Review by Sonofyoungwood

"Final Fantasy 3/6 is, in my opinion, Squaresoft's first magnum opus. It's not their best, but it's up there."

INTRODUCTION:
Final Fantasy 6.
If memory serves me right, this is a favorite of almost all Final Fantasy veterans. In other words, FFVI is to vets as FFVII is to newer RPG players. Why is this? FFVI was released in 1994, while FFVII was released in 1997. This is a three year gap: the largest in the series. However, I feel that these two are the most alike in terms of gameplay, sound, and even story (to a degree). I consider them both to be in the B+/A-range, but which is better? I truly feel that FF6 is slightly better than FF7. And why is that? Read on.

FF6 is the sixth installment in the RPG series called Final Fantasy. By this time, Squaresoft has improved with each game in one field or another, whether it be gameplay in FFV, story in FFIV, or music and innovation in FFII. By 1994, Squaresoft had become very popular in Japan, as the high-selling Final Fantasy V shows. Square was ready to create their ultimate game with five decent RPGs under their belt. Drawing from successful elements from the old games, including magic, summons, chocobos, and airships, and some very intelligent writers, Squaresoft decided to create the ultimate 16-bit Final Fantasy: the sixth game in the series.

GAMEPLAY: 46/50
The gameplay in Square's first masterpiece is actually on par with FFV, surprisingly. At the beginning, the game plays eerily like FF4, with characters having certain skills and specialties. For example, Locke can steal, Terra can use magic, and Cyan can use sword skills. Over time, you will be able to equip crystals called Espers. For reference, Espers are the summons of FFVI: the dead souls of ancient monsters. These work very similar to materia. As a matter of fact, one could consider Materia a modified version of the Esper system. When a character equips an Esper (NOTE: you may only equip one at a time), he or she will begin learning that Esper's magic abilities. He or she may also summon the Esper's special attack once per battle. Ramuh can learn Bolt and Bolt 2, for example. Enemies, in addition to providing experience to Level Up (thankfully, you won't be spending too much time leveling up, especially if you find some good places to learn magic skills), provide Gil and of course magic points. Each magic point goes towards learning magic, of course, but different spells have different rates of learning. Let's go back to Ramuh. Bolt has a 0 and a x10 next to it. Each magic point contributed one percent to learning that skill. At 100 percent, you learn the magic skill. However, if a magic has something like x10, it multiplies the percentage from that magic point. This means that one magic point for bolt (remember: it multiplies the percentage by 10) may contribute 10 percent towards learning the magic attack, instead of 1. Bolt2 will obviously have a smaller multiplier, so it will take a longer time to learn. This assures balance in learning magic: you won't learn Bolt and Bolt2 at the same time. Plus, skills like Ultima have only a x1 multiplier, meaning it will take 100 magic points to gain the skill instead of 10 like Bolt takes. These are just some examples. You'll understand the battle system once you get into it: it's quite easy and nearly foolproof.

There are some downsides to the battle system. Relics (special accessories that give added stat/magic bonuses), although very nice, are usually rare, and since you will switch your parties a lot (yes, you will go into places that require two or three parties to be dispatched from the 16 or so characters in the game). So, it becomes annoying having to unequip and re-equip Relics and Espers. FF7 and FF8 will solve this problem by allowing materia and junctions to be switched.

That's all there really is to talk about the battle system, except that it's active time battle (ATB). Active Time Battle is where your characters must wait until their gauge is filled up. Once it is, they may select a command. During that time, they are vulnerable to attacks, and if you set the ATB mode to active, enemies will even attack while you select commands! Be careful and time your attacks wisely. It's almost the same ATB system that was seen in FFIV and FFV, so don't worry.

STORYLINE: 44/50
The story was up to my expectations, meaning it was well-done. This is the best 8 or 16-bit storyline, bar none (except maybe FFIV and Chrono Trigger). You are Terra, a mysterious girl with a magical power that is a mystery at first. She has been brainwashed by the Empire (FFII anyone?) and is being used to attack the Narshe village and obtain it's Esper. As in most RPGs, the question is: why? You will find out soon enough, but not before meeting an engaging villain that is both evil and comic relief at the same time. You will also encounter 15 other allies as you begin to unravel the mystery behind the Empire you will soon be rebelling against. I would also like to say that Biggs and Wedge and the whole rebellion vs. Empire theme also seen in FFII must be taken from Star Wars. This is what makes Square interesting, for they borrow from various films and myths to mix with their own ideas, much like Star Wars did. Speaking of which, summon names such as Ramuh are back, and so are some new ones that will be seen in future installments. Many of these are taken from myths, such as Leviathan. I enjoyed the story much more then any of the RPGs before this one.

