Review by Requiem
"Quite possibly the best game ever made, IF you're a fan of RPG's to begin with."
First off, I think it's important to distinguish what audience Final Fantasy VI appeals to. If you are a fan of fast paced, action oriented games, you will hate Final Fantasy VI. Final Fantasy VI goes at a pace akin to reading a 300 page novel. Much of the 30+ hours it takes to complete the game are spent reading the text that pushes the story to it's climax. The rest of the time, you're walking around or engaged in turn based battles. You punch in a command, the respective character executes it, then the monsters attack, repeat.
Second, those who discovered the Final Fantasy series through it's Playstation Successors might be bothered by the lack of eye candy that later games included. Even the Playstation Port of VI, included in Final Fantasy Anthology, retains the same pixel - based graphics of the Super Nintendo, so expect to notice the lack of 3D polygons. The music is Midi based and primitive compared to what the later consoles were able to accomplish. The Controls are relics in this day and age; you are only able to move in four directions, and the movement is grid based. You move by invisible squares, and each step is exactly the same distance as the previous one. That being said, on to the detailed review.
Story (10/10): Final Fantasy VI, without a doubt, has the single greatest Story of any RPG I've ever come across. It's villain, Kefka, is one of the most sadistic personalities you'll ever find. His madness is apparent from the outset, and he only declines further into the abyss of delirium, which he does to the point of Iago-like satisfaction. Characters, which are numerous, each have their own story, and though some are more prominent than others, each story is carried through the game and interwoven very well. Some people may not pick up important subtleties that, in my view, are invaluable to the advancement of the story, but they are there, so be on the lookout.
Gameplay (8/10): Many people complain about only being able to walk in four directions, walking slowly (Without Sprint Shoes), the archaic battle system rife with Active time bars, useless commands, and the unbalanced Magic System (Some Characters are used more often, so they learn more magic, forcing you, in the end, to rely on only a handful of characters). As for these criticisms, some are valid, but they are hardly noticed once the game starts picking up momentum. First, why expect 360 degrees of movement on a Super Nintendo game? The technology wasn't as widespread as it is now. Analog Controllers are only three to four years old. The movement system is easily overlooked once the game starts moving along. Second, The walking system is a good example of how the game balances your party. In order to run, someone in the party must wear a relic known as ''sprint shoes,'' taking up room in your equipment slots that would otherwise go to stat increasing gear. These sacrifices keep the game challenging, as you must offset certain weak point with either magic, equipment, or different party members. Thirdly, The battle system is the same tried and true battle system used in most RPG's to date. It is a very common system, so those familiar with RPG's of the era will have no trouble grasping this one. You don't have thirty commands (Greatly exaggerated) like you did in Final Fantasy seven. Nor do you have special group oriented commands. Though group commands would have made the game better in that a few rather useless characters might have found new life, it cannot be seen as a major failure of the game. The battle system is not for everyone, and you cannot expect any game to be all things to all people. Fourth, many commands in the game, namely Relm's draw command, I find to be rather pointless. Therefore, I don't use Relm, ever. But certain characters are designed for certain players. I hardly ever challenge major bosses without a Cyan/Edgar/Celes/Setzer party if I can help it. But how many other players will argue that a Locke/Terra/Shadow/Sabin combo is the only way to go. The emphasis here is variety, and you get plenty of it. You won't like ever character in the game, but the variety of characters ensures you will at least find five or six you DO like. Finally, the Magic system is one of the best aspects of the game. Since any character can learn any magic, you can find four to six characters you really like, and dump everything you have into them, creating your seasoned veterans and go-to guys when you know you're facing a tough battle. Of course, your other characters will suffer. But, that tried and true saying applies here, ''A Jack of all trades, yet Master of none.'' You could develop all your characters, (Upwards of 14 of them by games end) but no one character would be particularly powerful unless you spend countless hours teaching every character ever spell under the sun. Most won't have the patience for that. So, you'll most likely end up with your favorite characters soaring above the others in terms of abilities. This is bothersome in multi party battles when you HAVE to use characters other than your favorites, and it can be quite difficult to accomplish anything at these times if those characters aren't up for the challenge. Other than these issues, the gameplay is smooth and a great many bonuses and side quests exist to keep you playing long after you beat the game.
Graphics (9/10): For sprite based graphics, it doesn't get much better than this. Squaresoft regularly sets the standard in graphics time and again. This is just another example. For those playing FF VI after playing the Playstation games first, returning to Sprite based gaming can be troublesome. But regardless, you cannot deny the level of detail given to this game. The backgrounds and maps in the game are stunning by Super Nintendo standards, and my only knock against the graphics are the character drawings themselves. Though still excellent, they were obviously not given the same amount of attention that the backgrounds received in development. That, though, is understandable, as the characters are much smaller than the backgrounds, so it's harder to detail with sprites. If you are playing the Playstation port of FF VI, the FMV's are stunning and are all that we've come to expect from Squaresoft.
Sound/Music (10/10): It almost goes without saying that the music in any final fantasy game, Courtesy of Nubuo Uematsu, is exquisite. Final Fantasy VI has some of the best music of any Final Fantasy Game, and Final Fantasy Games arguably have the best music of all video games. Some songs in the game are forgettable, and some are annoying after the 30+ times you hear it, namely the battle music. Other than that, the music shines throughout most of the game. When it needs to be dramatic, the music goes far beyond the call of duty and ranks up there with even the music in Major Motion pictures. Though the music is in Midi form, you will walk away remembering it as one of you favorites. The soundtrack for this game is one of the best selling soundtracks of any video game ever produced, and rightfully so. The epic character of much of the music greatly enhances the story line at the most critical points, and the Final Boss Battle music, the first three movements out of the four played through the battle at least, are better than any boss music in any Final Fantasy game that ever, even the final battle music in Final Fantasy Seven, which I consider to be one of the greatest works of music I've ever heard. In short, You will be enthralled with the music of Final Fantasy VI.
Playability (8/10): In a game that requires at least 30+ hours to beat, playability means a lot. The story is what makes 30+ hours worth it. You go through the game the first time, almost rushingly, in pursuit of it's story and driving it along looking forward to the next line of dialogue that will piece together this most enriching of puzzles. You'll play it again to find everything you missed the first time, and there will be plenty. Everything from the hidden desperation attacks, initiated rarely by regular attacks when a character is at critical health, to the two hidden characters hiding somewhere in a great big world. You may decide that you're going to have Strago learn every single one of his Blue magic spells, or have Gau learn every Monster skill available on the Veldt. With Espers to be uncovered, Dragons to be killed, and character histories to be illuminated, you will not run out of reasons to play this game.
In closing, Final Fantasy VI is not for everyone, nor does it pretend to be. This isn't Chronno Trigger (Another Personal Favorite). This game's focus is not flash, special abilities, or even character building (You can beat the game without advancing a single character past 50). It is story driven. For those who want to be able to build an ubercharacter able to take down bosses with three or four hits, you could do that, but you'd be missing the bigger picture that Squaresoft wants to show you. If you're willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and take a look, you will not be disappointed.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/08/01, Updated 11/08/01
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