Final Fantasy VI
Long ago, there was a war between three Gods; a terrible conflict known as the War of the Magicite. Once the Gods had ended their shameful in-fighting they repented their actions and returned their magic-imbued warriors – known as Espers – to the world. But the Espers were outcast from mankind for their differences and so they sought solace in their own land, and sealed it off to live in peace for all eternity. Now, a millennium later, Emperor Gestahl and his vast, oppressive empire seek this hidden world; they seek the immeasurable power of the Espers. And with the young human/Esper hybrid Terra at their head, nothing can stop them.
Despite not being as well-known or influential as its younger siblings (and in particular its successor Final Fantasy VII), FFVI is still one of the greatest JRPGs ever created, and easily stands alongside both the stellar entries in its own series and other legendary JRPGs. It takes place in a typical but unnamed steampunk world where traditional armour and weapons have been combined with more glamorous technology in the form of airships and mech-like armour. You’ll take control of a group of persecuted rebels known as the Returners, who battle against the Empire in a race against time to stop them from obtaining the power of the Espers. The plot falters a little in the second half of the game, but then that’s missing the point a little as you are free to make a number of decisions and approach the closing stages how you wish. Regardless, the plot is good and there is more than enough here to keep you going for at least a steady 30 – 40 hours.
One element which really sets this game apart from its contemporaries it the huge and lovable cast. There are fourteen standard characters you can recruit, each amazingly with their own back-story and side-quests. Another admirable element which really sets it apart from most competitors is that there is not really a single hero here with a support cast, but instead there’s half a dozen or so characters who each share the limelight at intervals, meaning you feel much more connected with and more familar with the cast here than, say, FFX or FFXII.
In terms of battles and character management, it’s largely much the same as other entries in the series. You take a team of four characters into battles and select your moves from lists, which themselves depend on how you have customised your team’s items and abilities. Some characters have specific skills and attacks (like Locke’s Steal or Sabin’s Blitz), but if you’ve played other Final Fantasies or indeed, any other big JRPG then you’ll know what to expect here. Of course, that’s not to suggest it’s any less enjoyable than its equivalents, but anyone unconvinced by the archaic feel of some JRPGs will unreservedly experience the same apathy here.
The villians of the piece deserve a mention, in particular the psychotic and enigmatic clownlike general Kefka. His actions arguably exceed all other FF antagonists, particularly the instance when he poisons a whole beseiged city just to eradicate a small rebel cell hidden inside. Aside from his genocidal crimes, Kefka is largely unique amongst FF villians in that he has no real powers – at the start of the game, at least. When you battle him, he’ll shamelessly run off when defeated, accompanied by his trademark lunatic laugh, determined to return and best our heroes. Kefka’s humanity and love-to-hate-him entertainment value grant him a special place amongst the FF antagonists, and he is often remarked as one of the favourites – and not without good reason.
Often forgotten in light of its younger and more mainstream siblings such as Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy XII, FFVI is a terrific little game which deserves to be remembered as clearly and as fondly as the series’ other iterations. Whether it is better is obviously completely subjective, but personally I have no problem saying this ranks up there at the very top of the RPG tree alongside FFVII.