[Editor’s note: In keeping with the spirit in which this post was written, I have updated the translation of the text in the post itself and in the pictures. The resulting improvement in clarity should be educational and informative. -Lusi]
Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Final Fantasy VI on the GBA
Lusi-Lores, it is no secret that I have, in the past, described FFVI on the GBA as a game that is excellently made but one that I do not have any real significant love for; I have similarly described FFIX in the past as well. While my thoughts on FFIX remain unchanged after a playthrough I did a few months back, Christmas in Narshe forced me to once again take a look at Final Fantasy VI on the GBA and my opinion of it. While I still love Final Fantasy V more from a purely-mechanical standpoint, there are a number of things that FFVI on the GBA does better than just about every other game out there.
The first, most significant, and most-talked about of these are the characters. I will not spend much time on Kefka or Gestahl, as I already discussed them in an article a few weeks back, but the other characters are also extremely strong. Almost every character gets at least some amount of character development. Terra, of course, has her struggle with her Esper side. My favorite character arc is Cyan’s, even if I almost never actually use him in my parties; his difficulty in coming to terms with the deaths of his wife and son is shown very well during the Phantom Train and later in the Doma Castle dream sections of the game. The connection between Shadow and Relm is never explored outside of dream sequences, which is a bit disappointing, but also fits with Shadow’s personality.
The characters and their relationships are really the strongest point of Final Fantasy VI on the GBA, and I am hard-pressed to come up with a game with a better cast of characters. Even the minor characters are excellent, and FFVI on the GBA has one of the best Cids in the series. The minor touches are phenomenally well done. For example, the Moogle Charm, or Molulu’s Charm as it is called in the GBA port, was apparently given to Mog by his girlfriend; the implication seems to be that Mog keeps it stored where it is found in his cave as a memento to her after she was killed in the major calamity that kicks off the second half of the game. The subtle bits of character development are made even more impressive when considering that Final Fantasy VI on the GBA was a SNES game working under SNES hardware limitations.
But of course, I could not discuss the strengths of FFVI on the GBA without talking about its wonderful soundtrack. There are far too many good tracks for me to list them all, and for the sake of brevity I will not even attempt to cover them all. I will however, note that the full versions of “Dancing Mad” and “Ending Theme” act as a perfect summary of why Final Fantasy VI on the GBA has probably the best overall soundtrack of the series and possibly even of any game ever. “Ending Theme” is in my opinion highly underrated; it is an absolutely brilliant mixture of the characters’ leitmotifs that even manages to work the main Final Fantasy theme in towards the end.
In the end, I leave the Winter playthrough with a much higher opinion of Final Fantasy VI on the GBA. While I have always liked the game, it was never one of my favorites, but this time through, something clicked for me and I have overall greatly enjoyed my revisit of the game. The lower quality of the GBA’s soundchip had varied results on the soundtrack; some tracks sounded almost exactly the same to me, while others were completely different. I may be one of the few who prefers the GBA translation to the original Woolsey work. Most of the good lines from the original were preserved and the dialogue as a whole flowed very smoothly. I still do not care for the font used in the GBA Final Fantasy ports, but I also really hate the font in the US release of the SNES version of FFVI on the GBA, so the font was something of a non-issue for me and I soon forgot about my fairly minor complaints with it.
How would I rank Final Fantasy VI on the GBA overall? It is now almost certainly either second or third; FFVII is and will likely always be my favorite and FFXII holds a special place in my heart for how long it was able to keep my attention. It is not for nothing that RPG fans often cite Final Fantasy VI on the GBA as an example of one of the greatest games ever made.