“Who’s the main character”? For story driven video games, that’s not typically a tough question to answer. That trope doesn’t quite apply to Final Fantasy VI.
Final Fantasy VI, almost as soon as you’re ready to settle into an avatar, likes to switch perspectives. In the beginning of the game this experience is a guided one. There’s a rhythm to it and you start to expect it. You’ll also soon learn that little bits of storytelling are locked behind your party composition. You need to bring the right person to the right place.
It’s the mandatory time you spend inside the head of each character in your party that makes the second half of the game work so well. Without giving too much away, your party is separated in the game’s second half. You’re driven not just by your current avatar’s goal to reunite your party, but also by your desire to see how these characters have changed in the last few years.
And change they do! Old traumas, goals, and fears put the characters in places that, though you might not expect, you definitely understand. And character development is often delivered with a wonderful subtlety that only multiperspectivity allows for. Check out Jason Schreier’s review at Kotaku in the links below to see that illustrated (if you don’t mind spoilers).
The combat is pretty standard turn-based JRPG material, but it lets you get creative in ways that I really appreciated. Each character has a special ability or skill. This, along with their initial stat distribution, goes a long way towards making them feel unique and specialized. But with relics and magicite, you’re also free to assign skills and perks as you see fit (with a few exceptions).
I never really had to grind in Final Fantasy VI. If you don’t run from encounters, you’ll be just about where you need to be. In the places where I had trouble, a change of equipment or strategy proved effective in the place of more grinding. My only real complaint is that some late game magic pushes things just on the side of too easy. If not too easy, at least too simple.
Final Fantasy VI also likes to put you in situations where you have to put together multiple parties and switch between them. This, along with the aforementioned forced perspective changes, really leaves you with a good sense of how to leverage each character. This culminates in multi-party puzzle dungeons that eventually require you to use almost every character you unlock. It really adds to the effect that everyone, together, is pushing together towards the ultimate goal.
Before I wrap this up, I should also mention the music. It’s a beautiful and expressive soundtrack. There are earworm motifs full of each character’s personality and rearrangements of these themes that capture the changes they undergo. There’s also an opera. An opera!
On the whole, Final Fantasy VI holds up remarkably well. It’s a 35-40 hour video game that never seems drawn out or bloated. If you’ve got an SNES, SNES Classic, or a way to play PS1 classics (Vita, PS3, etc), you’d have a hard time finding a more worthwhile experience.
Check out Role Playing GamesCast’s five episode playthrough of Final Fantasy VI and play along with us!
Versions of Final Fantasy VI we played:
- SNES (via the SNES Classic)
- PS1 (via the Playstation Vita)
Some great bits of writing on Final Fantasy VI:
- Here’s a great musical analysis of one of the best final boss themes in video games.
- I love Jason’s review, because it touches on some of the better, more subtle pieces of FFVI’s multiperspective storytelling. There are plenty of spoilers though.
- Final Fantasy VI has a few different translations. Check out this awesome comparison!