Posted on April 4, 2019
Final Fantasy VI/ファイナルファンタジーVI
Final Fantasy VI (FF6) marks the end of the Final Fantasy Trilogy for the SFC/SNES, and what a way to end it! Anyone who has any amount of interest in the FF series or just 16-bit RPGs in general has probably already heard that FF6 is an amazing game. You’ll be hard pressed to find any “Best SNES RPG” list that don’t have FF6 in at least the Top 3. There’s a good reason for that – it’s gonna be VERY hard to find a better JRPG on the system!
FF6 has it all – stunning graphics, fun gameplay, a very compelling story, especially for its time (1994!), outstanding music, and what I personally believe to be maybe the best villain in the entire Final Fantasy franchise! Is Final Fantasy VI the best JRPG you can find on the SFC/SNES? Let’s find out!
Score – 38/40
Story – 9/10
Gameplay – 9/10
Graphics – 10/10
Music – 10/10
Style: Japanese Role-playing Game (Turn-based)
Platform: Super Famicom
Release Date: JP: April 2nd, 1994 / US: October 11th, 1994
Length: 25～40 Hours
Table of Contents
FF6 SFC/SNES Review
Final Fantasy VI set the standard for the rest of the JRPGs that were released on the SFC/SNES, and i’d even be willing to wager that it influenced quite a few JRPGs that came out during the next generation for the PlayStation, too. There isn’t a single category that i’ll be able to give FF6 a bad score in, the game is oozing with top-notch quality from developers who absolutely mastered their craft and had the ability to squeeze every ounce of power out of the SFC/SNES to produce a masterpiece that has stood the test of time!
With a regular blind playthrough clocking in at around 30 hours, FF6 is a game that you can pick up for a few hours at a time and still finish in a good two weeks or so. Don’t let that fool you though, FF6 is a game that’s packed with content! There’s so much stuff going on during the game that you’ll definitely feel like you’ve been playing for 40 or 50 hours by the time you’re done. The pacing is also great, with very little “down time” or dry spots, so you’re definitely in for an epic adventure that’ll keep you on edge the entire time!
The first thing i’ll talk about is the story. The story is definitely one of the strong points of FF6, and probably the part that’s been improved the most throughout the trilogy. I’ll try to keep stuff vague as to not give off too many hints/spoilers.
The game begins with 3 Imperial soldiers standing on a cliff in Magitek Armor (think mini-gundams with the top half open), looking off towards the distant mining town Narshe. 2 of the Imperial soldiers (Bicks and Wedge) go over their plan to attack Narshe, in search for a rumored Esper (mythical creature, think typical FF summons) that has been discovered encapsulated in ice deep inside the mines of Narshe. With them, an unknown female soldier with green-ish/white hair and “??????” for a name confirms the plan of attack, which leads to the 3 heading towards Narshe.
Upon arriving in Narshe, the 3 Imperial solders attack the city and kill everyone who gets in their way, as the local population doesn’t stand a chance against the Empire’s Magitek Armor, eventually finding the Esper hidden in the mines. When the group gets close to the Esper, the ice surrounding it shatters and the Esper awakens, presumably killing Bicks and Wedge, while the unknown female soldier has a moment of communication with the Esper before being engulfed in flames.
After regaining consciousness, the female soldier is greeted by a man who says he’s part of a group called The Returners, who are essentially rebels fighting against the Empire. The female soldier finally remembers her name, Tina, and learns that she was being mind-controlled by the Empire via a magical-device around her neck. Soon after, some remaining Narshe soldiers come banging on the man’s door, demanding that he hands over Tina for the atrocities that her and her group committed.
Instead of handing her over, the man tells Tina about a possible escape route behind his house leading into a different section of the mines. During her escape, Tina falls through a hole in the ground, falling into a pit and losing unconscious upon impact. Right as the Narshe militia begins to close in on her location, a Treasure Hunter named Lock appears along with a group of Moogles (little white furry animal people) to defend Tina while she’s unconscious.
After defeating the militia, Lock tells Tina about another Returner, King Edgar of Figaro, who lives in Figaro Castle just south of Narshe. The two head to Figaro Castle to meet Edgar, who then joins the party. Things go south rather quickly, as word got out to the Empire that Tina had escaped Narshe. Emperor Gestahl sees to it that one of the Empire’s top generals, Kefka, is sent to Figaro Castle to retrieve Tina at all costs.
Edgar pretends that he doesn’t know where Tina is, which leads to Kefka getting pissed off and lighting all of Figaro Castle on fire! Edgar, being a machine-specialist (Machinist), made sure to equip Figaro Castle with a submerging feature, allowing Castle Figaro to burrow into the sand underneath it, which promptly puts out the flames. In the mean time, Edgar, Locke, and Tina escape on the back of 3 chocobos while Kefka gets pissed off and vows to exact revenge on them the next time they meet.
The 3 decide to head to The Returners’ Headquarters, which is a pretty long distance away from Figaro Castle. On their way to The Returners’ Headquarters, the group meets up with Edgar’s brother, Mash. Mash joins the party, who arrive at The Returners’ Headquarters soon after. Lock decides to do a scouting run by himself to gather information on the Empire’s next move. Not long after Lock leaves, Kefka arrives with a group of Imperial soldiers and raids the Headquarters, forcing the remaining party to flee via a secret passage, leading to a cliff with a raging river at the bottom of it.
