RPG Review #45: Final Fantasy VINuMetalManiak We've hit a 45th benchmark here, very close to the 50th one! And of course I had to make it special, Final Fantasy VI! Yes, you're wondering why I'm playing this particular series out of order, well sorry, I already did. But then again, this will be the only series I play out of chronological order. And even then, I played the North American release, the one that was entitled Final Fantasy III, much like Final Fantasy IV was Final Fantasy II for the North American release there. Of course, I played the SNES version, or perhaps should be known as the Ted Woolsey version. Will say this though, magnificent game, and I'll explain why. And it involves more than just suplexing a ghost train.
Gameplay: Final Fantasy VI's core gameplay is full of strategic RPG battles, using the same Active Time Battle System that Final Fantasy IV put in. The game was considerably much easier than any other Final Fantasy title I've played, which is a big plus as I don't have to waste some time grinding for anything. For an SNES game, there's a TON of stuff to do, so much that I'm saying half of it in the characters section. Most battles are quite easy in this game, especially in the first half, and there's a ton of optional stuff in the second half that can break the game then. Certain equips make things much easier, and relics can help in battle to make things in the favor of the heroes. Of important note are sprint shoes which allow running in dungeons and towns, helps speed the game along. There are others, like the Offering, dragoon equipment (for fans of Kain in FFIV), and the Moogle Charm.
Just about every character can learn magic. This is through the use of Espers, which come to play after some time in the game. Equip an Esper on a character, win a battle, and then the percentage for learning a spell goes up, and when the learning rate reaches 100% the spell is available to the character permanently. Upon character leveling up, Espers could also provide stat boosts, such as HP increases. And to top it off, Espers can be summoned (using MP), as an alternative, usually in case the spells haven't been learned yet or to help in defense or something.
The magic makes and breaks this game. The bosses have susceptibility to all sorts of things. Like I could turn one boss into an Imp by using the Imp spell, which ruins its stats. Another boss could lose all its MP with the Rasp spell and die as a result. A notable trick in the SNES version of the game involves the spells Vanish and Doom. Vanish gives the status effect Clear which makes all physicals miss, but magic has a 100% chance of hitting, while Doom is an instant death spell. Put two and two together, and even some bosses who are normally immune to instant kill spells die easily. Many of the dungeons are quite fun to navigate, some require more than one four-person party. Flying the airship is a fun thing to do in this game as well. A notable place towards the end is the Coliseum, which means I can bet an item for another item and fight a tough enemy with a party member. Unfortunately, it's entirely AI-controlled, and losing means losing the item bet. Not a whole lot of awesome items to find, but some were worth it. So much to this game. Grade: A+
Characters: 14 permanently playable characters, and about four guest characters, lots of possibilities.
Terra Branford: For much of the game, she's the main character. Already starts out with good magic power, and that's what she's great at. She gets her special ability partway through the game, Morph, which doubles her overall potency
Locke Cole: The traditional thief class (even though he says he isn't a thief). Locke is generally good at anything, but he shines in stealing, and you can steal a lot in this game. A certain relic changes his Steal command to Capture which adds damage as well.
Edgar Rene Figaro: A powerful character in the early game, mostly due to his Tools command. You only need one of each, but Edgar fights with such tools like Auto Crossbows, Noise Blasters, and Chainsaws (he even dons a Jason mask for that one). Pretty fun to have around.
Sabin Rene Figaro: Edgar's brother fits the monk class. Sabin is all about power, and he shines amazingly well at it, despite bad defense stats. His Blitz command is actually pretty hard to figure out the first few times, but I got the hang of it rather quickly. My favorite character for the first half of the game, and he can suplex a GHOST TRAIN. Best moment right there.
Shadow: The ninja class. He's my favorite character in the second half and I can't go without him there, but he's kinda annoying in the first half, since he's never a permanent character then and if he's available, he has a tendency to run from the party. Also at the halfway mark, not saving him means, well not available anymore. But he's awesome, best all-around stats, and the Throw command, similar to Edge from FFIV. Also his dog Interceptor sometimes protects him as well.
