The relationship between graphics and scenario writing in video games

I have attempted two playthroughs of Final Fantasy IV and choked both times.  As a FF fan that ain’t normal for me, to say nothing of how excited I was to play it in the beginning.  From what I read on the internet prior, it seemed like IV was the turning point for Final Fantasy becoming the narrative heavy experience that we all know today.  I don’t think I’ll sound too lame if I own that the Golbez fight in the castle of the dwarves was a factor in the termination of both of my playthroughs, especially if I add that I was playing it on a DS those times.  For some reason, Square Enix decided to buff a boss fight in this remake that was already notoriously hard to begin with.

So playthrough one ended with the Golbez fight and playthrough two ended when I started buffing Rydia immediately before she disappears from the party.  I got her to learn bio, which most agree is a thing you want to have in the dwarvish Golbez fight, but my nerves were so fried from all the grinding that took that I just didn’t have the patience to keep playing after that point.  Just yesterday, though, I was able to start playing the original 16-bit SNES version and I’m actually getting more interested in the events of the story than I was the first time around.  Within my first few minutes of SNES FFIV I was reminded that the effect of the Nintendo DS graphics and voice acting was almost as much of a turn off as the remake’s infamous difficulty spike.

No matter what the subject of a film, painting or video game is, how that subject looks is bound to direct your attention at least as much as the script of the subject’s story.  However with video games and commercial cinema there is an oddly quantitative way of judging something as qualitative as visual and auditory effect.  To me, it’s comparable to saying that photographs have destroyed the reason to ever draw, or that photography has replaced painting.  We could digress even further if we dwell on what ways of looking and sounding are treated as the most “natural” or “appealing” in computer animation (I mean, if I wanna look like Serah Farron in FFXIII, I’m gonna need to spend several grand on plastic surgery).

But for now, regardless of what we are treating as real, let’s at least allow that trying to look “real” is something that is widely valued in both video games and big budget movies.  How “real” something looks can be valued with strange single-mindedness, though.  For some, the fact that black and white film can have color doctored into them is a good enough reason to do it, regardless if certain decisions were originally planned to have the best effect as black and white images.  Digitally adding color to a film like Orphee or Les enfants terribles would, to say the absolute least, be very, very single-minded.

I think this was the mistake that was being made in the DS FFIV remake.  Voice acting and 3D graphics were added without consideration for how they would change the flow of the action.  The voice actors also sound unsure if they are supposed to be melodramatic or earnest.  I get that stories and characters are allowed to have tone shifts, but with the FFIV voices the changes sounded too random to be intentional.  In the older version, though, the use of text-based dialogue allowed both the delivery of words and their content to go by the player’s own pace.  In this regard, I think the DS remake compares particularly badly to  the original.  Just look at the different presentations of the desolation of the Mage Village and the theft of their crystal.  I found the 16-bit portrayal easier on the eyes and therefore easier to take in.  Probably because the scenario was written with a 16-bit image in mind.


Anyway, this is more of a random thought of the day.  I’m still pretty early in my playthrough but so far everything about the presentation is working better.

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