While floating along the river, the party gets attacked by a talking Octopus named Ultros (who appears a few times during the game to provide some outstanding comedic relief). The party battles it out with Ultros, who decides to retreat after he starts to lose the battle. Mash, being a bit of a hot-head, jumps into the river to chase after Ultros, but ultimately gets washed away in the raging current.
With Lock out scouting the Empire and Mash being washed away from the party, the characters are now split into 3 different groups. From this point on, the 3 groups each have their own separate stories going on, with each group finding different party members and experiencing separate events during the war.
As the story progresses, the Empire finds a way to drain the magical powers of Espers by turning them into “Magicite”, magical stones that grant immense power to those who hold them. Rather than attempting to control the Espers like the Empire originally planned to, Emperor Gestahl instead decides to begin hunting down Espers and turns them into Magicite that the Empire can use to strengthen their grasp on the world.
There are rumors that an entrance to the Esper World exists, and the Empire promptly begins searching for it. If the Empire can unlock the door to the Esper World and turn all of the Espers inside it into Magicite, the Empire might possibly turn into an undefeatable force. Can the party reunite and stop the Empire from killing the remaining Espers and obtaining god-like power?
That’s about as far as I think I should go in regards to the story in Final Fantasy VI. At about the half-way point in the game, you basically kind of start to understand who the main baddie is, and what they’re trying to accomplish. The summary of the story that I wrote probably covers the first 30% or so of the game, which I think should convey how the game starts off without giving too much away and without just covering each character that you’ll find in the first half of the game.
I really like how the story started off in FF6. There weren’t really any slow parts – you start off attacking a defenseless mining town, which leads to you getting hunted not only by the town you attacked by also by the people who made you do it. After escaping, you head to The Returners’ Hideout which then gets raided, forcing you to flee by raft through a raging river, which causes your party to get split up and opens up 3 scenarios. The fact that you get to pick the order of the scenarios is also really cool and opens up different interpretations of the story!
While I don’t want to spoil the story, I do just want to say that the story really picks up around the 30-40% mark, where shit really hits the fan. Especially for its time, but even nowadays, they usually don’t let the main villain go as far as they let them in FF6. If you play FF6 long enough, you’ll definitely understand why I and a lot of other FF fans consider the main bad guy to be one of the best villains of all the Final Fantasy games, or even just RPGs in general! He’s one of the few that actually accomplishes what they want to!
Looking back on the stories from Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V, you can easily tell that Square got much better at story-telling. The story in Final Fantasy IV was about as good as you were able to get in 1991, but I felt there was a lot of back and forth “this guy is good, no wait he’s bad, nah he’s good, actually nah he’s bad, maybe this time he’s good…” and quite a few “are they dead, or not?” moments which led to me doubting a lot of stuff instead of believing it like I should have.
Final Fantasy V, on the other hand, was just kind of light-hearted overall. I didn’t really have any complaints about that game’s story, but the overall maturity and depth of the story in FF6 is definitely something that should be appreciated. There aren’t many other SFC/SNES RPGs that go where FF6 goes in terms of story.
One quick note is that the story has a lot more darker elements going on in the original Japanese script. Particularly when things involve Kefka, as Kefka pretty much had free-reign over what he could say in the Japanese script but had to be heavily censored in the English script. If you don’t know about Woolseyisms, it’s basically a universally accepted noun for when Square’s SFC/SNES era translator essentially butchered characters/scenes by either translating stuff completely wrong, or changing the feeling/nuance of sentences into something totally different.
Because of this, Kefka in the English version of the game is something of a pitiful Scooby-Doo villain for the first half of the game, whereas he’s a straight up psychopath from the beginning of the Japanese version. Setzer seems like he’s unwilling to join the party in their attack on the Empire because “thanks to the Empire, business is booming” in the English version, but is more than willing to join in the Japanese version because “business is drying up thanks to the Empire”. Huge difference in overall character perception…(easy mistake to make in Japanese, since the noun can be both “rise/go up” and “dry up”, so we’ll give Setzer’s issue a pass…)
I really wish I could continue on with the story summary since it’s too cool to not cover, but if I go too far with it you’ll probably have a slight idea about what’ll happen and who’ll be doing it, so for the sake of keeping the awesome story a surprise for everyone, i’ll go onto the next section – character introductions!
Final Fantasy VI has a huge roster of characters, especially if you’re just coming back from FF5 (which only had 5 main characters)! FF6 has 14, yeah, 14 playable characters, with 3 of those being optional recruits. With the exception of the 3 optional characters, and 2 main characters depending on how much you use em, the rest of the characters have rich backstories and fairly deep character progression.
Most characters are not the same people by the end of the game as they were at the beginning, which is actually pretty cool considering what happens during the course of the game. The events that happen in FF6 would change anyone, so I like that they decided to have the characters keep up with what’s going on around them.
