Final Fantasy VI.
Right off the bat, I know that Final Fantasy III (US) and Final Fantasy VI have some similarities. This is because they are the same game. America only got so many of the FF games up to a point. We only got 1, 4, 6, and 7. When FFI was released, it kept the same title. Then came IV, which we got second, so naturally we called it FFII. Then came VI…you get the idea. VI and III are the same.
The only difference was minor translation corrections and revisions, even though VI Advance was said to have had a complete script overhaul, it wasn't so different as all that.
Final Fantasy VI, while not being my favorite game ever (see my Chrono Trigger review), is, my favorite Final Fantasy, followed very closely by VII and then by IX and topped of with XII/IV equally. Ask anyone why they like it and they'll say two things, both of which aren't uncommonly spoken of the FF series. They'll say characters and plot or story. As for the Characters, we'll get them out of the way first, seeing as Final Fantasy VI has the largest cast of characters in the entire series thus far. If I'd describe the game's plot first and then mention the cast I'd have you, the reader, lost in the crowd, in a manner of speaking.
First up, we have Terra Branford.
If you could call any of the characters from VI a "main character," Terra would be it. She has the most ties to the actual plot, though you'd be foolish to say that she steals the show. Literally, every character, besides the optional ones, could be considered the main ones, even though you don't meet some until way later in the actual game. But, I admit, given the nature of the story, you couldn't be faulted for calling her the star. She's beautiful, powerful, and most importantly, a good character to have in your party, being both proficient with a sword as well as the only natural magic user in the game. Everyone else obtains magic powers by diverse means, so this does seem to make her a commodity to some, a threat to others.
She starts off the game with something called a Hypno-Crown on her head. It was used by the evil Gestahlian Empire to keep her under control and to use her to communicate with a creature that only she seems able to. What are the reasons behind the Empire using a control device on a seemingly harmless girl? You'll find out soon enough. She's being accompanied by two Magitek Soldiers named Biggs and Wedge to the snowy village of Narshe where a creature has been unearthed. The Gestahlian Magitek Empire wants this creature taken by force, and they're sending two of their best, accompanied by our girl against her will (and seemingly for the safety of the two soldiers), to get it
Next we have Locke Cole.
Never call him a thief. He's no criminal…maybe. He prefers to be called "treasure hunter" and takes offense otherwise. Locke is a true gentleman. He hides little information from anyone, maintaining that honesty is the best policy, even though he is a member of an Anti-Empire group known as the Returners. Recruiting members on the sly, Locke is a reconnaissance man often sent to check out situations not accessible to others. This being largely due to his sneaking and "treasure hunting" abilities.
He meets Terra at the beginning of the game, though right after someone removed the Hypno-Crown. She's still suffering from amnesia.
They form a solid enough friendship early on and he uses this to make his move to ask her to help others and get back at the Empire that once used her for corrupt means. Terra, still not knowing too much other than how to live and breathe, doesn't understand the significance and importance of Locke's asking her to play an important part in resisting the Empire.
Locke uses Edge weapons as well as daggers and the like. He's fast, his steal command is a must for gaining certain items from enemies (as well as is made into a plot device during a side quest of his early in the game), and he's just so charming. A fan favorite amongst Final Fantasy Characters, he is rivaled only by another female character I've yet to discuss. More on her later. For now…
Cyan is one of the most archetypal good persons in any game ever. Noble in a way that most games are embarrassed to show, Cyan is a family man first and a warrior second. Husband to a woman named Elayne and father to a son named Owain. He hails from Doma, a nation openly at war with the Empire. Against the needless violence and oppression the Empire, no doubt, but also against the principles of Emperor Gestahl, who believes that the exploitation of lesser people and forms of life is one of the true marks of greatness.
When Cyan is fighting the Empire on his homeland castle's doorsteps, he makes a discovery so shocking that many gamers find it repulsive even by today's standards. This discovery will be dealt with later, but to say that Cyan suffers one of the greatest tragedies in gaming history would be an understatement.
He uses the Katana and has a very interesting ability called, originally, Sword Tech and later retranslated to Bushido. It's a charge gauge, timed so that the longer you wait for it, the more powerful the attack. A personal favorite of mine, Cyan.
Rumor had it, Shadow once slit his own mother's throat for a nickel. Another one said that if he didn't, he would. In my opinion, there are few characters so insanely awesome as Shadow that even his equals seem pale by comparison. This is both figurative and literal, seeing as Shadow takes his name seriously. There are hints to his real identity seen in hidden dream sequences later in the game, but any real background is virtually non-existent.
You first meet shadow in a bar, having a drink beside his loyal dog, Interceptor (so named because before he'd let anything bad happen to his master, he'd take the attack first). He warns the party, as they approach him, that the dog eats people. Time passes before you meet him again, but when he appears, he's as an assassin for hire. He'll stay with you as long as he feels led and until he gets his share. That is, until he finds a reason for fighting. Also worth noting is that, aside from Aeris from Final Fantasy VII, shadow's is the first real death in a Final Fantasy game. This isn't a spoiler seeing as there is a way to save him, but if things aren't pulled off right at the right moment, you can wave goodbye to an essential character.
Shadow uses Ninja weapons, such as swords and knives, but his real strength comes from his marksmanship. He can throw any unused weapon, be it throwing star or sword, at the enemy for massive damage. That's the plus. The negative is that once you do, you don't get that weapon back. Save the good stuff for the most difficult bosses, or even the end of the game. You just may need Shadow for the fight.
The twin brothers Edgar Roni Figaro…
And Sabin Rene Figaro.
