Review – Final Fantasy VI

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Publisher: Squaresoft
Platform: Super Nintendo (Released as Final Fantasy III in North America)
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Release Date: October 20th, 1994

Premise

After a failed mission to retrieve a frozen Esper from the city of Narshe, A former imperial soldier named Terra wakes up in a strange house, only to learn that the empire has been controlling her actions, due to her ability to use magic. She is offered an opportunity to join the Returners, a resistance group trying to fight the empire. Her journey then begins to fight those she once served, while trying to find out who she is, and where she came from.

Story

This, to me, is probably one of the finest stories ever told by Squaresoft. It has everything that good storytelling needs. Politics, betrayal, tyranny, rebellion, loss, hope, and yes, even love.

The main story for the game is broken up into two halves. The first half focuses on Terra as the main character, while the second half focuses on Celes, a former imperial general, and ally to the Returners. While it would have been nice to maintain the focus on Terra throughout the game, the change in situation did seem to call for a change of focus with the main character.

Characters

Once again, another wonderful cast of characters. Each character had a story to tell (except Gogo… I still know nothing about Gogo), and many of these stories were explored in more depth with side quests, and some were even told in the main story. Learning why Setzer is so fascinated with airships, or even seeing Shadow’s mysterious past shown through dream sequences were fun, and added more depth to an already enticing story. Each character was memorable, well thought out, and unique in their own way.

Visuals

Since we’re talking SNES 2D graphics, what I can say about them is that they were excellent for their time. The game used great colors, and the sprite designs were well done. What I did like too was that equipment did look different in combat. There were no generic motions with the same looking weapon every time, and that always makes me happy. It’s dull to look at the same old weapon every time, so the variety is nice to see.

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The environments were well done as well, if for nothing else than the fact that I could find a cave or mountain entrance or doorway with ease. That was a big problem for me in early 3D environments, so it’s always nice to go back to a game where I can easily navigate.

Audio

Nobuo Uematsu… Need I say more?

I’ll try to. As usual, the musical score for this game is exceptional. Given that the game does feature an opera house, nailing the music for that sequence was essential. It hit the nail on the head, and became one of the best musical pieces in a Final Fantasy game, in my opinion.

The musical score for combat and boss fights are also incredibly memorable. I spent a lot of time as a kid playing the game with the volume turned down so I could stay up late and play, and I never needed the volume because that music would run in my head every time a fight broke out. Once you hear the score for this game, it’s incredibly hard to forget, and that’s okay.

Gameplay – Exploration/Combat

Exploration in the game includes a world map, many dungeon areas, and the ability to travel by airship after a certain point in the game. It’s never hard to find anywhere you’re looking for, as you have a mini world map available at the bottom right of your screen.

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Combat uses the Active Time Battle system, meaning turns happen in real time, so if you don’t enter commands fast enough, the monsters will still get their turn. It’s still a very simple system, and I doubt anyone will have trouble with it.

During a turn, you can attack, cast magic, use an item, defend, or run. One of the more interesting things about combat is that each character has a command you can use that is unique to them. For example, Locke is your thief, so only he can use the Steal command, Sabin is your martial artist, so he can use the Blitz command, and so on. Each command has its own requirements for use, and it adds variety to your party.

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Gameplay – Character Progression

Characters will level up using Experience earned through battle. Once you obtain Magicite in the game, you will begin to earn Magic Points, which will allow you to learn Magic from their equipped Magicite.

Magicite also has the power to improve character stats when a character levels up while holding it. These stat changes are permanent, and add more customization to the game. I mentioned this system in one of my previous “The Five” lists, talking about stat and skill building systems, as it stands as one of the more interesting methods of stat building.

Gameplay – Optional Content/Side quests

As I said earlier, there are several optional points in the game to gain some additional character back story. Apart from that, the game offers some optional bosses in the second half of the story, as well as access to two optional party members. While they are not required to beat the game, they are still fun characters to have, and worth going after.

Since Final Fantasy VI has been remade for several platforms, including PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, and even IOS and Android. These versions included some additional post game content, including new bosses and dungeons.

Final Thoughts

This is the first RPG that I ever finished on my own. It’s a game that I appreciate even more as the years go by. I am really glad that this game is still accessible to everyone, thanks to its many ports. I saw an unsealed physical copy of the game at a used game store once for $400, and I have to say I was tempted to get it. This is one of the games that helped define the JRPG genre, and is a must play for every fan of the genre.

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Review – Final Fantasy VI

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