Review: Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI

Considered one of the top two titles in the entire series, I was eager to dive in to this game. I had played it years ago as part of Final Fantasy Anthology, released for the original PlayStation, but I didn’t recall the gritty details. I had visions here and there of memorable moments, but it wasn’t like I could really tell anyone the story of the game if asked. I also had attended a Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert back in March, which included a lot from this game: “Terra’s Theme,” “Opera ‘Maria and Draco,'” and “Dancing Mad” all were played live. I had listened to them countless times since then, too, having bought the CDs while at the show. By the time June kicked off, I was excited to hear these pieces in their original form, as well as the game that everyone places so high on their list of favorites.

Right off the bat, you are drawn into the story and the developing conflict between the Empire and its citizens. The opening bit felt like a prologue of sorts, but I’m not sure when to really draw the line and say the “real” game therefore took off. The graphics were standard fare for the 16-bit era (albeit on Game Boy Advance, so possibly updated) and the music was great to finally hear in its original form. The game basically kicked off with “Terra’s Theme,” and I would hear it plenty of times thereafter on the world map. To be honest, it was so great that there were often times that I just let it play while I did other things, such as look up info on the game or quick tasks here and there.

Like Final Fantasy IV before it, Final Fantasy VI featured an ensemble cast again. However, this time, rather than constantly dropping in and out of my party, this game presented me for the first time the option to choose who I wanted in my party from all those I had encountered thus far. Sure, there were several parts of the game where characters separated from each other (more on that in a bit) but, for the most part, I could pick and choose who I wanted to be in my party.

As for the characters themselves, they were each fleshed out well for the most part, with backstories to explain their motivation. Only the final two characters received little to no backstory and were basically throw-away characters I ended up never using, mostly for their limited purpose as well.

Speaking of which, when it comes to the gameplay, it is similar to Final Fantasy IV again. Each character has a specific role: Terra deals primarily in magic, Locke is a Thief, and Sabin is a monk. They each have abilities inherent to them and them only. However, similar to Final Fantasy V, your characters can learn more beyond their abilities, and this is done via the Esper system. Characters can “equip” an Esper, which is basically one of the popular Summon characters from the series, such as Ifrit, Shiva, or Odin. Once equipped, characters begin a process of learning spells specific to each Esper. For example, Ifrit will teach Fire, Fira, and Drain (albeit at varying speeds). Once fully learned, characters can not only now use that magic, but can equip a different Esper and still retain the ability to cast those spells. In this way, you can create a party makeup as you see fit, with whichever of the default roles each character is assigned by the game, but can also teach them magic to use in the game.

Furthermore, most Espers have a level-up stat bonus assigned to it. For example, if Sabin has Gilgamesh equipped when he gains a level, he will gain +2 Strength. Similarly, Terra would gain +1 Magic if she had Cait Sith equipped when she leveled up. This is another means of customizing your characters to power each one up per their specific roles.

Espers also play the primary role in the story of the game as well. Speaking of which, the game is divided into two halves. The first half will see you traverse nearly the entire world at you see on the world map, encountering such iconic moments as the Opera scene, a story within a story. There’s also the Coliseum, where you can test your luck by going one-on-one versus an enemy depending on what you put up for collateral, or perhaps the Auction that has a potential for winning rare items. They all make for great moments throughout the game.

Then there’s the second half. I won’t go into great detail on it as to not spoil the game, but the vast majority of it is optional (as was the case with Final Fantasy V as well). You can do a whole bunch of stuff in this second half in order to make your final party comprised of whomever you wish, or you can just go ahead and go for the win — though, doing so will be more difficult should you go that route. Once you beat it, the ending will change depending on how much of this extra stuff you did and who was in your final party in that final dungeon as well.

The main villain here is mostly just insane for the sake of being insane. Granted, you learn the reason why it happened, but when you also learn his overall motivation for his evil misdeeds, they still fall under the category of pure insanity. On that note, the final boss fight of the game is great, even if only for the fact that “Dancing Mad” plays during the boss fight. I found myself on the fence over whether or not to fight hard to end the battle or try to make it last to hear the various elements of the musical piece.