Edgar is the King of Figaro Castle, an Empire supporter on the surface, but a Returner stronghold in reality. Edgar, though a King and kind man, is a womanizer of the first order. Or he would be, if the ladies weren't all hip to his scheme. Not to say he's a creep, they all find it quite charming…just too much. Being a king, though, Edgar is battle hardened and smart to no fault and his people trust him dearly. There's a guy whom you can buy items and such from in his castle. The man tells you, with King Edgar in your party, that he can't take money from the King. Edgar, good fellow that he is, insists because, in his own words (though using my paraphrase), "don't you have a family to feed. You'll take this money, no questions." Not too many people in authority are portrayed in such a positive light these days and it's refreshing to see a good King. Even if he really needs a good woman to teach him some manners.
Edgar's specialty is the use of Gadgets and Tools. Able to use a sword like any king should, his real talent lies in the proficient use of odd and extreme tools. Poison mist-emitting hoses, chainsaws, drills, and an interesting tool where Edgar can give any enemy a new weakness, making it easy for your magic users to make quick work of even the most troublesome enemy.
Edgar's twin, and estranged, brother, Sabin, is a reclusive monk who studies martial arts in the mountains with his trainer, ever hoping to become the strongest fighter he can.
When their father, the old King, was sick and on his deathbed, they couldn't decide who would be his successor due to the fact that both were the same age and no one person had any more right than the other to succeed. Edgar, who is quite the handyman, produces a coin. They call it in the air and the one gets a Kingdom, the other chooses exile. It was a bitter departure, though not because of bad blood. It was just too hard for Sabin to accept. So he retreated to the mountains and made himself rock solid through martial arts. His special skill is called Blitz. You can learn new moves which are executed by inputting different button combinations, much like what you'd do to perform fatalities in a Mortal Kombat game, and as a result, Sabin will beat the residue of life out of any enemy you choose.
When you meet Sabin, he's hot on the trail of a student of the same teacher as himself. The student has gone awry, naming Sabin a teachers' pet. Sabin uses his strength and wisdom to thwart the plans of the rogue student who claims that to use strength instead of the mind to gain a place in life is the best way. Sabin. in doing so, attracts the attention of your party, who by this time should include Edgar. They reunite and, trust me, having both brothers in your party makes for one powerful team. Probably the left and right fists of the Final Fantasy universe.
I have a special place in my heart for Celes. Aside from wanting to name my daughter that, I think it's a beautiful take on a classically beautiful name, Celeste.
Enough about that. Celes is a former General in the Empire. She was accused of treason and incarcerated in the basement of a house in South Figaro. Locke, when the player takes him on his own personal side quest, runs into Celes in this prison and frees her. Why? Gut feeling. Plus, in the original release of the game it shows a soldier from the empire actually slapping and hitting Celes when she's tied to the wall of the basement. Locke sees all this going on from the rafters and doesn't like it one bit. He disposes of the jerk and frees the maiden, counting it all in a days' work. Celes is timid towards him at first, but being the former general that she is, proves to be more than willing to help out in fending off some nasties. The real dilemma within her story is that she reminds Locke of a former love, (a girl whom Locke once loved but is now permanently comatose. He has to decide between the memory of his love and the current infatuation with his new partner, Celes Chere). It's more complicated than I can say in so many words, but trust me, the events that follow, including an opera scene that Celes takes part in with Locke in the crowd watching as she professes her love to another actor, are truly magnificent and deeply moving. The opera scene alone has a musical score that was remade by a live orchestra and the run time of the track was over 23 minutes. Quite large for a game or for a tribute to a game.
Celes has one of the most valuable abilities in the game, Runic. She uses special swords to provoke the enemies to use magic. When they do, she absorbs the spell, it turns into health, for her only, but it saves the rest of the party from receiving any damage at all. Of course this doesn't work for all the spells in the game, but you'd be taken aback over how useful this little trick of Ms. Chere comes in even when fighting the final boss. She's truly one of a kind…in any game, let alone the Final Fantasy universe.
Though Strago is my most unused character, he's not without his strengths. Story wise, he's the grandfather of another playable character, Relm Arowny (more on her next) and the resident of the village Thamasa, home to the mage society, though any member of the village is reluctant to admit this. They've severed almost all ties with the outside world. Strago is actually a direct descendent of the ancient Mage Warriors which fought in the War of the Magi, a battle that took place long ago and severed the ties of humans and mystical creatures known as Espers. Often times used for comic relief, the rest of the characters being younger, Strago's age is put to the test, both in the games main story and in battle.
His special ability is called Lore, though his character class is Blue Mage. With the Lore ability he can learn enemy spells only if he survives them. He literally has to be hit with something, live through it, and can then use that spell in turn, though the spells in question aren't what the other members of the party can learn. They're more like special abilities, not unlike what a character named Gau, who will be discussed later, can do himself, though the method of acquiring these abilities is different for each of the two.
Also hailing from Thamasa, Relm isn't the biological granddaughter of Strago, as mentioned above, but rather the "daughter of a friend," in Strago's words. Relm has a sharp with and an even sharper tongue, not taking any sass from anybody but dishing it out plenty. She's an artist in training, though you wouldn't think she lacks any further maturity when you find out what her special ability can do. It's called Sketch and with it she can paint an enemy onto thin air an utilize its attacks against the actual foe. With a special relic, she upgrades the command to Control where she can seize the actual enemy, controlling its attacks even against any other enemy on the screen. This comes in handy if you're ever in a bind against some powerful fiends.
