Initial Release Date: April 2, 1994
Platforms: SNES, iOS, Gameboy Advance (reviewed)
Final Fantasy VI is one of the most iconic games, and the last of the 16-bit Final Fantasies. It’s legacy has been well documented as a progenitor of the JRPG in the West, and a story focused experience with a lovable cast of characters.
With a solid presentation, great audio, and well-designed pacing, FFVI still remains a great experience to this day.
Final Fantasy VI has been applauded in many respects, with its narrative often praised. It’s storytelling was novel in its initial release, and still remains fairly unique today.
The game starts out with two Magitek soldiers using the long forgotten magical skills of Terra to infiltrate and assault a town that harbors a resistance to the Empire. Terra is then introduced to the resistance movement, to which she becomes a part.
This kicks off a series of encounters where the party gains more and more characters, each with a certain fighting style and background. The nemesis, perhaps one of the most iconic video game villains of all time, is Kefka, a crazed advisor seeking to harness the ancient espers that generate magic.
The journey takes the gang through the world in two states – balanced and ruined. After a certain cataclysmic event, the crew is scattered, leaving the player to reassemble the gang. Once everyone has gotten back together, Kefka awaits in his ominous tower.
After spending time with the game in the present day, FFVI shines not for its fairly generic plot, but for its characters and the journey endured. Good guys get together to prevent the end of the world (or whats left of it). That premise sets up the real glory of the game – the plodding through locales, fighting different monsters, powering up espers, and finding your friends.
Each character is introduced with quest or other quirk that gives some color and background. The interactions between the characters further develop the relationships, similar to Chrono Trigger. In the World of Ruin, when you must relocate everyone, the bonds are further strengthened, and the investment gets a little stronger as well.
In 1994, games were slightly different in style and substance than modern day romps. As I outlined a bit in my initial post about FFVI, the game is a showcase of JRPG traits – random battles, a bit of grinding, turn based party battles. However, FFVI is a shining example of why that formula caught on in the West, and how it was further developed.
The player controls up to four party members at a time, with the rest either not available or stashed away at the ubiquitous Final Fantasy airship. Each party member has a certain inclination (melee or magic) and also a “special” action that is unique. For instance, Edgar has the ability to use tools that have a variety of effects, while Relm can draw enemies, stealing their abilities.
The party is moved about across the overworld map, where the aforementioned airship can be used to fly about, a chocobo can be ridden around, or just simple walking. While venturing on the overworld map and non-town zones, random battles are triggered.
Each battle is an active time battle turn-based affair, where monsters and players trade attacks and magic until one side is defeated or retreats. Enemies have a variety of resistances, strengths, or other abilities that requires a bit of figuring out.
While that description sums up most JRPGs of the era, FFVI adds a layer of customization and fun to the grind with espers and relics. Espers are dead spirits that imbue the assigned character with enhanced stats upon leveling up, along with progress toward spells. Espers are found throughout the game, and the later ones contain the more powerful spells. Relics are attached to characters and add feats, such as swapping an attack for a Jump, or giving 100% accuracy, or making spells cost a single MP.
With espers and relics, character builds can become unique. Every character can use any esper, so if you grind enough, everyone can have everything. If you want any help in going after such a task, check out my guide here.
Besides battling, there are some puzzles in the zones entered through the overworld map. These are mostly pretty simple or naturally required to progress through the instances. However, FFVI has its fair share of secrets and unlockables. Not only that but once the Coliseum is unlocked, players then have a new method of combat and equipment to get rare items.
Some of the more battling gameplay is in the bosses. In fact, Kefka’s final tower is really a boss rush dressed up as dungeon. Depending on level and gear, many bosses can be quite difficult.
Overall, the gameplay may seem pretty straightforward for today’s standards, but thats because FFVI helped set the standard. While many JRPGs can get bogged down in grindfest random battles, FFVI manages to make such battles satisfying and ultimately feel like a progression.
The graphics are nothing too fancy, but this is in an older handheld game. Despite this limitation, the game manages to squeeze a lot of detail into the game, and paint some really interesting scenes with the technology available. Further, I really enjoy the 16 bit SNES look, and have not been a fan of the iOS “upgrade” to the graphics.
The audio and music is great as per Final Fantasy standards. The opera sequence shows off some of the audio chops the game packs. It’s not often I keep the volume on for much of my handheld gaming, but FFVI deserves it (and keep it on I did).
The game has no multiplayer, but then again that doesn’t come as a surprise. However, the game has built a speedrunning community, and given the nature of how characters develop, the replayability is there for those that want more hours out of the game.
Overall Final Fantasy VI still remains a great experience despite its age. The characters, story, pacing, and unique builds available keep the game engaging. With solid visuals and a great soundtrack, the game lives up to its hype and rightfully deserves its place on many fans “Top Final Fantasy game” lists.
+Good pacing for a JRPG
+Historical and iconic precedent
-For some, the old-style JRPG mechanics may not click
Total Score: 8.6/10