…I’ve played every single Final Fantasy game ever thought of. This one is easily the best one ever thought of. That said, due to licensing it was released on the SNES as Final Fantasy III (and Final Fantasy IV was released on the SNES as Final Fantasy II). It worked because the REAL Final Fantasys II and III hadn’t been released in the US at the time. OOPS!
Anyway like I said, this was the last big Final Fantasy game before the series went 3D starting with FFVII. Originally released on the SNES, it has since been re-released on the Playstation 1, Game Boy Advance and more recently on the iOS, Android and Steam playforms. More on the differences and similarities with these different platform releases later.
…Final Fantasy VI. I played it for the first time while I was at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2001. It was love at first sight. I loved it so much, I took the game home with me. Mind you played this game AFTER I played FFVII two years earlier so…yeah. It replaced Phantasy Star III as my all-time favorite 2D RPG. Like many other big titles of the day, FFVI boasted hours of gameplay excluding sidequests. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Final Fantasy without sidequests! The game is split into two acts: The World of Balance where most of the game takes place and the World of Ruin where the heroes gather once more to save their world.
FFVI boasted an incredible 14 playable characters, two of which are hidden and of which has a precondition to permanently get:
- Terra Brandford (Magic Knight): The game’s main protagonist. At the beginning of the game she suffers from amnesia. When she learns the truth of her origins, she gains a more powerful form. By the end of the game, she comes to terms with her own humanity.
- Locke Cole (Thief): The first character who joins the group. He is a “Treasure Hunter” by trade but don’t ever call him a thief. At a certain point in the game, it’s revealed Locke’s actions left a loved one with amnesia. Not long afterward, they died but in their final moments, they regained their memories. In the game’s second act, Locke discovers a way to bring this loved one back for a short time.
- Edgar Roni Figaro (King/Machinist): Yes, you get a KING as a playable character! Before you get too excited, no you won’t have many opportunities to take full advantage of this. Known in part for his debauchery and also for being obsessed with tinkering, Edgar becones King of Figaro after the sudden death of his father. The night his father died, his twin brother Sabin left the castle to forge his own path.
- Sabin Rene Figaro (Blackbelt): Those who want to know where I got the name “Aurabolt” from need only look here! Sabin is a master of Blitz, a style of martial arts he learned while training with his master deep in the mountains. One of his nearly a dozen techniques is called the Aurabolt, which kinda reminds me of Goku’s Kamehameha. That isn’t why I like it, though: I just like the name itself, which the move perfectly matches.
- Cyan Garamonde (Samurai/Bushido): Cyan is a technical specialist. He’s obviously a Samurai but in the English version, he’s stylized with a Old English accident. It Oddly works. An act of genocide that leaves him the sole survivor of his kingdom leads Cyan to join the fight against a common enemy threatening the world. In the second act, Cyan is haunted by memories of the wife and child he could not save.
- Shadow (Ninja/Assassin): Perhaps the most famous Ninja in Final Fantasy. Shadow is an assassin for hire who is very good at what he does. A past shrouded in mystery, he walks a path paved with the bodies of the people he’s killed. Despite his intimidating aura, he becomes fast friends with Sabin and Cyan during their adventure in the eastern lands. Depending on the group’s actions at the end of the first act, Shadow may rejoin the group in the World of Ruin. He considers his dog interceptor his only ally.
- Gau (Wild Child): Gau is functionally a Blue Mage. The problem is an actual Blue Mage joins the party near the end of the first act. Sabin and Cyan encounter Gau on the Veldt running with a pack of monsters. After offering him a piece of Dried Meat, he decides to join them on their travels. Gau has the power to learn the abilities of monsters encountered on the Veldt using the Leap command, which is only available on the Veldt. He will learn the abilities of any monsters you encounter while he’s away. He randomly reappears but will only rejoin if there is room for him in the active party.
- Celes Chere (Magic Knight): Celes and Terra are the only two characters who learn Magic on their own. The rest need Magicite to learn magic, which you will be able to collect when you reach a certain point in the game. Anyway Celes was originally an enemy commander who turns her back on the Empire she once served by the time Locke meets her. Her loyalty to the friends she made is tested at the end of the first act. In the second act, she wakes up in an unfamiliar place and sets off to find her friends. Her Runic ability allows her to absorb Magic attacks as MP.
- Setzer Gabbiani (Gambler): A free spirit and owner of the world’s only Airship, Setzer’s fate changes forever when he meets Celes, Locke and the others. The end of the world tore his airship, The Blackjack apart. In the second act, he raises a new one literally from his dead friend’s grave.
- Mog (Moggle): Final Fantasy VI is the ONLY game in the series in which you can play as a Moggle. At a certain point in the first act, you will have the option of recruiting him. If you do, you will be able to recruit him again in the second act.
- Strago Magus (Blue Mage): He’s got a lot of energy despite his old age. Strago is wise beyond his years and specializes in learning the abilities of monsters you encounter. He is very protective of his granddaughter Relm.
- Relm Arrowny (Painter): She’s only ten but she is a prodigy in more way than one. Her skills with a paintbrush allow her to turn an enemy’s abilities against them. She is the sassy granddaughter of Strago. Without going into spoilers, Shadow’s dog Interceptor is very friendly with her, which is out of character according to his master.