Relm is the daughter of a friend of Strago alright, but in order to see just who this friend is, you have to prompt a series of dream sequences. There is a trick to finding out this information without having to do anything surreptitious. There is a relic called the Memento Ring which is a relic from a long lost loved one who shares a genetic link with two playable characters. Only those two can wear it. Relm is one. Play the game to find out the other person. *Hint: he's very mysterious*
The possessor of one of the world's two airship, Setzer is a free spirit and black-jack playing dandy who, when you first meet him, is attempting to kidnap his favorite Operatic actress, Maria, from the Opera House where your characters are cooking up a scheme of their own. Your party, at the time, finds out about this airship and needs to commandeer it to get to a hard-to-reach area of the game. Realizing that their chance to get on the airship without too much trouble, they decide to swap Celes for the actress Maria, who are so strikingly similar in appearance that no one in the Opera House notices the difference.
Things go almost according to plan, enough so that you are able to sneak onto the Blackjack, Setzer's airship, and encourage him not only to let you use his airship, but allowing you his presence in battle. He calls this a fair game, with the outcome being 50/50, his kind of odds.
His ability is called Slot, where he can, by chance, line up some random images on a slot machine which in turn casts magic ranging from weak to instant death for the enemy, and in the case of Joker Doom, the most unlucky of attempts, death for everyone on the screen including your party. Later in the game he can upgrade to Coin Toss where he can take the party's money and throw it at the enemy, the damage being equal to the amount of money lost.
Mog the Moogle.
This was the first time I'd ever seen a moogle, in FFVI. There's a cave in the village of Narshe, the village where you venture to at the very beginning of the game (yet the encounter with Mog isn't until the end), that is full of Moogles. They're little fairy-like creatures with their name coming from the two Japanese words mogura (mole) and komori (bat). So, they're mole bats. Interestingly enough, Mog is the only moogle in the entire game that can speak the language of humans. After the party fends off a monster trying to harm Mog, Mog, in turn, offers his help to your party.
His story is nigh on non-existent but that's not to say that he doesn't have a great personality. He's a cute creature who loves to chat, and can summon various elemental attacks by dancing. These attacks go on for the remainder of any battle you use them so when it's Mog's turn, he'll continue to dance and, as an example, flood the enemies with a wave of water. To learn these dances, by contrast, you have to be in a particular area or landscape and fight a couple of battles. If you're in the desert, Mog can learn sandstorms and wind-based attacks. If you're in the snow, you learn snowstorms and the like. I've used Mog in my main party plenty of times and not been disappointed. He is able to wield powerful lances as weapons, by the way. A mole bat who can use lances and dances? How could you resist that kind of charm?
The feral child, totally undomesticated, from the Veldt. It is rumored that he was born the son of an insane man who thought the child was a monster. This was a result of Gau's mom dying in childbirth. The father discarded the child to the wild and the result is the character you meet on the Veldt. He speaks in very broken English and doesn't seem to get common concepts, often leading to the other characters of the game engaging in frustrated conversation with the strange boy. Though there is no harm done from one side to the other, Gau is welcomed by the party due almost entirely per Gau's resolve. If your party feeds him when you encounter him on the Veldt, he loves you instantly and fights alongside you even if it's obvious he doesn't know what he's fighting for exactly.
He has a skill called Rage. In order to utilize this, you have to be on the Veldt, encounter an enemy, have Gau leap on the enemy causing him to leave your party for several battles, and when he returns he will have learned the enemies skills. When you activate them, much like Mog, they last for the entire battle. This hurts sometimes in boss battles when you want complete control over a character. On the other hand, I do believe that one of the most, if not THE most, powerful attack in the game can be learned by Gau. Talk about Diamond in the Rough.
Speaking of diamonds…like them, there are characters that are hidden behind hard surfaces. Optional side quests (or in one case, getting eaten by a monster) that allow you to obtain two hidden characters.
The first one we're going to discuss is Gogo.
Gogo is a….a…..I don't know. It's not given a gender specification and has no real ability other than it can mime anything the character before it did. Summon a powerful Esper, Gogo will do the same at no charge to your MP but wielding a world of hurt to the monster you'd be fighting. S/He can be equipped, sort of, but not like you'd expect. You can assign him/her with commands like "Magic" or "Blitz" making Gogo a mishmash character with the strong points of your most elite characters if you wish. I've almost always used…uh….it…in my party.
Umaro is a Yeti and another hidden resident living in the Narshe Mines (what a popular place!). You have to fight him to acquire him and good luck. He can be tough to the untrained character. He's an uncontrollable character. You can't input any of his moves, rather he's super strong and just punches at will. Equipping him with a certain relic, the Blizzard Orb, enables him to use a kind of Ice magic. Believe it or not, in the final dungeon, this comes in handy. There's nothing really to say about Umaro except he seems to have a strong relationship with Mog. It is Mog who convinces the yeti to join your party in the first place. Depending on how you feel about wild creatures that you don't have to worry about, Umaro is an essential
The pivots of any story or game is what you're up against and how they effect the world around you. Final Fantasy VI's villains are amongst the most heartless, sinister, and misanthropic characters in gaming history. There are basically two that further the story (one of them to the utmost) and several mini-bosses that appear over and over again (Ultros, an evil mutant octopus is an example. For continuity to the story, I won't deal with any mini-boss or other such nuisances). I'll just deal with the two main villains.