Cyan Garamonde: Retainer to the Doma throne, Cyan is a samurai. That's cool and all, but Cyan is difficult to use effectively due to his SwdTech ability requiring charging up. In an Active-Time Battle System, waiting isn't the kind of thing I'd like to do, and I usually don't use him.
Gau: Gau is hilarious, and can be one of the most fun character ever. He doesn't have regular attacks, instead he has Rages, which mimic attacks from other enemies. Some of the most powerful skills are accessed by rages, which makes him even more fun to use. There's an area of the world map called the Veldt, which is where this guy goes to get new rages, using an area-specific skill known as Leap, and then coming back to the party afterwards with new rages. He's not controllable when in rage mode though.
Celes Chere: About as good as Terra ability-wise, good magic, decent physical attack and defense. Her Runic ability is a savior in the toughest battles, absorbing magic attacks and giving her MP.
Setzer Gabbiani: The gambler, he's a gimmick character through and through. Not a whole lot to work with, although the Fixed Dice weapon coupled with an Offering relic can make him a damaging machine. His ability, Slots, is what you'd expect, with unexpected results. They can summon a random Esper, kill all enemies, or kill everyone in the party. One relic he can equip changes Slots to GP Rain, using money to damage the enemy.
Mog: The mascot character, thankfully Mog is actually pretty physically strong. He works best as a dragoon-type character. His dance ability is novelty, and he learns more by winning a battle on certain terrain. Dance abilities tend to be random, and usually only work on the proper environments. Several of Mog's friends are guest characters very early in the game.
Strago Magus: A traditional old man mage (what is it with JRPGs and making all females and old men the best mages), with the Lore ability. He learns certain magic attacks from observing enemies.
Relm Arrowny: She's a painter with the Sketch ability, and the FakeMustache relic makes that the Control ability. It's actually mostly worthless and novelty. At least Relm has an amazing starting magic score, and like Celes, Terra, and Strago, a killer mage.
Gogo: Whoever Gogo is, I never actually used this character, but Gogo's special skill is Mimic, mimicking the last character skill used. So he can Throw alongside Shadow, steal alongside Locke, etc.
Umaro: This yeti is a berserker. Basically, he can't be controlled, but he's a powerhouse in damage. I prefer controllable characters though.
Other than those, guest characters include the aforementioned Moogles, General Leo Christophe, and Banon. On the villains side, pretty much everyone knows who Kefka Palazzo is and how much of a mad clown he is. Emperor Gestahl is the main villain for the first half though. Grade: A+
Plot: We have an Empire, which is a lot like Star Wars Galactic Empire except it's not galactic. We have the Returners, who are opposed to the empire for territorial reasons. Before all that happens there were three entities that started the War of the Magi, which is how the Espers came to be. They sealed their powers, and Emperor Gestahl of the Empire wants these for control of the world. An Esper was found in the snowy town of Narshe and three Magitek armors go to investigate. This opening shot of the Magiteks is one of the coolest openings ever, I just love seeing them walk while the credits and music take over. Anyways, there's two red shirts by the names of Vicks and Wedge (again with the Star Wars references) and a mind-controlled Terra. I don't think I mentioned combat in the Magitek armors, but they are easy anyways (plus free healing).
Terra makes contact with the Esper, which results in her mind-control loss and the two other guys dying. She has amnesia afterwards, and Locke takes her to King Edgar of Figaro, who is secretly helping the Returners (an awesome line by Kefka happens here, "Son of a submariner!"). Sabin joins up along the way, and they meet Banon, whom they escort to Narshe. As a temporary character, Banon is basically a free healing bag more than anything. Meanwhile, Locke is off on other business, while the rest fight a recurring boss, the octopus Ultros, the comic relief villain of this game.
Branching points! I love these, even though there's only one here. Terra, Edgar, and Banon continue their trek to Narshe. Locke ends up in South Figaro, stealing people's clothes to avoid detection, and freeing former Imperial general Celes from her defying act. Then they go to Narshe too. Sabin, who jumped off the river raft journey of escorting Banon, ends up on another continent, possibly recruiting Shadow and infiltrating an Imperial camp. Kefka's evil shows through here, where he poisons the Doma water system resulting in everyone dying, except Cyan who's out for vengeance. He joins up, and, here it is, the ghost train segment. It's possible to recruit a ghost as a temporary member, but they usually suck. The best thing ever happens when the train tried to defeat them. It is possible, and TOTALLY AWESOME, to have Sabin perform a Suplex Blitz here. I'm sorry, I just couldn't stop doing that, it is just amazing to do. After all this is done, they find Gau on the Veldt, and take an underwater route and later regroup in Narshe.
