Final Fantasy VI is a Timeless Masterpiece (Part 3: The Gameplay)

Finally, we come to the crux of it. No matter how good VI’s story or graphics or music might be, it doesn’t mean a thing if the game isn’t fun to play. So, what does VI do to make it a game still worth playing to this day?

Where do I begin?

If you’ve played any of the Final Fantasy games we’ve already discussed before, then you pretty much know what to expect from the core of VI. Four party members, active-time battle system, random encounters, it’s all here and it’s all been refined to perfection!

Alas, my beloved class system from I, III, and V are gone once again. In its place, we have one hell of a varied party! Terra can transform to enhance her magic, Celes can absorb magic attacks, Sabin has badass monk shit (that requires fighting game style motion inputs, which just makes me so happy), Setzer has a roulette, Strago is a blue mage, on and on it goes!

Sabin can suplex a train. An evil ghost train. What more do you want?

There is an absurd amount of depth to some of these characters. Hell, Gau alone is so complicated that people went and wrote a whole damn bible about the kid! And you can freely customize the entire party to your liking by the end of the game, allowing you to create all kinds of wacky combinations of characters!

Furthering the customization options are the equipable relics. Each character can put on up to two special relics that give you special effects. Some are simple, like stat boosts or applying buffs. Others change moves, such as turning the Attack command into the Dragoon’s Jump move. These allow you to specialize each member of your team even further!

And we haven’t even talked about Espers yet.

Leviathan was the coolest summon in the SNES era, fight me Bahamut stans.

Throughout the game, you’ll come across shards of Magicite. Within each one is an Esper, a summonable creature you can use in battle. On top of that, each Esper has a list of spells attached to it; gain enough APB with each Esper and that character will learn those spells.

So get ready to mix-and-match Espers and characters until every member of the cast has a full spell list, then proceed to annihilate anything and everything that gets in your way. I hope you like grinding!

Trust me. You’d better like grinding. See, you can’t just stick to the four characters you like. Final Fantasy VI often forces you to control multiple parties at once. Hell, you need to divide your team into three separate groups for the final dungeon! If any of them are under leveled or underused, you’re going to have a rough time.

But with a bit of creativity and determination, you could still win. Believe me. I managed it, and my third party would get wiped out by a single hit from just about anything.

Most of it was luck, I’ll admit, but still; creativity and determination!

All of this makes combat in Final Fantasy VI the most creatively free and engaging in the series to date! Putting together your perfect squad is a ton of fun, and actually overcoming difficult battles with them using creative solutions is immensely satisfying! It can require a lot of grinding, like all the other games in the series, but that isn’t so bad if you’ve got something else to occupy your attention.

Ah, the orange clouds and ruby seas. What a beautiful way to end the world.

Now, let’s talk about traversal. Throughout the game, you’ll have three ways to get around: walk, rent a Chocobo, or fly your airship. Even this is a major improvement over the previous games! Before, you would change sprites and your movement would increase and you’d move over tiles. Now, riding a Chocobo or flying the airship is far more cinematic, using the SNES’s Mode 7 and altering the controls. You can even ascend or dive midflight or go inside the airship to talk to your party!

Unfortunately, I never found a good reason to ride a Chocobo. With the amount of grinding you need to do to max out your party, it’s simply too practical just to walk. Besides, it isn’t like your regular walking speed is all that slow. Then once you get the airship, you’ll never need the golden birds again. Throughout my whole playthrough, I only ever used them once!

Is this a game-breaking complaint? No. It’s hardly anything beyond a nitpick. But it did kinda make me sad, so I put it here regardless.

I like to imagine I’d be like the protagonists, but in reality, I’m just Ultros with fewer legs.

Playing Final Fantasy VI is an absolute delight. It’s combat has an insane amount of depth for such a simple system. If you’d like to keep it simple and go with the more straight-forward party members, it’s still a ton of fun to play. If you want to try some of the more complex members of the cast, you can find yourself with an experience that makes you feel like a genuine genius!

Yet somehow, someway, the devs managed to top that with VII. But we’ll get to that in due time.

Terra is a bit more blonde in the official artwork than she was in the game. Wonder why that is.

With that, we reach the end of Final Fantasy VI. I wasn’t expecting this review to turn into a trilogy when I first started, but I quickly realized that’s what it had to be. Even in this state, I feel like I haven’t talked about it enough.

This game is absolutely incredible. If you’re a fan of RPGs and you haven’t played it, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s aged remarkably gracefully and is still just as good, even better in some ways, than some of its modern competition.

And now, the Nintendo era of Final Fantasy is over. Now, it’s time to move on to the Playstation 1 games! Starting with one of my all-time favorite video games!

Followed immediately by one of my all-time least favorites. But let’s appreciate the good times while they last.

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