Ahh Gestahl. He's a magic enthusiast, connoisseur. He brought to power his own empire via the vast intellect of a man named Dr. Cid. Cid helped Gestahl bring about the advent of Magitek, a combination of Magic and Technology. Machines, houses, and the like, run on magic drained from living Espers captured by the Emperor. Gestahls' love for magic knows no end and with his desire he hopes to dominate the world with awe and fear. Capturing Espers, he imprisons them and keeps them docile while draining their life from them over a long and drawn out period of time. To him, Espers are just a means to expand his already vast empire and conquer anyone who doesn't agree with his schemes. But to anyone who opposes him, Espers should be revered for their sacredness and Gestahl as someone who should not use those under him as living footstools. It is with this in mind that the game unfolds but not by any means how it ends.
The scariest horror movies are the ones that have either a silent antagonist who ruthlessly kills anyone for no reason that we, the audience, knows, or ones that use spiritually disturbing material, like The Exorcist, and uses perversions of reality to get under your skin and stay there for a while. Fun horror movies are ones that you want to watch just to see the killer do some insane thing and get away with it. The real horror movies are ones that you don't want to watch by yourself, even in the daylight. The villains are the ones that, when you're a child, become the monster under your bed.
Kefka Palazzo is the real deal. He's the one who you can not reason with. Something happened to him to make him insane and there's just no coming back from it. There's no reasoning with him, no compassion extended from you to him, no mercy shown from him to you, and no way out of it, he's the main villain of Final Fantasy VI.
When Gestahl and Cid decided to take Magiteck from non-living to living things, Kefka was first in line to have his mind and body tampered with (followed by Celes and a man named Leo) by a still growing system. It worked. He gained the ability to use magic. He lost the abilities to reason and show mercy. Gestahl made him his right arm. Kefka is the one who does the dirty work and would not allow it any other way ever.
He's classified as the Court Mage, possibly emplying that he received that title after the Magitek infusion, seeing as in the game's canon he's referred to as having gained the ability to use magic after the medical procedure. You'd think that a maniacal court Jester/Mage/Evil guy would use this newfound magic to his advantage, perhaps gaining some courage to do away with those he deems contradictory in his sight, but in the beginning of the game he's not this way at all. He's a first rate coward, running away from any battle, save for the last battle, though in that particular one he, not you, has the upper hand. On top of all this, Kefka, more so than any other FF villain, does one of the most despicable, cowardly acts in video game history. More on this later.
Having gone through all the characters that process the story, I hope you feel like you know them somewhat better so as to help you grasp the intense story that I'll review, though at a much quicker pace than the characters. Two reasons for this are: (1) The characters really drive the story more than the other way around (an example of the latter would be Final Fantasy VII where the whole planet and its personal crisis was almost a character of its own); and (2) the story in the game actually does move along quite swiftly. The prolonging of the story comes from character side-quests, finding hidden items, and leveling up your characters to deal with some of the more troublesome enemies in the game amongst other things.
There are several things that make a story good. I'll bet that anyone who recalls reading their first great novel remembers certain smells that were in the room, the way the weather felt outside that day, the look of the world around. If that seems to hard to grasp, I'll go this route: when seeing something that reminds you of a particular point in your past, say, reading a novel, do you often include the actual reading in the memory automatically? A certain time of Autumn often reminds me of the first time I jumped in a pile of raked leaves, other times of spring remind me of the first time I played certain games, and still the smell of rain outside reminds me of sitting next to my windowsill with the wind blowing the rain away from my window while I read the novel by Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere.
Make the prior knowledge the forefront of your reading this review as there are probably things that I'll recall about the game on a more profound level than someone who hasn't (and hopefully the pictures and videos I've posted and will post will help encourage you to play this wonderfully magical game). Please don't be detoured from reading this based on that. My job here is to relay, if not the whole experience, then at least a fraction of it though more profoundly real than just looking at a magazine article of the game reviewed by someone pressed for time and who might not have cared about the game more than a child of 14 or 15, playing this game on his birthday all night long in the month of November in the year 1994, and needed this game to get away from some trouble at home. I hope that you'll not only understand this game better but my love for it, as well as almost all of my personal friends, who share an equal love for Final Fantasy VI.
The Opening Story presented at the very beginning of the game:
The updated Playstation 1 CG version:
Starting off, Terra and two Magitek Knights named Biggs and Wedge (named after two characters from Star Wars) are on their way to Narshe. The Empire have received word that in the mines of Narshe, an Esper has been uncovered yet frozen in ice. Kefka from the Empire has enslaved Terra with a Hypno-Crown, making her docile and malleable to do the will of anyone who can give an order to her. Kefka has a belief that, to save the empire time and energy, they should send two knights and a girl who, when threatened, set fire to a large number of Magitek Elites using natural magic. On top of this, being a girl who uses magic, Terra is thought to have some connection with the only other creatures in existence that can use magic naturally, Espers.
Upon fighting your way through the town, you reach the frozen Esper. Biggs and Wedge stand in shock and awe but only briefly. The Esper, through some unseen force, knocks them both away, leaving our girl Terra the only one standing. It emits some kind electricity from its frozen body to Terra, surrounding them both.
Next thing we see, Terra is lying in a bed with an old man looking over her. When she comes to, she's an amnesiac. Not remembering who or where she is, the old man shows her the Hypno Crown placed upon her by the Empire. He also informs her that she is still in Narshe and that she should make a clean getaway, seeing as the other residents of the town aren't too thrilled about her, with the help of two Imperial Magitek Knights, fighting off some of their own people. Worthy of noting here is that Narshe is rabidly opposed to the Empire and all of its functions. They long for a real ruler who's not so power-hungry. Needless to say, anyone who is from or associated with the Empire is not welcome in Narshe and Terra hasn't the best reputation at the moment.
