Review by Arkrex
"Fan-ta-sy. Easy as 1-2-3"
As the final 2D Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy VI (AKA FFIII for the SNES outside Japan) did an excellent job of blending story, character development and exploration with the mainstay ATB-based battle system responsible for many a hurrah in the franchise's long lifetime. We all knew that an 'advanced' port was coming for the portable GBA, and after a competent re-release of FFV, there was no doubt that this other 'classic' would be faithfully brought to the small screen. Truth be told, I had never completed the original game, having stopped (multiple times) once I reached the half-way point. But this time I went all the way to the end, and let's just say that it was very much well worth the time, especially replaying the first half...
Visuals - 9
Sound & Music - 9
Gameplay - 8 (WoB - 9/10; WoR - 7/10)
Controls - A
Longevity - A (20+ hours for seasoned veterans; 30-40 for newbies)
Replayability - A (esp. the first half)
Difficulty - Medium
Esper'd - 8
VERDICT - 8.5/10
Good, Better, Best
All 3 Super Famicom Final Fantasy games can be audio-visually grouped into the same class. With FFIV we had the beginnings of the palette afforded by '16-bit' power; FFV brought some more fancy magic effects and detailed backdrops to the table; and then FFVI came along and showed that old-fashioned 2D was not going to be overtaken by new-fangled 3D-polygons anytime soon (but unfortunately this was not the case). Back in 1994 the richly detailed world and all its inhabitants were a sight for sore eyes, and to this day, especially on the down-sized screen, FFVIA is still a spectacle to be seen.
If you didn't know already, FFVI has arguably the best RPG soundtrack to date. Despite the disadvantage of using a cartridge medium, the sound quality still touched many a nerve here and there, eliciting feelings of pain, anger, adoration and sadness. To this day, tracks such as Decisive Battle, Epitaph, Searching For Friends, Terra's Theme, Celes's Theme, Kefka's Theme, etc. etc. are still just as good as they were then; a testament to the first pinnacle of Nobuo Uematsu's musical repertoire (second being FFVIII imo).
However, the original compositions have been slightly altered so as to put less strain on the GBA hardware, and as such some pieces aren't as 'brilliant' as they were originally intended. But in all honesty, it's not a very big deal and you may not even notice the slight down-grade unless you are highly observant and critical. The fact that these tunes are coming out of my GBA speakers sounding this good already puts a big fat smile on my face.
Living in Perfect Harmony
It's a Final Fantasy game, so you should know what to expect by now (read my reviews on other games in this series if you want to know more). The gimmick seen here heavily revolves around those giant magical beings, or summons. They are now collectively known as Espers, and in addition to playing a big role in the epic story, they now provide the basis for learning magic spells and improving various statistics.
Each character, of which there are ~13 in all(!), can equip one Esper to travel alongside them at any one time. As you win your battles you gain magic points, essentially experience points for your Esper in tow, eventually mastering whatever magic spells that Esper was able to provide. If you are familiar with the job system previously seen in FFIII and FFV, this is kind of similar in that mastered skills can be used anytime, anywhere even if the Esper is not with you anymore. Unlike FFIX you can't use the spells until you fully master them, even if you do have the Esper with you. And disappointingly this Esper system only allows you to customise magic spells and no other extra skills.
Levelling up your characters when certain Espers are equipped will net you important stat bonuses; a good system in theory, but that which requires a lot of micro-management to see the fruits of it all. Of course you can dedicate time to optimise each character later in the game, but it is both tedious and game-breaking; you will tear through all adversaries later on, bar the few supers and the ones in the complimentary so-so bonus dungeon seen in this port. With many different characters, each one very unique in their own style of play, and with just as many Espers to join the fun, there's a lot of depth here; factor in the relics and you've got a big handful here.
From 'wowsa!' to 'wow!
The previous five numbered entries in this series all featured solid battle mechanics, but the storyline department was more than a little lacking. FFVI was the first to deviate away from the 'crystal' theme and as such it also became the first to offer an all-new, built-from-the-ground-up plot worthy of all the praise it has received - well at least the first half.
I spilled the beans early on saying that I had never finished this game until now (a sin for a gamer such as myself!) The reason why I stopped, as did many others I'm assured, is due to the sudden change of pace once you reach the mid-way point. The story drives along at a very fast pace with a lot of exciting events and adrenaline-inducing scenarios front, back and center. This is until you reach a certain climactic event, after which it looks like the story-tellers couldn't really figure out how to wrap everything up nicely. But I have now played through this second half, and while it is not of the same fiery calibre as the first, it's still rather good in its own way.
You may no longer be guided towards your next destination, but that's the beauty of it all; you can freely explore the world and do anything you want in any order. In a way you are lost, but as you search out your 'lost friends' you will come to appreciate the (in)humanity of the proceedings which occurred prior to the twist. What is disappointing however, is that the initial lead characters bear less importance after the turn of events; most of the assorted cast seem to be on equal footing in terms of screen-time. Nevertheless, the first 10 hours is a solid gold fantasy, but the following 10-20 (which includes the obligatory grinding) is still as shining as silver.
The End of One of the Best Trios in Gaming
Good things come in threes: the LotR trilogy, triple-stacked sandwiches, the Castlevania trios, tyres (trust me, spare tyres are seriously under-rated!), and of course the Final Fantasy games. We've had the 8-bit 1-3, the 16-bit 4-6, the CD-based 7-9, and the latest DVD-based 10-12.
Final Fantasy VI learned from the errors of its predecessors and listened to the lessons taught in other comtemporary RPGs. The result was an audio-visual marvel that epitomised the 2D RPG. It finally broke away from boundaries which tied back previous fantasy games (i.e. the crystals) and introduced a whole new set of rules to play with. The first half offers up some of the best set-pieces seen in an RPG, and definitely served as a major inspiration to the more-futuristic style seen in the 'sequels' to follow.
You can kick back and kill some time in the later half, and this may not be everyone's cup of tea, but once you finally finish this beastly RPG off, you will be sweetly satisfied. And of course you can replay it again to see it through (or not) with the characters which you missed the first time around; you get a slightly altered ending sequence, but the challenge and variety is where it's at. This is one of the best RPGs ever, and now it's right in the palm of your hands - I've said this before of FFV but it still rings true here; you can now bring back those fuzzy feelings wherever you may go.
8.5/10 - Finally Finished!
My Score System a score of 7 from me denotes a good, solid game. Excellence earns a higher grade, whilst 4-6 reflects a below average product; glitchy, unplayable games deserve less.
18/02/07 - Happy Chinese New Year! Oink!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/22/07
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