Let us take a moment to talk about pausing.
First, to be clear, I am an unashamed pause promoter. I believe all videogames should have a pause function. I believe most of reality should have a pause function. You never know when you might need a time out, and if that contractor that I’ve been trying to get to finish my damn deck rings the doorbell, you better believe making sure that silly carpenter doesn’t sheepishly shuffle away takes priority over Liu Kang’s safety. Oh, Earth Realm is now doomed to forever be a subsidiary of Outhouse World? Well, we could have avoided this fate if someone included a pause button. And don’t give me that garbage about tension, Dark Souls, because authorial intent doesn’t make a damn lick of difference when a piece of entertainment is attempting to interfere with my life. Joss Whedon didn’t produce Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a fan to watch all seven seasons within the span of three days, and HBO doesn’t produce Game of Thrones with the intention of me inserting a “break” every fifteen minutes because of the soul-crushing boredom of every plot that doesn’t involve Tyrion or Arya. Bloodborne, I will tackle these nameless abominations after I’ve finished this aggravating call from my mother, and not a moment before.
But, while pausing empowers the player to control the videogame universe like some kind of Nintendo Captain, there is also the dark side of pausing: pausing makes you stop.
Surprising, right? Who would have expected that?
Today’s game is Final Fantasy Adventure, a game that I tangentially discussed before. I said it then, and I’ll say it again: Final Fantasy Adventure is my favorite Gameboy game. I spent countless hours directing Big, the Hero of Mana, through a surprisingly diverse world, and, together, we saved the good people of wherever this place is supposed to be. And I think Big’s girlfriend turned into a tree? It was a weird day. Anyway, even if the story turned out to be a thinly veiled retelling of a Miyazaki flick or two, Final Fantasy Adventure engaged young Goggle Bob’s imagination and thumbs, and led to a lot of Super Gameboy abuse. Had I actually owned a Gameboy at the time, I might have just bolted the beeping thing to my face. It’s the only way that nefarious Julius will learn!
But, despite playing Final Fantasy Adventure for roughly the entire Clinton administration, there were still things I apparently did not know about the game. For instance, there are a number of monsters that are immune to traditional weapon attacks. Yes, you can generally utilize magic, but that uses up valuable charges for your Cure spell, and, man, don’t want to risk those when there are shadow creatures afoot. So, on my repeated playthroughs of FFA, I simply gazed at these invulnerable monsters, said, “Nope,” and moved on with the dungeon du jour. That turtle thing is invincible, nothing for it, let’s move right along. I’ll earn my EXP through dicing up skeletons, thank you.
And I wallowed in the ignorance of “invincible monsters” for years. Sword of Mana was a remake, but it was a completely different remake, so, when I replayed Final Fantasy Adventure afterwards, now as an “informed” adult, I played it the same as ever. If I decided to fire up the ol’ Gameboy, it was to play Final Fantasy Adventure, and, right through to the age of the 3DS, I’d avoid those unbeatable enemies like the plague. “They’re dangerous!” a tiny voice in my head continued to shout. And I listened every single time. Why risk Big’s life on something that probably/hopefully won’t be in the next room? There are so many people counting on his holy sword!
And then, just last year, I played Adventures of Mana. Adventures of Mana is a remake of Final Fantasy Adventure that was initially designed for cell phones/mobile devices, and, thus, has a touch interface. While I did not play Adventures of Mana until it hit the Vita, the “upgrade” from mobile to a system with actual buttons did not drop any of the touch features. So, for the first time in Final Fantasy Adventure history, I was able to play through FFA’s dungeons with many of my items just a tap away. No longer did I have to access the pause menu, stop the game, and pull out a healing piece of candy or an essential mattock; no, now I had full, tappable control of my inventory, and, more importantly, my weapons stash. While “pause” was still there as an option, I no longer had to pause every time I wanted to switch from sword to spear to flail. For the first time ever, changing weapons according to rooms was not only viable, but fun.
And that’s when I learned that there are no “invincible” monsters in Final Fantasy Adventure, some beasts just require different weapons. That’s so obvious! So videogame! Why hadn’t I tried that before!?
Well, because pausing is a pain in the ass, duh.