ティナ・ブランフォード (Tina Buranfoodo, Tina Branford) – Tina begins the game mind-controlled by the Empire, and is used as a type of super-soldier due to her ability to use Magic, since all Magic has vanished from the world after the Magic War ended 1000 years prior. Tina doesn’t remember her past, her parents, or who she is. Tina seems to have some sort of affinity with Espers…
ロック・コール (Rokku Kooru, Lock Cole) – Lock is a self-proclaimed Treasure Hunter who is also a member of The Returners. Naturally, as a Treasure Hunter, Lock has the ability to Steal in battle. Lock first appears when he attempts to save Tina from getting captured by the Narshe Militia. Lock loves finding treasure, and has a sense of responsibility to protect women, due to a past experience…
モグ (Mogu, Mog) – Mog is one of the Moogles (モーグリ Mooguri in Japanese, Moogly maybe? Or is the “le” at the end actually pronounced “lee”? If so, life has been one big lie…) that protects Tina together with Lock at the beginning of the game. Mog’s specialty is being able to Dance, which can rain all kinds of havoc on enemies, as well as helping out the party. Can equip some of the highest defense armor in the game.
エドガー・ロニ・フィガロ (Edogaa Roni Figaro, Edgar Roni Figaro) – Edgar is the King of Figaro. Edgar is quite charismatic, and never misses an opportunity it hit on a cute girl (actually, he holds back once because even he thinks it’d be a crime…). Edgar is a Machinist, allowing him to use different kinds of machinery in battle, such as Auto Crossbows, Chain Saws, a Bio-blasters.
マッシュ・レオ・フィガロ (Masshu Reo Figaro, Mash Leo Figaro) – The twin brother of King Edgar. Mash is a hot-tempered martial artist capable of ridiculous feats of strength, such as holding up entire mansions or catching falling steel beams. Mash can use his martial arts in combat, resulting is some really awesome attacks – these require a series of button presses to trigger. Mash is able to live a more free-spirited life, as he was relieved of the duty of inheriting the throne of Figaro after winning a bet with his brother Edgar. Mash is on a search for his martial arts instructor, Master Duncan.
シャドウ (Shadou, Shadow) – An Assassin for hire. Not much is known about Shadow. Upon first meeting him, Edgar insists that Shadow would kill his own grandmother for some gil. One can be sure to find Shadow accompanied by his guard dog, Interceptor. Shadow’s special ability is Throw, which allows items to be thrown for high damage, and occasionally Interceptor will counter attack monsters who attack Shadow. Shadow’s true interests and intentions can’t be confirmed…
カイエン・ガラモンド (Kaien Garamondo, Cayenne Garamonde) – Cayenne is a noble Samurai from the Kingdom of Doma. Doma gets attacked, leaving everyone but Cayenne dead, including Cayenne’s wife and son. With nothing left to live for in Doma, Cayenne joins the party seeking revenge for the attack on his homeland. Cayenne being a Samurai, his ability in battle is to use Sword Techniques while can cause high damage at the cost of taking time to charge up. Cayenne speaks with an old-style Samurai accent.
ガウ (Gau, Gau) – Gau is a boy that was raised in The Veldt, a wild open plain filled with animals. Gau first encounters the party in battle, but after being offered some delicious meat, Gau decides to join the party. Being raised in the wild, Gau doesn’t speak properly, and usually ends up mocking Cayenne’s noble accent. Gau’s special ability is being able to mimic the attack patterns of any creature he’s encountered before.
セリス・シェール (Serisu Sheeru, Celes Chere) – Celes is a high-level General in the Imperial Army. Originally brought into the Imperial Army at a young age by Kefka, Kefka naturally has a soft spot for Celes. Lock meets up with Celes and immediately feels a need to protect her, due to the fact that she resembles someone who is very important to him. Celes shares the ability to use Magic, just like Tina, and can absorb Magic with her sword, allowing her to regain MP and nullify damage when enemies cast Magic.
セッツアー・ギャッビアー二 (Settsuaa Gyabbiaani, Setzer Gabbiani) – Setzer is a wealthy man who loves to gamble – so much so that his weapons include cards and dice AND his special ability is a slot-machine reel! Setzer is tricked by the party at first, due to the fact that Celes almost completely resembles a woman named Maria that Setzer is in love with.
Setzer agrees to join the party after his wealth has been negatively affected by recent aggressions from the Empire. Setzer, being a man of wealth, is also the owner of the very handy Blackjack (with Casino tables included, Setzer truly loves his gambling!), the Airship that the party uses to fly around the world.
ストラゴス・マゴス (Sutoragosu Magosu, Stragus Magus) – The name is probably a botched translation, either the English or Japanese. The Japanese should either be Sutoragasu or the English should be Stragos (since the English version of the game calls him “Strago”, probably the English in the Japanese manual/guides got botched). Anyways, onto the actual summary!
Stragus is an old man who lives in the slightly-off town of Thamasa together with a young girl named Relm. While the party is sleeping in Thamasa, Relm somehow finds herself inside of a burning house. Scared out of his mind, Stragus does the unthinkable, he begins casting magic in an attempt to put out the flames – shocking the entire party, who believed that all magic had disappeared from the world (bar Tina and Celes). Stragus’ ability in battle is the capability of casting magic that he learns from other monsters, so essentially Blue Magic in the Final Fantasy universe.
