"Final Fantasy VI is the most influential game in the series, and paved the way for all future role-playing games."

The Good: Fully functional battle system that hasn't aged a bit; amazing soundtrack; wonderful cast of memorable characters that each take an equal part of the story; a surprisingly dark theme and storyline that will keep you interested until the final climatic moments; a completely new game script; updated visuals look great on the GBA screen; a boatload of side-quests; one of the best video game villains ever.

The Bad: Frequent random battles can occasionally become repetitive in some areas.

We are gathered here today to commemorate one of the best portable platforms in recent memory, the Game Boy Advance. The Game Boy Advance was kind enough to allow us a time period of being reunited with long lost games of our history in a new way. No longer were these games sealed away in the depths of the gaming history vault, developers saw the Game Boy Advance as a way of bring us back to the origins of the gaming universe. Over the course of the lifespan of the Game Boy Advance, it has been kind enough to let us revisit old friends, such as Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and most of the 2D Final Fantasy games. With the life of the Game Boy Advance slowly fading away, the Game Boy Boy Advance is given one last hurrah, that game is Final Fantasy VI.

Final Fantasy VI can quite easily be summarized as the epitome of the 2D Final Fantasies, and the 2D RPG genre in general. Final Fantasy VI is an amazing game because it successfully blends the best aspects of all previous Final Fantasy games into one solid, lengthy, and all-around immensely enjoyable adventure. Final Fantasy VI does away with the traditional theme of one strong central character and a cast of supporting characters. It instead focuses more on the entire group of characters, an ensemble cast. For the most part during your adventure, each character will play an equal role in the story. Granted, some are more important overall to the storyline, but all of the characters contribute to it in many ways. The biggest way that Final Fantasy VI differentiates itself with other games in the series is that you are never actually forced to have any one character in your party at any time during the game. Obviously in the beginning you will be restricted to using only the currently available characters, but once you gain the ability to customize your group you can use whoever you want, and not one single person is ever the lead party member. It's interesting because it lets you connect with each character in a different way and care about each of them differently.

The pacing of the storyline in Final Fantasy VI is also superbly carried out, as each character will always have their time in the spotlight as the storyline pushes forward. In the beginning the story focuses on Terra, but later on shifts towards other characters while eventually returning to Terra once again. Each character has their own set of problems and their own perspective on life, and during the game each character comes to terms with themselves and realizes what they truly cherish in life, and what their reason for protecting life is. Naturally the villain in the game like most other Final Fantasy games is hellbent on the destruction of the universe, but this Final Fantasy has a combination of villains you have never seen before. There is the typical insane ruler that wants absolute power, and then there is his strange accomplice named Kefka who is an insane clown. Perhaps that is one of the most interesting aspects of Final Fantasy VI, is that most of the time you are actually dealing with an insane clown that acts like an immature 10 year old most of the time. It is a nice change of pace from the previous Final Fantasy games which usually had some sort of supernatural force or almighty being, or powerful lord wanting absolute power or to simply bring suffering upon the world and its inhabitants for no apparent reason. For example, Zeromus, the mysterious entity from Final Fantasy IV, or the dark lord Exdeath who wanted to engulf the world in the dark depths of the void in Final Fantasy V. Final Fantasy VI will also be a refreshing change of pace for people who have only played newer games in the series which usually revolved around one regular individual that somehow manages to gain ultimate power and tries to fulfill their own needs and wishes. It is a nice stop gap between the 2D and 3D Final Fantasies, and offers something original and unique for everyone, either veteran or newcomer.

Final Fantasy VI is also the perfection of the Active Time Battle system (ATB), which you will see has also been involved in future games in the series. You will realize upon playing Final Fantasy VI though, that many future iterations of this battle system were only made possible by the advances made in Final Fantasy VI. For example, the Materia system from Final Fantasy VII, is heavily based off, and inspired from the Esper Magicite system within Final Fantasy VI. In Final Fantasy VI the Espers (also known as summons) play an integral role in the storyline, which is not entirely common for Final Fantasy games. When you collect the Magicite from an Esper, you can equip them on character. When a character has equipped a Magicite they can summon this creature in battle to either damage their foes, or provide protective bonuses for their allies. The key thing here though, is that Magicite all contains magic within it, and a character will learn magical spells while having this Magicite equipped. For example, after defeating a group of monsters you will be awarded experience points, however you will also be awarded ability points which will go towards learning magic from Magicite. Every magic ability has a requirement of ability points that it takes to learn, this is because of their learning ratio. For example, a magic ability with the learning ratio of x10 will take the amount of ability points earned, and times it by ten. This ability will be learned much faster than a magical ability with the learning ratio of x1.

