I was first playing FF VI, I rarely used Gau, particularly for major battles and dungeons. This contradiction comes from how user-unfriendly the Rage command is.

The Rage command has two major stumbling blocks that really prevented it from being really accessible: the process of acquiring rages on the Veldt, and being able to choose the correct Rage. First off, Gau could only acquire new Rages by encountering enemies on the Veldt (a place where all seen random monster encounters in the game can occur) and using the Leap command. Unfortunately, this is a very time-consuming and tedious process. Even early in the game, searching for a specific random encounter could take hours of work, and the process becomes even more difficult as the game progresses and the player encounters even more types of monster. While the monsters appear in a loose progression, going through a complete cycle can take an hour or more, and the player may need to go through several cycles in order to encounter the monster he is looking for. So while a dedicated player armed with foreknowledge about the Veldt's workings may be able to track down the best Rages by putting in hours of work, an inexperienced player who has no real clue to how the Veldt works will more than likely become daunted by the task and just give up and write off Gau completely (just as I originally did).

The other problem comes from how hard it is to actually use Rages once they are acquired. While there are 252 available Rages in Final Fantasy 6, the game itself gives no information to the player about what each individual Rage does. The player's only choice is to experiment and see what each Rage does individually. However, while this approach will yield knowledge about the Rage's special ability and automatic status effects in just one or two uses, discovering each Rage's built-in elemental affinities and Status immunities would require the payer to perform lots of dedicated testing (particularly since it is impossible to even get all of that information out of regular enemies). In addition to this lack of information about what Rage does what, the Rages are listed by the game in a single massive list, apparently in a completely random order. So just sorting through the list can take a minute or two.

So, two things need to be done to improve the Rage command so that more people would give a character like Gau a chance: it should be easier to acquire Rages, and it should be easier for the player to know what Rages do and use them in combat. So, here are various thoughts on ways to modify the system to be easier to use, in no particular order:

1) Sub-dividing the Veldt into separate zones, each with their own random encounter chart, would make it easier for the player to perform more focused searches for individual monsters. There could be a a forest section full of forest-type monsters, for example.

2) It might make a lot more sense for each family of monster (all monsters that are recolors of each other) to have a Rage instead of each individual monster. That way, the number of Rages could be cut down significantly, which would make things easier to track and cut down on the amount of overlap between individual Rages.

3) Letting the player look up information on his known Rages would not hurt the game. Heck, letting the player use Scan on Gau to get detailed information (as was possible in some later Final Fantasy games) would have been an improvement.

4) Letting the player manually re-order the Rage list, like is possible for the item list in most FFs and the magic list in FF IV, would have let the player categorize and rank his Rages based on his preferences. It would have been nice to have been able to move more commonly used Rages to the top of the list too.

5) As an alternative to the Veldt, it might not be a bad idea to let the player acquire new Rages anywhere in the world. Perhaps instead of using a command like Leap, the player could kill an enemy using a certain special attack (like Morph or Eat in other FF installments)?

I would love to see a new version of Rage appear in a future Final Fantasy game. Many similar abilities, such as Geomancy and Blue Magic, have improved significantly over the years as they were refined with each new version. It is a bit of a shame that an ability as unique and powerful as Rage hasn't been revisited once yet.

1 comment:

Franklin said...

I haven't played FFVI before, but you're right... this Rage ability does sound pretty interesting. Hopefully they eventually put it back into the series.

By the way, Adam, do you already have a PS3 and Xbox 360? If you don't, you might want to take a look at this Stacker 2 contest going on where you can win the system of your choice. Right now there are less than 350 entrants, and all you have to do to enter is design a 6 Hour Power t-shirt (which is surprisingly easy to do online). There are also weekly prizes in the form of Codemasters upcoming RPG Rise of the Argonauts and 6 Hour Power energy shots (which are great for gaming sessions). For contest details, go here:

By the way, I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds by commenting on your post. I work with 6HP so if you have any questions about the contest or the drink itself just let me know. Be sure to tell me if you guys enter too, and I'll definitely vote for your designs. Good luck!

Franklin Keane