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Final Fantasy VI Review

Very few games out nowadays have good character development. Some are dry, some are lame and some just aren’t there. It’s not like there is no room for improvement, but let’s face it…most games that are new tend to focus on shiny graphics and over-the-top gameplay. So, where does that leave story and character development? Suffice to say, it’s kind of sad albeit nostalgic to see that games from the early 90’s had more character development and story then today’s modern games and Final Fantasy VI was one of them.

Final Fantasy VI was the third installment in the Final Fantasy series to be released in North America (after the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy IV). As a result, it was first released in North America on October 20th, 1994 for the SNES as Final Fantasy III to maintain the naming continuity. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Square-Enix has done this, as Final Fantasy IV was released for the SNES under Final Fantasy II. While it may be a tad confusing, it’s really not something to lose sleep over. Hell, if you think that’s bad, just remember how awkward and hard to follow the Zelda timeline is!

The story for Final Fantasy VI is that a thousand years ago, three gods known as the Warring Triad descended to the world, and eventually began war for dominance that became known as the War of the Magi. To fight for them, the gods transformed humans and animals into creatures called Espers(More on that later), giving them immense magical power. After a long war, the gods realized their war was destroying the world and turned themselves to stone, their final wish being that the Espers prevent their power from being abused. The Espers took the gods’ petrified remains and fashioned a new dimension in which they could live peacefully, away from humans, and to hide the gods from the latters.

In the present, the world has experienced a technological revolution, while magic has faded into legend. To the south, the Gestahlian Empire led by Emperor Gestahl discovered the entrance to the Land of Espers and kidnapped several of the creatures. Using machinery, the Empire found a way to drain the Espers of their magical energy and imbue humans and machines with this power, resulting in the phenomenon known as Magitek. Using Magitek to overpower the armies of other nations, the Gestahlian Empire conquered the southern continent and began to push into the north with the ultimate aim of world conquest.

The gameplay for FFVI is still similar to the gameplay in Final Fantasy V, but just a bit different. Rather than having Job Classes, your characters are technically already are a master of their profession, which I’ll get into later. Obviously your characters can equip armor and weapons, but now they can equip items called Relics which allow them access to abilities that they wouldn’t normally learn. For example: Equipping the Relic “Dragoon Boots” would change the Fight command to Jump, allowing you to perform Kain’s(From Final Fantasy IV) signature technique for high-end damage! Magic usage in the game handles a bit differently. While there are certain characters that naturally learn spells, you only get so many and that’s where Espers come into play. Espers and their usage plays a very intricate and vital role in this game, and learning how to benefit from them is an absolute must. When you get to the point in the game where you can finally start equipping Espers(or Magicite), this is where the key element of survival comes out. Each character can equip a single piece of Magicite at a time, and each Magicite shard can be used only by a single character at any given time. Once equipped, Magicite teaches magic by way of Ability Points. Each Esper teaches a spell according to a certain percentage rate, and winning Ability Points from battles increases the equipped character’s aptitude with that spell by the specified amount. Once enough Ability Points have been won to put the percentage rate at 100%, the spell is learned and can be cast.

In addition to teaching normal magic, the Espers also give access to Summon Magic. A character can summon their equipped Esper into battle once, even if they know no magic themselves. At times, these summons are merely more powerful versions of the spells they teach, like Ramuh; at other times they are entirely different, like Ragnarok(Esper Version). Some Espers also give permanent stat boosts when the equipped character levels up. For example, Fenrir gives an additional 30% boost to maximum MP, and so forth. This means that characters can have their stats changed at will to suit whatever task the player wishes them to fulfill. Hell, even physical fighters like Edgar can be powerful mages with enough leveling to increase their Magic Power. This system gives Summoned Monsters a much larger role in the party’s strength than previous installments, something on which later installments, like Final Fantasy VIII, would expand. So, full-on character customization would require a bit of work, but it would be completely worth it in the end.

