Editorial: Final Fantasy VI: Over 17 Years Later for the First Time

As a late bloomer when it comes to my age and when I actually started owning my own video game consoles, I tend to be on the 3D side when “greatest game in the series” debates pop up.

Terra's Theme is stuck in my head forever.
Iconic art.

Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are my favourite Zelda games, I have far more nostalgia tied to Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 than their 2D counterparts, and I was introduced to the Final Fantasy series with Final Fantasy VII while my favourite in the franchise notoriously stands as Final Fantasy IX.

Still, when I hear my friends who did own consoles prior to the Nintendo 64 tell me how Link to the Past is the greatest Zelda game ever made, and how they used to play Super Mario World so often they could beat it with their eyes closed, I do begin to wish I had the same appreciation for the titles that made so many fellow fans fall in love with the series.

I have tried to follow up this desire a number of times. I have played the first half of Link to the Past on so many occasions that I cannot count them. I have also enjoyed exploring Mario’s first romps in 2D whenever I get the chance. But my most die-hard efforts have fallen upon the Final Fantasy series. After my love affair with VII and IX, I tried to start digging back.

FFI, FFIV, FFV, and FFVI fall into a similar category as Link to the Past. I know the first 25-50% extremely well and have rarely been able to get past that point. But over the years I have been able to complete Final Fantasy II (unfortunately), Final Fantasy III (unfortunately), and get significantly farther in my playthroughs of IV and V. However, all the praise for Final Fantasy VI started to become almost like pressure for me. The times I had attempted to play it, I had never really been that into it. I enjoyed the iconic opening, but after that the game had just fallen off for me.

Then came the holidays. While my life used to be dedicated to mostly just sitting down and playing video games, the end of December tends to be the only time I can do that with such commitment any more. Realizing this, I decided to finally make this the time I played all the way through Final Fantasy VI.

At the time of this writing, I am still only about half way through. I have sunk 12 hours into the title and just completed the highly lauded opera section. With pleasure and some measure of relief, I can easily state that this is the most fun I have had with the game yet.

Not all my captions are winners.
This is Final Fantasy VI Art

Now that I have dedicated proper time and energy to the game and story, I am amazed at how invested I am. The game was released in North America in December of 1994 and it outstripes so many modern efforts in terms of mood and character. The variety in characters’ abilities make it such that regular attacks are largely ignored in battle; a rare feat for any traditional RPG. Finally, I am starting to hear why so many people hold the soundtrack in such high regard.

I was always able to appreciate the music I had heard from FFVI, but now being more familiar with the entire series and really digging this playthrough, the OST is swiftly rising through the ranks of my favourites. More than any of the Final Fantasy games that were released before it, FFVI‘s OST seems to be born from the characters and setting. I plan to get into this further with a future instalment of The Nobuo Review, but while Uematsu had always shown skill, FFVI catapults his talents to their current legendary status.

Somehow, Final Fantasy VI is able to balance telling a rich story and properly developing a large cast of characters with exploration that is not overwhelming but also does not hold the player’s hand. Obviously, the production values are not as high as a modern day title, but I find myself consistently impressed with the level of detail and ambition I find in the game.

That is perhaps the most impressive and interesting aspect of my time with the title. The game is nearly two decades old yet despite its limited graphical and sound capabilities, it still has the power to captivate a semi-new-school gamer such as myself who had never given it a fair shot before.

Last night I went to bed three hours later than I had expected because I could not turn off my PSP. I needed to explore more. I needed to exploit the abilities of the espers. I needed to uncover Locke’s motivations for his incessant need to protect women.

So consider this yet another voice in the choir for Final Fantasy VI. A game that truly transcends its time.

8 comments

  1. Have you played Chrono Trigger, Ethos? That’s the other old school RPG that I still think holds up quite well despite the massive technological limitations. I really felt the chibi (right term?) pantomime acting sort of stuff to really develop the individual character’s personalities. (Think when Edgar and Locke first see Terra use Magic or the Sabin/Cyan/possibly Shadow escape scene.) I also think it has a well balanced “just a few more fights and I’ll get [new thing],” sort of addictive grindiness to it.

  2. Chrono Trigger is another symptom of my Quinitialitis disease. I’ve played the opening 987324923 times. I got most of the way through it another tmie.

  3. It’s interesting to hear a perspective from someone who is playing through this one for the first time. The thing is, when Final Fantasy VI came out, it was _the greatest game ever made_. But there have been many other “greatest game ever made”‘s to come out since then. If you’re permanently nostalgic, like myself, the stuff you cut your teeth on is always going to take first place in your heart. Such as how FFIX might be for you.

    Now, after a certain point in some peoples’ game playing autobiography, things don’t just keep getting better (i.e., FFVIII was made. WTF?!?!?), and feelings toward the “new” become more ambivalent, leading to an over-appreciation for the Golden Days.

    Furthermore, I like what you brought up about playing games from the beginning over and over. I didn’t actually beat any of my favorite games until years after they came out; getting halfway through and feeling nostalgic for that magical feeling it started out with. Now I just reached Terra in FFIX, and intend to finish it this month!

  4. Mad props to you for doing this. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that refuse to check PS2 gems, let alone SNES titles.

  5. Boo-urns, Paul :(

    @Epy – I actually spend a lot of time playing older games. My PSP is almost strictly for PSOne classics and I still have my PS2 hooked up. I also have a sizable Virtual Console library. I’ve always enjoyed playing older titles, but I think the past year I’ve finally started to fully appreciate them.

  6. Very timely piece for me, Ethos, as I’m currently playing Chrono Trigger on the Wii Virtual Console for the first time. I had played maybe 4 hours a few months ago, and just recently picked up where I left off. It’s as good as people say, and though I have to real nostalgia for it, I DO have some nostalgia for games of its age (Super Mario RPG, for example).

    But imagine if you were born today, or if you had a kid today (and they like games). Would there EVER be a chance that they would be able to play though all these older “must play” games as well as keep up with current offerings? Eventually, it’s just going to be impossible. It’s not like movies, which take a couple hours to enjoy. Heaps of 40+ hour experiences will just pass younger people by, and probably not for lack of interest.

  7. Young people are the only ones with time to play through 40+ hours games for the most part. ;)

    Besides, kids are dumb. They’ll watch the same bad movie three times in a row and love every second of it.

    I think basically unless you’re a hardcore graphics whore then you can still enjoy older games. Personally, other than a few old arcade games (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Arkanoid) which I’ll play once in a while for a few minutes I can’t go back earlier than the NES. I did have an Atari 7800(?) when I was a little kid, but those games tend to be extremely abstract and simple. And while there are tons of NES games that I don’t think have aged well at all (glitchy or broken or just stupid hard) I can’t think of any 2600 games I’d want to play.

Comments are closed.