In the end, Final Fantasy VI is definitely a good game in the series, and I can see why people put it at the top of their series list. However, it does suffer a bit at times from the “ensemble” feel, and I mostly just picked my four favorite characters, using them extensively so that each would basically learn every spell from the Espers and therefore be unstoppable, which actually only served to weaken those I didn’t use. Then, when the time would come that I’d have to use them, I’d find myself annoyed at their ineptitude versus their peers. Sure, each has their own personal and unique abilities, but they’re still not going to be as powerful as one core group with whom you spend the time leveling up and learning magic. I actually saw an article about the ensemble issues that come with having fourteen playable characters brings and saved it for after playing the game. Take a look at that to basically expand upon my gripes, as what he says is basically how I feel as well

Still, as I’ve mentioned, there are some very good memorable moments here and there in the game that you’ll want to relive again. Unfortunately, I only had three save spots, but I made sure to keep one just before the Opera scene. The Game Boy Advance version I played also had the usual bonus dungeon content that comes with re-releases but, as was the case with most of the previous games in the series, I wasn’t able to finish it in my allotted time.

When it comes to ranking the game, I again have trouble with this versus Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V. I guess this is what happens when you’re playing the best of the series, as Squaresoft was in their glory years during this time period, and not just for the Final Fantasy series, either. It’s tough to come up with the criteria to rank these. Each one has a different story; do I rank by best story? Each has different gameplay, too, though. Which would I rather replay again? Again, I thought of perhaps looking at the bonus content available to each; which would I want to return to in order to play more of it? However, that seems like a silly piece of criteria, since it’s extra stuff not even integral to the game (and added after the fact). Suffice to say that, despite my own personal ranking, these three have definitely been the best three in the series thus far, and better than all three predecessors. You could really tell that Squaresoft was coming around in their game design & development during this time period.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with:

1) Final Fantasy VI
2) Final Fantasy V
3) Final Fantasy IV
4) Final Fantasy II
5) Final Fantasy III
6)  Final Fantasy

Next month will see Final Fantasy VII in action, which is the first in the series that I ever played. I will say that I noticed a lot in Final Fantasy VI that seemed to have also occurred in Final Fantasy VII, though I’ll expand more on that next month.


Considered one of the top two titles in the entire series, I was eager to dive in to this game. I had played it years ago as part of Final Fantasy Anthology, released for the original PlayStation, but I didn’t recall the gritty details. I had visions here and there of memorable moments, but it wasn’t like I could really tell anyone the story of the game if asked. I also had attended a Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert back in March, which included a lot from this game: “Terra’s Theme,” “Opera ‘Maria and Draco,'” and “Dancing Mad” all were played live. I had listened to them countless times since then, too, having bought the CDs while at the show. By the time June kicked off, I was excited to hear these pieces in their original form, as well as the game that everyone places so high on their list of favorites.

Right off the bat, you are drawn into the story and the developing conflict between the Empire and its citizens. The opening bit felt like a prologue of sorts, but I’m not sure when to really draw the line and say the “real” game therefore took off. The graphics were standard fare for the 16-bit era (albeit on Game Boy Advance, so possibly updated) and the music was great to finally hear in its original form. The game basically kicked off with “Terra’s Theme,” and I would hear it plenty of times thereafter on the world map. To be honest, it was so great that there were often times that I just let it play while I did other things, such as look up info on the game or quick tasks here and there.

Like Final Fantasy IV before it, Final Fantasy VI featured an ensemble cast again. However, this time, rather than constantly dropping in and out of my party, this game presented me for the first time the option to choose who I wanted in my party from all those I had encountered thus far. Sure, there were several parts of the game where characters separated from each other (more on that in a bit) but, for the most part, I could pick and choose who I wanted to be in my party.

As for the characters themselves, they were each fleshed out well for the most part, with backstories to explain their motivation. Only the final two characters received little to no backstory and were basically throw-away characters I ended up never using, mostly for their limited purpose as well.

Speaking of which, when it comes to the gameplay, it is similar to Final Fantasy IV again. Each character has a specific role: Terra deals primarily in magic, Locke is a Thief, and Sabin is a monk. They each have abilities inherent to them and them only. However, similar to Final Fantasy V, your characters can learn more beyond their abilities, and this is done via the Esper system. Characters can “equip” an Esper, which is basically one of the popular Summon characters from the series, such as Ifrit, Shiva, or Odin. Once equipped, characters begin a process of learning spells specific to each Esper. For example, Ifrit will teach Fire, Fira, and Drain (albeit at varying speeds). Once fully learned, characters can not only now use that magic, but can equip a different Esper and still retain the ability to cast those spells. In this way, you can create a party makeup as you see fit, with whichever of the default roles each character is assigned by the game, but can also teach them magic to use in the game.

