The “Get To Know” line of articles are built to get a better impression of what I love/hate, and why, through a more direct means. While my tastes have been quite unconventional to the “norm” we’ve seen, I feel as if it’d be beneficial to run a series of articles that go into what I adore, and deplore, about gaming, and why.
I alluded to a major project I was going to work on throughout 2018, but due to repeated illnesses, I was unable to produce a healthy enough queue to get it going. That project was going to be my top 100 games of all-time, in which I would go into a great bit of detail on each game, and why it has a position on said list.
With this miniseries I have going with Get To Know, it’s given me a renewed sense of urgency to try and get some portion of this project revealed and shared with everyone. Instead of being overly ambitious, I’ll truncate the list to a top 25; that’s more than enough to show the kinds of games I adore the most, and the genres that they represent.
5 – Final Fantasy III/VI
- Developer: Square
- Publisher: Square
- Platform: SNES
- Genre: RPG
- Release date: 4/2/94
- Rating: 9.8
What is Final Fantasy VI?
The sixth entry into the Final Fantasy franchise, and the third to appear in the US, Final Fantasy III (VI to be concise) was Squaresoft’s shining moment in the RPG genre. With over a dozen protagonists to recruit, and a multi-tiered storyline, Final Fantasy VI was one of the premiere RPG’s in the 16-bit era, and one of the premiere video games of any era.
What warrants Final Fantasy VI‘s inclusion on this list?
I’ve noted how I felt Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Metroid were just about as flawless as a video game could get. Well, Final Fantasy VI managed to come close as well, which seems implausible for a game in such a genre to be built that masterfully.
What really hooked me in was the fact that, even though there’s the over-arching storyline that’s going on with Terra, Locke, Kefka and so on, each new member to the team has their own fascinating subplots. From the heart wrenching turn that Cyan’s story takes, to the mystery surrounding Shadow (and how once the World of Ruin is in play and you get Shadow back, sleeping at inn’s and tents will occasionally prompt a dream sequence that sheds light on his past), every character has a gripping tale to follow.
Well, aside from Gogo and Umaru, but they were bonus characters.
There was an emotional attachment that I had never experienced with a video game previously. From the first playthrough to the fifteenth, I was always invested in the protagonists, cheered when families were reunited, sighed when some disappeared randomly. These were the most fleshed out protagonists I had ever seen up to that point. Chrono Trigger, while an amazing 16-bit RPG, and one that may gamers feel supersedes FFVI, didn’t take ahold of me the way that FFVI did.
With there being as many playable protagonists as there were, it was difficult to cycle through them all so I could level them and get their skills up. Each character was unique; while about 80% of them had the standard Attack option, they each had their own special skill to not only help differentiate how they worked in battles, but but give another sense of personalization with the player. Mog could learn dances from a myriad of locations, and utilize them in battle, granting party buffs or enemy damage/debuffs. Shadow can use Throw, which lets him toss out shurikens, or even equippable swords and such. Relm can Sketch enemies, which lets her use a random ability from them, or later on the game, she can Control them, selecting the attack she wishes to use.
Then there’s Gau. Man, I know he’s not the favorite of most FFVI veterans, but I loved mindlessly wandering the Veldt, finding new enemies to Leap into, and then come back later knowing how to use their attacks, spells and skills. While that makes him unpredictable for the most part, thanks to the inability to control him for the rest of the fight once a Rage is selected, it was exciting to find an enemy I hadn’t learned any skills from yet. It would be mind numbing at times, running back and forth to trigger a battle, only to constantly fight the same enemies, but the hunt was still thrilling.
The battle system as a whole was one of the very best the genre has dished out. Active Time Battle basically means there were no more pauses between selecting your actions – your adversaries will attack you while you decide on your next course of action. They still follow the same rigid timer countdown before the next turn, which can be augmented by haste, or slowed or paused by a Slow/Stop spell. This game battles a bigger sense of urgency, as you were no longer protected from being attacked during battle commands. In regards to JRPG’s, it’s probably one of, if not the single best battle engine ever conceived.
Final Fantasy VI was also quite a visual marvel for its time. It easily will stand the test of time, though it’s not as striking as Super Metroid. Spell effects, character models, the game world as a whole, were neck and neck with Chrono Trigger as the consoles best for the genre. The deformed characters overstayed their welcome in the 16-bit era, and thankfully technology progressed enough to make them appear a lot more defined.
That soundtrack? Probably top three of all-time IMO. There aren’t any “weak” tracks, so to speak; everything fits the mood, location and situation to-a-t. It has some of the most memorable tracks ever in a video game, from the Coin Song theme that plays between Edgar and Sabin, to the theme that played for the battle with the Atma Weapon, to what I feel is one of the top three boss battle themes ever, to probably the single most epic final boss theme ever. Everything in-between was just sheer brilliance.
(I know this is a remaster of the final boss theme, but tell me if this is not the most epic thing in the history of man):
(please check out sschafi1 on YouTube for some of the best remastered RPG tracks I’ve ever heard)
There have been a small handful of ports that Final Fantasy VI had, but none of them came close to the quality of the initial release on the Super Nintendo. Both the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance versions lagged out when Strago would cast Grand Train, the load times on the PlayStation version was grating, and the audio wasn’t the same on the GBA port. Simply put – if you want the only proper version, you need to play the Super Nintendo one, or the SNES Classic.
Final Fantasy VI was probably my first quality RPG. I had played through the original Final Fantasy on the NES a few times (which was actually my very first console RPG), but it’s simply dwarfed by the 16-bit classic. Maybe that’s why I have such an investment to it, like how so many feel Final Fantasy VII was the best, as it was their first RPG (the latter of which I thought was severely overrated, but to each their own).
I remember how I was introduced to Final Fantasy VI – my best friend at that time had owned the game. We would usually lend each other a game for a few months at a time. One summer I had borrowed Final Fantasy VI, which he was putting over as this amazing game he had. I had only played the first game in the franchise and no other in the genre up to that point. I played it, and was immediately captivated, playing through the game once, falling head over heels in love with it, and then deleting that save and messing around with his GameShark, giving me a playable General Leo and such, just for fun. I had borrowed the game three times from its release up until time and life separated our friendship.
I wouldn’t fall head over heels in love with another Final Fantasy game until IX, which was a radical departure from the radical departure that Final Fantasy VII and VIII were. Just in terms of an RPG, there were only two others that I felt meant more to me overall (and they are coming up very soon, obviously).
Anytime I played through Final Fantasy VI, it was an event. I would postpone any playthroughs of other games I had going on, just to focus on getting through it once more. Each time, I would more or less try and get every Lore spell for Strago, every Rage for Gau in the Veldt, level every character to 99, make sure I saw every Shadow dream sequence. It never got old, and I always look forward to the day I decide to start a new game.
That might be difficult though, cause I more or less want to play through my top ten games all right now.
The one RPG I’ve replayed more than any other.
It’s rare when I immediately replay an RPG after beating it (the Mass Effect franchise has that distinct honor, along with Final Fantasy VI). However, it’s almost unheard of for me to play through an RPG at least 15+ times. That’s exactly what I’ve done with Final Fantasy VI. Between the immaculate Super Nintendo version, the lagged PlayStation port and the commendable, yet disappointing audio GBA version. The only version I have not played through yet is the mobile/Steam version that came out a couple of years ago. It’s somewhat disappointing though – seeing Final Fantasy IIIj and Final Fantasy IV get remakes, I was anticipating Square Enix would hit Final Fantasy V and VI sometime in the early 2010’s, but it was never meant to be. I could only imagine how mind blowing they could have turned out, especially with how much I adored the two they did remakes of.