Friday, February 25, 2011

Retro Review: Final Fantasy VI

Our generation is highly nostalgic. We have a tendency to place on a pedestal anything we remember fondly from our childhoods. How many early 90s R&B dance parties did we have at Canfield? Too many probably. This holds true for games as well. We often look back and think to ourselves that every game we've played as a child was the shit. The fact is, most of the games we played as a child were probably garbage, and when we play through them in our adult life we look at them through a rose tinted lens. So today, I'm going to take my favorite game of all time, Final Fantasy VI, and review it without taking into account all of the nostalgia surrounding it.

The Story: Final Fantasy VI's story line is a classic Star Wars ripoff. There is an evil empire trying to harness power for world domination and you are part of a small rebellious group trying to stop it. The protagonist is just like Luke Skywalker, in that she has some innate power which she don't know how to fully use. Lets face it, the story is a bit bland and has been done many many times before. So why does everyone always praise the game's storyline? Because the bad guys actually succeed in blowing up the world, which is undoubtedly awesome. But the main storyline basically disappears halfway through the game. In the World of Ruin, why aren't the Returners around to help stop Kefka? Where is Bannon and Arvis? They are never mentioned once after the world is destroyed. I realize that in the World of Ruin, the game shifts to become more character storyline based than anything, but it practically makes all of the events which happen in the World of Balance irrelevant.

The Characters: The character development is Final Fantasy VI is superb and I can't think of another game which outclasses Final Fantasy VI in this category. We all know how awesome Kefka, Locke, Celes, Ultros, Edgar, and the rest of the characters are, so I'm not going to go in depth about them. I do however want to point out, that lots of people credit Final Fantasy 7 for the introduction of the whiny protagonist which has been a reoccurring theme through the Final Fantasy series. This is not true though, as Terra is just as whiny and emo as Cloud and Squall are. Seriously, all she does in the WoB is cry. Part of the reason the game starts out so slowly is because half of the beginning scenes consist of Terra QQing and its annoying. Also, it would've been nice to have some more development of Relm, Strago, and Gau (Mog, Umaro, and Gogo don't count as they are technically secret characters).

Still one of the best scenes in Video Game history

Gameplay: The battle system was pretty standard for RPGs in that era, so I really have nothing to say about it. The dungeons were never too long or confusing (except the Tower of Magi ... fuck that place), and the weapon system was also adequate. The random encounter rate was a bit too high, which can be frustrating sometimes. My biggest problem with the gameplay comes from the Esper system. Now, don't get me wrong, the Esper system is one of the better magic systems out of the Final Fantasies, however it definitely had its problems. The biggest problem with it is that it strips the individuality out of the characters by the end of the game. It didn't really matter who you had on the team or how good their equipment was when all characters can just spam Ultima all day. Each character's individual skills (like Tools or Throw) are basically useless in the WoR since magic is just leagues better than anything else in the game.

I played a mod one time, which changed the Esper system slightly and it made the gameplay really amazing. Basically, Espers had equipment restrictions on them (like one could only equip to Terra or Celes) and not all Espers taught magic. The mod made Terra a Black Mage, Celes a Red Mage, Relm a White Mage, and Strago a Time Mage, and no other characters could learn magic. Instead, the fighters equipped special Espers which only boosted their skills and stats. They also improved some of the more worthless skills, like Cyan's sword techniques, which charge up so slow in the original that they were unbearable and not worth the wait. The result has a bunch of characters who actually felt different from one another while still keeping the original system roughly in tact.

Now its time to discuss the elephant in the room: Final Fantasy VI is one of the buggiest games I have ever played. Looking back at it, I am shocked that Nintendo even allowed it to published in its current form. Obviously the most famous glitch is the Relm Sketch glitch, which grants the user a ton of items but can also delete all of your saved data. This glitch occurs when Relm tries to sketch an invisible enemy, and its incredibly easy to reproduce. Luke got it by accident on his playthrough a couple months ago. There is also the Evade bug, which if you read my character analysis, you'll know I exploited quite a bit. Basically, one of the most relevant stats in the game doesn't actually work, invalidating a ton of equipment and making other pieces of equipment (like the ones which boost Magic Block) super powerful. Also, Vanish + Doom/X-Zone kills any creature or boss in the game ... as if the game weren't easy enough. In fact, there are enough relevant glitches for someone to write an entire FAQ about them. LOL.

Music and Graphics: The soundtrack is one the best in the genre and the graphics were really good for their time, so there isn't really much to say here.

Overall, I think the game amazing and its still my favorite of all time but I think its delusional of people to not recognize its multitude of flaws. If I had to give it a modern metacritic score, I would give it something in the high 80s. Its really good, but it has its problems and doesn't have widespread appeal nor a high replay value.

BONUS: Zach says the following about the game: Terra wasn't hot enough, Sabin could've looked like less of a douche, Kefka should have been playable at some point, and the scene escaping the Floating Continent was a bitch.

1 comment:

  1. Because this was my first time playing a real RPG, my review of the game is relatively meaningless.

    That said, perhaps the most valuable insight I have to offer is that the game is endlessly entertaining and I never once got bored during the play-through (which is something I'm concerned about regarding some of the other Final Fantasies and of RPGs in general). Being entertaining doesn't make a game "good" by any means, but it's important if the developers at all intend for the game to interest players who've never before dabbled in the particular genre. As someone who had previously played mostly platformers and racing games, FFVI single-handedly made me want to play more RPGs and helped me move past conceptions of the genre as boring. Though perhaps I would have been more frustrated attempting to learn it on my own without my own personal RPG instructor sitting next to me.

    Also, yes, they should have better developed the story-line of the secret characters. Mog (Potato) is now one of my favorite video game characters ever because he's so outrageous in comparison to the others. I want to hear about his cute litte homelife and how Mog-like creatures came to be. Plus, there needed to be a dance remix of Mog's theme played over the ending credits.