Reviews: Final Fantasy VI
Amazing - the best of the Final Fantasies
This was the last Final Fantasy of the 16-bit era. Despite its limitations, or maybe because of it, even the graphics and music are still enjoyable. The creators knew the limitations of the system and designed the sprites in a cutesy style that manages to express so much with a limited palette. And then there's the cast of characters. While most other Final Fantasies have a wide cast of characters, most of them also seem to have a few fixed "lead characters" - like Cloud in FF 7, Squall in FF 8, Cecil in FF 4, etc that you have to use through most of the game. This one, however, has 14. 12 of them have deep backstory and development. Even if you don't like them all, you're almost sure to find someone within this cast you can connect with. And there is no real lead - there are parts of the story where certain characters are required, but any of the characters you have can be your "main" character for most of the game. Moving on to the story - it's hard to say without spoilers, but there is something huge that happens in the game that rarely occurs. That's when you really discover the theme of the game, and where the character development really shines. Some people complain about the main villain - yes, he's basically a powerful psychopath, and that's rather simple. I don't mind it. I look at it like a force of nature - it's like struggling against a hurricaine. It doesn't really matter if the hurricaine isn't particularly nuanced or intelligent, you can still relate to the protagonist's struggle and development in the story. And the gameplay? Again, great. I love how the uniqueness of the characters carry through into battle, while still letting you power them up through learning magic. It's a half-and-half blend between having completely unique characters you must use in one particular way (like FF 4 or 9) versus completely customizable characters that end up all being the same because of the "one ideal build" (like FF 5, 7, 8). There's a whole wide world to explore and plenty of secrets to find like any good Final Fantasy. And despite having so many characters, they are all unique and memorable. A true classic of the Final Fantasy series and gaming as a whole.
I have no nostalgic connection to this game, as I played and beat it only recently (specifically the Advance version). I missed out on the FF series as a kid, so I've been playing them in order, and compared to V, this one kind of disappoints me, but I digress. Graphically, the game looks great for an SNES title. The sprites have lots of detail and great animation, the environments are well-illustrated, and even the mode 7 looks halfway decent (though it does hamper the gameplay when you have to control chocobos or airships on it, as the control is awkward). Spectacle from the spells is similarly satisfying. As far as other presentation goes, the soundtrack is easily the best in the series. Story-wise, it's a mixed bag. It's certainly more involved than prior games, but that doesn't mean I enjoyed every element like I did with III or V. For example, I really felt they could have gone more in-depth with Kefka's backstory, because he comes off as a Generic Doomsday Villain to me, with a Monster Clown twist. Not to mention his total lack of presence in the latter half. Also, anything involving Locke made me headdesk as well, which is unfortunate given how prominent he is in the first half (as opposed to Gau, Relm, Strago, or Shadow, who don't get near as much focus). On the other hand, I felt that Terra's character arc and the interactions between Edgar and Sabin were really well done, and the "Darill's Tomb" sequence was just beautiful. Gameplay-wise, it's still a mixed bag. While the game is easy, it's still clear there's a lack of balance with the characters, as some (Cyan, Locke) have useless skills and don't do well with the generic commands either without specific setups they don't get until late in the game. As a compulsive Minmaxer, the esper system bothers me as well, since it meant that I'd have to do solo grinding with some characters to get good stats given the lack of availability of the character or the stat espers. However, with sequences where the characters split up in groups or rode Magitek Armors, the gameplay was varied enough to keep me invested and entertained. Overall, I think the game has lots of good points and was great for its time, but the problems I had kept it from true greatness. There's still fun to be had, so I'll say it's worth a look, if nothing else.
Upon first picking up Final fantasy VI, I thought it to be a rather boring game. The opening scenes in Narshe were anathema to my 12 year old brain, the dialogue a lullaby. I set it down and forgot about it for four years. The next time I picked it up, I realized what a fool my younger self had been for setting it down so soon. The battle system, while simple compared to today's paradigm shifts and quick time events, is utterly enthralling, especially when compared to the messy job system of V and the simplistic, straight forwardness of IV. Each character was unique in terms of gameplay, ranging from Cyan the Samurai to Gau the feral child, Locke the thief to Shadow the assassin. Once espers and magic come into play, a bit of preparational thinking is needed for each level gained, which only adds to the depth of the system. In terms of storyline, each character (excluding the bonus characters) recieves a good deal of attention, with the game having no one true main character. Every character is allowed to grow into themselves, to live and breath as their own individual person, not serve as some cookie cutter stereotype of a character. It is with kefka, however, that the game finds it's true representative. Kefka is homicidal, crazy, heartbreaking, and laugh out loud hillarious. Long after the credits roll, one will remember his distinctive cackle , his truly epic battle music, and his Joker like attitude. Above all, he is a villain who managed to over come his flaws and succeed in his goal, with the player only being able to defeat him after the world is turned into a fire charred wasteland by his nihilistic point of view and his infinite supply of magic. He is a villain to truly remember. The game's crowning achievement is in it's music, especially its extensive use of leitmotif. Every character has their own motif, with Terra's serving as the main theme of the game. Wonderfully scored, the music truly makes the game. The game even includes an Opera scene, complete with a beautiful aria by Celes that serves as her theme. it is a truly heart rending scene, one of the most memorable in gaming history. The storyline itself is epic in scope, dealing with such isses as teen pregnancy and suicide, unrequited love and parental abandonment, all while keeping the focus on the main plot. It is a true gaming masterpiece and a pleasure to play.
I never played Final Fantasy VI when I was younger, so when I started playing, I wasn't expecting much. While I had heard great things about it, I expected most of that to be Nostalgia Filter. I'll freely admit that I was wrong. While the game is undoubtedly simple compared to modern epics, within its simplicity lies a certain elegant charm. Gameplay-wise, it's a standard turn-based system, but with enough little facets and tweaks to make experimentation fun. My only real complaint about the gameplay is that it's rather easy; even before acquiring magic I seldom had trouble, and afterwards I taught all my characters Cure, Life, and Osmose, and barely anything could touch me. The story is quite simple, but it has aged very well. The characters all have interesting stories and fleshed-out personalities (with the exception of the bonus characters). Graphically, it's presented nicely. The character sprites and locations are richly detailed and very expressive. When compared to Final Fantasy VII's 3d models, it's obvious which looks better 15+ years after the fact. All in all, Final Fantasy VI is a solid experience. I have a few minor complaints, like the easiness of the game or some uncommonly frustrating levels. However, nitpicking is unhelpful, and I can overlook a few rough patches. It's a barrel of fun, and if you get the chance, you should try it.