Review by ZFS

"Ahem. There's sand on his boots!"

Squaresoft's Final Fantasy franchise has been the most popular RPG franchise for years and years. With Final Fantasy VI, they made the leap from the old sprites to using the Super Nintendo to its full potential. Often talked about as one, if not the, best Final Fantasy game ever created, Final Fantasy VI still withstands the test of time and remains one of the greatest games to be made. With a mixture of amazing storytelling, endearing characters, and the advancement of the battle system through something dealing with Espers, it stands atop many RPGs to this day, having a greatness that hasn't quite been matched since the day it was released.

The game takes place 1,000 years after the War of the Magi -- a war between Humans and Espers over the mysterious force known as "magic."Currently, the evil Empire, led by Gesthal, now rules over much of the known world. Using a created force known as Magitek, they rule uncontested and strike fear into virtually any town they can reach. As the game begins, Terra and two soldiers are seen marching through the snowy town of Narshe in search for Espers. When they finally arrive at the Esper, Terra -- currently under control of the Empire against her will through the use of a Slave Crown -- is released from the Slave Crown and the two soldiers who accompanied her are killed. From there, she meets up with a man named Locke Cole is who a member of the Returners, a group dedicated to bringing the Empire down. With the loss of her memory, Terra is guided along by Locke to attempt to help her regain her memory and whom she is, in hopes that she can help them take down the Empire. Final Fantasy VI's story only continues to get deeper from there. There are plenty of plot twists and changes that will leave you in awe. The storytelling in the game is truly unmatched, even to this day. Enemies, heroes, they all have some part in the game that leaves a big impact on the world around them.

Out of all the RPGs out there today, the one that truly is impressive with its cast of characters is Final Fantasy VI. There is such an even focus on every character that it remains hard to this day for a person to pinpoint one specific character as the "main" person. Terra Branford is the center of the story for the most part, but each of the other characters is given such even screen time and each of their backgrounds is touched on throughout the game at different points. The cast serves to compliment each other, creating what is arguably the single most complete set of characters found within a video game. The storytelling is flawless and the characters are just as flawless. Each of them has had some past that gets them to where they are today, and you get to see and sympathize with many of the tragic events that may have taken place in their prior history. The depth in each character, main or supporting, is outstanding. What's more, the variety of what they specialize in or what their persona is like is incredible. Locke Cole is a thi...ahem, Treasure Hunter; Edgar Figaro is a King and womanizer; Sabin Figaro is a martial artist/body builder with a good heart; and Setzer is a gambling traveler. That's only the tip of the iceberg too. Seeing all their different personalities clash with one another creates for many humorous and serious moments alike. This is without a doubt one of the best casts you're going to run across in any game. They remain both interesting and very likeable.

The characters, while perfect, can't quite make an entire game. Luckily, Final Fantasy VI makes a leap from previous Final Fantasy titles. Instead of the tried and true Job System, Final Fantasy VI has the brand-new, exclusive Esper System. This basically allows each character to learn all the different abilities the Esper they have equipped has. There can only be one Esper to every character. But once you learn the abilities the Esper has to offer, you can remove it and switch it with someone else. The only downfall in this is that you can make each character rather identical. By the end of the game, they will all know the same abilities as the other, as far as magic is concerned. They still share some unique abilities in the weapons they wield. Edgar, most notably, has an option called "Tools." These will allow you to have things from Bio Blasters to Auto Crossbows. Every character has a special option such as this one, such as Terra's "Morph" or Locke's "Steal" however, they still don't quite do enough to really separate the characters enough. So while the Esper System is a great addition to the traditional Final Fantasy formula, it still has the issue of making many of the characters seem like copies of each other in abilities. It doesn't help that many of them are capable of equipping the same weapons. It's a minor complaint, but it's still an issue. Outside of the Esper System, Final Fantasy VI sticks to the basic formula for any RPG -- the basic turn-based battle system and random encounters seen in most games in the genre.

To go along with the new addition of the Esper System, Final Fantasy VI also got advancement in the visual department. Unlike Final Fantasy IV on the same system, the graphics are far more detailed in this game. The character sprites show far more action, whether it be laughing, surprise, or whatever. It makes the characters move lovable due to the graphical increase. The environments, such as towns and caverns, also look great. The only issue that arises with these is that many of the same environments are used over and over again. This isn't so much true for towns as it is the different caves. Many of them look like something you have gone through before. It's understandable given that the caverns do feature a vastly different layout. But it's just a little disappointing that you couldn't see a different tone found in the color of each, instead of a copy of the first cave style. It is a minor complaint and doesn't really have an effect on the game at all. Due to this graphic increase, you're getting a game that will draw you in more and make you have a better time getting attached to this world and its characters. The sprites look fabulous and the art style is aesthetically pleasing.

Outside of the story and characters, perhaps the best aspect of Final Fantasy VI is the musical score. A man named Nobuo Uematsu, one of the greatest videogame composers ever. Most of the other Final Fantasy games had soundtracks that were rather lackluster to say the least. This was primarily because of the technological limitations of the time, but they still left a lot to be desired. However, Final Fantasy VI brings together one of Uematsu' greatest soundtracks. Many of the tracks found in the game are very memorable. Kefka's Theme, for example, is a rather simple tune, but it is so catchy and wacky that it's nearly impossible to not like it. The other scores in the game serve their purpose well. During scenes that are meant to be emotional are accompanied by music that multiples by the effect in large. You have such a spectrum of songs and all of them are of such high quality. The variety of instruments that Uematsu uses to compose the music is amazing; they come together to create a real masterpiece as far as music is concerned. Despite being in a day and age where orchestrated music can be found in games, Final Fantasy VI still holds up as an amazing piece of music. It can be emotional, it can be happy-go-lucky, or it can just serve to calm you during small town scenes.

When all is said and done, Final Fantasy VI remains as one of the biggest games to stick out during the 16-bit era, for both the RPG genre and gaming as a whole. It gives you perhaps the best storytelling seen and a cast that goes unparalleled to this day. There's no doubt that if you have not yet played this game that you need to do so immediately. It does have some minor flaws, such as making the characters too similar thanks to the Esper System, but all of them can be overlooked in favor of the advancement in gameplay and characters. Final Fantasy VI is the game that really separates RPGs for every other game out there. While the main ingredient in a game is gameplay, this game still shows that being able to convey a good story and likeable characters can truly make up for nearly any flaw found within the game. You must play this one.

Final Score: 8/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/14/05, Updated 09/04/07

Game Release: Final Fantasy III (US, 10/20/94)

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