リルム・アロー二ィ (Rirumu Aroonii, Relm Arrowny) – I always though her name was pronounced “realm”, as in “Shadowrealm”, but I guess it’s actually pronounced like “Reel m”! Relm lives together with Stragus in the magical village of Thamasa. Relm is a artist, who can use her ability to draw enemies in battle. Shadow’s dog, Interceptor, seems to take a particular liking to Relm…
The other secret optional characters aren’t included in the official manual, so they have to be discovered the old-fashioned way!
As I mentioned above, most of the characters develop really well. In particular, backstories and motives really come to light in the last 30-40% of the game, which really helps to flesh out some of the characters and helps you make sense of things that happened earlier in the game. Some characters like Lock and Celes have quite a few stories sequences later on in the game that really develop a lot of emotions and build the characters up quite well.
I do need to mention that quite a lot of the last 30-40% of the game is actually optional. This means that some players might go through and either miss some things, or just skip entire side-quests for characters that they don’t particularly care about, leaving some characters’ stories undeveloped and leading to some plot-holes. That, and depending on some decisions that you make during the game, you can actually accidentally kill off some important characters.
I had one time where I killed someone off without knowing that it wasn’t part of the story. I died shortly after that and after reloading the save, the character somehow lived, even though I didn’t do anything different. That might be RNG considering you have to give that character some items, and the items could potentially be random, but there is a chance that something you do actually has an effect on the outcome.
As proof that I didn’t just speed through the game with a guide, I actually killed off a very important character without even realizing it, causing a few story elements to completely vanish. So, a word of advice, you should be very careful with the decisions that you make in FF6 – I wasn’t expecting that at all in a game from this era, where in most games of this era you’re forced to choose a single choice or else the dialog just loops eternally. If only I made it past the first save point on the Floating Continent when I was 4 or 5 years old…
I think this is a pretty good summary of the basic story and characters in the game. We’re already up to exactly 3500 words at this point…longer than the entire length of most of my reviews…so let’s move onto the Graphics section! I’ll be drooling all over FF6 like I did with Seiken Densetsu 3 and Romancing SaGa 3…
There’s really not gonna be enough praise that I can possibly give FF6 in terms of its graphics. Think about it, this game came out on April 2nd, 1994! 3 short years after Final Fantasy IV, an entire year and a half before Seiken Densetsu 3 and Romancing SaGa 3. Even in my Romancing SaGa 3 review, I mentioned that the closest looking thing to Romancing SaGa 3 was Final Fantasy VI. Little did I realize at the time that FF6 came out a year and a half before that!
Before I dig deeper into it, i’ll just get the main points out of the way. Final Fantasy VI runs at a silky smooth 60fps, movement and animations are fluid, the color palette is full of variation, spells and abilities look spectacular, and you’re gonna have a hell of a time finding a game with more detailed enemy and boss sprites on the SFC/SNES! I mean come on, the game hits you with this almost 3d cutscene right off the bat, one that is burned into the minds of everyone who has every played the game.
First we’ll start off with the overworld. In the previous two Final Fantasy games, you had an almost entirely overhead view of the world. This time, the game uses a bit more of a Mode7-feeling viewpoint, with you looking at and walking around the world at an almost diagonal angle, which gives the overworld a much more 3d-like feeling. The world is filled with typical geography of FF games of the era – deserts, plains, forests, impassable mountains, towns, cave entrances, and castles.
The tileset in the game must be absolutely huge due to the overall amount of tiles that are used in the game, with many zones having two different sets. Not only are enemy sprites amazing, the tiles and environments in the game also look amazing. The town design has once again leveled up from the previous games. While the jump isn’t anywhere near as big as it was from FF4 to FF5 (most towns in FF4 had square buildings, whereas FF5 finally made the jump to triangular roofs), the overall detail of buildings and interiors has improved quite a lot.
Dungeons also look great. While these resemble FF5 a lot more, i’d say there’s a ton more variation going on, along with better background animations. There’s a lot more movement going on in dungeons, be it water flowing, clouds moving around overhead, or lights/machinery moving around. Dungeons feel a lot more alive, which definitely helps the immersion. Be it a factory, a mine, or a tower high in the sky, there’s always going to be things that catch your eye and will be sure to wow you, especially if you’ve played a lot of SFC RPGs recently.
Character sprites are also well done. There’s another big jump from FF5 here. Back in FF4, most character emotions were basically just a character looking up, looking down, spinning around, or jumping. Sad characters would look down, energetic characters would jump and spin around. FF5 took this and added speech bubbles, which would show an angry face to convey anger for fear, hearts to convey love or “erotic” moments, and things like that.
FF6 takes it to a whole new level, with characters showing a wide range of emotion! Characters can now fall down to their knees when they’re sad or injured, Kefka can laugh with an actual laughing facial animation, characters can move their index finger back in forth in a “nope nope nope, no you don’t!” manner, characters can point at things, such as when they’re ready to embark on the Blackjack, as well as many other types of movement not seen in previous FF games.
This adds a whole new level on interaction among characters and the environment. It helps make characters and certain events more relatable, and adds flair to certain characters. Kefka for example, he wouldn’t be anywhere near as funny and interesting of a character if he didn’t face the screen and laugh, or give the party the “nope, not happenin” finger when they try to attack him. The same goes for Lock when he sometimes jumps behind the dialog box and breaks the 4th wall, talking about how crazy the current scene is.
