Why We Love Final Fantasy VI
The Final Fantasy series contains some of the most revered games in history, and the sixth installment regularly comes up in discussions of the greatest RPG of all time. In this new recurring feature, we take a nostalgic look back at the many things – big and small – that made our favorite games great. We're going to kick it all off by looking at Why We Love Final Fantasy VI.
Lifetime Achievement Award: The Opera House
You can’t talk about the iconic moments of Final Fantasy VI without mentioning the scene at the Jidoor opera house. In fact, many of the game’s other great parts rarely get their due credit because everyone’s busy raving about the opera sequence. So, let’s just get that over with right away. Here’s a video of the section where Celes is singing:
Yep, that’s still awesome. Time to move on.
Final Fantasy VI has the largest playable cast in the entire series. With so many characters, you might think that your ranks would get padded with garbage party members. Thankfully, that just doesn’t happen. Most of the characters have useful abilities and cool backstories and are just generally fun to have around during your quest to save the world. Locke, Terra, Celes, Edgar, Sabin, Cyan…the list keeps on going.
Being General Leo
Established from the beginning the Empire’s most skilled warrior, general Leo is the only member of the enemy forces you can actually respect. He serves the Empire with honor, aiming to protect its citizens and forge peace. All of Leo’s build-up as a character pays off when players get to control him for an all-too-brief battle against Kefka, which ends tragically for the general.
Lumping the entire soundtrack into just one category almost doesn’t seem fair. It does get its own page though, so that's something. So many of Nobuo Uematsu’s compositions for this title are fantastic – but I won’t rave about them individually. Instead, I’ll just post a video of the intro sequence with Terra’s theme playing, which perfectly establishes the tone of the game…
…and then provide a small selection of my other favorite tracks. You might want to open the next page of this feature in a new window so you can keep these playing in the background as you continue reading.
The Fierce Battle
Searching for Friends
Suplexing A Train
Yeah, a bunch of cool things happen on your ride to the spirit realm aboard the Phantom Train. But the best part happens during the boss fight at the end of the sequence, where Sabin can totally suplex an entire locomotive.
Most gamers think that limit breaks started in Final Fantasy VII, but an early version of the concept first appeared right here in FF VI. These abilities are called Desperation Attacks, and almost every character has one. When a party member's hit points fall to critical levels, they have a chance to perform a unique Desperation Attack when you choose the “Fight” command (Gau and Umaro don’t have that command, so they miss out).
The World of Ruin
A lot of RPGs task the player with saving the world from destruction. Final Fantasy VI does, too, but there’s a catch: You fail. Halfway through the game, Kefka disrupts the magical forces that maintain the delicate balance of existence, throwing the world into chaos. Explosions happen everywhere, thousands of people die, and Kefka installs himself as the vengeful God-King of the broken planet. Sweet.
Celes and Cid
After players watch the end of the world, the story picks up again one year later. Celes wakes up stranded on a small island with Cid, the Empire’s former Magitek engineer. However, while Cid was nursing her back to health, he became deathly ill himself. In the quiet scenes that follow, Celes must go catch fish and feed them to the ailing man. Cid can live or die depending on the fish you catch, but either way, Celes eventually leaves the island and embarks on her quest to find her old friends.
The mere fact that Shadow is a ninja makes him one of the most popular characters. He is also the most mysterious, but the game has an ingenious method for delivering information about his past. If you stay at an inn with Shadow in your party, you might get to experience a brief flashback to his old life, when he was just a dude named Clyde.
Gogo and the Zone Eater
When you’re faced with a giant worm that can devour your party members whole, your first instinct is probably to kill it (or run). However, when this happens in Final Fantasy VI, the best course of action is do sit there and do nothing. If the Zone Eater (encountered on a tiny island in the World of Ruin) consumes your entire party, you’re taken to a secret underground dungeon. Upon completion, you can recruit Gogo, one of the game’s two hidden characters.
Kefka is an excellent villain for a number of reasons, but nothing drives the point home like his manic bad guy laugh. Give it a listen: [View:http://media1.gameinformer.com/media/audio/features/finalfantasy6/kefkalaugh.mp3:610:343]
These mechanical suits combine giant robots and powerful wizards into a conceptual goldmine. Sometimes you have to fight them, and other times you get to pilot them…but either way, any battle involving suits of Magitek Armor is basically guaranteed to be cool.
When summoned, Espers perform flashy magical attacks. Even better than this eye candy, however, is how they work behind the scenes. They don’t just teach you magic spells; Espers allow you to customize your party members’ stats, since many of them grant bonuses when the character equipped with them levels up. For instance, if Locke gains a level with Raiden equipped, he gains +2 to his strength permanently. This clever system allows you tailor your party to your playstyle, enhancing stats that are already high or bumping up areas that need improvement.
No Final Fantasy fan could forget the first time Setzer hands over the controls of the Blackjack. Instead of using the side view of previous games, Final Fantasy VI lets you pilot your airships from behind the cockpit in mind-blowing Mode-7. This allows you tear around the world at breakneck speeds, and since you can change altitude, it actually feels like you’re flying in 3D space.
You’re flying around the World of Ruin, looking for your friends and minding your own business when you suddenly find yourself face to face with this ancient abomination. What, you thought you were safe in the airship? Wrong! Thankfully, damage against Doom Gaze is cumulative from one battle to the next, so you can wear him down over time instead of beating him in one encounter. Once he’s gone, you can take to the skies without fear of being attacked.
Every character in Final Fantasy VI has an ability that is unique to them, and Sabin’s Blitz is among the best. After players enter a specific sequence of button presses (like up, down, up or a backwards half-circle), Sabin will perform a Blitz move that is disproportionately powerful compared to the damage his allies can dish out. Provided you have the manual dexterity to pull off the commands, Blitz makes Sabin one of your most valuable party members.
The Final Battle
Your confrontation with Kefka is certainly cool from a story perspective, but that’s not why it’s on this list. Just look at that background! This has got to be one of the most awesome-looking boss fights in RPG history.
Well, that concludes this look back on the SNES role-playing classic. If that still isn't enough reminiscing for you, check out my blog post about my favorite ways to exploit Final Fantasy VI.
(Due credit to all of the contributors on YouTube, Final Fantasy Wiki, and others for many of the videos, music, and screens used in this feature)