Besides learning magic, each character also has their own unique ability that is also something that has evolved during the course of the series. In previous games each character would be given a class, and would only be able to perform things based on their class. In Final Fantasy IV, Cecil was a Darth Knight, therefore he would only be allowed to perform one special maneuver called "Dark" other than having an extremely powerful melee attack, and having a lot of HP. Rosa however, was a White Mage, so she would have a very weak physical attack, but excel in magical power and be a very potent healer and party member protector. Since every character can learn magic in Final Fantasy VI, each character has their own set of unique abilities. The character Setzer, his class is a gambler so his unique ability is a slot machine, depending on what combination of symbols you get, you will get varying results. Sometimes you will attack your enemies with a powerful attack, or you may end up getting a very useless healing of several hit points by a rabbit that says "Mugu-mugu?" Other characters like Sabin who is a monk, he has various special moves that he can perform by using his blitz command. By inputting the correct button combination he can perform various attacks and also some defensive healing spells as well. Another character like Edgar who is a Mechanist, can use a variety of different tools to attack his opponents in bizarre ways, such as attacking them with a giant drill, a chainsaw, or an automatic crossbow.

The audio presentation of Final Fantasy VI, is quite possibly Nobuo Uematsu's best performance, or at least one of his best. Everything ranging from the town theme, the chocobo theme, the battle theme, the boss theme, all of it is amazingly superb in its composition and in the quality that it was written and has been represented. Final Fantasy VI has quite possibly the most emotional soundtrack of any Final Fantasy game to date, and is without a doubt one of the absolute best. There are many memorable tracks to be found here, and the final boss theme is undoubtedly the best boss theme that Uematsu has ever written. Titled "Dancing Mad" it is a four part epic (other than the small interlude between parts 3 and 4) that is absolutely phenomenal. Without giving away spoilers, there are four stages to the final boss fight, and the first three sections are brilliant, but the interlude and the last section is truly superb, and is the best final battle in any Final Fantasy game I have played to date. The reason for this is that without this final battle, the epic final battles in future games like Final Fantasy VII never would have been possible, and after playing Final Fantasy VI you will see that many things in Final Fantasy VII and other titles were heavily inspired by this installment which makes it one of the most influential games in the series.

After clocking in a total of slightly over 48 hours at the end of the game I was truly amazed by the length of this 2D RPG originally from the Super Nintendo. Granted, a lot of the time that was invested was spent playing side-quests which are completely optional, but when you play a game like this you'd be insane not to do them. After a certain event about three quarters through the game, there is a large opportunity for countless hours of multiple side-quests. That is the great thing about Final Fantasy VI is that all of them are completely optional, but you get so much more fulfillment from doing them. Depending which quests you actually do can also alter the final outcome of the game slightly. It's worth noting for those who have already played Final Fantasy VI before, there is an extra optional dungeon that has been added, as well as a few new Espers to collect.

Final Fantasy VI is simply an astonishing game, especially for a handheld. You have a surprisingly dark storyline, one of the darkest featured in the Final Fantasy series, and you have a large cast of memorable characters. There is also one of the best and most unique soundtracks ever featured in a video game with many memorable themes for all of the areas, as well as the characters themselves. Some of the most memorable scenes in a video game (the opera comes to mind) which was one of the most touching scenes I have ever witness in a game, and a complex and interesting battle system, you truly have one of the best games in the Final Fantasy series. You may have missed this game the first time around, and I strongly recommend for anyone even remotely interested in the idea to give this game a chance, you will not regret it, and you can also help by giving your Game Boy Advance which has allowed us to revisit so many memorable worlds and characters one last hurrah.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/15/07

Game Release: Final Fantasy VI Advance (US, 02/05/07)

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