FINAL FANTASY VI
Story ( 10/10 )
The history is given, and then the scene shifts in to some dialogue between Vicks (Commonly named Biggs) and Wedge as they give commands to a mysterious, and at that point, unnamed green-haired girl. This is only the start of what I myself would call one of the best RPGs of all time. As she struggles to recover her memory, she remembers her name as Terra (Tina in the Japanese version) and is escorted to the witty king of Figaro, Edgar, by the most unlikely type of person… A thie-err… Treasure Hunter! As the game progresses, each character's back story is described, be it through conversation, flashbacks, or other characters relating the story. This is one of the few games in the history of RPGs in which the end of the world DOES occur, and because of that, the dramatic quality shoots through the roof, when you see all of the characters you've grown to love get ripped from each other so violently, and then they have to find their team mates and then finish what they were unable to do before the great cataclysm. The sheer volume of the storyline is more than enough to immerse even the most avid gamers in one of the shining stars of the Golden Age of RPGs… That which lived its life almost entirely on the Super NES.
Characters ( 10/10 )
When you look at the then-unprecedented amount of characters you could use - totaling fourteen in all with the two hidden characters, versus games such as its predecessors of Final Fantasys IV and V, it was a groundbreaking idea. Before Final Fantasy VI, the teams were mostly static, and left little to the customizable imagination, but these days, fourteen hardly seems like much when you have games like Chrono Cross which boasts over forty playable characters, or the popular Suikoden series, in which a whopping one hundred and eight characters are possible to recruit. However, be it then or now, there is no game with so extensive a cast that has thoroughly described over eighty five percent of the characters to such extent as to show how they all have different reasons for being there, but share the common goal of saving the world, be it this or the next. Even in the Suikoden titles, roughly forty to fifty percent of the characters are described, but as far as ratios go, Final Fantasy VI has the most memorably flagrant cast of many titles on the market even to this day. Furthermore, very few games have memorable villains to the volume of Kefka. While not very gifted in the physical strength department, he was deranged to such a point in the mind, that his sick laugh and his even sicker sense of humor made him such an evil person, with seemingly limitless nastiness pent up inside of him. Just the poisoning of Doma castle in itself is an atrocity, but that was only the beginning. Once the world was ruined, at a very whim he could use his "light of Judgment" and destroy an innocent village or city. What's worse, he thought nothing more of the people than puppets for his amusement. Just about the only villain I can think of that comes anywhere near his level of evil would be Prince Luca Blight from Suikoden II… He had a whole brigade massacred for the sole purpose to have a scapegoat so he could wage war against countless innocent nations, and in the end, it took the valiant efforts of many to plan, and three fully armed teams of six each to bring that one man down, even wounded as he was.
Gameplay ( 7½/10 )
The game play was very similar to the preceding Final Fantasy titles, as well as those that came after it, but at the time there were a few new twists. First and foremost was the Esper system, in which one of your characters could wield this material called Magicite - the crystallized remains of a magical being - and actually LEARN the skills that once were used by that very being when it was alive. On top of this was the not-so-well-known revelation of the first Limit Breaks to grace the Final Fantasy name. Riot Blade, Royal Shook, Black Blade… These are just a few of the Limit Breaks that randomly revealed themselves when one of the teammates was mortally wounded. However, most gamers would not have ever known of their existence, as leaving a character in mortal status long enough to see one of these moves unwittingly is not a common practice among today's RPGers. These attacks were not as flashy as the Limits we know from Final Fantasys VII through X, but the damage inflicted was often much higher than normal, and was almost ALWAYS strong enough to finish the fight in one single decisive blow, thus saving the entire team from total defeat - if it came out that is. The only shortcoming to this title was the fact that any character could learn magic, even those who would commonly be referred to as simpleminded, or just plain inept at magic. I personally think that Terra, Celes, Relm, Strago and MAYBE Gogo - being able to mimic after all - should have been allowed to use magic of any form, or if others could learn magic, it should be restricted to specific spells or spell types. For instance, Shadow - being a ninja - could make use of such spells as Stop, Haste, Slow, Quick, etc. Perhaps beyond that, Terra could be restricted to fire-type only spells, with Celes having the ice-type spells at her disposal, to balance it out a bit more.
Graphics ( 9½/10 )
Before you complain about the score, you have to remember the platform this game was originally created for, and the capabilities of that platform. Sure, games like Halo or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or Tekken 4 have MUCH nicer graphics, but that is because technology now is far more advanced than it was eight years ago - in the video game world anyway. Considering the fact that the Super NES was only capable of 16-bit technology, the quality of the graphics on this title is nothing short of breathtaking. The world map, and lengthened sprites alone were an improvement over every RPG up to that point, not to mention the wonderful skill, spell, and summon animations or the wonderfully designed monsters. Overall the game was very esthetically pleasing.
Sound ( 10/10 )
The music chosen for each scene was, in my mind, perfect to the last. The genres ranged from slow and elegant - Jidoor - to very upbeat and exhilarating - Mountain themes, Atma Weapon - to silly - Thamasa - to dismal and despairing - World of Ruin first overworld theme, dying theme - to just pleasing to the ears - World of Balance overworld, World of Ruin second overworld theme. The music was ingeniously engineered by the world famous Nobuo Uematsu, and the quality of his compositions is top notch at the very least. It was because of such masterful music that I was never once bored with this title, and furthermore, why I even maintain a list of this game's songs on my playlist for normal listening - because they are just that good.
Challenge ( 6/10 )
Before you begin to wonder why the other scores are so high and this one is so low, I will explain it rather simply. The ability for each and every character - save Umaro - to use magic makes the game's battle system much easier to overcome, as you don't have to wait for the only person who has Cure 2 or Life 2 or any other spell to have their turn to use the spell if everyone has the spells to begin with. Also, the Genji Glove and Offering combination allows one character to effectively overtank most enemies to death due to sheer volume of attacks. Early on, before the Espers are found, and even right after, up to the Floating Continent, and through to the end of the game, if someone employs a class system of sorts - Only magicians use magic, only fighters get Genji Gloves - and if over leveling is not used, the challenge rating can be raised as high as 8 or even 9.
Overall ( 9/10 )
If it weren't for the horribly abuse able magic system, the overall would have likely been closer to a 9½, simply because Challenge is relatively important to a game with a great storyline. There's no sense of satisfaction if everything is gained too easily if you ask me. Overall, however, this game is a jewel to be cherished forever. I am the proud owner of a pre-ordered copy of the original cart, purchased back in '94 at Toys 'R' Us, and I shall never part with it no matter what the future holds.