The old man, named Arvis, helps her out of doors and back into the mines, albeit a different part of the mines entirely than where the Esper is stored. She's almost cornered in the mines and falls through a hole in the ground where she winds up getting rescued by another of the story's main characters, Locke. Locke steals her away to Figaro Castle, where the sands are hot and vast and the king is Edgar Roni Figaro. Edgar, it turns out, is loyal to the Empire on the surface, but supports the Returners in truth.
Kefka, fearing that his precious little toy, Terra, is lost to the Narshians, he goes to Figaro as well, seeking knowledge of her whereabouts. Edgar, feeling caught between a rock and a hard place, hides Terra in his castle and denies Kefka any knowledge of her at all. Kefka accepts this, on the surface, but returns later to set fire to the entire castle of Figaro while everyone is still inside.
Edgar, fearing for the safety of the Returners' new trump card, Terra, gathers her and Locke and bids them escape via Chocobo. He joins them after diverting Kefka and they make off through the desert. One final trick of Edgar to those he left behind is that the entire castle is able to burrow itself under the sand to a hidden tunnel and travel to another location, leaving Kefka and his troupes behind in fury and anger.
An interesting point here is that Edgar and Locke only consider Terra a value to the Returners because she was once enslaved by the Empire. Not a one of the two knows that she is a natural magic user. When the party battles away on some enemies after being out on the sands for some time, the guys realize just how valuable she is and why the Empire was so eager to get their hands on her.
Events unfold as they do. As the game goes on, the party gets split up and on the way, encounter all of the other playable characters. Worthy to note here is Cyan. Retainer to the fallen Doma Castle when Kefka poisoned their water supply, killing Cyan's wife and son. He's a soft spoken, gentle fellow by nature, so when you see him killing Imperials mercilessly and without, what he'd consider to be, honor, you understand just how cowardly and evil Kefka is and almost all that is at stake.
That is, until you find out about the War of the Magi and all that implies.
Turns out that the Empire was closer than anyone thought at breaking way to the Esper domain, which had been sealed off from existence to the best of anyone's knowledge. But before they did, an event took place that actually gave them an opening large enough to try and shove the proverbial boot through the door and claim the spoils thereof.
A human woman named Madeline stumbled upon the Esper world and in doing so was hurt. The Espers, torn by the ages of animosity from them to the humans who so long ago attempted to harvest their powers at the expense of the Espers' lives, made a tough decision and took care of the woman. More precisely, one particular esper named Maduin, took care of her against the wishes of some of the more violence-prone members of their society. Once she was better, Madeline and Maduin would often talk and walk together, eventually forming a strong friendship. The deal was, though, that once Madeline was better, she'd try and find her way back to the world of humans and remain there forever, saying nothing about her trip to the Esper world. This didn't go over as planned. Madeline and Maduin ended up falling in love and she bore him a child. That child's name was Terra.
Whatever door the woman Madeline opened was found and exploited by members of the Empire, attempting to locate a way to the Esper world by Gestahl and his crew. They found it and forced their way in, capturing Espers left and right, killing some, and literally ruining everything they touched, including the reputation of Madeline. She was persecuted, for whatever short amount of time any Esper could find before they were captured, and forced out of their world. Doing so killed her in the process, but she was able to take her daughter and place her on safe grounds, outside of the land she lived for so long. Now on human territory, Terra was found by Gestahl. With her dying breath, Madeline asked Gestahl if he would take care of Terra. He knew instantly what she was, for he was accustomed to the effects of magic, having himself studied it for so long, even going so far as basing a new technology on it (Magitek). He knew that this was the product of a human and Esper, it being obvious that the woman was a human who had spent some time in the Esper world. For no one ventures into that world so freely as that. Terra would be his pet. And he kept her under lock and key for years and years, controlling her, shaping her into a weapon of mass destruction, though behind the scenes. Anyone who had great knowledge of this girl outside of a select few, would be a threat. Gestahl was smart and kept the girl hidden.
At a later point in the game, having saved Terra from the Empire, something happens that enables Terra to tap into her innate Esper powers, transforming her into a bright, faded-rose-colored being with wild hair and glowing yellow eyes who leaves the party behind, flying off into the distance screaming.
She winds up in a town full of liars and pickpockets called Zozo, watched over by a seemingly harmless old man. It turns out that this man is the Esper Ramuh, lord of lightning. It's then that the party discovers the truth about Terra, as I mentioned earlier, and they just don't know what to make of it. Ramuh informs the party that the Empire has it all wrong: capturing Espers and draining them of their power is only providing them with a weak and diluted form of magic. The true form of Esper power is that of Magicite, a crystalline form of a dead Esper. Ramuh sacrifices himself for the good of the party, giving anyone of your choosing the power to summon Ramuh and his lighting abilities. This comes in handy later, when you meet other Espers in the Magitek Research Facility and they see that Ramuh has entrusted himself and his life to you. They do the same and it's only a matter of time and effort before you find all the Espers in the game, making you a nearly unstoppable force…..besides Kefka.
Terra comes to and reverts back to her former self, vowing to use her powers for good. The party then decides to break into the Emperical City of Vector and free the remaining Espers from the clutches of Gestahl and Kefka. Around this time, the party learns that in the beginning of the world, there were three magical sub-deities. They are called The Warring Triad. The power that the three being possessed turned the humans of old into Espers. Growing even more in power, the beings began to attack villages and creatures needlessly. In a final lapse of reason, they became aware of their own growing evil and decided to turn themselves to stone, retaining their power, but not their will or life. They arranged themselves in such a way that it created a balance of worlds, one for the Espers, one for the humans unaffected by their power. It was said that if a person removed the statues of the Warring Triad in any degree out of position, though they'd gain immeasurable power, the worlds-both of them-would become unglued and destruction would consume every land.