Everyone at Narshe defends the Esper from before from the evil jerkoff Kefka, and then Terra has a fit and gets an Esper form herself. They track her down, and then this is where everyone can finally learn magic for once. Terra is still out of the party, so instead everyone goes to the Opera House, disguising Celes as someone who looks like her and is a famous opera singer, all to get a frickin' AIRSHIP PILOT and gambler known as Setzer take them to the capital of the Empire. After infiltrating the magic factory of sorts, the return to Terra, who reawakens, apparently she's the product of an Esper and a normal human. She's used as contact for the remaining Espers, which causes the Empire to cease their attacks.
So Kefka's in jail and Gestahl wants peace with the Returners. Sounds shabby? Well it sort of is in a way, but I guess agreeables are agreeables. Terra and Locke join up with Imperial generals Leo and Celes, along with Shadow and his dog Interceptor to a small town where Strago and Relm are. In trying to get a truce between humans and Espers to happen, Kefka attacks and basically kills the Espers and taking their final life essences known as Magicites. This is also the very one time in the game where you get to play as General Leo, fighting only a boss fight with Kefka. Unfortunately, as winnable as it is, Leo is then murdered by Kefka afterwards. Oh, and Gestahl wants the power of the stone statues from the Warring Triad, and he and Kefka journey to this Floating Continent of course. Over there, the Returners along with Shadow and Celes attempt to stop them. It really is Kefka who shines most in these scenes, killing Gestahl and moving the statues, causing worldwide calamity and disorder. While the main party escapes (here's where you "gotta wait for Shadow" otherwise he won't be available afterwards), the world is effectively destroyed, all thanks to Kefka. Game Over right there.
...just kidding. The World of Balance, as it was previously called, is now a World of Ruin. Celes becomes the main character, awakening on a solitary island with this game's Cid, and as usual he was that tech geek. There's a point here where Cid can either live or die depending on Celes's actions, but it's got no gameplay impact. She then leaves for the rest of the world, hoping to find the other allies. Pretty much every other character is optional, the only ones required to go are Edgar (disguised under the anagram name Gerad with a group of thieves) and Setzer (who has the other airship, named Falcon). Even Terra is optional, though she appears in the finale if she isn't recruited. And Umaro and Gogo can be recruited in the World of Ruin as well. Basically, lots of optional stuff, and I managed to get a whole lot of it, characters, Espers, good equips. Some time was spent at the Coliseum too. But it all comes down to finally removing Kefka from his god-like power. They attempt to destroy the three goddess statues (named Poltergeist, Doom, and, Goddess, thanks a lot Ted), but realize Kefka has drained all of that power to become a god. Of course, taking him on and finally defeating him once and for all has an adverse effect in destroying all sources of magic, including Terra's half-Esper ability, but she's able to survive as a human anyways. Man, that's quite a powerful story, driven mostly by an awesome enemy faction and an interestingly crazy villain. Grade: A+
Music: Nobuo Uematsu does not disappoint here, this music score has lots of memorable tunes, hummable overworld themes, the beating drums of the Veldt area, good dungeon themes. Town themes are generic though. Dancing Mad, the final boss theme, really sticks out above all the rest though of the music in this game though. Grade: A-
Overall Grade: A+
This game is up there with Chrono Trigger and Lufia II as one of my favorite SNES RPGs. It's a Final Fantasy game without a boatload of grinding, very strong gameplay, very strong characters, an amazingly insane villain, numerous sidequests, lots of battle variety, great music, and an amazing plot. Highly recommended. Now I don't know about you, but I'll play Final Fantasy III (the REAL Final Fantasy III, not to be confused with this), V, and of course VII down the line. I'll avoid II, mostly because the one time I played it, I really hated how it plays.
Good review. - Skullkid755
Good review. - visitor