December 29, 2012

5 Reasons Why Final Fantasy VI Is The Best Final Fantasy Ever

I don’t think I've been able to adequately explain my love of this particular Final Fantasy to anyone. Perhaps it is because it’s practically impossible to quickly sum up such an immensely influential Final Fantasy. In terms of overall Final Fantasy game experience it is the complete package. As far as I’m concerned no other Final Fantasy comes close to topping it, but I digress. This is a list, nay an explanation of the 5 reasons why Final Fantasy VI is the best Final Fantasy. Hopefully you will understand what I’m getting at here, and you will see how it influenced my life as a gamer and maybe even how it still does.

   Final Fantasy VI was not the first Final Fantasy game I played, the very first was Final Fantasy IV, but back then it was known as Final Fantasy II. However, that wasn't even the first Square title I ever played, the very first was Chrono Trigger, which is one of my more favorite Square games, but I won’t go into that.

1. Music
   One of the things I rave about most in my favorite video games is the music. Why? Music is what gives emotion to any type of visual art. Yes, video games to me are an art form. I realized this early on because I viewed video games and movies as being in the same category. If movies have musical scores it is only be fitting that video games should too. Think of your favorite movie without any music. Would you enjoy it very much? I don’t think you would. So when I first started playing Final Fantasy VI, I was greeted by the bittersweet melody of Terra’s (or Tina’s) theme. I was blown away at how complex the music in Final Fantasy VI is. Music is universal, and at that moment I understood its importance. What’s more incredible is the fact that the SNES was capable of conveying these hauntingly beautiful themes created by series composer Nobuo Uematsu. There’s no denying that I was hooked at that very moment just because of the musical score. Now that is powerful.

2. Characters

   No story is complete without characters, and Final Fantasy provided several characters with an amazing amount of depth and personality, especially for a sprite based game. There are fourteen permanently controllable characters! That’s a huge roster, and each one contributed in a special way to the story. You couldn't play all the characters at once, but the mere idea that there was this group of characters ready to be controlled at your beck and call was an awesome prospect. The story hinged on the group dynamic, and you were introduced to new characters as the story progressed. Each one brought something different to the table;

Terra Branford – Half-human, half esper, slave to the evil Empire and capable of using powerful magic in a world that fears and abhors it.

Locke Cole – a “Treasure Hunter” and rebel sympathizer, driven by a powerful need to protect others.

Edgar Figaro – Leader of Figaro, legendary womanizer, and secret supporter of the rebel cause.

Sabin Rene Figaro – Younger brother of Edgar who ran away in order to pursue his own path.

Celes Chere – A former general of the Empire who joined the Rebels after being jailed for questioning imperial practices.

Shadow – A Ninja mercenary who switches sides at will. His past is shrouded in mystery.

Cyan Garamond – Retainer to the king of Doma. He lost his family when the Empire poisoned the waters of Doma Castle.

Gau – an oft misunderstood wild child who was thrown out of his home, and left to survive on his own in the dangerous land known as The Veldt.

Setzer Gabbiani – Legendary gambler and owner of the world’s only known airship. His love gambling and thrills ultimately leads him to join the Rebel cause.

Strago Magus – Relm’s elderly grandfather and descendant of the magi.

Relm Arrowny – a very young but tough artist capable of powerful magic.

Mog – a very helpful Moogle who lives in the mines of Narshe. Helped Terra when she was being chased by the Narshe Guards.

Umaro – A savage but loyal Sasquatch also from Narshe who joins the group in the latter part of the game.

– A mysteriously shrouded master of the art of mimicry. May be the lost love of Setzer.

   These brief descriptions only scratch the surface of what each character’s roles are in the overall story. There are even some briefly controllable characters such as the leader of the Returners known as Bannon, and the leader of the Empire’s military; General Leo. But the single most important character is the villain, Kefka. His vile nature and evil acts makes your struggle against the evil Empire all the more meaningful.