Kefka learns of this truth (Gestahl, it would seem, knew about it for some time) and being the coward that he is, as most cowards share in this desire, reaches for the stars without ever having even climbed a ladder. He soaks up the power of the Triad and not only undoes the continents, making new more frail ones scattered about the oceans, but causes the world to appear in twilight even at noon. This he considers a great triumph and with his newfound powers he makes a monument to destruction where he makes his own throne. The game gives it the name Kefka's Tower…
…and it's where you'll meet your final confrontation(s. Seeing as there are more than enough enemies to keep you, not only occupied, but DEAD!!!). From it, Kefka rules the world via the Light of Judgment which is a devastatingly powerful ray of light and heat which can turn to cinder anything it touches.
People in towns and cities start fearing Kefka, others start worshiping him and even some of those do so out of fear. The believe that if they don't show adoration to their newly self-appointed ruler, they and theirs stand a chance of being burned alive by Kefka and his Light of Judgment.
In actuality, Kefka just likes to torch things. He considers it fun and worthwhile to destroy cities and people, maybe when he gets bored, maybe when he gets mad. He considers this new world that he has created (or uncreated into existence) to be a monument to destruction with his tower at the center of all that is.
The following pictures are of the two states of the world. The first being the world as it is in Balance:
Obviously, some real damage was done at the crooked hands of the insane Kefka Palazzo.
But, have you guessed the most interesting fact about our villain yet?
Most antagonists attempt at conquering or destroying the world. Others just want revenge on a some or many. The heroes gain strength and numbers and challenge the boss right before the big monologue which would thusly lead directly into the actual execution of the plan to destroy the world/football stadium/galaxy/whatever. The battle ensues and just in the nick of time, it seems.
Not so with Kefka. He actually DOES succeed in destroying the world. It is the second attempt by the main villain to destroy everything that the heroes foil, not the first. In almost all of gaming history there have been little to no evil final bosses that have succeeded in their plans to destroy what they intended all along. Granted, Kefka did not entirely destroy the world. Pockets of people still survive but constantly in fear. Families are split up across continents now and others just died in the chaos that resulted from moving the statues.
So much for non-playable characters having their own hard times. What about our heroes?
In the very beginning of the game, you start out as Terra. When the world becomes ruined, you start out as Celes, making it twice you start out in the same game with only one character, both of them female.
Celes is on a lone island with a ruddy shack, a mountain nearby, a beach but not much else. She was in a coma for some time and it was the only other person on the island that took care of her then. That person is the Magiteck Research Facilities' own Dr. Cid. Earlier in the game he sees the error of his ways so ending up on a lone island with him now isn't a scary thing. In other words, he's no longer an enemy. Celes and he take care of each other and gather fish when needed, water when they can, and make due with whatever else happens to wash ashore.
During the time of Celes being comatose, Cid had gathered and arranged logs and fashioned them into a raft. He bids Celes to go and find all of the other heroes, if she can, saying that even now it's useless to give up. They must be alive and she has to find them and save them.
And so she does. A good deal of the second half of the game is spent finding all of your friends again and even doing prerequisite tasks in order to even get them to join you. For example, Strago has lost Relm and has gone temporarily mad and joined the Cult of Kefka. Saving Relm early on and bringing her to him causes him to snap out of it and join you again. It is really worth finding everyone, though, believe it or not, you don't have to. You can beat the game with a partial crew, as far as I remember. Even so, finding everyone will help seeing as your venturing around Kefka's tower will require three parties, controlling each at different times, yet accessing them at the press of a button. That's right, you split your crew up into three so you can open doors, let down bridges, and find all there is to find in Kefka's Tower, often times for the benefit of a party that you aren't controlling at the time.
At the final bound, our heroes make it to the top of Kefka's Tower, reaching him as he's just about to release his burning Light of Judgment on unsuspecting towns nearby and try to talk some sense into him. This fails miserably. As each of our heroes and heroines spill out their own deepest, most personal reasons for Kefka to hold onto life and cherish it to the fullest, he retorts with the classic line "You all sound like chapters from a self-help booklet," mocking their heartfelt attempts to shove some reason into his, otherwise, reasonless mind. No amount of persuasion was going to keep this final boss from claiming that title. The final battle ensues and it's a tough one. Fighting your way up a tower of mutated Kefka clones, hanging off of each other like branches from a tree made of flesh, you arrive in the clouds where a Seraphim-like version of Kefka awaits. He's revealed his true self and his true self image. He has six wings, two of which seem to be like the mythical angels you read and hear about, yet two others look like bat wings grown to a greater span than even a human could have. I'll let you see for yourself what kind of an impact this form of Kefka has had on the world of game-based figurines by posting a picture of Kefka in his fallen-deified form:
As evil as he looks, he's just as difficult to defeat. I suggest trying your hardest and hoping for the best if you aren't high enough level.
And that's it. That's the story. I won't spoil the ending, even though I'm sure the people reading this have already experienced the ending of this game, but yet not saying anything about it might prompt some to play the game all over again just to see their work finished, their characters continuing in the world, the aftermath of a second destruction of the entire planet. I may do so myself here in a short while.
So where do we go from here? I'll now discuss the various aspects of the game that make it the great piece of art that it is and reward it with a numerical based system per attribute. The grade can go from 1 to 10.