But what about the characters, you ask? Well, let’s get to that, shall we? Final Fantasy VI features 14 playable characters(12 Main, 2 Secret); the most of any Final Fantasy to date. Each character is his or her’s own Job Class. If you are a Final Fantasy veteran like me, you’ll notice that almost every character’s abilities are linked to one of Final Fantasy V’s Job Classes. So, let’s take a look:

Terra Branford – “A mysterious young woman, controlled by the Empire, and born with the gift of magic…” – A half-human/half-Esper, Terra technically doesn’t fall into and real Job Class area. But, being that she is very diversified with weapons, armor and magic, she is probably one of the most powerful characters in the game.

Locke Cole – “A treasure hunter and trail-worn traveler, searching the world over for relics of the past…” – One of my personal favorite characters, Locke falls into the Thief Job Class, though calling him that tends to result in a serious threat. Locke has the highest Speed and Evasion than anyone else in the game. Properly leveling him with Espers results in the fastest Support character ever!

Edgar Roni Figaro – “The young king of Figaro Castle, ally to the Empire, and a master designer of machinery…” – As the description states, Edgar is indeed a king. While he doesn’t fit into a FFV Job Class, he is classified as a Machinist with high physical stats but low magic stats and speed. His special ability, Tools, lets him attack enemies with one of eight special weapons.

Sabin Rene Figaro – “Edgar’s twin brother, who traded the throne for his own freedom…” – Sabin definitely falls under the Monk Job Class and has naturally high physical stats, but low defense and magic stats. Sabin’s ability, Blitz, allows him to dish out damage if you input the correct button sequences(Identical to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat). You learn more Blitzes as you level up.

Shadow – “He owes allegiance to no one, and will do anything for money. He comes and goes like the wind…” – Shadow falls into the Ninja Job Class, bringing to the table high speed and strength but low defense and average magic stats. I know who Shadow really is, but you’re going to have to play the game to find out! Trololololol!

Cyan Garamonde – “Faithful retainer to his family’s liege, with the courage and strength of a thousand men…” – Cyan definitely falls into the Samurai Job Class, although his stats are high strength and defense, but low speed and magic. His ability is SwordTech(or Bushido), which lets Cyan open a secondary ATB bar to charge up and execute special attacks. Cyan learns new SwordTech attacks as he levels up.

Gau – “Draped in monster hides, eyes shining with intelligence. A youth surviving against all odds…” – Gau sort of falls into the Blue Mage category, but not. He brings out high-end stats, but that all depends on a few factors. His ability, Rage, allows him to use the techniques of monsters you find on the Veldt, where you recruit Gau.

Celes Chere – “Product of genetic engineering, battle-hardened Magitek Knight, with a spirt as pure as snow…” – Like Terra, Celes doesn’t really fall into a specific Job Class and she can also naturally learn spells through leveling up. Her ability, Runic, allows her to absorb enemy magic attacks and convert them into MP for herself.

Setzer Gabbiani – “A blackjack-playing, world-traveling, casino-dwelling free spirit…” – Setzer doesn’t fall into ANY Job Class, but he has high strength, good stamina and speed, but low magic. Setzer’s ability, Slots, opens up a window with three spinning slot wheels. The player stops the wheels one by one, and depending on the result, Setzer uses a special attack.

Mog – “Human-loving, fast-talking, street-smart, SLAM-dancing… Moogle…” – Mog is a combination Dancer/Geomancer, and thus his magic stats are high, while his physical stats are low with the exception of his Defense, which is the highest in the game. His ability, Dance, executes one of four random attacks based on the dance. Mog learns new dances by fighting in different terrain, and each dance has its own set of four attacks. Kupo!

Strago Magus – “An elderly gentleman, pure of heart, and learned in the ways of monsters…” – A straight up Blue Mage who has low Strength, Defense, and Speed, but high Magic Power and MP. Like any Blue Mage, Strago needs to be attacked with the ability in order for him to learn it permenantly. His Blue Magic ability is called Lore.

Relm Arrowny – “In her pictures she captures everything: forests, water, light… the very essence of life…” – Relm would technically fall in the Trainer Job Class and has the highest magic stat in the game and good Speed, making her the best mage based on base stats alone, but she has weak physical stats. Her ability, Sketch, allows her to paint a picture of the monster you select, and that clone proceeds to dish out damage. Equipping her with a Fake Mustache changes Sketch to Control, thus allowing you to control a monster and manually select what ability you want to use aginst it or your party. Excellent if you are trying to get all of Strago’s Lores!

