Review by mark24173
The beginning of Final Fantasy's greatest era
It's my contention that the Final Fantasy series hit its absolute peak from 6 (in the Japanese system of counting, 3 in the US) to 10. 6 is where the team behind the games started really finding their top form, and there is evidence of this all over the game.
There is a fantastic collection of characters, for a start. With the exception of Gogo and Umaro, who are just there for fun, it's arguable that FF6 has the best collection of characters in the whole series. They're not just caricatures, and even though there are a lot of them, you get the chance to spend enough time with them to really get into their heads. The fact that you can choose any character to "lead" the group and therefore see on the world map is one of the reasons why the player has the chance to really get to know the characters.
FF6 has great gameplay. There are tons of great spells and summons, and the game allows for considerable flexibility in how you mold your characters. The battle system is tried and tested, and works well. The second half of the game is fantastically open and free-ranging - some say too much so, but I don't find this at all.
The story is a cracker, with the most comically evil villain the series has seen (as evil a maniac as he is, you can't hold it against him with a cackle like that). There's some fantastic dialogue ("we may be thieves, but at least we have goals in life", "You sound like characters from a self-help booklet!", etc) There are some wonderful scenes, and it's impossible to talk about the story without talking about the music. Oh, the music. HOW good is it? Uematsu showed signs of brilliance on FF4, and composed several phenomenal tracks on 5, but 6 is where he threw off all the restraints and came up with a soundtrack so good, people still now talk about it as possibly the best RPG soundtrack ever. There is hardly a filler track in sight, and there are also pieces which will live forever in Uematsu's "greatest" list. Which leads us to the Opera scene.
The Opera scene is one of the greatest scenes in all of gaming, simply put. When Celes comes out to sing the aria and the song starts, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It fits the scene perfectly and is such a beautiful piece of music in its own right that the overall effect is simply stunning.
Any game with a scene of that quality would be legendary, but as fantastic as the Opera scene is, it's not even the best scene in the game. That comes at the end. The final dungeon leads to a fight with a fully pimped-out Kefka, and this is where we hear the start of just under 40 minutes of music which confirms what we all suspected, that Nobuo Uematsu is a bona fide God.
"Dancing Mad", the theme of the final battle, somehow manages to mix up evil laughs, funk, and apocalyptic church organ, go on for 17 minutes, and never once fail to blow the mind of the listener. Then you beat Kefka, and the ending theme takes over. This one is 21 minutes long and syncs up with the ending movie. It includes every character's theme, and pulls them all together in a composition of absolutely incredible quality. It stands alone as a great piece of music in itself, but once you see and hear it in conjunction with the end of the game, you'll be reeling. Uematsu and the team would do this again in 7,8 and 9, but arguably only 7 matched the power of 6 in terms of how well the ending theme matched and complemented the ending movie.
There is so much right with FF6, and so little wrong. It began a streak of 5 games which are prime examples of why great games are equal to great films or any other form of great art. This is where it began.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Final Fantasy VI (JP, 04/02/94)
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