Next I guess i’ll jump into battles, and i’ll probably drag on and on about it. If so, I apologize in advance. Battles look absolutely beautiful in FF6! You’ll notice the quality the second you enter your first battle in Narshe. Not only is the background beautifully rendered, the party members’ sprites along with the Narshe Guards and Hounds are of ridiculous quality. Attacks are smooth as butter, even the elemental laser beams from the party’s Magitek Armor. Monsters disappear in an instant when defeated, vanishing in a quick purple mist.
Especially later on in the game, when you start encountering some huge bosses, things like the Phantom Train, Ultima Weapon, and some of the optional Elemental Dragon bosses just look outstanding. Don’t even get me started on the final boss fight…the overall presentation of that battle is THE best i’ve seen on the SFC/SNES so far. If we don’t get into the “polygons are better than pixels by sheer principle” argument, i’d say that the presentation of the last boss is probably one of the best i’ve ever seen in a game in my entire 25 years of gaming…there are still some late SFC/SNES RPGs that i’ve yet to play, so there’s a possibility that some other game might change my mind, but i’m seriously doubting that…
How about Magic/Special abilities? They went over the top this time with spell and ability animations! One might scoff at 1st level abilities at first glance – oh Blizzard shows a light blue laser beam shoot up from a monster for half a second? That’s lame!
Then you gain a few more levels and watch Blizzaga encase the entire battlefield in ice, or Meteor showering the entire screen in flaming meteorites. Maybe you’d instead be a fan of Ultima just engulfing the entire battlefield in a field of blue death. If not, Espers destroying everything on screen might be what you’re looking for. Spell animations in Final Fantasy VI are top notch, no questions asked. There’s so much variation this time, with tons of different Black, White, Time (Grey?), Blue Magic, different rages for Gau, a roster of something near 20 or 30 Espers, there’s tons to see in Final Fantasy VI!
Aside from bosses, even just regular monsters themselves look great. While there are a few cases of recolors going on, the overall quality is still really high. Even basic bugbears at the beginning of the game, or your standard behemoths that you’ll run into later on look good enough to be bosses. A Hill Gigas, something that you’ll run into about 25-30% or so through the game, takes up the entire screen, with tons of detail going on, even though it’s a standard random encounter. The designers definitely went all out this time. I’d truly hate to see what they could have done with the SFC/SNES if they decided to make FF7 2d and release it on the SFC/SNES at the end of ’96, ’97…if the 3d animation going on at the end of the game is any indication, they would have somehow one-upped FF6…
There’s not really much more I can say about the Graphics for the game. Everything is stunning – character sprites, character facial portraits, enemy/boss sprites, spell/attack/ability animations, environments, the overworld, scrolling backgrounds such as when you’re on the Blackjack’s deck, attacks that show the weapons being unsheathed, just everything! 100% Pure quality from the Golden Age of Square, nothing else.
Next we’ll go onto the Gameplay section. Only took 5000 words, huh?…
FF6 doesn’t dare disappoint in the Gameplay department, either! For the most part, the gameplay doesn’t change a whole lot from the previous two games. The main premise is still the same, you fight monsters to level up and get money to buy better gear, which should allow you to progress further until you get stuck again, prompting you to level up some more and buy better gear.
There are a few major changes in the game though, so i’ll go ahead and cover those. The first one is pretty big if you’re coming right off of FF5 – the job system is gone. This shouldn’t be too big of a surprise nowadays, considering the job system is mostly an outlier in the FF franchise. For us Westerners, we came hot off the heels of FF4, so there wasn’t really anything weird to experience, but i’m sure since FF5 was critically acclaimed here in Japan, Japanese players might have been blindsided by the “regression” of the combat system.
The job system is gone, but that doesn’t quite mean that character customization was thrown out the window. As I mentioned in the Story section, an Esper’s essence can be turned into Magicite which can make the person who’s holding it more powerful. This is the means of making your characters stronger in FF6.
When a character equips Magicite (only a single piece of Magicite can be equipped on a single character at one time), they gain the ability to learn whatever magic spells that Magicite provides (Ifrit will teach basic Fire Magic, for example), along with some Magicite giving stat increases on level-up, such as +10% HP or +2 Speed. This allows you to customize certain characters to allow them to fill a certain roll.
This leads to a certain problem that I personally think exists in the game. Aside from a characters innate special ability (Lock’s Steal or Edgar’s Machinery), the fact that any character in the game can learn Magic means that every character will learn Magic. There aren’t any Espers that strictly give stat bonuses without any magic, so even if you don’t mean to, each character you use will eventually learn some type of magic.
Considering the fact that without a certain equipment setup magic will beat out melee 100% of the time, this leads to your characters eventually all becoming super powerful magic users. Think about it like this – if you have 4 characters in your party and each character knows Ultima, you can throw down a total of 9999 damage downrange against EACH monster you’re fighting, times 4. If you’re fighting 5 monsters, that’s 199,980 damage in a SINGLE round. You can do that, or you can have everyone do a single target attack for 9999 damage each, resulting in a measly 39,996 damage downrange in a single round. The second you get Ultima, Flare, or Meteor, there’s very little reason to do melee attacks considering these spells ignore Reflect or other damage immunity.