3. Story
   The story of Final Fantasy VI is that of struggle and triumph against all odds. You are a small group of individuals pitted against the might of an Empire poised to take over the world by abusing magic. There are several themes presented in the story; Friendship, Loyalty, Duty, Love, Death, Dealing with Depression, Finding Hope, Doing what is Right, Avenging the Wronged, etc... Many tender moments are presented to the player; Terra faces uncertainty when she finds out her true nature as a hybrid human-esper. This fact terrifies her, and causes her to question if she could ever be truly loved by another.

   Celes finds herself on a desert Island where she must care for the only person who truly cared about her or he will die. If you fail to save him, she will spiral into depression ultimately leading to her attempting suicide, only to fail at that as well. She then eventually gathers up her spirits and venture forth to reunite with her lost comrades.

   Cyan loses his family when Kefka poisons everyone in Doma Castle. In his despair he rushes out to face the Empire soldiers where Sabin and Shadow meet him and try to calm him down lest he get himself killed. He eventually does, and journey’s with them only to face his family’s’ death when he sees their spirits boarding the Phantom Train in order to travel on to the other side.

   Much of Final Fantasy VI is tragic, which makes the goal of taking down the Empire, especially Kefka imperative. There are some happy moments, but the overall feeling is that of despair if not sadness with the prospect of hope. Hope is what keeps the party pressing on. It gives greater purpose for the player to resolve the issues that plague the game world.

   My most favorite moment is the famed Opera Scene, where the party seeking to make their way to Vector, Capitol of the Empire, must secure an airship by planting Celes in place of famed actress and opera singer Maria. It’s the most entertaining, and touching point in the game, with some added comic relief to boot.

My second most favorite part of the game is the second half of the game when you must find your friends, and try to take down Kefka up in his tower. I just get the feeling of righteous anger fueled by a just cause. And each party member that I secure lends a better chance to that cause. There’s such a powerful feeling of hope and triumph that I get from the latter part of the game that it’s just, ah, satisfying!

4. Magic
   In Final Fantasy anyone can learn magic by equipping Magicite, which is the crystallized life force of beings known as espers. The symbolism alone is tragically magnificent. An esper must give up its life willingly in order to pass on its knowledge to those who would wield their crystalline forms. But aside from the thematic implications from that point, each Esper can also be summoned once per battle to perform a magical attack or bestow some magical aid to the party. There are also some other added benefits to each esper as they will give certain bonuses to characters upon level ups. I should also mention the Relic system, which allows each character to equip two additional items that have magical abilities which affect game play in special ways. For example the Golden Hairpin halves MP use for magic spells, the Economizer reduces MP use to 1 for any spell, the Genji Gloves allows a player to wield two weapons, the Offering allows a character to attack more than one foe at a time, the Gauntlet allows a character to wield a one handed weapon with two hands to increase the damage, the Dragon Boots allow characters to jump during battle in order to deliver powerful blows, and so on. There are several Relics, as well as other equipment which make for interesting game play changes in place of the usual Job system incorporated in other Final Fantasy games.

5. Conflict & Victory

   The boss battles in Final Fantasy are epic. You know when you are facing a significant foe when the regular battle them is replaced by the much more upbeat and menacing boss theme. But they pale in comparison to the final battle, which pulls out all the stops and makes you want to beg for mercy. The final confrontation with Kefka is the culmination of the game. Everything before was just in preparation for it. Final Fantasy did something new here when the battle started you out at the bottom of a totem representing the gods. You even choose different parties for each stage of the battle. Upon defeating the three gods, Kefka descends. Then the final battle really begins. At this point your party is battered yet still standing. They have overcome all odds to make it this far. There is no turning back. It’s fight or die. When you finally do defeat Kefka, the source of magic fades from the world for ever and his tower crumbles to the ground as the group escapes on the airship. I felt overwhelming joy in the aftermath of this game as the longest end game scene played out detailing the feelings and hopes of each character. There was a happy ending to it all.

   Final Fantasy VI, in my opinion, is the best because of these few reasons. You might disagree, and that is fine. But I promise you that if you were to invest the time into this SNES gem you’d not go away disappointed. In writing all of this, words still eluded me in describing what is so great about the game. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself. So I hope that you do, or at least listen to the music, which is by far the best the series has ever produced… ha ha,  perhaps I’ll need to explain why I believe that another time. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my take on things here.

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