Bitpicking: Retrolook, Retrolost
[Continued] Page 2
The environment had a fixed camera, but movement appeared to happen in 3D. Shops looked real, as there was depth perception, and you could also tell when something was far away. Sadly, with all of the 3D elements and colors mashing together, it was hard to tell what exactly was what sometimes. Part of it was due to the creative architecture of buildings or layouts of areas. Exits were obscured by objects that made them look impassable, while other were simply out of view due to the fixed camera angles. This goes for nearly all of the Final Fantasy titles on the first PlayStation.
Let’s take a look at a specific example in Final Fantasy VII. In an earlier part of the game is a place called Sector 5 in the city of Midgar. The player’s journey takes the protagonist Cloud to the slums of Sector 5. The place looks old, depressing, and run down. While there aren’t many objects cluttering the area, it is difficult to see what exactly is what and where you are able to go. Doors aren’t normal doors, as it seems like they’re just curtains attached to buildings, and the exit is obscurely placed in the far right side of the area, making it difficult to know it's even an exit.
Of course, the worst part of the game is the dastardly train graveyard. Where do I go, what areas are traversable, and is that the exit? You’d find yourself asking these questions constantly. (Don't believe me? check out the image below.) While it looks perfectly fine as a picture, it’s hard to play through it. You wouldn’t be able to know that the ground isn’t accessible for Cloud to walk on, and it’s hard to see the ladders that get you off of the train compartment tops. Oh, did you know you can get on top of the train? It’s an extremely mind-boggling area at first that can test your patience.
Now let’s take a look at Final Fantasy IX. IX had the same problem as VII, with areas where it was hard to differentiate what was what. While Lindblum is a fascinatingly large town with tons of things happening, there was a little too much happening. Colors meshed so well that you couldn’t even tell where the entrances to the shops were. You were sort of flailing around hitting invisible walls until you found a place you could pass through. It was a hassle. Alexandria could be the same way, as you had to figure out what the buildings were, what route would lead you where, and if they even were routes in the first place.
Knowing where you can go and how you can get there is extremely important. After all, being lost can be incredibly frustrating. Of course, there was a button that sort of told players where the exits were, but not where exactly they could and couldn't go in a given area.
Next time I’ll delve into the 3D world of video games. Truly 3D. Or maybe gimmick 3D? Who knows
Simon Chun is GameZone’s freelance writer and RPG buff for all things new and old. Check out his twitter @kayos90.