April 7, 2018: I Beat Final Fantasy Adventure (FFA)

Tonight, I beat Final Fantasy Adventure (FFA), a Game Boy game, for the first time. I've been playing this game on and off for over 19 years.

In FFA, you control a character who aspires to become a "gemma knight," a protector of the "gemma buds" of the Mana Tree. In an amazing coincidence, my company here in Tokyo hired an accountant named Ms. Gemma this year.

Disclaimer: This post is going to be extremely long-winded and boring to most people except me, and maybe a few of my close friends from back in the day at Hong Kong International School (HKIS). You don't have to read anything that you don't want to, so don't complain to me about that. This website barely generates any ad revenue, so basically it's just for me, so I write whatever kind of drivel I feel like writing. :-)

Legal and technical note: I own the original FFA cartridge. It's in my closet; it was one of a few games I brought with me from America to Korea on June 18/19, 2006. However, I played the game using an emulator on my PC (the Intel Core i7 I built in 2013) because I hate how volatile on-cartridge battery-backed RAM saves are. I prefer to have the save file as a file on my computer that can be backed up. I used NO$GMB on DOSBox because I couldn't find any good emulators that run on Linux natively. How about that, playing all the way through a game on an emulator-within-an-emulator? :-) Anyhow, it's not illegal and it's not piracy, because I own the original game cartridge.

Ending 1 Ending 2
The Ending
I chose Char for my main character's name, for obvious reasons. No, Jane is not named after my aunt, nor my classmate from university. I just picked it because it's the first name for "Jane Doe."

The Three Final Boss Fights Including Cutscenes
Cutscene 1Final Boss 1Final Boss 2Cutscene 2Final Boss 3
Julius, Bad Mana, and the Bad Mana Tree

Interestingly, the Excalibur Sword, despite supposedly being a requirement for a gemma knight to defeat the bad guys, is actually not necessary at all. I used only the Blood Sword in all three of the final fights. I needed to use many Elixirs to heal myself and Cure spells when those ran out, but I got through it. Ironically, many ordinary enemies in this game can't be damaged with the Blood Sword—I guess the final boss is weaker than they are?

Glitch 1 Glitch 2
In the final dungeon, the protagonist can walk up to the point where he's hovering in the air. Is that a game glitch, or an emulation glitch? The emulator seems extremely good, so I think the latter (this game is known to be buggy, for example warping the character around the world is a glitch that happens even on Game Boy hardware). The second glitch has the main character appear above the leaves in the primeval forest even when he's supposed to be standing on the ground.

The 19+-Year Saga of FFA and Me, and the Future

I first got it for my original Game Boy for my birthday on October 24, 1998, when I was a 6th grader at HKIS. I asked for it because I didn't have any Final Fantasy games, and I really wanted one. My friends were really into Final Fantasy games back then. I was not really into them yet, but I had just beaten Zelda: Link's Awakening over the summer just after arriving in Hong Kong, before starting 6th grade, and I thought that FFA, with its Zelda-like gameplay, would ease me into the Final Fantasy series. The concept of choosing attacks, spells, etc. from a menu seemed too alien to me, so FFA looked appealing with its Zelda-like action RPG-style gameplay.

Well, as fate would have it, on the same 12th birthday on which I received FFA, I got Final Fantasy VII, and guess which one I spent most of my time playing. FFA is a good game and all, but FF7 was generally just better—and my friends either played it too, or at least had played it recently, so there was a social rather than solitary element, which could not be said about FFA. I stopped and restarted FFA numerous times over the years. Although I finished FF7 in 7th grade (1999-2000, at HKIS), I didn't complete FFA until tonight.

What was my impetus to finally finish it? Well, the answer is that on October 5 of last year, I bought a Super Famicom Classic Mini from Geo Amusement Developer, and one of the bundled games is Secret of Mana (SoM), which is actually the sequel to FFA. SoM is a well-renowned game that I definitely plan to play through in my lifetime; I first played it in 1999 at a friend's home, and my first girlfriend, back in high school loved it and beat it on an emulator on her Pentium 3. Last I checked, which was a couple of years ago, that ex-girlfriend had become a stripper near Las Vegas, but I digress. Anyhow, I figured "I should play through SoM while it's still topical" (so within one year of the release of the Super Famicom Classic Mini), "and in order to understand the background of SoM, I should play through FFA first."

The original plan was to take my five-day New Year's vacation from my job to play through it. According to HowLongToBeat.com, it takes 14 hours to play it as a "Completionist," so I figured that if I played, ah, maybe about five hours a day, or maybe a little bit more, I could beat it. Well, as always, the HowLongToBeat.com estimate was too low (I think lots of people just submit an absurdly low time to brag—that's what "hardcore" gamers are like). Note to self: always double the HowLongToBeat.com time and use that as a guide for how long it'll take me to beat it, because I'm a mere mortal.

