Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: GBA, SNES, and PS
When Final Fantasy VI, better known here as Final Fantasy III, came out in North America, I decided to forego my policy of trying games out before buy them. I could make the claim that, by that point, I had enough trust in the franchise, but the truth is I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of going back and forth to the video rental store, hoping it’s available, as I did for Final Fantasy IV. Also, my friend was a huge fan of the series and sort of a blabbermouth, so the sooner I bought the game, the fewer spoilers I’d be exposed to.
With Final Fantasy VI, Squaresoft once again revolutionised the way RPG players manage their party, starting them off with a single mysterious character, the mind-controlled Terra, and partnering her up as the game progresses with thirteen other characters, each with his or her own unique ability. Sometimes, the story imposes a specific party. Other times, gamers can put together their own team, handpicking their favourite toons and benching the underperformers. It’s the only way they’ll learn, you know.
As is in most Final Fantasy titles, the magic system also proves innovative. Throughout Final Fantasy VI, you encounter various Espers, magical beings who can teach magic to all of your characters. Equipping an Esper allows you to gain magic points and learn spells. Unlike the jobs in Final Fantasy V, most spells are quickly acquired, removing the the need for aimless grinding. Just continue on with your adventure, and you’ll become a powerful wizard before you know it.
The Final Fantasy series has always had good music, but to say Final Fantasy VI ups the ante would be an understatement. The soundtrack is, in my opinion, the best of any Super Nintendo title. Composer Uematsu Nobuo’s music doesn’t just kick ass. It enhances the game’s storytelling, as each location, character, and even mood comes with a unique theme, engrossing us not just into an imaginary world but a fictional life as well.
Of course, no symphony could make the plot shine if the latter were terrible. Luckily, Final Fantasy VI has the richest tale in the franchise, avoiding the typical RPG pitfall of setting X items to find, X representing the number on which the developers settled to artificially lengthen the game. Everything flows seamlessly. In addition, each character comes with his or her own personality quirks, back story, and reason to join the rebellion.
However, the real strength of the story lies in its villain. To say more would constitute a major spoiler, so, if you haven’t played Final Fantasy VI yet, I advise you to stay away from any FAQ or game guide until you’ve experienced a complete run-through with fresh eyes. Suffice it to say the baddy’s arc goes off the rails halfway through the game, leaving you feeling like a complete dupe. I mean that in the best possible way. What’s more, once the twist occurs, you’re asked to reform your troupe and rebuild its arsenal, exploring as much or as little of the new map as you want. It’s as close to an open sandbox as the Final Fantasy series has ever come.
Even if you mastered the game formerly known as Final Fantasy III on the Super Nintendo, the Gameboy Advance port, more accurately titled Final Fantasy IV Advance, makes for a worthwhile purchase, with additional content that will challenge even seasoned players who know all the best techniques to inflict maximum damage. Final Fantasy VI may be the last 2-D game in the series, but it’s kept the number one spot in every other respect.