Remembering Final Fantasy VI, an RPG Masterpiece

19 Dec

Otakunoculture welcomes a new member to our staff.
Meet Shawn Trommeshauser. He will be our resident video game guru.

Amano ArtFinal Fantasy VI is one of my all-time favourite games. I was still in high school when it was originally released for the Super Nintendo back in 1994 and I can still remember how wrapped up I was in the story. Back then, the game was known as Final Fantasy III in North America. Most of us didn’t know we were missing half of the games in the series until the internet made that sort of information easy to access. We wouldn’t get official releases of the three missing titles for several more years.

It was one of the defining titles of the 16-bit era and one of the first to show such ambition. Where most RPGs at the time were still focused on traditional Tolkien-style fantasy, Final Fantasy VI gave us a dark and gritty steampunk setting mixed in with the swords and sorcery.

The story follows Terra Branford, slave to the imperial army due to her unique ability to wield magic. Eventually rescued, but having no memory, she’s given the chance to join a small force of freedom fighters as they try to take on a tyrannical Empire. In her journey to rediscover who she is and how she has these abilities, Terra meets new enemies and allies such as a disgraced swordsman, a feral boy raised by animals, and a girl with the power to bring her paintings to life. Her adventures all leads up to a climactic battle with the evil Emperor and his henchman, Kefka. But saying any more would be a disservice to anyone who hasn’t played the game yet.

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At first glance it may seem like the story is falling back on common tropes and mimicking Star Wars. However Final Fantasy VI does offer a lot that hadn’t been seen before. A continent devoted to learning monster abilities, riding in a mobile castle, taking part in an opera. The game takes advantage of its setting and gives us characters with backgrounds that show motivation is a complex thing, and that games don’t have to be completely black and white in how they’re presented.

The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who’s played most any console RPG in the past. The player walks around and interacts with the environment in a top-down view, shifting to a pseudo 3/4 close-up when in battle. A menu based command system allows the player to control their actions from attacking with the weapon in hand, to summoning Phantom Beasts that unleash devastating magical attacks on their foes.

The art direction is rock solid for the era. The world is very industrial and it looks appropriately rough around the edges. There’s an amazing amount of detail in the backgrounds, especially when compared to the previous Final Fantasy titles on the Super Nintendo.

The music is among the best that Nobuo Uematsu has ever produced. The haunting opening theme, the gothic-industrial beats of the Magitek research facility, the organs and insanity of the final battle. Almost every track is memorable and each does an excellent job of setting the mood for the player.

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It is also one of the first console RPGs to become very non-linear after a while, leaving it to the player to find quests to take on and new party members instead of dictating the flow of events from start to finish. A remake of the game can be purchased on iOS, Android, and Steam. This version of Final Fantasy VI offers an updated translation and redrawn sprites, but the quality of the visual and audio upgrades are hotly debated by many fans.

The original 16-bit version of the game was released on the Super Nintendo and later ported to the Gameboy Advance and original PlayStation. The PlayStation version is currently available through the PlayStation Network store for use on the PS3, PSP, and PS Vita. Unless you’re looking for an original cartridge, I personally recommend picking up Final Fantasy VI on the Wii or Wii U Virtual console for the best experience.

Whichever way you decide to try Final Fantasy VI, It is certainly worth playing for any fan of RPGs, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

A great number of RPG fans may have been introduced to the genre by the 3D Final Fantasy VII and it’s overwhelming marketing campaign, Final Fantasy VI is one of the greatest 2D RPGs of all time and it is still the far more memorable experience for me.

5 Stars out of 5

 

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