There were only two Final Fantasy games released for the Super Nintendo. FFIV was released on November 23, 1991 in North America. FFVI was released on October 11, 1994. On a 16 bit system, there's not much improving on what had been done by that point to graphics and color. The very first game released with the system, Super Mario World, had (I still believe) some of the best graphics of the system's entire run. Yet, when Final Fantasy VI came out, my friends and I noticed a great difference and noted the improvements as we discovered them.
One thing that caught our eye was that the characters that walked around the world were bigger. They had made the sprites a noticeable size larger compared to FFIV. Well, that's partially true. To understand fully, you have to know that every final fantasy game has essentially two screens, Main Game or World Screen and Battle Screen. In FFIV, the characters were small on the world screen and larger in battle. It made the flow of the game seem off but this was corrected nicely in FFVI which made the characters the same size always.
Here's an example of IV's tiny sprites:
Here is Locke how he appears all the time in FFVI:
Also worth noting is the amount of color used just to create a mood, showcase the various locales, even broaden the horizons, literally.
When flying around in an airship in Final Fantasy IV, the camera pulled back and tilted just a little from the normal overhead view and off you went.
Final Fantasy VI, even though the SNES could barely handle it, chose to put the camera behind the airship and give you a first person perspective on where you were headed. This absolutely blew our minds when we first saw it. We knew the SNES had some kick but we didn't know that it wore steel-toed boots as well.
The colors used in FFIV were very solid and bright, which is fine, but when we saw the newer, darker yet vivid colors and tone of VI, we realized that the sky was the limit with these games and who knows what they'll do next (we found out and boy, did we get the best kick in the nards a person could get!).
Given the limitations on the SNES back in the day, and taking into account that the improvements made from one game to the next (or the one after the next, if you want to get technical) were not merely cosmetic but actual improvements on gameplay (airship maneuvering) as well as just looking as good as a game could back then, I'll have to go on record and say that the graphics in Final Fantasy VI get a 9 out of 10.
I'll just let these speak for themselves. Here are some people playing songs from Final Fantasy VI on the piano and guitar. Please listen to all of them.
And a song called "Kids run through the City Corner:"
This is not what the game music sounds like. Nubuo Uematsu, the game's composer, did all the music with computer programs though nothing in the game sounds like blips and beeps. The soundtrack won awards and is one of the most hotly sought after soundtracks in the world with copies of it going for $53.99 on amazon.com and no telling what it's priced at on Ebay.
The sounds of swords clashing, spells going off, fire burning, wind blowing, and machines moving about have sounded better on better systems. But for the time this was top of the line. Utilizing full capacity for the SNES' sound system output and sporting one of the finest soundtracks of the entire Final Fantasy series-even against soundtracks done by orchestra on the latter games-I, with no hesitation, give the sound a 10 out of 10.
Next up, we have gameplay and it's going to cover a good deal.
Gameplay is what really makes any game fun. Forget the graphics at the door and leave the music on the shelves. If a game doesn't play well all around the edges then it just isn't fun. So is Final Fantasy VI fun? Most things this fun require a license or several million dollars…or is illegal (except in the Netherlands).
There's really so much going on in this game that it's hard to keep up with it all, much less type it out. But I'll try. Really though, I'm glad this isn't a review about Final Fantasy VII because that game has twice the amount of things to do than this game (Gold Saucer anyone?).
To the untrained eye, this game will seem like nothing but blue sub-menus, green and red pieces of Magicite, button mashing, and lots and lots of fighting. You'd be right in assuming that this game does, in fact, have these things, but their only things you do to accomplish your most important tasks, your most interesting bouts of dialogue, organizing everything in your inventory including weapons and Espers. The sum is far greater than its parts.
Let's go over the things you actually do in this game. First you'll explore the world. At your own pace or in a rush, if you wish. Whether in inside a town, where you can enter doors into buildings which hide various objects of use and people to converse with (who also might or might not help you out in the game) and hidden paths behind and through secret waterways and basements-OR-walking around on the actual field map which is the foundation of the actual towns, caves, castles, tunnels, opera houses, coliseums, cottages, tombs, towers, and floating islands, you're going to be exploring a lot!
After visiting places to accomplish the tasks at hand, you'll have the chance to fight your way to fitness. In between visiting locations, you'll be on the world map which is a host to all sorts of monsters and misfits, the number of which you'll actually encounter depends totally on how long you play the game. There is, quite literally, no end to fighting until you beat the game. And this is pleasure and pain of the game. It's the vigorous workout and the good nights' sleep afterwards with the pleasant slight aching in your limbs. The more you fight, though, the more you grow and the stronger you get. Leveling up in the game is what enables you to handle the baddies, whom at first might prove too difficult, yet when you're strong enough are almost a waste of time and energy.
Fighting consists of encountering an enemy at random. The menu screen then pops up.
Seen on this menu screen are two blue boxes at the bottom. The one on the left is the space to show the names and amounts of enemies you are fighting. So, you see the name Bloompire followed by a the number 2. (though you don't see the second one, this isn't a typo. Bloopires hide behind one another). We have two Bloompires. Next, on the right side, is where you find your own party's names and Hit Points (or Life or Energy. Whatever you're used to calling it). The Party order, from top to bottom, corresponds with the actual characters you see on the right side of the screen, with Sabin, third from the top, performing an action. The yellow bar you see on the right side is the "wait" gague. When it fills up, like a timer, you're turn is up.
Not shown are the commands on the command sub-menu. A generic version of one is as follows:
Attack-attack with weapon.
