2. Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy III SNES Front Cover

Developer: Square
Publisher: Square
Year: 1994
Platform: SNES, GBA, Playstation, PS3, PSP, Wii, Android

I got this for Christmas shortly after it came out, but didn’t play it for two months as I also received Link to the Past. I think that easily qualifies as the most bang for buck Christmas ever as a child. Other than Tecmo Super Bowl, I have never spent more time playing a video game. While this no doubt  influenced the ranking, I can’t help but feel nothing but love for this game despite all of its obvious problems.

Being as that the most complex RPG I had played to date was Final Fantasy Legend II, I was needless to say blown away by the introduction where you control the protagonist, who is under mind control, and help her destroy a bunch of innocent lives (nevermind being blown away by the graphics, music, and the Active Battle Time system). It didn’t stop there. I was blown away by the massive plot that has you slowly learn new characters that each have their own motivations, both good and bad, for joining you. I was blown away by multiple story lines coming together, going apart, and coming together again. I was blown away by the ability to swap party members in and out depending on your current strategy. I was blown away by the ability to make decisions that could determine whether or not certain characters even enter your party (or die, permanently). I was blown away by scenarios where you split your team up and work as two or three teams of four. And lastly, I was blown away by how massive this game was, then realizing I was only half-way through it.

Final Fantasy III SNES Fighting in robotic suits

Despite the terrible American translation (that at times makes the characters sound like Disney cartoons), I really cared about these characters, many of whom would never be friends but are forced to overcome their differences and fight together against a common enemy. In addition to some genuinely funny moments, there are many dramatic ones as well. Find a good translation and you’ll be treated to even more dramatics. Many of the games bad guys also have their own realistic motivations. The only exception is the game’s primary antagonist, who is sneeringly evil. Thankfully, it’s fun to hate him as he’s sarcastic, occasionally witty, and actually begins the game no more powerful than your own weak characters, making his rise to power more interesting.

I think most fans of this game would agree that the first half of Final Fantasy VI would make for one of the best (if not the best) RPGs ever. Unfortunately the second half leaves a lot to be desired. It starts out pretty good, actually, with an Empire Strikes Back sort-of thing going on. But once you reassemble your party, the game’s story completely derails. For at least ten hours of gameplay, if not twenty, you can go to the final tower at any time to face the end. However, it’s likely you won’t be strong enough yet, so you must go on an endless number of sidequests of varying interest to build up your levels and get stronger weapons and spells. If the sidequests actually answered some more questions about your characters, that would be great. But a lot just add some mild depth while only leaving the player with more questions unsatisfyingly left unanswered. But the worst crime of the game is that by the second half, your characters literally become virtually indistinguishable, as they’re all allowed to learn every single spell. When you have a party of four all casting Ultima every round, you’ll appreciate how dull the game can become. Each character does retain their own special attacks, but some are needlessly complicated or rely on luck, and who wants to do that when they can just endlessly cast powerful spells? Not that they’re needed, since the final boss is insultingly easy. There were a few areas I got stuck when I first played the game, as some of the mini-bosses are very tough, especially the first time through when you don’t know what to expect (and don’t know some of the cheap shortcuts to win battles, or the location of the chainsaw). But the final boss proves no such challenge.

Final Fantasy III SNES Navigating three parties

I was lucky enough my first time through to get a stable Relm painting glitch that left me with significant weapon and item upgrades. I was also new to the on-line world at the time, and spent countless hours on Prodigy bulletin boards researching every nook and cranny of the game. And while I ignored many of the crazy fan theories/lies, I temporarily fell for the “revive Siegfried” quest. I also wasn’t completely aware that spending time on Prodigy bulletin boards cost a chunk of change (this was back when e-mails cost a quarter to send(!!)), and wound up spending over $100 just to be on-line discussing this game. I eventually broke that habit and moved on to other games. But I have come back to Final Fantasy VI multiple times with the goal of collecting all the rages or other such completionist quests that I never actually finished. While that’s insane, I would highly recommend using an emulator and some patches that not only provide you with a solid translation, but also fix many of the glitches (like Vanish/X-Zone) and return some minor aspects to the game that were censored from the American version.

After witnessing this love affair, what possibly could be #1 in this countdown? Well, you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out!

Wait, he says! Do I look like a waiter?

4 thoughts on “2. Final Fantasy VI”

  1. I don’t know. I typically think the bad is too bad in this game…the translation (there’s a Beavis and Butt-Head reference that pissed me off to no end), the second half, the homogenizing of the characters. Still, I’ve put well over 300 hours into this game easily and have beaten it 6-7 times. I’m not sure why this is. I don’t quite understand the love for the characters, as I come off feeling like I watched the pilot episode of something where nobody develops and nobody’s story is completely told. The plot is great, and Kefka amuses the hell out me, as every villain in RPG history to this point wanted unlimited power over people, and Kefka just wanted to end humanity and “built a monument to non-existence.” Watching his descent was so much fun.

    Of course, Espers are addicting. There’s always something to upgrade. Watching loved ones get split up and reunited is addicting too. Obviously I like this game, even love it, but the problems are so frustrating to me.

    1. There’s the rub; despite how obnoxious all of the faults are, there’s a powerful pull this game has.

      I know the Beavis & Butthead reference you’re referring to, and I have to admit I didn’t make the connection for years. Regardless, I thought the line was completely underwhelming and out of place.

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