Review by bover_87
"Not just another FInal Fantasy game"
Most gamers have played, or at the very least heard of, at least one game from the Final Fantasy series. And with good reason: the Final Fantasy games have spawned numerous memorable scenes, stories, and characters, and great gameplay. But Final Fantasy III (US) marked the end of an era for the series, and still continues to dazzle players even to this day, despite it being almost 15 years old.
The gameplay in Final Fantasy III (US) (I'll be referring to the game as Final Fantasy VI from now on, to avoid confusion with the Japanese Final Fantasy III) is excellent. The battle system is easy to understand for an RPG, yet it contains a vast array of moves to use in battles. These range all the way from standard-fare attacks and spells all the way to a command that, if used correctly, allows you to choose a special attack (many of which are not easily available any other way, or can be used much earlier than normal this way), and defend against status and elemental attacks, all with one command! Furthermore, each of the 12 characters who can be acquired in the first half of the game have the normal commands to use Items and a basic attack with their weapons. In addition, each character has his or her own "special command," which allows that character to use unique abilities, such as throwing weapons, stealing items, monk techs, and the like. Finally, every character out of the 12 in the first half of the game can learn spells to use with the Magic command. All of this lends variety to the gameplay, while still retaining distinct character classes. And there are numerous strategies and commands that can be used, which makes building up individual characters much more enjoyable. Also, the fact that there are 14 total characters means numerous possible setups and combinations, which allows you to tailor your parties to suit your style, at least as long as you're not in a section that forces a certain party on you.
On the other side of the table, there are numerous monsters, each with different appearances, stats, and attacks. While knowing exactly which attacks a given monster can use, or what its status and (to a much lesser extent) elemental vulnerabilities isn't absolutely essential, learning them allows players to do challenges, including one in which the entire game is completed with all characters' levels at an average of 7! These differences help give the monsters more depth, and help to keep fights fresh.
Unfortunately, many of the bosses are pretty easy so long as you have a basic knowledge of how elemental attacks and, later, evasion, works. There are still some that can pose quite a problem, however, and some dungeons have very difficult random encounters as well. The relatively low difficulty of bosses generally isn't too big a problem, because most of the more important bosses do, in fact, have the ability to cause problems for your party. The game is not extremely difficult, but its difficulty is in range that makes it a good first RPG, as the diffulty level isn't impossible for those unfamiliar with RPGs, and it still provides an excellent challenge.
The gameplay in the field isn't entirely spectaculor, but thankfully it doesn't really take away from the gameplay value of the game. For the most part, actions on the field are normal RPG tasks: talking to NPCs, buying stuff, hunting for treasure, and equipping characters. There isn't much unique about the field, but the field has little to do with the gameplay value of Final Fantasy VI.
Final Fantasy VI's story is, for lack of a better word, phenominal. While at first, the game seems like a simple save-the-world-from-the-evil-emporor story, the story begins to develop into a well-told, complex series of events that involves a complex set of relationships between characters and enemies alike. In particular, Terra, although not necessarily the main character gameplay-wise, is the central character in terms of storyline, and she dominates the story throughout. Her personality develops during the game in such a way where you still learn a lot about her, yet she still retains the mystique she had at the beginning of the game. Most of the other characters also have their own backstories, and most of them are very gripping stories that add depth to the game and personality to the characters.
All of this is well and good, but I haven't mentioned the game's masterstroke. At the halfway point of the game, a sequence of events occurs that completely changes the focus of the storyline from being about saving the Espers to a story about defeating the game's main villain. This also opens a brand new set of dungeons and, naturally, treasures. And these events fit very nicely into the overall storyline of the game, and are truly what make this game's storyline into a classic.
Considering that Final Fantasy VI is for the SNES, the game has some truly amazing graphics and sound. The sprites used for characters and enemies look very nicely done, and the field graphics are well done too. The only thing that really needs work is that the towns all use the same set of graphics, and the graphics for the interiors of town buildings sometimes don't fit with those for the exteriors (for example, in Narshe the exterior of the town's buildings are made of wood, but inside the buildings are made of bricks...) Other than that, though, the graphics are very good.
The sound effects are also well done. The sound is generally crisp, and attack animations have sounds that sound relatively realistic. Some of the sound effects on the field are a bit overused, but even so they still are good.
The real beauty in terms of audio, though, is the soundtrack. In RPGs, having music to set the proper tone is crucial, especially given how much of an RPG is story-related. Final Fantasy VI's soundtrack is up there with the best of the series (VII and X, for example), and the music is used to set an atmosphere suitable for the situation. For example, the battle against Ultros in the Opera House uses a special battle theme that, together with Ultros' jesting lines before and during the battle, creates a light, almost celebratory air. In contrast, the music used in Narshe later in the game suggests a very disastrous state, as do the monsters in the streets. The soundtrack expresses a vast range of emotions, and the tunes in it are used in situations where the desired effect will be achieved. In short, Final Fantasy VI took full advantage of the SNES's capabilities in terms of graphics and sound.
Final Fantasy VI gives about 30-40 hours of gameplay the first time through, and roughly 80-120 hours of replay value total. The main reason for Final Fantasy VI's high ratings in this area is its gameplay and storyline. The relatively loose character-building system allows you to play numerous types of challenges and experiment with all sorts of options in equipment, stat raising, and, later in the game, the order you undertake the dungeons. Most of the dungeons later in the game can be done in any order, and each has highly valuable stuff for your characters to use. Also, the storyline is such that, after the first time playing the game, a player will often want to play it again in order to understand more of the storyline. While any storyline can get old if replayed often enough, Final Fantasy VI's storyline stays fresh as well as any storyline in the series.
In conclusion, If you have an SNES and can find a copy of Final Fantasy VI, BUY IT! Similarly, if you have a GameBoy Advance or a DS...BUY IT! The PlayStation version included with Final Fantasy Anthologies is OK, but the GBA and SNES versions are superior, especially in terms of sound. If that's all you have it's still worth buying, as the gameplay and storyline are still intact. Between the GBA and SNES versions, I personally recommend the GBA version, since it includes more dungeons, more enemies, and fixes some of the more important bugs present in the previous versions. All versions of Final Fantasy VI are excellent, as they all provide the same quality gameplay and storyline, which is where the game truly shines. With no true flaws and excellent design, Final Fantasy VI is definitely a contender for best game for the SNES, as well as best title in the Final Fantasy series.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/03/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy III (US, 10/20/94)
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