This leads to a few possible scenarios – everyone becomes basically the same character and just spams Ultima, you INTENTIONALLY refrain from equipping any of the good Espers on your characters to prevent them from learning the magic I mentioned above – basically doing a self-imposed challenge run, or you simply do a different form of a self-imposed challenge run by not equipping any Espers at all and forcing yourself to only use the magic that Tina and Celes learn naturally when they level up.
I personally didn’t like this aspect of the game that much. I don’t mind everyone being able to use magic, but I don’t like it when everybody can learn every spell. If they made it so Stragus had his blue magic, Tina could use White Magic, Celes could use Black Magic, and other people had mixes of Grey/Red/Green Magic I would have been way more on-board with the idea. I can’t complain though, because I made all my guys cast Hastega, Curaga, and spammed double-casted Ultima for the entire last boss fight like an asshole…
The next change is the introduction of Accessories (think they’re called Relics in the English version?), items that each character can equip 2 of. Accessories grant the wearer special abilities upon being equipped, such as immunity to petrification, increased running speed, the ability to dual-wield weapons, changing the Fight command to something else (like Jump), things like that.
These basically take the abilities that classes could learn back in FF5 and changes them into equippable items. FF5 also had 2 ability slots per character (if you were actively playing as a class and not Suppin), so in that regard it’s pretty similar to FF5, but any character can equip accessories immediately after obtaining them, so you don’t need to run around a grind forever to equip the ability like you had to in FF5.
Some of the Accessory combinations can be pretty crazy. For example, equipping the ゲンジのこてGenji Gloves (able to dual-wield) with 皆伝の証 Kaiden no Shou (I guess it’s an Offering in the English version? I probably can’t translate it, but it’s like an Evidence/Mark/Badge of Initiation) allows you to use 乱れうち, Midareuchi, or Random Hit, which gives the exact same effect as using the Ninja’s Dual Wield and Hunter’s X Shot in FF5 – your character can now hit 8 times per turn.
This is the equipment combination I mentioned above. For example, on a boss fight where there’s only one monster, even if you double-cast Ultima, you can only do a maximum of 9999 x 2, so 19,998 is the highest possible damage you can do with a single character. With this melee setup, however, you can do a godly 9999 x 8, 79,992 damage to a boss in a single attack!!! Truth be told, this is enough to one shot the final boss in the game…This is one instance where you can finally out-do the typical Magic spam. Only problem is, again, anyone can equip this Accessory combination, so you circle back to the whole “anyone/everyone can do it” problem. You either have everyone being the same Double-Cast 1MP Ultima spammer or the 9999 x 8 damage Midareuchi spammer.
Accessories aside, the next big change in FF6 is the addition of Split Parties. As I mentioned in the Story section, there are times during the game where your party gets split up for whatever reason. This means you’ll have times where you need to level 3 separate parties. This might be cool for character development reasons and stuff, but in terms of gameplay I personally found it a bit annoying. This is mainly because i’m the type of guy who gets a party setup and plays that party til the very end, usually ending a game with a main party at like level 60-70 and a roster of unused characters at level 10 or 15. If you’re the type who actually cares to keep all of their characters pretty close in level/power, you’ll have no qualms with this system.
One cool feature of this 3 party system is that some dungeons utilize this feature to solve puzzles. The last dungeon is especially guilty of doing this. You’ll have to split your party into 3 separate parties to fight different bosses, hit switches that open different doors for your other two parties to progress, and things like that. I’m definitely the kind that despises puzzles, especially if they’re shoehorned into the game like they were in Valkyrie Profile just to impede progress to the next map, but I think they were done well enough and weren’t too plentiful in FF6. They definitely made it feel like the 3 parties had to cooperate to make it to the end of the final dungeon, and then making it so every party member essentially joins the final battle made the puzzles in the final dungeon feel worthwhile.
Lastly, there’s tons of side content in FF6! While FF4 and FF5 had some side content, I wouldn’t say there was a LOT, unless you count “getting every job in FF5 to Master” as side content. FF6 has optional Espers, optional Accessories, 3 optional Characters, optional equipment, an entirely optional Monster Coliseum where you can bet items for rare stuff, and 8 optional “Super Bosses” that unlock another optional Esper once defeated. That’s a lot of stuff to sink your teeth into during the last half of the game!
I did quite a lot of the optional content during my playthrough. I unlocked all but I think 3 Espers. After beating the game and checking how to get them, it seems like they could have been found pretty easily, so that’s probably an hour or so of gameplay that I cut out. I got most of the Accessories, most of the best equipment for my main party, and killed all 8 of the Super Bosses, allowing me to get one of the strongest Espers in the game! The thing I appreciated the most out of the side content is that most of it could be done around just past the half-way point in the game.
Since you can do some of the stuff at around the half-way point, that means that you can get some awesome armor/shields/weapons that you can continue to use until the end of the game that make you feel way stronger. I love being able to find strong equipment before i’m supposed to in games, assuming I have the means to! This was one thing I didn’t like about the FF4 and FF5 side content – most of it was locked away in the final dungeon.
