“Tactics,” my ass

Through a supreme force of will, I have somehow managed to keep from throwing my DS (and, more specifically, the copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance that’s currently residing therein) through the window.  While on the surface, this would seem to be a fairly simple task — akin to not jumping out of a moving vehicle,  not stabbing oneself in the eye with a fork, or not eating fungus-ridden diseased corn — the reality is actually more complex.

I see a bit more explanation is perhaps in order.  Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is one of the finest games available on the GBA, although it does have more than its share of drawbacks, foremost of which is a lack of an autosave feature.  Given the game’s mission-based nature, it would seem to be a trivial matter to add in an autosave whenever a mission is completed.  Now, sure, no Final Fantasy game before it featured autosave (to the best of my knowledge, at least), but none of them (excepting, perhaps, Final Fantasy Tactics itself) needed it.  Furthermore, while wandering the world map in the game, it is entirely possible to stumble onto Big Nasty Battles with absolutely no warning.  When you combine these factors with the game’s “Law” system (which requires that you abide by arbitrary rules in battle or suffer penalties that include having a character sent to jail in the middle of a crucial fight), you have a recipe for broken psyches and gaming hardware.

This is the situation I found myself in, then, last night, as I settled in for a bit of playing before heading off to bed.  I had managed to end up in the next big battle to advance the storyline without even being aware that I was entering it.  Consequently, I was completely unprepared and had to deal with a particularly pesky law that prevented me from taking any action that affected multiple squares (i.e., I couldn’t heal my characters, I couldn’t cast attack magic, etc.).  Now, despite the disadvantage I found myself at, I was able to persevere, and successfully fought my way to victory.  “Finally,” I thought, “I can save my game, since I didn’t do so before the battle.”  It was at precisely that moment that — and I swear this actually happened — a tiny little hand poked out of the cartridge and flipped me offTwice.

The game did not let me save after this epic battle that I had just scraped through.  Instead, it sent me through a lengthy cutscene and into a second battle, only this time, I was without my supporting characters.  At least my opponent in this battle was also alone.  Well, he was as alone as one can be while carrying a proverbial gigantic can o’ whoop-ass, which one imagines is quite the comforting companion.  Needless to say, this second battle did not go well, ending with me face down on the floor in a pool of blood and vomit.  My in-game character was knocked out, too.  After perhaps an hour to an hour and a half, I had absolutely nothing to show for it.  All that time wasted.

On the plus side, I found out what, exactly, I was up against, and I was better able to prepare for it.  I loaded up my last saved game, ran around a bit fighting some other battles and completing some other missions in order to beef my characters up some, in order to better handle the task at hand.  I made sure to enter the battle with favorable laws in effect so I wouldn’t have to restrict my fighting style.  I bought new arms and armor for my characters, and I tore my opponents to pieces in the first of the two battles.  Oh, what a difference a little preparation makes!  Confident in my new-found prowess, I sped through the cutscene and entered the one-on-one battle that had previously confounded me so.  It began the same way, with the enemy casting “Demi” on me (reducing my HP by half).  This was expected, as he did the same thing for the first three or four rounds last time.  If this kept up, he would go down easily with a new skill I had acquired in my preparations.  I smiled, and began my systematic destruction of him.  Someone forgot to mention to him that I was supposed to win, however, as he unleashed a previously-unseen attack that destroyed me two turns later.  It had just happened again.  Another hour down the drain.

I’m going to give this one more shot, and if it happens again,  I will rend this cartridge to dust with the pure force of my rage.*

(* – This is a lie.  I will continue to try over and over again, because I’m a silly stubborn man.)

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