Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

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The top image is the japanese box art and the bottom image is the US box art. Did we ever get shafted.

Introduction

1000 years ago civilization as we know it was nearly wiped from the face of the world in a conflict known as the War of the Magi. Humans and beings knows as Espers wielded magic in countless battles. Humanity had to rediscover the power of steam and the most basic of industrial technologies. The Empire– it’s seriously just the empire? Whatever, just remember kids empires are evil and kingdoms are good!– has rediscovered Magic now and is gathering power at breakneck speed. You take the roll of a group of 14 exceptional individuals that have gathered from the disparate corners of the world– even the Empire itself– to fight the Empire.

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Whatever you like, this game has a character for you. It’s got 2 kids, an androgynous mime, a yeti, and a samurai–  if you want it, they got it.

History

I bet I know what all y’all are thinking right now, “If the game is final fantasy 6 then why does the box have a roman numeral three on it?” Good question with a simple answer. Final fantasy 2, 3, and 5 weren’t released in the US. Final Fantasy 4 was the second Final Fantasy game that was released in the US so they marketed it as Final Fantasy 2 to avoid confusion– which would eventually create the confusion you’re feeling now, presumably. So when Final Fantasy 6 came out in the US they called it three to continue the trend. So that’s why it’s VI on the Japanese box and III on the US. With that out of the way, let’s talk about some other stuff!

This is the first game in the series that series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was not intimately involved with, or at least not as involved as he wanted to be. Different characters were designed by different developers and it makes the game piecemeal but in a good way. They took the elements that they liked and turned them into wonderful quilt of a game. The game has no clear protagonist and I believe this large combined effort is the cause.

Fun Fact: This game was developed in a year– that’s just insane to me.

This game was released in the US on October 20th 1994. It’s competition was Sonic and Knuckles (Sega Genesis), Warcraft (PC), and Donkey Kong Country (SNES).

Nostalgia

Video Game rental stores– they were illegal in Japan and I can see why. Lemme just say that my family was super poor for awhile — they eventually started paying me in videogames for my good grades. In the meantime we would rent games because we couldn’t afford to purchase them. It was 7 dollars for 5 days. Now, that’s fine for a game that you can beat in 5 days but Final Fantasy VI requires an attention span that a 12 year old just can’t sustain in order to beat it in so short a time. I would rent it time and time again just to play through the first few hours because my save file would always get overwritten by the time I could get it back. Oh… damn… I should have written this section on limited save files– I am the worst blogger. God, I would play on a higher leveled save file and I couldn’t understand what was going on because I didn’t know the plot and I would feel bad for messing with someone’s game.

Bottom line, if we had saved the money we spent renting this thing over and over again without getting anywhere we could have bought it. It was a scam renting this game out pure and simple.

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I’ll see you in hell.

Gameplay

As is usually the fair in Final Fantasy games there’s the plot and some combat, and ne’er the twain shall meet. The plot is rife with spoilers and learning as the story unfolds is most of the enjoyment so I’ll just talk about the basics. The world is split between free states and the Empire– I’m still harping on it for being just THE Empire. (This just in: It’s actually called the Gestahlan Empire. Named after it’s emperor, Gestahl.) The Empire is centrally located on one continent and the free states are divided and not militaristic so they’re having a hard time repelling the Empire, especially since the Empire discovered Magic and Magi-tek– Oh man, it’s like Magic and Technology put together! I just like the word, it rolls of the tongue — if the tongue was an assembly line. People from all the free states have banded together to form a group called the Returners, who are going to fight the Empire. I never understood why they were called the Returners. What are they returning from– are they saying not to call it comeback because they never left? I dunno, it’s a cool name but I don’t understand why they use it.

This world is filled with people who are willing to fight the Empire, some may need a push but they’re more than able. These people are Terra, the enigmatic woman who has been brainwashed by the empire and forced to use her natural magic powers to kill innocents– by the way, that natural magic thing is really important. Locke, a pure-hearted thief– I mean treasure hunter– who works for the Returners. Edgar, the flirtatious king of Figaro who appears to help the Empire but really colludes with the Returners. Sabin, Edgar’s twin brother who abdicated the throne in order to follow his dreams of becoming a martial artist. Cyan, an honorable samurai in the service of the Kingdom of Doma. Gau, a feral child who has survived the harshest wilderness in the world. Celes, a tomboy general for the Empire who is considering defection. Setzer, a gambling free spirit and pilot of the world’s only airship. Shadow– very original guys– a taciturn ninja who works for the highest bidder. Relm, a peppy young girl who can bring her drawings to life for a short while. She lives with her grandfather Strago, who can keep up with his granddaughter and has learned the ways of many monsters. Mog, the urbanite moogle whose dances can summon the forces of the world. That’s 12 characters! And it’s not including the 2 secret characters.