FF4 had all of the best weapons locked behind bosses in the Lunar Subterrane, while FF5 had Omega Weapon in an absolutely terrible location, who then doesn’t drop anything useful for your efforts. Shinryu is one screen away from the final boss, so even if you beat him and get something nice from him, you only have one guy left to use it on. I absolutely prefer games that let you find stuff that’s off the beaten path or games that at least give you the opportunity to get some crazy gear, assuming you can beat a strong boss before you’re supposed to, so this is a big plus point for me!
That’s about all I can think of in terms of big differences in gameplay. Even with the additions of the Split Party, Accessory, and Magic Learning/Stat Up systems, anyone who’s a fan of FF4 or FF5, or even just any of the first 5 Final Fantasy games to be honest, should enjoy the hell out of FF6!
I think i’m finally about to do the unthinkable and give out my first perfect 10 for music. If my next review came out first i’d have given that game the first 10, but FF6 got lucky and got reviewed first, so here it is! While writing this review I had the FF6 OST playing in the background. Even though the OST clocks in at a huge 3 hours and 7 minutes, when the OST came to an abrupt end, I found myself thinking “already!?”!
The 2 games that have come the closest to getting a 10 so far are Seiken Densetsu 3 and Parasite Eve, both receiving a 9.5! Seiken Densetsu 3 had a couple of songs that got on my nerves a bit, and Parasite Eve added Eve’s opera voice intro thing to what felt like half of the songs, shaving half a point off of each games’ respective score.
FF6 on the other hand, was a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. While there is specifically one song that I kinda make fun of in my head when I hear it, it’s not a bad song by any means, it’s actually just a little 2 or 3 second part of the song to be honest. FF6 has some of the best MIDI music you’ll ever find, bar none!
Whether it’s overworld exploration, town themes, character themes, battles, or the masterful final boss theme, there’s never a moment in the game where your ears aren’t overdosing on aural cocaine. I really should let the music speak for itself, so here we go!
Final Fantasy VI starts off with an unforgettable track. Anytime FF6 is mentioned, someone talks about this song and the scene that accompanies it in-game. I’m sure you’ll have no problems understanding why after you listen to it! The part i’m talking about kicks in at 2:20, but you really should listen to the entire thing!
Next up is a song that reminds me all too much of Sundown Kid’s theme from Live A Live, though i’m sure the only real similarities boil down to the whistling, I really love Shadow’s theme! This one’s just a personal favorite, but hopefully there are some other fans of this song out there somewhere, too!
Next is one of my favorite town themes in all of gaming. The song makes you feel so relaxed, you might even want to go chill out in one of the bars in the game and just listen to it for a while, even though there’s not really anything to do inside bars in FF6…
Thankfully, since you’ll be spending quite a bit of time in the Blackjack, they went ahead and made the music excellent! This song comes very close to the FF8 airship song in terms of awesomeness. You can feel the sense of adventure just by listening to the music!
Since i’m linking way too many songs, i’ll narrow it down to 2 final songs (i’m gonna link the entire OST at the bottom because I JUST HAVE TO). I firmly believe that the Opera theme is something that you absolutely have to experience within the game itself, so i’ll leave it out (as much as I wanna show it…just how much of his soul did Uematsu sell to the devil to be able to make something with the SFC sound chip?!). This next song is Cayenne’s theme, which has that distinct Eastern feeling too it, since he’s a Samurai and all. Right at the 40 second mark, you can feel the pain of the exact moment that Cayenne walks into his room and finds his family dead…
Last but not least, you might have already figured what song i’d save for last…this song might not only be potentially the most sinister final boss theme in any RPG ever made, it might also be the most telling of the boss’s inner feelings and emotions. Dancing Mad – definitely don’t scroll down to the Youtube comments unless you want to know who the last boss of the game is.
Don’t scoff at the 17 minute run time, Dancing Mad is split up into 4 distinct sections, each with their own unique feel. The first and last sections are personal recommendations, but the 3rd section is a big shift from the rest of the song, so that’s also definitely worth checking out.
Just remember, this entire song is amplified a ton when you’re actually fighting the boss with all of the awesome stuff that happens and Dancing Mad is playing in the background! At 11:33, the final boss literally descends from the heavens with this playing. That’ll most likely become one of the biggest “Jesus Christ, dude!” moments in every player’s gaming career. You JUST HAVE TO experience it for yourself!
I’d have a really hard time believing that anyone who enjoys older RPGs, especially SNES/PS1 era RPGs, wouldn’t be a fan of at least most of the songs I just listed above. Therefore, i’ll do us all a favor and just link to the entire OST below. 3 hours of absolutely masterful work by the TRUE final boss himself, Nobuo Uematsu. If nothing else i’ve mentioned so far in this 7000 word review has convinced you to try out FF6, I truly think the OST itself might be just enough to convince you! Do me a favor and give it a listen below!
I honestly feel like almost anyone could agree with my decision to bestow FF6 with a perfect 10 in the music department. Hopefully I was able to pick good enough indicators above. There’s not really much more I can say in terms of words that can do the FF6 OST justice. The FF6 OST is something that just needs to be conveyed through the music itself. One listen and you’ll understand exactly what I mean!
Should you play it?
