Long before FFVII came to be, before Cloud and Tifa cosplayers at anime cons were about as common as molecules of oxygen in the air, Squaresoft developed the true master of all FF games. It’s unfortunate that this game ultimately became shadowed by its successor, because it is superior in almost every way.
Due to Squaresoft’s confusing numbering system in the early FF games, Final Fantasy VI was originally known in the US as Final Fantasy III. Released for the Super Nintendo in 1994, this game essentially defined everything I grew to love about video game RPGs: a deep, moving story with a central theme of saving the world; an engaging, partially real-time battle system; and a cast of well-developed characters that have their own unique abilities in battle. Add to this the most evil, conniving, diabolical, sadistic son-of-a-bitch villain I’ve ever seen, and you have one of the best video games ever created.
1,000 years ago, the ancient War of the Magi shook the planet. Humans and magical beings known as Espers fought long and hard until eventually, the three goddesses responsible for bringing about the war turned themselves to stone. The war ended, and the Espers sealed themselves and the stone goddesses away, never to be touched by humans.
Flash forward to present day. Human technology has advanced to a level comparable to that of 19th century Earth. In the small underground mining town of Narshe, an Esper is mysteriously discovered, frozen inside a block of ice. Having heard the news of this, Emperor Gestahl, the leader The Empire, a ruthless dictatorship, sends his soldiers to obtain the Esper. Among Gesthal’s forces is a young girl named Terra. It is soon revealed that she is being controlled by The Empire, turned into a brainless killing machine against her own will. Through a series of events, Terra regains consciousness and joins a resistance group known as The Returners. They set out to do everything in their power to prevent The Empire’s evil reign from spreading and more importantly, put an end to the shady experiments Gesthal has been conducting with Kefka- his court magician, and the diabolical nutjob villain I mentioned earlier.
The gameplay in Final Fantasy VI is not unlike those of most early FF games. In battle, the game uses the ATB system, where characters wait for their turn to come up and then you issue them commands. It’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t take much getting used to, especially when compared to the more complex battle systems seen in RPGs today. In battle, characters can use their normal attack, magic, items, or a special character-specific ability. The character-specific abilities are among the most valuable and powerful abilities in the game. Some of these abilities will simply have you pick an option from a menu, whereas some of them will require you to so something else, such as enter a button combination, wait for a gauge to fill up, or play a slot machine game. The characters Edgar and Sabin respectively use the Tools and Blitz abilities, which offer an array of offensive options that certainly pack a punch against the enemy. Celes, on the other hand, can perform Runic, a defensive ability which allows her to absorb enemy magic spells. Efficient use of these abilities is the key to winning battle in this game.
The graphics in this game are most certainly impressive, and are easily among the best graphics the Super Nintendo has ever seen. With an extensive soundtrack composed by the one and only Nobuo Uematsu, this game promises to deliver some of the best tunes you’ve ever heard in a video game. All of this combined with an epic story of humans’ survival in a world that faces the brink of total destruction makes up this timeless classic that is spoken about and played even to this date. Although a copy of the original SNES cartridge may be hard to come by, remakes of the game were made for both the Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo Game Boy Advance. Pick yourself up a copy and be prepared to be taken in.
Final Fantasy VI, originally on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (as Final Fantasy III), is also available on the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Game Boy Advance.