Furthermore, most Espers have a level-up stat bonus assigned to it. For example, if Sabin has Gilgamesh equipped when he gains a level, he will gain +2 Strength. Similarly, Terra would gain +1 Magic if she had Cait Sith equipped when she leveled up. This is another means of customizing your characters to power each one up per their specific roles.

Espers also play the primary role in the story of the game as well. Speaking of which, the game is divided into two halves. The first half will see you traverse nearly the entire world at you see on the world map, encountering such iconic moments as the Opera scene, a story within a story. There’s also the Coliseum, where you can test your luck by going one-on-one versus an enemy depending on what you put up for collateral, or perhaps the Auction that has a potential for winning rare items. They all make for great moments throughout the game.

Then there’s the second half. I won’t go into great detail on it as to not spoil the game, but the vast majority of it is optional (as was the case with Final Fantasy V as well). You can do a whole bunch of stuff in this second half in order to make your final party comprised of whomever you wish, or you can just go ahead and go for the win — though, doing so will be more difficult should you go that route. Once you beat it, the ending will change depending on how much of this extra stuff you did and who was in your final party in that final dungeon as well.

The main villain here is mostly just insane for the sake of being insane. Granted, you learn the reason why it happened, but when you also learn his overall motivation for his evil misdeeds, they still fall under the category of pure insanity. On that note, the final boss fight of the game is great, even if only for the fact that “Dancing Mad” plays during the boss fight. I found myself on the fence over whether or not to fight hard to end the battle or try to make it last to hear the various elements of the musical piece.

In the end, Final Fantasy VI is definitely a good game in the series, and I can see why people put it at the top of their series list. However, it does suffer a bit at times from the “ensemble” feel, and I mostly just picked my four favorite characters, using them extensively so that each would basically learn every spell from the Espers and therefore be unstoppable, which actually only served to weaken those I didn’t use. Then, when the time would come that I’d have to use them, I’d find myself annoyed at their ineptitude versus their peers. Sure, each has their own personal and unique abilities, but they’re still not going to be as powerful as one core group with whom you spend the time leveling up and learning magic. I actually saw an article about the ensemble issues that come with having fourteen playable characters brings and saved it for after playing the game. Take a look at that to basically expand upon my gripes, as what he says is basically how I feel as well

Still, as I’ve mentioned, there are some very good memorable moments here and there in the game that you’ll want to relive again. Unfortunately, I only had three save spots, but I made sure to keep one just before the Opera scene. The Game Boy Advance version I played also had the usual bonus dungeon content that comes with re-releases but, as was the case with most of the previous games in the series, I wasn’t able to finish it in my allotted time.

When it comes to ranking the game, I again have trouble with this versus Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V. I guess this is what happens when you’re playing the best of the series, as Squaresoft was in their glory years during this time period, and not just for the Final Fantasy series, either. It’s tough to come up with the criteria to rank these. Each one has a different story; do I rank by best story? Each has different gameplay, too, though. Which would I rather replay again? Again, I thought of perhaps looking at the bonus content available to each; which would I want to return to in order to play more of it? However, that seems like a silly piece of criteria, since it’s extra stuff not even integral to the game (and added after the fact). Suffice to say that, despite my own personal ranking, these three have definitely been the best three in the series thus far, and better than all three predecessors. You could really tell that Squaresoft was coming around in their game design & development during this time period.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with:

1) Final Fantasy VI
2) Final Fantasy V
3) Final Fantasy IV
4) Final Fantasy II
5) Final Fantasy III
6)  Final Fantasy

Next month will see Final Fantasy VII in action, which is the first in the series that I ever played. I will say that I noticed a lot in Final Fantasy VI that seemed to have also occurred in Final Fantasy VII, though I’ll expand more on that next month.


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About the author

Jason L. Hubsch

Jason L. Hubsch

I love music, video games, comic books, pro wrestling, politics, and God -- and not necessarily in that order! If you like any of these, chances are we'll get along.

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