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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.
I don't see a connection between making a character prominent and railroading the player.
The player's railroaded into having Locke in the party multiple times because he has to be there for certain events to occur. Though truth be told some of the events really didn't need him in specific to be there for the plot to advance, like the Opera House, even if he's required to be there. The only point of him being there at all is to advance the relationship between him and Celes, which I didn't like at all. It kind of made me wish there were alternate scenes that would happen if you didn't have Locke in the party there.
Of course, you're railroaded into having Celes, Terra, Setzer, Sabin, Edgar, Cyan, Shadow Gau, Strago, and Relm at various points as well, but I didn't really mind them as much and barring Celes, Terra and Edgar, none of them got quite as much time as Locke did.
"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."
Yeah... You see, Kefka, is pretty much a fantasy version of The Joker. You don't get a whole lot of backstory, true, but what you do get from them actually amounts to a whole lot. Kefka, like Joker, believes in nothing, that nothing matters, and perhaps, like the Joker, something happened in Kefka's past that made him the way he is; he might have tried to put it in the back of his mind at first, but the Majiteck experiment that made him insane could have easily brought that out, thus pairing his insanity with an extremely nihilistic motivation. That, together with his insane personality and depraved actions, like The Joker, is what makes Kefka a great villain.
It's also a good example of Show Dont Tell , which is what FFVI excels at. Being a SNES game, they couldn't put in a whole lot of dialogue compared to RPG's on later consoles, so instead, while there's less dialogue, it also tends to still get what's needed across without any real filler, and also because there's less dialogue, there's more done with just the character's actions. This also implies to the rest of the story, such as Shadow's dreams in the World of Ruin, and if you didn't see them all of them, then you're really missing out. You can probably find them on Youtube, if you missed them.
But really, for it's time, and even in some parts today, FFVI is quite the RPG.
I heard that some guy in the Empire will tell you Kefka's backstory, but I never encountered it. I also heard Japanese fans hate him as they see him as an annoying, unfunny cackling bad guy who only succeeds because of being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and everyone else being too stupid to dispose of him sooner. Amazing how different sections of the fanbase can have such differing opinions of a guy!
The problem I have with Kefka is that his motivation isn't quite clear to me. "I believe that nothing matters, therefore I'll take over the world and burn anyone who disagrees, even though that won't matter anymore than doing nothing" doesn't really cut it for me, especially given the lack of sense. Sure Kefka's insane, but so was the Joker, and we knew the Joker did what he did because that's how he gets his kicks. That made sense. Unlike the Joker, however, Kefka didn't really utilize his own gimmick. The Joker would very much love to zap Batman with a joy buzzer just as much as he would love to lead him into the death trap. Kefka doesn't care at all about the heroes of VI and thought sitting on top of a tower was enough.
And if this were a case where they were showing something, they'd actually, you know, show it. Instead, all we get of Kefka is that some guy that heard a rumour that Kefka may or may not have been tortured in experiments as a kid, and that's all we get. I understand that they're trying to get across more with less space, but they still didn't quite give me enough for me to take it seriously like they wanted me to. Shadow's dreams were handled much better, I'll concur. Even if his suicide at the end nullified any favor I could have given to the character.
I also heard Japanese fans hate him as they see him as an annoying, unfunny cackling bad guy who only succeeds because of being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and everyone else being too stupid to dispose of him sooner. Amazing how different sections of the fanbase can have such differing opinions of a guy!
This isn't all that odd. The English translation greatly improved Kefka's dialogue, making him amusing. Since he's amusing, the players will like him. This then transfers to other aspects of him, because people have difficulty admitting to the flaws of things they like. So people think he's interesting and complex despite the fact that he doesn't really have a personality or backstory
Word of God says that Kefka was the first Magitek Knight, but the process shattered his sanity.
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