Umaro – “Admirer of bone-carvings, as strong as a gigas, a sasquatch pal with muscle!” – Umaro is a yeti and is recruited in Narshe, but only if Mog is in your party. Falling into the Berserker Job Class, Umaro has the highest HP, strength and defense in the game, but his magic stats are sub-par. You can’t control him, but the pain he doles out is almost worth it!

Gogo – “Shrouded in odd clothing… is this a man…? …a woman…? …or should we ask…?” – Goo definitely fits the Mime Job Class. Gogo’s stats are subpar in every department, to compensate for his/her high versatility. Being a Mime Class, Gogo can copy the last action any ally took in battle. If the action was a spell, Gogo will cast that spell for no MP cost, while if s/he mimics the use of an item, s/he will use the item without actually reducing the party’s stock. Gogo can also freely equip almost any three command abilities usable by the other twelve playable party members. The only ability s/he cannot equip is Terra’s Trance.

Wow…a lot of characters. But…I left out one on purpose…a character who is memorable and who fans are always arguing with another set of fans over who is the better villain. Yeah…you know what’s coming, don’t you?

Kefka Palazzo is the main antagonist of Final Fantasy VI. Often called the “Psycho Clown” due to his obvious insanity, Kefka is also well-known for his many one-liners, his final appearance as an Angel of Death (which has become something of a tradition in the series), and his sociopathic hatred of virtually everything in existence. Kefka’s most defining character trait is arguably his laughter, a high-pitched whooping cackle that is heard numerous times throughout the game. But you knew this, right? However this section is to bring to light the constant debate over who is stronger: Kefka or Sephiroth? Honestly, both characters are undoubtedly powerful foes, but when compared to each other….I don’t even think Deadliest Warrior could help with this one. But let’s take a step back and look at the stats for a second. Oh yeah, POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

Sephiroth would have been a normal baby if his father, Professor Hojo, wouldn’t have injected him with Jenova cells while he was still in the womb. That, combined with his SOLDIER training and exposure to the Lifestream does indeed make him a powerful individual, especially considering after his exposure to the Lifestream it allowed him to use magic without the use of Materia. Contrary to popular belief, the sword he uses is not THE Masamune. The sword he wields is called an “odachi” and it was named Masamune. Regardless, he wields it with finesse and great ease.

Kefka was Emperor Gestahl’s right-hand man and was the first experimental Magitek Knight, a procedure that gifted him with incredible magical power, but also shattered his sanity as a side effect of the process not being perfected yet. Kefka became a cruel, destructive madman and eventually acquired a reputation as one of the most dangerous men in the Gestahlian Empire. The exact circumstances are unknown, but sometime prior to the game, Kefka used a Slave Crown to control Terra Branford and, as a test of whether the free-will dampening effects of the crown were effective, had her burn fifty Imperial soldiers alive.

But how does this effect the constant competition between the two? Well, here it is…Kefka is the strongest one of the two and it’s not because I am reviewing FFVI, it’s because it’s fact. Kefka succeeded in his plans where all other Final Fantasy villains had failed…he destroyed the world. In terms of power, Kefka merely moved 3 statues out of alignment, absorbed a bit of energy and became a God. Sephiroth has yet to achieve this and the only thing he can do is manipulate the Jenova cells within his body to change form here and there. The only REAL advantage that Sephiroth has over Kefka is his unnatural ability to return to life. Kefka, unfortunately, does not. So, I’m sorry Final Fantasy VII fans, but when it boils down to tactics and power, Kefka has Sephiroth beat. At this time, I have already equipped my Flame Shield so feel free to peacefully disagree or flame me. Your call.

Overall, Final Fantasy VI bodes the best character development(I think, anyway) and customization mechanics. The characters themselves are very memorable, the gameplay is legendary and the music, as always, is fantastic. The game has many ports available,including the PlayStation Network and is also the only Final Fantasy other than Final Fantasy V to not see a next-gen remake. But, you never know!

10 out of 10

Until next episode…

Author’s Note: The Sephiroth vs Kefka picture above was created by DeviantART artist, wrenlythe. More of her work can be found here!.

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