It’s another Thursday, and it’s time for me to get really emotional with this throwback. Today I’ll be talking about one of my favorite games of all time: Final Fantasy VI.
I first played FFVI when I was nine or ten years old, soon after it was released as Final Fantasy Anthology in 1999. A user on a forum dedicated to, of all things, the Crash Bandicoot series always talked about how much she loved it. She told me it had just come out packaged with Final Fantasy V for the Playstation, so I went out to buy it and give it a try. My first few tries at the game were pretty embarrassing. I played through the opening sequence about three times because I didn’t know how to use the first save point properly. But what an opening sequence it was. The opening lines and dark music set the tone for the rest of the game perfectly, and my heart swells every time I start a new game and hear the opening notes of Terra’s Theme and see the armored soldiers walking across the snowfields.
A quick and spoiler-free summary of the game for those with bad memories or those who have not played: Final Fantasy VI begins centered on the conflict between the evil Ghestalian Empire and the resistance group, the Returners, who oppose them. The beginning of the game focuses on Terra Branford, a magical and mysterious amnesiac young woman who was freed by the Returners from her slavery in the Empire. Throughout the rest of the game you are introduced to thirteen additional characters with their own motives for opposing the Empire and wishing to prevent the Empire from using a revival of magical powers to control the world. Although the game begins with the goal of defeating the empire, the plot spirals out of control and into something much, much more.
I really don’t remember what captivated me as a child because it was so long ago, but I became absolutely obsessed with this game. I can confidently say that without playing this game I would not be so into gaming as I am now, and I probably wouldn’t be a cosplayer either. Final Fantasy VI sparked a deep love of video games in me, probably because this game is so rich that it almost feels like an experience, rather than a game. At only ten years old I was not aware of the video game as a story-telling mechanism, so playing through Final Fantasy VI opened up a new world.
As I mentioned before, the game has an impressively sized roster of main characters. Most of the characters are fleshed out and developed excellently. They are all likeable, and they are all worthy of our sympathies. As I grow older, characters that I previously looked over such as Gau, Shadow, and Cyan have become some of my favorites for their unhappy backgrounds and their overcoming of past struggles. The main villain of the game, Kefka, is extremely memorable and entertaining, often topping fan favorite lists. The game’s soundtrack is also very impressive and at times, incredibly moving (and also one of Nobuo Uematsu’s favorites to compose). Final Fantasy VI has so many memorable scenes – the opera sequence, the beach on Solitary Island, obtaining the Falcon, and the coin toss to name a few. The game is witty, funny, and emotional, even with the questionable Ted Woolsey translation (although I have an unashamed love for Woolsey’s translation, no matter what anyone says). Final Fantasy VI also marks the departure of Final Fantasy games in a medieval setting, as FFVI occurs in the midst of an industrial revolution and has a steampunk-esque style, possibly setting a tone for the future further departures from the medieval in Final Fantasies VII and VIII.
Although I am thankful I got to play and experience this game as a child, I often wish that I could just wipe my brain of it so that I could play it again as an adult. Even though it did have such an impact on me, there’s things about the game that I think were too heavy for me to grasp at that age. I wish I could play it fresh and at the age I am now, mostly just to see if my thoughts and feelings would be any different without the ever-present cloud of nostalgia hanging over my playtime.
If you have not played this game, I obviously highly suggest you do (although I’m guessing if you’re into JRPGs you already have). It’s been called a landmark title, the greatest JRPG, and many other high praises that I really think this game deserves. If you’re playing it for the first time and are able to get a copy of the SNES version, I would recommend starting with that (but beware – my copy just ate all three of my saves for no reason other than hatred and most likely a dead battery). The Playstation version (and its more recent PSN port) suffer from some lengthy loading times that occur before every random encounter, and although it didn’t bother me at the beginning of a playthrough it did get a little irritating over time. Positives to the Game Boy version include new dungeons and features, but I don’t care about how much anyone praises the Game Boy Advance re-translation; to me it feels dumbed down and lacks the charm of the original (there’s that nostalgia cloud of mine again). Final Fantasy VI is also available on the Wii’s virtual console under its original western name, Final Fantasy III, for 800 Wii Points.