It’s no secret that I love Mega Man games, but, despite adoring MM2 and MM3, I usually replay the X series more (even the… less pleasant entries), because, quite simply, I hate having to pause and access the typical Mega Man weapon select menu. There are two different pages of weapons to leaf (shield) through? Lame! I’d rather just hit L & R to cycle over to my precious flamethrower. And, yes, while some Mega Man collections have dropped in a L/R cycle so you don’t have to bop over to a menu every ten seconds, it’s clear these games were never designed with this functionality in mind (like the X series), and, should you accidently cycle over to Time Stopper and slip on the B button… you’re gonna have a bad time. This kind of “pause every few minutes” game design has marred a number of excellent games, from Demon’s Crest to Castlevania (“Jonathan! Give me a second! I’m fishing out my owl spell!”). I have absolutely no evidence to support such a claim, but I feel like half the reason there are so many offensive options in Symphony of the Night is that someone noticed that pausing every other room is pain in the butt, so here’s a sword that will work for everybody. Missed that sword? Here are some cool knuckles. No, don’t worry about pausing, this should work for most of the castle. And, while this was generally a bigger problem back in the ol’ days, let’s be real here: does anyone enjoy pausing in the middle of a pitched battle to restore hearts in Breath of the Wild? And how many times has the climbing gear sat in Link’s backpack (actually… where is he keeping all this stuff? I’ve seen him [mostly] naked…), unused, while a cliff side has been scaled? Could have yanked out the right tool for the job, but I just don’t feel like finding it in my bag o’ moblin parts right now. … Or maybe I’d just be happier if there was a “quick menu” for Link’s fine cuisine and duds as opposed to just his weapons.
But I suppose that’s the crux of it all: pause menu menus are a pain in the ass that hamper gameplay. Pausing is great, but when you have to pause it’s inevitably going to detract from any game that features even a trifling amount of action. I missed, basically, an entire gameplay facet of Final Fantasy Adventure, a game I dearly enjoy, for years because of an aversion to forced pausing, and I can’t be the only one. Even the most limited peripherals and consoles have more buttons now than we’ll ever need, let’s find a way to never have to pause an action game again.
Don’t do it for me, game designers. Do it for Wee Goggle Bob who spent his childhood living in fear of turtles that are apparently weak to axes. Who would allow such a thing to happen to another juvenile?
FGC #262 Final Fantasy Adventure / Adventures of Mana
- System: Gameboy for the OG FFA, and Vita for Adventures of Mana. I suppose I’ll count the mobile ports here, too.
- Number of players: This is a Mana Adventure, not a Mana Secret, so only one player for you.
- Favorite Weapon: The Morningstar is slow, powerful, and the only weapon I use for basically every cave. Stupid mattocks, you’re nothing compared to a pointy ball on a chain.
- Favorite Ally: Watts the Blacksmith comes equipped with his own shop. Even though you’re desperately trying to survive together in a mine filled with monsters, he doesn’t offer any discounts. That’s some hardcore dwarfing.
- Land of the Rising Fun: The translation team for Adventures of Mana got a little cheeky.
- Origins: Despite the claims by some that the Mana series was always intended as its own franchise, this adventure is Final Fantasy as hell. We’ve got random Final Fantasy Red Mage sprites running around, a chocobo that is your best buddy, and you don’t see moogles in Breath of Fire. This isn’t some Final Fantasy legend, it’s a straight up Final Fantasy adventure. … Gaiden?
- Did you know? Big the Hero might accidentally get transformed into a moogle, but, don’t worry, there’s an item you can use to instantly return to normal status. Except… you can’t use items while you’re a moogle, so there is literally never an opportunity to use the Moogle Cure. So what snake oil salesman is pawning off these potions, kupo?
- Would I play again: Favorite Gameboy game, period. Though I think I’ll be playing another, different Gameboy adventure in the near future…
What’s next? Random ROB is chilling while I explore The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the rest of the week. We’ll tackle the story on Wednesday, and then on Friday, we’ll look at the gameplay. … I should probably figure out a way to make a Zelda game a “sacred three” articles… but I’m capricious like that. Regardless, it’s Breath of the Wild time! Please look forward to it!