Ability-use characters' unique ability.
Magic-use elemental and non-elemental magics to attack enemies.
Items-use negative-status-removal items as well as healing items such as potions and phoenix downs (used to revive the dead or wounded).
The Ram-looking thing you see in the middle with an aura of light around it is an Esper. These are the things which grant your characters "magic" abilities. And so this leads me to me next part of gameplay.
Espers. They, as you've read, were once powerful creatures who've sacrificed themselves to give you their true essence embodied in a hand-sized red and green crystal.
Now, once you've acquired some Magicite, found scattered throughout the world, you give some to your characters and then they're able to summon an Esper for some help in battle. If you have the Magicite form of the Esper Kirin (seen in the battle screen above), and you summon it to battle, Kirin will appear for a brief moment and do its specialty which in this case actually helps your party. Other Espers have offensive attacks.
One Esper, though, has appeared in every single Final Fantasy game (XII not excluded people. Play the whole game to see what I mean). Its name is Bahamut and he is the King of the Dragons.
I tip my hat to him because he has helped me out in plenty of dangerous situations. Plus, I mean, King of the Dragons? Who else can claim that?!?
In the gaming world, we've made progress. The Wii has motion sensor controls, the PS3 utilizes Blue Ray technology, and the 360 has Halo 3. I won't deny that we've come along way from the old one and two button controllers and the Power Glove. But seeing as most of the advancements in our gaming technology have been new ways to actually play the game, do the actual game mechanics and playability hold up? That is to say, despite all the graphics, handling, new hardware and so on, are the games still fun? Fortunately for all of us who play games, yes. Things are going swimmingly in the gaming community and I wouldn't have it any other way. But there is a catch. I'll go over this in my very last paragraph. But for now, let me just say that regardless of where we are, I cannot deny where we've been and the ground that has been broken in the past. Final Fantasy VI's gameplay was the stuff of legend. My friends and I could only think so far ahead to the future before this game came out. We would say things like "I hope in the next Final Fantasy game they do…" fill in the blank. Lo and behold, when Final Fantasy VI came out, it far exceeded our expectations. To say that we were well pleased is an understatement. New tweaks lay around every corner and we ate it all up, gorged on good material, and still hungry for seconds.
I gladly give the gameplay a 10 out of 10.
Overall: Part 1:
Here's how it looks.
Here's how it really is.
Now we're down to it. If I had to sum up my experience playing Final Fantasy VI in just a few sentences, well, now's my chance. For those of you not keen on reading so much, you may skip to this part and I'll tell you how I feel in one large sum.
Remember how when you were a kid and arranging blocks of wood just so or stacking them would make a house or skyscraper in your eyes? No one could tell you different, could they? Or when a stuffed animal got knocked down off of your bed, you thought maybe it really got hurt and then you rushed to pick it up? How about when the snow first fell in your town and, though you thought your imagination might have failed you when you willed it otherwise, now it came rushing back into your life as you sat or stood looking at something so familiar yet as unlike anything you've ever seen before. The possibilities of thought and imagination are their strongest when forced away or when the unexpected change comes over you. Move to a new town and before you've had a chance to meet anyone, you're mind is already brimming with the potential friends you might make. When you're shut up in your room as a child for doing something wrong, even though you might not have anything to occupy you, your mind is racing around the world and back again with new tales to tell the rest of your friends.
Final Fantasy VI is like this to me. The small cute characters only seemed that way on the surface. They were the little figurines you played with as a kid, and though so many may be lacking in size or stature as you'd like, you still make-believe that this one thing is the master of all that surrounds it. It's like building a model universe out of scraps and bits, peopling it with anything you can find in your room and writing the story of your dreams.
There was so much room for possibility back then when the technology wasn't what it is today. The problem with the advancement of this technology is that some people want to make games that are too much like real life (one of the reasons I love the Metal Gear Solid games is precisely because they make everything so close to real life and then pull the rug out from under you with fantasy and fictitious characters with powers and abilities the likes of which you'll never see in reality). Eventually, but hopefully not, we may see the birth of games that are just like real life but in digital form. The ultimate thrill, in the eyes of the future generations, may be like those found in the film Strange Days where people get high off of living inside someone else's memories and mind. There may be no room for imagination when all imaginations have been brought to life. That old saying "be careful what you wish for" may bear more warning than ever in the years to come. With the fulfillment of all desires in the digital realm, there will be no room for creativity.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope that people will learn from the past, and not only that: I hope that they'll take an active part in it. To experience the dreams of the people of yesterday, not vicariously or through their eyes, but in their shoes, if you follow me.
If not, then when you people are out playing your Playstation 9s or X-Box Omegas or Nintendo Dolphins, congratulating video game makers for making trees look just like trees or for perfectly simulating the warm wind blowing in your face, despite the fact that you can get that sensation for free just by stepping outside in the spring time….if/when this happens, I'll be in my basement. I'll have my vintage Super Nintendo Entertainment System with a 300 dollar copy of the original Final Fantasy VI operating on it. You'll find me saying that the kids today never had to do any real work or imagining. They never had to make-believe. No one understands what it's like to dig through the dirt and earth to find that one rare gem, that one rare piece of Magicite that, when used, takes you away to the furthest regions of your heart and soul to show you exactly what kind of person you are. They'll all be out with a simple smile plastered on their face for having played a game that enables you to have perfectly simulated conversations with non-playable characters in a video game…and I'll be in the dungeon with my memories and hopes and dreams, and I'll be smiling presently…and then laughing until I can't laugh anymore.