For me, Final Fantasy VI was the one that always got away from me. Born too early to enjoy it at release, born too late to have the time to devote to the classic. I made so many attempts to play this game throughout the years, starting (and never finishing) the game on multiple occasions, across multiple combinations of computers, (via emulation), PlayStations (via the PS anthology pack) and then finally, to the present year, where it is just the latest installment of the my A-Z play through of my Steam game library.
I never saw Final Fantasy VI on the shelves at any of the gaming stores I frequented as a kid. No one in my circle had even heard of it, let alone owned it. It wasn't until I was exposed to RPGs through the likes of Baldur's Gate and Pokemon that I saw whisperings of a mythical game known as Final Fantasy VI. I probably first heard about it in 1998.
Final Fantasy VI has been released on the SNES, PlayStation, Gameboy Advance, Wii Virtual Console, the SNES Mini nostalgia device, mobile phones (Apple and Android) as well as, PC (which is where I played through for this review).
2021 is a long journey from the 1994 original release date of Final Fantasy VI, and it is a title that defies its age in a wonderful manner. This is in part due to the charming sprite based art, but also due to the art direction. 2D, (and mode 7 3D) titles hold up rather well when the art direction has seen the correct level of attention to detail - unlike early 3D games which followed.
The game opens in the mining town of Narshe, where we are first introduced to a party of three using Magitek armour. One of these three is a woman by the name of Terra, who is a slave to the Gestahl empire. In a world without magic, she has magic, which makes her a valuable and mysterious force in the agenda of the empire.
We quickly learn that the empire is investigating esters, which they believe to be linked to the ongoing research of Magitek stuff, the intersection between the burgeoning Steampunk aesthetic of FFVI, and the re-awakening forces of magic throughout the world, spearheaded by the enigmatic Terra.
From here, the story of the game unfolds into an epic tale involving The Returners, a group opposing the Empire, and one of the most truly evil antagonists in a Final Fantasy game, Kafka, who through despicable acts, social engineering, and a selfish desire for power sends the plot into a myriad of twists and turns.
Combat is introduced early in the game, backed by impressive music (by none other than series legend Nobuo Uematsu) in which you can hear the prelude of Final Fantasy VII's iconic music. This is not the only thing that has hints as to what was destined to come, with the Active Time Battle system on display as well.
Playing out in turns, Combat is fun due to the delicate balance that sees your party able to reliably trounce the living daylights of out of most monsters you encounter. For those that you do not destroy in a few simple hits or skills, you need to think about using a mixture of abilities from each of the party members to swiftly achieve victory.
There's so many abilities in the game, you're unlikely to use them all in a single play through. This is overwhelmingly due to the fact that each and every character in the game comes with their own set of skills and abilities. Additionally, with the vast cast of memorable characters, you'll simply not want to let go of the characters that you will fall in love with as the story unfolds.
Each character has their own goals and story, which means it is easy to become attached the personality of the entire cast. Layer in the game, many have a side quest which helps to flesh out their motivations and histories in greater depth than what playing through the standard story would.
It is abundantly clear that Final Fantasy VI builds upon everything that was already excellent in the series. In a sequential play through, it is the best all-round title in the series. I've still got a significant number of Final Fantasy tales to experience, and that means there's many hours of gaming left ahead of me. I look forward to them all, even if they're only half as entertaining as Final Fantasy VI.
If you want to experience this series at its very best, play this game.