Well, it ended up taking much longer than that to beat. I signed up for the Kanji Kentei on January 5, at which point I barely played at all.

Had I played it the same way I used to play games in the past, I probably would've stopped and never finished it, but this time, I had two new strategies that helped me get back to it and finish it. First of all, there's the sort of "deadline" of October 5, 2018 to finish SoM while it's still on people's minds (because until then, the Super Famicom Classic Mini is still in its first year), which in turn motivated me to finish FFA. Second of all, I was very careful to log the major parts of the game, especially the plot, in a text file, so that if I went, say, a month without playing it, I could just read the text file and remember what I had to do next and the story. This worked extremely well and I plan to do it this way again in the future.

Which game will I work on, next? I'm not 100% sure, but I have a pretty good idea. To keep things fresh, I should probably play through a game that is dissimilar to FFA, i.e. not an RPG, in color, and not 8-bit. I think Kirby Superstar fits this bill. Beating all the included mini-games in that one has been on my gaming backlog since the summer of 1997 when I first played it on my cousin's Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) at Sandbridge Beach. After that, then what?

I'm not really sure, yet. I'll have to think about it.

More Screenshots of my Playthrough of FFA

Save/Load Menu, Stats, Equipment, and Inventory, from Left to Right

Menu 1 Menu 2 Menu 3 Menu 4
I pretty much played a "Completionist" game. I got all the best armor and the best inventory (which involved killing many ninjas, which in turn often required entering a room, killing one of two ninjas, then re-entering the room to get another ninja to spawn), except that my Key was at 2 and not 4. I didn't go for Level 99, settling for Level 65 instead, which is still pretty high. I had 65,535 Gold Points, the maximum a 16-bit integer allows, which is clearly what they used for the Gold Points variable in the game. This game doesn't have enough stuff to buy.

March 9, 2018: Hello Again, Readers, I Have Come After a Long Absence to Brag, Again: Kanji Kentei 3-kyū and Three Other Important Things Since Last Friday

My Kanji Kentei 3-kyū Certificate
My Kanji Kentei 3-kyū Certificate

Long time no blog. I've decided to be more active from now on with updating this blog. I made almost zero updates in 2017, and I really felt like something was missing from my life. Over the past week (well, technically slightly more than a week because it's Friday night, now), four major things have happened:

  1. Last Friday, after a two-day ordeal, I finished filing my tax return at the Tachikawa Tax Office, and although the process felt like it caused several new gray hairs and wrinkles to appear on my head and face, respectively, the good news is that I will get over ¥371,000 back—that's over $3,400 at the current exchange rate. This was not a surprise—I knew I had been overpaying, but it's still nice to have confirmation that that money will indeed return to me.

  2. On Saturday, I handed a signed contract to my boss, which he had already signed. I will work there for at least one more year (maybe more, depending on various factors), from April 1, 2018-March 31, 2019.

  3. Yesterday was my 7th Japanniversary. I arrived in Japan at approximately 11:55 AM on March 7, 2011. Basically, I am now less than three years away from being able to apply for permanent residency, out of the ten continous years required.

  4. Today, I got the certificate in the mail that says that I passed Kanji Kentei 3-kyū. It's a test of 1,607 kanji, or all the kanji taught through the end of junior high school.

    At the test center, the girls behind and in front of me were 14 years old (I could see their birthdates on their answer sheets before the exam started) and the woman to my right was 19, so although I was still over a decade older than them, it wasn't as embarrassing as taking 7-kyū back in 2011, in which I found myself in a room full of elementary school children. Pretty much everyone there was at least a teenager. The pass rate was only 46.8% and almost all the examinees were Japanese, I believe—as far as I know, I was the only non-Japanese in the room—everyone else had black hair and East Asian features, so I suppose a Chinese or Korean could have slipped in there, for example, but as far as I know, all of them were Japanese.

    Now, my kanji is as good as a Japanese freshman in high school! :-) There are actually Japanese people out there who finished junior high school (the highest level of compulsory education in Japan) and opted not to go to high school (which is not required), who have the same kanji level as me. Yes, I'm kind of proud, because it took me less than seven years to achieve what a typical Japanese person takes 15 years to achieve (although it is only fair to note that I have lived in East Asia for over 16 years, so I guess I'm right about where I should be). Should I take the pre-2-kyū next? I passed the 3-kyū with 155/200 (a 15-point margin—the pass mark is 140/200), so it's not inconceivable that with lots of study, I could pass Kanji Kentei Pre-2-kyū, as well. Pre-2 is acceptable even for Japanese adults, so it would be a major, major victory. This one was still a major victory, though, but with only one "major."

    Online Pass Notification
    This notification says I passed the test. I got the notification at 10:00 AM on 2/26. The test date was 2/4.

    Paper Score Report
    This is the paper score report that came in the mail on 3/9. It has my score on it.

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