Okay, time to recall some of my favorite gaming memories.
When I was a young lad, not quite as young as I’d like you to believe, I had one of my favorite all-time Super NES (pronounced “Super Ness”) games: Final Fantasy VI, known at the time as Final Fantasy III since we didn’t get three of ’em. It was one of my best Christmas presents ever, as we’ve discussed in a previous column.
What I didn’t talk about then was some of the potential Final Fantasy VI (as which we’ll refer to it from now on to avoid confusion) had. It’s mostly forgotten now, but Final Fantasy VI was the first of the main series to feature multiplayer gameplay.
G’wahhhh? You are no doubt asking right now. But it’s true. Final Fantasy VI put both of the Super NES’s control ports to use, if you so chose. It wasn’t a self-evident aspect of RPG gaming, as these games were generally single-player affairs — and remember this was before even Pokémon had been released. But two people playing Final Fantasy VI was definitely a possibility.
And, you know what? Two people playing Final Fantasy VI could be almost as effective as one person playing it. I know, seems far-fetched, but it’s true. See, while there were a few differences to let you know which player was up — the command tone was slightly different, the cursor was darker — basically it was nearly impossible to tell whether Player 1 or Player 2 was up at any given time, especially with the fast-paced Active Time Battle system.
I played through many an hour of FFVI multiplayer with my younger sisters. At this point I had already completely dominated the game twice, so my knowledge of both worlds was fairly complete. So I wasn’t playing my own game; no need to risk multiplayer on that! Since my sisters were a bit less experienced than I was in the ways of the game itself. This meant that I was regularly shouting orders to whoever my Player 1 was at any given moment:
“No, use Pearl! It’s weak against Pearl element!”
“We’re trying to steal his item! Don’t attack!”
“Heal me!! Heal me NOW!!”
“Throw the rock! Why don’t you THROW the ROCK!!!”
“Why are you defending!?! Defending is useless! You should never defend!”
Anyway, things could get pretty heated, to the point where sometimes our parents had to intervene. To say nothing of the fact that my sisters had the habit of naming their characters with capital letters, when there were at least 26 lower-case letters with which to use for the names, most of which would have done the job perfectly well.
Was it a waste of time? No more so than playing the game the first several times was. I got to experience a classic of 16-bit gaming in a new way, one which foreshadowed the co-op games that are so prevalent now.
So, yes, I’m thankful this year for the time I got to spend with family while also engaging in one of my most favorite pastimes. Who knows what kinds of random multiplayer games we’ll be able to experience in the future?