Final Fantasy VI (SNES/PS1) Review: The Greatest JRPG?

Final Fantasy Art Cover

The Greatest?

While my humble opinion on which Final Fantasy game is the best, is just that; an opinion. I have never made it a secret, that I believe that it is either the 7th, or the 9th installment in the aforementioned series that deserves the highest spot on the list, with Final Fantasy VI being a close third.

It is likely, that a good chunk of fans believe the same thing (one only needs to read all the fan fics based on FFVII in the net to uncover this truth), but alas, there is also a section of old school fans (who call themselves the true hardcore RPG enthusiasts) who will tell you the 6th installment is the best. They wouldn’t be wrong either.

After playing through FFVI again (now in 2008), I have to say, that I can see why fans of that venerable title would have a case for declaring number 6, as the number one game in the series.

A Looker in its day

To Start things off, FFVI wasn’t the best looking RPG of its era, and while graphic prowess should be one of the last things to be taken into consideration, when judging a classic RPG such as this, it is hard to ignore the fact that the Lunar games have aged better, and that Chrono Trigger is the more handsome game. Notice that I am not saying that FFVI is a bad looking game; it was one of the better looking games of its time.

It has aged almost as gracefully as some of its contemporaries in that department. The artwork its top notch. Amano is a master art designer, and perhaps this along with FFIX is his best work.

The steam punk environment remains unmatched in terms of its artistic vision, and I can say that in terms of artwork FFVI might be the most unique FF ever made.

A MUSICAL MASTERPIECE?

Sound wise the game has aged very well, while Chrono Trigger to my understanding sounds better in terms of technical proficiency. In terms of artistic quality however, the compositions themselves are just grander here. The opera scene is probably one of the most beautiful and haunting moments of not only the 16 bit era, but in the entire history of gaming.

Every tune in the game was beautifully crafted, and I will say this for FFVI, while I believe other game’s in the series such as VII and X have compositions that are superior (with the exception of the unsurpassed “Aria di Mezzo Carattere”) to the vast majority of tracks found in FFVI, as a whole, tune by tune, FFVI is perhaps, Nobuo Uematsu’s most complete work.

Considering the history of the FF series, and how its music has always been stellar, the statement made in the former paragraph is not something to be taken lightly.

PLAYS IT SAFE

Iconic Final Fantasy VI opera scene
Final Fantasy VI was the series’ first departure into real dramatic moments.

Gameplay wise, this is the installment where the series modernized itself, no longer do we have larger than life ( and truth be told) annoyingly boring dungeons, but instead we have shorter story driven ones. Like the ones found in post 16-bit era Final Fantasies.

Other than that step forward, the customization on each party member that FFV allowed with its ahead of its time job/class system is now gone ( and will remain missing from the series to this day). What we have here, are characters with individual skills which to Square’s credit, actually relate to who the characters are in the storyline. For example Sabin is a martial arts master in the game’s story line, and as such, his skills relate to that profession.

Far gone is the ahead of its time Job system of FFV, a great system for that particular game, but in truth it would have felt out of place here, and it probably would have taken away from the plot as it would have slowed the pace of the game considerably.

That being said, Final Fantasy VI really plays more like a 32 bit era RPG than a 16 bit one, in fact I dare say, that this is why the game has aged well in comparison to the other pre 32 bit Era Final Fantasies. As long as you fight a decent amount of battles to level up regularly, the game is fairly easy. There are secret characters, who have cool side stories, and side quests to partake in.

In my opinion, FFVI is by far, the superior pre 32 bit era Final Fantasy game that there is.

GREAT STORY TELLING

FF6 intro
Final Fantasy VI’s iconic entrance remains one of the best that the genre has to offer..

Final Fantasy VI, is actually the first game in the series to have a compelling tale, yeah many fans would argue that FFIV was the first title in the series to accomplish this, but FFIV’s tale was a bit uninspiring. Lunar was really the first RPG to have a truly engrossing story and an individualistic cast that was charming. It has always been in the back of my head that it was due to the Lunar Series that Square soft was pushed to truly evolve the story telling in its FF series in the 6th installment.

The fact that it was FFVI the first RPG in the SNES to have a very dramatic story, could be the reason why there is a huge camp of FF fans that say the game is the best one in the series. In other words, their first introduction to the genre probably happened in this game, and as such, nostalgia takes over.

However,  Kefka as evil as he is, and the story as engrossing as it might have been, is not nearly as compelling or as complex as the one found in FFVII. So yeah, FFVI has a great tale, but VII  has a better one, and that’s not counting other RPGs not named Final Fantasy, that have had better tales since.

What Final Fantasy VI did, that no other RPG accomplished in that Pre 32-Bit era was the  blending of emotional, and dramatic scenes with its amazing music.

FFVI is possibly the most Cinematic game without the use of actual cinemas of its time. In a sense, in terms of story, FFVI was truly ground breaking for its time, not the plot itself, but the way that it was told.

Even the intro with the Magitek mechs walking into Narshe’s snowy surroundings remains a goose bump inducing moment today. The game oozes atmosphere during that long introductory walk.

I can see why the game could be considered the greatest game in the series. Having played the game now in 2008, and not too long after Lunar 1 however, I would not be able to live with myself if I hid the fact that I was actually bored by FFVI at about halfway through the game, not too long after the big plot twist. I wasn’t bored by Lunar 1 or Chrono Trigger. I think the quick dialog, and poor translation really hindered the game’s longevity.

A CLASSIC, And in the Argument for the GOAT Moniker

Final Fantasy VI Scene
Visually, FFVI is the pinnacle of the series’ 2-D run.

When all is said and done, the game is a must play if you have never played it before, it is arguably the 3rd best game in the series in my opinion, and that means it is still a really good game even this long after its initial 1994 release.

The original copy of the game is a hard to find today, yet thanks to the all the remakes anyone looking to experience this classic, should be able to find it. The copy I played I found in the FF Anthology package for the PS1, which includes a soundtrack and it is bundled together with FFV. The game includes a wonderful CG opening sequence and an ending one, which adds some value to the package as a whole.

Gameplay: 8.0-

Not a retro score. The game moves at a rather quick pace, and the combat was simplified and more accessible than in some of the previous entries in the series.

Graphics: 8.5-

This one is a bit of a retro score the game would obviously score lower today, but the great art work remains there, and in its time it was one of the best looking games on the SNES period.

Music: 10.0-

It would be hard to justify any score lower than a 10 in this category. Uematsu at his absolute best, quite possibly the greatest soundtrack in a FF game ever.

Story: 9.0-

The first game in the FF series to have a great plot, however, that is a retro score as today the game would suffer in the category because the character development is not up to the current standards that have been set by newer RPGs. The game’s awful translation coupled by Square’s lack of dialog in between characters ( the game had too quick of a pace), really has a pre 32 bit era feel which I am not a big fan of (unless your name is Chrono Trigger).

Replay Value: 8.0-

A great game, with mini games and a lot of hidden content, definitely a 40 plus hour RPG. However, once you finish the game there isn’t much of an incentive to play it again, not in this day, and age unless you want to relive the story.

Overall: 9.5-

One of the greatest RPGs of all time, a definite must play for anyone who is interested in the genre, and truly a classic. Like Chrono Trigger, it is difficult to find any viable argument against this game’s greatness.

Metacritic rated Final Fantasy VI on IOS a 91.

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By Samuel Rivera

An avid video game player and book reader, Samuel has been playing video games for the last 31 years. He has played nearly every PS1 JRPG known to man, and loves Ocarina of Time more than any other game.