Let’s be honest here. Yes you need to play FF6. I should almost be angry actually if you haven’t already at least played it for a even a little bit in the whole 25 years since it’s release! I know that the game, for some incomprehensible reason, gets overshadowed by FF7 rose-tinted nostalgia, so I guess I can understand a little bit…
If you’re a fan of ANY SFC/SNES era JRPGs, there is absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy FF6. It has everything anyone could ever ask for from that time period – a smooth turn-based battle system (albeit ATB), jaw-dropping graphics, one of the best soundtracks in gaming history, a great cast of unforgettable characters, and it introduces one of the best villains in the entire FF franchise. You almost couldn’t possibly ask for more, unless you’re asking for a longer game!
FF6 is definitely the easiest Final Fantasy game on the SFC/SNES, so you won’t need to worry about min/max-ing or anything like that. I know my description of the Esper magic/stat system might have sounded complicated, but it’s not difficult at all – the game definitely seems beatable without using Espers at all, if they end up being too complicated. This ensures that even players who are still a bit unfamiliar with the earlier Final Fantasy games, or even just JRPGs in general, should still be able to jump right in and have a blast!
Which version should you play?
I’ll be honest here – I know FF6 has been released on basically every console that’s come out since the original SFC/SNES release. I even fanboi’d and bought the Android version when it came out like 5 or 6 years ago (controls sucked so I never even made it to The Returners’ hideout…). So there’s probably like a 99% chance that i’m not going to convince anyone to go out and find the SFC/SNES version of the game for 6-10x the price of an Android/iOS/Steam port.
BUT, thankfully, with the ports they changed the graphics up into a sort of smeared watercolor-y weird style that people who enjoy pixel-art really seem to hate. So if you’re a 16-bit pixel graphic purist, that might be a big enough minus that you’d prefer to grab an original copy. The GBA port still has the original graphics though, as far as I know…
My biggest thing to mention is, anyone who knows Japanese enough to play SFC era games NEEDS to play FF6 in Japanese. As I went over a bit near the start of the review, the original translator just butchered lots of the original plot. Some of this, of course, is due to the difference in the size of English and Japanese texts (Japanese takes way less text to convey things than English does), so by default, to have anything that even resembled a decent script, up to around 25% of the overall script had to be cut out in order for the English version to fit on the original ROM.
That’s fine and all, cutting out a sentence here and there, but the remaining script has a ton of differences going on still. Again, as I mentioned above, characters like Setzer had their entire premise for joining the party changed, so much so that Setzer actually looks like an asshole who would rather have “booming business thanks to the Empire”. Kefka, again, starts right off by telling his soldiers to just kill everyone, burn everyone alive, just real dark and evil stuff. I’m sure Nintendo would have forced Square to change that stuff for the English version even IF they translated it properly, though…
Stuff that I KNOW would 100% get censored or changed is pretty much anything Ultros says. Whether he’s cracking Japanese-language specific inside-jokes that just couldn’t work if they were translated, becoming a bit hentai-rapey when he starts using his tentacles on Tina, or just essentially calling the party a bunch of annoying dumbasses everytime he encounters them, Ultros is another character who is just portrayed different in the Japanese version.
FF6 was real bad with character naming across languages, around half of the characters were named something different. Tina is Terra in English, Lock becomes Locke (not too bad), Mash becomes Sabin(???), Cayenne becomes Cyan (cartridge space issue?), Stragus becomes Strago. That’s 5 characters out of a maximum of 14, so that’s already 30% of the characters being renamed. That’s a ridiculous ratio, if you’re a purist!
If Story/Character-related stuff isn’t an important issue for you, as far as I know the gameplay aspect of the Japanese and English SFC/SNES versions seem to be the same, so there’s not much to miss out on there. One big thing to note in both the original Japanese and English SFC/SNES versions of the game come with a few bugs that make the game really easy.
Most of the bugs are actual exploits that you have to go out of your way to do (Vanish + X-Zone), but one bug can be abused without realizing it. Magic Defense is a stat that was originally only supposed to help you block/dodge magic spells, but it actually determines both your physical and magical dodge. Late game, if you equip some of your spell casters with the best armor they can equip, they’ll actually go past 100% magic defense, allowing them to basically block every single attack in the game except for a select few spells. This makes even the hardest bosses trivial.
If possible, I absolutely recommend tracking down an original copy of the SFC/SNES version of the game. If you can speak Japanese, you owe it to yourself to follow along with the original script. Considering it’s a SFC era Final Fantasy game, the level of Japanese used isn’t super high. It’s a lot more Kanji-heavy than FF5, so some things like “Esper” (幻獣, Genjyuu, “mythical beast”, when are you going to hear that in real life???), some war related terminology, and some of the late-game speeches might give you problems, but overall it’s definitely a game that’s playable with some lower-intermediate knowledge!
If you’re looking to grab a copy for yourself, you can find them from Amazon below! (i’ll earn a small commission if purchased through these links)
Final Fantasy VI (Requires a Super Famicom or modded Super Nintendo!) – Grab Final Fantasy VI here! (affiliate link!)
Here we are, 9000 words later! Thanks for sticking around all the way to the very end if you did! Now, onto the much deserved Final Score!
Final Score – 38/40
Story – 9/10
Gameplay – 9/10
Graphics – 10/10
Music – 10/10