Final Fantasy VI is a Timeless Masterpiece (Part One: The Story)

Here we are, ladies and gents and non-binary friends! One of the most influential and iconic RPGs of all time! If you were to ask someone what the best Final Fantasy game was, a lot of people would say this one!

Of course, there are people who would say VIII is their favorite, so you never actually know what answer you’d get.

All the prior games in the series pale in comparison to Final Fantasy VI! Everything about this game, and I do mean everything, is a major improvement over all that came before it! The story, the characters, the depth of gameplay, the music, the visuals, all of it is the culmination of everything the series has been building towards!

This is a big game. Which constitutes a big review. But since I want to get this out at a somewhat reasonable pace, I’ll be splitting it into three parts. What can I say? I love this game and I want to give it the full credit it deserves!

With that said, let’s get started! This is Final Fantasy VI!

Strap in for the adventure of a lifetime!

One thousand years after the War of the Magi, magic has all but faded from the world. Now the Empire, armed with its superior Magitek, is the leading power, hell-bent on world domination using the powers of the magical Espers. Our protagonist, Terra, is enslaved by the Empire and forced to use her magic to further their aims. That is until a meeting with a frozen Esper sets her free and sends her on a quest to meet the Returners, a rebel force opposing the Empire. Will Terra and her friends be able to prevent another War of the Magi and save the world?

This is where the character writing in this series really starts to kick off. Every single member of the cast has their own unique backstory, motivations, and emotional struggles that they grapple with throughout the entire game. From Terra to Setzer, from Shadow to Celes, the cast of this game has some insane depth for an SNES game!

Except for Mog, Umaro, and Gogo. But that’s what they get for being optional.

Admit it; you heard his laugh the moment you saw this sprite.

Kefka is one of the most memorable video game antagonists of all time. He’s just do purely diabolical, so cruelty manipulative, yet full of energy. The dude is a ball of pure energy and malice. Even his laugh has become iconic!

Some of the scenes in this game made my jaw drop! This is easily the most ambitious Square game of the time. And when the competition is Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, that’s saying a ton! This game still blows even modern titles out of the water!

My personal favorite is the scene with Celes and Cid right after the world is remade. Cid is sick and all you can do is go to the coast and get him fish to ward off his condition. You can go elsewhere to try and fight enemies, but anything you run into dies on its own almost immediately. All you can do is keep bringing Cid fish, preventing his dialogue from progressing, keeping him alive. Delaying the inevitable.

Until the fish stop coming. The one thing you could do and you lose even that. Now you have to watch, powerless, helpless as the one companion you have finally succumbs to his illness. You feel every bit of Celes’ helplessness, terror, and despair.

Then, as one last kick to the nuts, you have to walk her up to the cliff. Once at the top, control is taken away from the player. Now, you’ve lost your ability to even control the game. All you can do is watch as the only character you’ve got left hurls herself to her death. You’re powerless to stop it. You cannot save her. Just like you couldn’t stop Kefka and save the world. Celes jumps and you are plunged into absolute despair, totally defeated.

Friendly reminder that Nintendo approved to publish this game. In the 90s. At the height of their family-friendly mandate, they released the game where a main character tried to kill herself.

But Celes survives. And lo and behold, she is given her first sign that the other party members are still alive as well! Suddenly, the crushing despair and defeat is swept away, replaced by a faint but powerful glimmer of hope! You take a raft Cid prepared for you before the end and sail off, your adventure beginning anew as you pursue your friends with renewed vigor and determination!

This is how you write a video game story! It perfectly balances narrative and gameplay, creating an emotionally engaging experience you couldn’t get in any other creative medium! The sheer creativity and resourcefulness the developers of this game must’ve had to put a sequence like this together on the SNES of all things is extraordinary!

Final Fantasy VI is stuffed to the brim with such sequences! The opening scene, Sabin and Cyan’s journey on the Phantom Train, Locke’s disguise-hopping escape from the Empire, Celes’ performance at the opera house, Terra’s struggle to protect her adopted children, this game is loaded with moments that wonderfully blend character writing with gameplay!

If you didn’t love Celes after this scene, then you’re wrong. Sorry, I don’t know what else to tell you.

It all comes to a head in a simple but satisfying ending. After one of the greatest final bosses in video game history, every character gets their moment to shine in one last hurrah. Then we’re treated to a wonderful little finale as everyone basically flies off into the sunset, the day won and the future bright. It’s not utterly jaw-dropping, but it’s a solid enough conclusion to the narrative.

Hey, I’ll take a simple, good ending over an overly-complicated bad one.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything particularly wrong with the narrative of VI. It’s solid all around, with one of the strongest casts of characters in any JRPG and a story that’s gripping from start to end. It’s a masterclass in video game writing that few games to this day can match!

And we’re just getting started! There’s still so much left to talk about! How it looks, how it sounds, and of course: how it plays! We’ve only scratched the surface of what this game has to offer!

We’re gonna be here a lot longer than I thought…

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