FINAL FANTASY VI
Publisher: Square Soft
Genre: Traditional RPG
Release Date: 10/94
In the rolling tidal wave of hype surrounding Final Fantasy Collection, Square has reached a new set of extremes. American fans have united in sadness over FF4's exclusion, rejoiced in euphoria over the first official translation of FF5, and somewhere in the middle of all the chaos, remembered that FF6 also returned in all its glory.
The battle scenes are standard side screen, menu-based RPG fare, with most characters having fight, magic and item commands available. Each character also has a unique ability that corresponds to their characterization in the game: Locke can steal items, Setzer runs a slot machine to determine his effects, Gau performs the Veldt monsters' abilities through his Rages, Terra can morph into her Esper form, and Sabin performs the Blitz maneuvers his master taught him... The magic system of FF6 also differs from most previous RPGs in that it is gained through creatures that were once alive, who also play a great role in the plot of the game. Magic use is initially restricted to Terra, because of her heritage, and Celes, who was infused with it as a child. Espers are beings that live in a different realm, wielding great powers that humans don't possess, and when they die, they crystallize and become Magicite. The party can then equip Magicite to learn different spells, as well as summon the essence of the Esper much the way the Call spells of FF4 summoned monsters.
Terra, a single ray of hope
The enigmatic cast of characters spring to life in Amano's brilliant artwork, outfitted in clothes as colorful and varied as the personalities fluttering over the pages. The further the Final Fantasy series extends, the more important and involving the characters' stories, and the more gamers find themselves drawn into a world of intrigue, betrayal, learning, and love. From the moment the wind blows atop the cliffs outside the snowy mining town of Narshe, its little lights twinkling in the distance, a story is woven. A mysterious young woman, whose gifts are being abused without her consent, becomes the only "ray of hope" to save the world from an empire eager to use the "dread destructive force known as magic" to rule that world. Although Terra Branford's role is central to the plot of FF6, no character can really be considered the main hero. It is this idea of many people with different pasts, that brings FF6 from the realm of simple game, to the level of a moving and epic adventure.
Edgar is a lady's man
Terra's ongoing quest to remember her past and to find and understand love is something many people can relate to, and the flowing melodic lines of her theme, heard also as the World of Balance's overworld music, match the deep and complex feelings she experiences. The emotions expressed throughout the game were perhaps the most realistically portrayed to date. Cyan must deal with the tragic death of his family in order to become a great swordsman, and brothers Edgar and Sabin must reconcile their past in order to accept and understand each other's different values and lives. Locke deals with the loss of his beloved Rachel, and the feeling that he is somehow responsible for the accident that drives them apart. Setzer, too, deals with the loss of someone close to him, and the feeling that he is partly to blame.
Locke & Celes share a moment
The tentative feelings that develop between Locke and Celes are magnificently played out in the ever-famous opera scene. Celes is the mirror image of famous opera singer, Maria, and agrees to take her place for a night to fool Setzer and win his assistance and his airship. The Aria de Mezzo Caraterre, one of Uematsu's finest musical masterpieces, is both the song Celes sings at the opera, and is later reprised as her theme. Celes's role is memorable, for when the world is nearly destroyed, it is she who overcomes her own despair to reunite the group in their quest to defeat Kefka. Death and love are not the only sensitive issues brought to light over the course of the game: teen pregnancy, quietly slipped in between two of Terra's charges, Duane and Katarin, slides by the censors, and mass genocide, as evidenced in Kefka's poisoning of Doma Castle, becomes sickening once the gamers see Cyan's reaction.
Kefka, the villain we love to hate
Final Fantasy VI is full of zinger quotes that stay with you much longer than you'd like them to. If the seriousness of the characters ever gets to feel too weighty, Kefka's maniacal laughter is always quick to ease the tension, as he extols the virtues of hearing "1,000 voices screaming in unison." Terrifyingly, yet humorously insane, Kefka is more than just the typical RPG bully, snapping out his famous lines by the second. He is positively mad, so easy to hate that gamers love him instead. Kefka's theme music is also quite fitting, comparable to a clown's silly tune pulled from a circus show. As if Kefka wasn't villain enough for one game, he is joined by the charismatic "good guy fighting on the wrong side" General Leo, puppet emperor, Gestahl, and recurring nuisance Ultros the octopus. Final Fantasy VI has finally created some villains worth defeating, and watching Kefka go down is extremely satisfying, even when dealing with the sorrow that we'll never hear his idiotic giggle again. Kefka's quest to become a supreme being is shattered by the heroes, but in destroying Kefka and the statues he controls, magic will be eliminated from the world as they know it. As the game has revealed Terra's mixed origins, the friends deal with the idea that they may lose her as well. In the end, Terra must come to grips with who she is and what she wants from life and decide if the friends, love, and answers she has found are enough to let her human will triumph... The task of understanding and accepting who we are is the challenge of a lifetime for us all, and in this often na´ve yet brave character, perhaps we can all see a piece of ourselves.
Final Fantasy VI brought gaming to a new level, a memorable soundtrack and artfully designed characters accompanying a story more deep and involving than any previous Final Fantasy had seen. In the approaching FF Collection remake, perhaps Final Fantasy VI, serving once as a bridge from SNES to PSX, and as a hope for the future of gaming, will find itself not only the open arms of its old fans, but a new crowd to discover and adore its intricacies.