GRAPHICS: 28/30 (For their time)
I give the graphics such a high score because I'm comparing them to 1994. Simply put: FF6 has the second best graphics of a SNES game, the first being Square's 1995 release, Chrono Trigger (their second masterpiece). The sprites are large and designed well for a 16-bit RPG. The towns are now larger and much more detailed, and the world map has been tilted slightly and is also larger than FFIV or V. Not much was improved upon for Anthology. Actually, the Anthology release features horrible load times. It takes seven seconds to load the menu! Enough about the graphics: they're good, but the load times are definitely a con for the Anthology release.

SOUND AND MUSIC: 26/30
I feel that the sound and music in FF6 is actually better than it's two slices of bread, FFV and VII. Don't get it? FF6 has better music than both Final Fantasy 5 and 7. The battle music is nice at first, although it may get a little old after a while, especially since this is the longest Final Fantasy up to it's point. The boss music is one of the best in any RPG I've ever heard, and both world map themes are also nice. Overall, the music is good, except for a few mountain dungeons (it brings back bad memories of FFIV for some reason: I hated Mt. Ordeals).

CHALLENGE: 24/25 - Medium Difficulty
FINALLY! A near-perfectly balanced Final Fantasy! FFVI's five predecessors were all either slightly too difficult, unbalanced, or near impossible. FF6 manages to keep a sense of difficulty while providing a fairly balanced battle system. Some areas are still a bit too difficult, but that's because magic is a key part of this game, and there are also some magic combinations that work well. There is still a bit of annoyance towards the end of the game, especially during the sidequest areas. But the first 2/3 of the game has a nice, medium difficulty level: except for the F.C. FINALLY! Thank you Square! And...then came FF7...but that's another review.

REPLAY VALUE: 13/15
There are so many different sidequests you can get, and this game is much less annoying than the first four or so Final Fantasies, so you will want to replay this game just for the fun factor! As a matter of fact, I honestly feel that this is the first (chronologically, as all my early-FF reviews are) in the series that I had the urge to replay. A few parts (F.C., T.O.F., P.C.) I want to forget, so I deducted a few points. You'll probably end up playing this game again.

CONTROLS: 9/10
They're fine, as most 16-bit games are. The menu is fairly easy to navigate, although I had some problems with the Esper system, so you may want to read the directions carefully for that so you don't mess up like I did.

INNOVATION AND SIGNIFICANCE: 16/20
By the time I get to this section, I've already explained much of what's in it. Square got creative with some names, and they also did well in choosing their references. The plot has some cliche (the rebellion theme), but the main antagonist is fairly unique, and he is a major contribution to this well-done game.

OVERRATED?
My opinions: FF6 is a great game, but slightly overrated. Then again, FF7 is a good game, but also overrated. My favorite RPG is FF8, hands down. Debates are nice, but all a neutral reviewer like me can do is present the facts from a neutral perspective. I like each game for different things.

GAMEPLAY: 46/50
STORYLINE: 44/50
GRAPHICS: 28/30
SOUND AND MUSIC: 26/30
CONTROLS: 9/10
CHALLENGE: 24/25 - Medium Difficulty
REPLAY VALUE: 13/15
INNOVATION AND SIGNIFICANCE: 16/20

Game Length: 28-40 hours

Total: 206/230
Percentile Score: 90/100
Grade: A-
Final Score: 9/10

Overall, this has to be the "A Night at the Opera" or "Led Zeppelin IV" of video games: Squaresoft broke down all the barriers and created a story and gameplay without any restrictions to past installments or whatnot: everything here is innovative in some way or another, while just drawing upon references to other final fantasies in names and magic attacks. This would create what was arguably their first magnum opus: FF6. I think I've said that enough. They would do the same with most of the upcoming Final Fantasies, but never with so much of a jump as they did with Final Fantasy 6. Sure, it's slightly overrated, but Squaresoft showed their potential with this release. Enjoy!


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/03/04


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