- Umaro (Sasquatch): Basically a white Bigfoot. Umaro is one of the game’s two secret characters. You will need to have recruited Mog in the second act first in order to recruit him. Unlike the other playable characters, Umaro is AI-controlled. His destructive power more than makes up for it, though.
- Gogo (Pantomime/???????): Quite possibly the biggest unsolved mystery in Final Fantasy history is who–or what–Gogo really is. Like Umaro, Gogo is recruited in the second act. You will also need the airship to get to the island where he is and then let a certain enemy eat the entire party. Gogo specializes in Mimicry and will perfectly do the last action a party member did at no extra charge. This easily makes Gogo the most versatile party member in the game.
…At the time the game was first released, Terra was the first-ever playable female protagonist in an RPG, let alone an established series. I don’t think Square Enix gets enough credit for that, more so given they didn’t make a big deal about it ever. That said, we would not see another female protagonist in the series until FFXIII’s Lightning.
The game’s protagonist Kefka can be compared to Marvel’s Deadpool in terms of personality and DC’s The Joker (I mean in general) in terms of methodology. He is the antagonist you love and hate at the same time. He does a masterful job as the comic relief and even has his own laugh sound byte. You don’t really take him too seriously until the final moments of the first act when he sunders the world. In the second act, he has literally become a god.
Kefka is often compared to FFVII’s Sephiroth but there are some key differences. For one, Kefka is an egomaniacal madman who actually succeeded in taking over the world. He literally became the very things he was: Disorder and chaos. Kefka also does not have a problem doing his own dirty work: If he wants something, there is nothing he will not do to get it. It’s not that he doesn’t understand opposing viewpoints. He just doesn’t care. All who disagree with him are nothing to him. I’ll get into Sephiroth when I do my review of FFVII at a later time.
Moving on, FFVI boasts hours of playtime as I said before. There are a tons of sidequests in both halves of the game. Mog is a missable recruit in the World of Balance. You can recruit him as soon as you get free use of the airship. If you want Shadow as a playable character in the world of Balance, you MUST pick “Wait for Shadow!” in the final moments of the World of Balance. He will show up before the countdown hits zero.
Everyone is scattered across the world in the World of Ruin. You will have Celes, Sabin, Edgar and Setzer by the time you get the airship. In order of difficulty and factoring characters needing other characters first to get, this is the recruitment order I reccommend: Terra (she won’t join the first time you see her), Cyan, Gau, Shadow (if you waited for him), Relm, Strago (Relm needed to recruit), Terra (she will join this time), Locke (8 party members are needed to get to where he is), Mog, Umaro (Mog required to recruit him) and Gogo.
As noted, some characters have preconditons attached to them. Getting Terra in the second act is a 2-step process: The first time you see her, she refuses to rejoin her friends. Come back after you recruited a few more people and she will come around. FFVI’s playable cast has alot of character development, which was rare at the time for a cast that large (14 characters).
One of the most iconic scenes in the Final Fantasy series is FFVI’s Opera Scene:
If you thought that was incredible, a hardcore fan did an updated version of the sequence with English vocals (and if the opera wasn’t interrupted):
In a way, the opera scene symbolized the end of Final Fantasy’s 2D era and that of RPGs in general. Remember: FFVII has a scene that probably tops the list of most emotional Final Fantasy moments.
…We’re getting close to the end of this retro review so now I will discuss the many platforms this game was released on. It was originally released on the SNES 22 years ago. It was then released on the Playstation 1 packaged with Final Fantasy V, which hadn’t been released in North America before at the time. The PS1 version has an updated translation and CG cutscenes thrown in to enhance gameplay.
An enhanced port of the SNES version was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2006. FFVI advance had the updated translation from the PS1 version but it also had an additional postgame dungeon, a music mode, bestiary and 3 additional Espers: Gilgamesh, Leviathan and Cactuar King (10,000 Needles of DEATH!). The SNES version was released on the Wii/Wii U virtual console (though I expect it to be released on the New Nintendo 3DS’ Virtual Console once they get cleared to do so). You can also buy the PS1 version from The Playstation Network as a standalone game.
…This brings me to the iOS/Android and Steam versions of the game. In the above picture, you can see one of the many glaring inconsistencies when they decided to upgrade from pixel art. Yes, that is from the STEAM version on the right, which used the mobile version as a base. Obious laziness aside, from what I’ve been seeing NONE of the glitches from the mobile version were fixed in the Steam version. Unfortunately, the same was done to FFV for its mobile and Steam releases. The Nintendo DS version of FFIV was released on Steam for those who are wondering.
…Wow, that always bring a tear to my eye no matter how many times I see it. It’s now time for the reviews. The usual plus the Retro Review. Overall, I give Final Fantasy VI a 10/10 and a Retro Review of Legendary. If you call yourself a fan of RPGs and you haven’t played this game yet, you are NOT a true RPG fan.
Play this game ASAP if you haven’t and even if you have, play it again: It goes without saying they don’t make RPGs like this anymore!