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Look at all these guys!

Each character has different abilities that they can employ in combat. I find it super fun to find combinations of characters that compliment each other very well. Characters can attack as well as cast spells– did I say cast spells? I meant to say that magic is dead… dead forever… yup… forever.

The music in this game is some of the best for the Super Nintendo. It was composed by Nobuo Uematsu so you know it’s good– if you know who that guy is, I mean.

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This music is so notable that there is an entire album devoted to remixing it. It’s called Balance and Ruin and I highly suggest checking it out.

The art and animation for this game is shockingly good for the time. Characters had more mobility than ever — They were able to blink, man! They could raise there arms and could move around out of pixel alignment which allowed them to express things that couldn’t be expressed in previous games. The animations of magic are also really satisfying, it looks like these enemies are getting messed up.

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It might not look like much now but it was revolutionary at the time.

The Gush

Sabin suplexes a train, you heard me. Sabin can suplex a train, check it.

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This could be the whole section, but I guess I should say more.

 

The villain’s motivation is wonderfully simple. There’s nothing wrong with crazy being a character’s motivation especially when they have so much character behind it. I also rate him as one of the greatest villains of all time just because of the sheer amount of havoc and death he causes. He also rates as one of the most glamour filled final fights in game history. His boss fight has 4 stages. These aren’t multiple forms mind you, this guy’s just got 3 waves of minions to fight before you even face him. And to top it all off, the music is fucking wonderful.

I’m just going to say it again, but the art for this game is beautiful.

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Just take a look at this image. That’s the Imperial capital and you’re going to infiltrate it with that airship. How small, defenseless, and exposed do you feel right now? They’ve got you beaten dead to rights, if that searchlight hits you that airship is getting shot down. They out-man, out-gun, and over-power you in every single way. And if you don’t defeat them then no one will– that’s some Lord of the Rings stuff right there. Good luck.

The sketches are just jaw-dropping.

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Is anyone ready to be a Samurai yet?

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Or maybe a ninja? Whichever you choose, you win.

There are 14 characters in this game and it never feels like any of them are being shortchanged. By the end ten of them get closure to their personal stories. The game was designed to have no protagonist and it gives the player the opportunity to pick their own.

If you asked me to pick a favorite character I wouldn’t be able to. Every time I choose one I immediately think of a reason to pick someone else. I want to choose Shadow because he’s got a mysterious past that we get to piece together but then I remember some spoilery things that happens with Locke but then my mind turns to Relm’s spunky attitude and it never ends! They’re all just so goddam compelling.

You know what’s awesome!? Dogs! Shadow’s got a dog. It takes hits for him and dishes out the pain. It’s something small, but it gives him so much character and life. The dog’s name is Interceptor and he “eats strangers,” if that’s not cool I dunno what is.

This game runs the gamut of emotions. I cried, I cheered, I laughed– did I mention that this game can be really funny. And it’s not just the translation, but that doesn’t hurt it.

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Mistranslation or non-sequitor? You decide.

This game has serious choices with serious consequences. I’m not going to spoil it but just remember, leave no man behind.

The Kvetch

Do you remember that part where I said you could pick your protagonist? Well sometimes the game chooses which characters you have to play and that can rob you of your protagonist…ness. But hey, you’re favorite guy or gal is probably busy doing something else in another location– certainly something really awesome — while these guys also do something important.

This game is really buggy. Thankfully most of the bugs are so obscure that you’re unlikely to find them but some are just game changing. The evade stat doesn’t work, you heard me. You evade attacks based on your Magic Block stat, not the evade stat. In addition, the dark status effect doesn’t do anything. Try blinding an enemy? It has no effect. Then again it doesn’t effect you either so it’s not all bad. Then again, the dark status effect indicator makes it look like you’re character is wearing sunglasses so…

Certain spell combinations can break the game, enabling the player to defeat all enemies in two casts with the exception of some bosses. Some would say this is a plus but I disagree.

This game can be a completionist’s nightmare. There are a lot of segments that are points of no return with sweet loot behind you. Some abilities can only be acquired in certain parts of the game and are LOST FOREVER if you don’t get them. Certain scenes only trigger in mutually exclusive circumstances, so if you did A and not B then something happens but you can only see the other thing if you restart the game and then do B and not A.

Get your strategy guide kids because there are secrets hidden in senseless places all over this game. It wouldn’t be so bad but some of them are only available the first time you enter the room and that just seems unfair.

The Verdict

It might come as a shock to you, dear reader, but I fucking love this game. I still play through it once a year. I don’t feel nostalgia blinded by this game, I feel nostalgia enriched. When I got the full version and could stop renting it my world was splite between high school homework and this game for 2 weeks until I beat it. I personally think it’s the best in the series. Agree? Disagree? Hash it out in the comments.

Next Week: Fallout 1

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