Saturday, 17 October 2015

Review: Final Fantasy 6

Square why does your logo have a triangle in it?

Of all the games in the series to replay, this was the one I was looking forward to the most. It’s the one that left the best impression on me in all of the franchise, so I was eager to see how well it held up. As a first-timer, what did you know going in?

I believe this to be considered one of the top SNES RPGs, alongside Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, etc. I think I figured out the main character was green-haired wizard Terra, and the villain to be Kefka, the clowny lookin' dude. Ok there’s a lot of those. I also figured there’d be moogles and airships.

The game’s design philosophy was to create a large amount of characters, from a relatively large amount of different character designers, and they all had to share the spotlight. For this reason there’s a lot arguing over who “the main character” of the game is. Which characters would you forth as the leading lads and ladies?

Five more minutes, please.

Terra is totally the main character, with Edgar and Celes in close second IMO. But yeah, it did feel like all the characters got to be kinda special and they play off each other well. I really liked that about it. I feel like waaay back, I had always been given the impression by fans that Locke was the main character, but man, I don’t know where they got that from, he’s really not. He’s kinda just the token underdog scrappy white boy. That’s probably why.

Strangely enough I was also under the impression that Locke was going to be the protagonist going by my friends. The only real thing I enjoy about Locke is that he talks himself up as an adventurer and treasure hunter, but no one in-game is actually buying it and describes him as what he is. That token RPG thief and grave robber dude.

One of the other things I felt was quite fresh about the character designs was they kind of felt like damaged goods instead of the usual up-and-coming young small town heroes. Many of them had lost a significant other, were already war veterans, already established in their careers, or just plain old. And the way the story unfolds, it’s all about working through despair and finding something to live for regardless of how bleak it is.

Got that, Tumblr?

One of the fanciest elements of the game is probably its score, and it’s one of the fondest remembered in the series. Leitmotifs persist through the locations, characters and themes, and they are punctuated by characters having specific instruments associated with them. You end up with a soundtrack that feels very integrated. The musical ambition doesn’t end there either. The final boss’ encounter features a near-20 minute multi-tiered symphony (the longest in the series), and there’s even a semi-interactive opera.

Yeeeah to be honest, I wouldn’t have noticed a lot of the musical ambitiousness if people hadn’t pointed it out to me! The music definitely does enhance the experience and the atmosphere though, and was generally really nice. I liked Terra’s theme the most I think? I would occasionally find myself wanting to just not exit the scene yet so that I could listen to the music for longer.

Anything that stood out that you liked or disliked? I’m personally quite fond of the septopus Ultros and his quest to “jam things up”, and how you are often asked to use a large amount of your roster.

I liked a lot of the ideas for the dungeons/environments. I liked Edgar and Sabin. I almost sorta feel bad that I prefer this game for heading towards being very set piece-y and bespoke, which is forcing modern games to be all short and expensive and light on gameplay. Being forced to use almost the entire party really speaks to the way I like to play these games, I love using all the characters and constantly switching up battle techniques and party dynamics. I think the combat/abilities system was similar enough to FF5, where they gave you loads of variety and a reasonable amount of customizability. You had fixed classes, but assigned espers. I think that was a good balance. Also yes, I love Ultros. How was he so butthurt when he didn’t even have a butt!?

Nice try, Edgar. He means you.

Speaking of FF5, when you contrast Final Fantasy 6 with its predecessor, how it treats its characters is probably the biggest difference between the two. In FF5 characters could pick their “job” and abilities at will, which is nice for gameplay, but loses some of its characterisation potential. Seeing the classic RPG classes return, tied to actual characters helped give your little dudes personality, more of a place in their world, and a little bit of extra perceived depth. I too prefer FF6’s approach, but I suppose which style of the two prefer probably is tied to what type of gamer you are. Seeing as this was one of my favourite games, I hope I didn’t really raise your expectations too high.

I had high hopes for this game, but I kind of also still expected myself to get a bit of JRPG fatigue and find my attention waning a lot, like in all the previous games (though less so with each one) But I didn't! This game was really tops, and I totally agree with all the fans that rank it beside Earthbound and Chrono Trigger in besterest SNES RPGs. The dungeons had so much amazing variety and neat designs I think I got about halfway through the game before I even realized what I was doing counted as a ‘dungeon’. The characters were super lovable, with enough cute scenes for a sense of relationship building and teamwork. That’s often the best part of a game story for me.

Guys, wait up! I have short stubby legs and can't walk that fast.

Ultimately the game was pretty much how I remembered it, but the customisation allowed me to play it differently from last time. Had a blast and still rank it up in my all-time favourites. What's your summarised final verdict?


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