We have come to the end of the SNES era of the Final Fantasy franchise, and what an ending it is! Final Fantasy VI is arguably one of the greatest entries in the series. From the epic opera-inspired story line, to unforgettable villains, this is simply one of the greatest RPGs. Final Fantasy VI is the first entry to pull away from the classic tropes involving crystals and faceless mega-antagonists to conquers new narrative horizons. With the largest character cast in the franchise, Final Fantasy VI has an appealing backstory woven. I can’t say enough about this game without going into spoiler territory, but it contains one of the biggest twists in gaming history. It is worth picking up.
Bringing the New: Background
Final Fantasy VI is the first of the series to take place in an “Industrial” era. The game still keeps the fantasy feel by using medieval weapons and creatures, but puts a new spin on things.
Our story opens with a scrolling narrative about Great War of the Magi 1000 years before the game takes place. The Warring Triad, three gods, initiated the war and the catastrophic consequences. Their release of magical energy created magical warriors called espers. In the horrid aftermath, the Triad gave free will to the espers. Their only request was that the gods be sealed in stone and locked away. The espers obliged, hiding away the stone gods and faded away to myth and legend. But the world has changed – and now technological advancements and a cruel Empire have led to the discovery of the esper’s safe haven.
The Thick of the Plot
The game picks up with the mysterious magic wielding Terra accompanied by two soldiers (Vicks and Wedge) on a mission for the Empire. They have been sent to investigate a frozen esper in the town of Narshe. When they reach the icy creature, it reacts with Terra and she breaks free of the Empire’s control. Unfortunately, she wakes with amnesia and an angry mob crying for her capture.
With the help of Locke, a treasure hunter, Terra is protected from the Evil Empire and brought before the leader of a resistance group called ‘The Returners.’ Both the Empire and the Returns are interested in Terra’s natural ability to use magic; she is the key to victory and understanding the power of the legendary espers.
The Returners must convince Terra to join with them in order to topple the evil Empire – ruled by Emperor Gestahl and his three deadly generals. But not everything is as it seems. Will our heroes succeed, or will this feud cause the gods to awaken for another War of the Magi?
A Bigger Picture and Avoiding Spoilers
A simple synopsis doesn’t do this game justice. It is difficult to go into the winding details of Final Fantasy VI without spoiling the wonderful discoveries in the plot. The story is simple enough: an evil empire is taking over the world, and the Returners are trying to stop it. It is a very familiar story, but what makes it extraordinary is the character development. With fourteen different characters, it would seem that the story would get murky with unnecessary backstory, but it does not.
Up to this point, the Final Fantasy series had one or two entries with well-developed characters, more notably Final Fantasy IV and V. Final Fantasy VI took character development to a whole new level. Gamers would be hard-pressed to pick out the main protagonist because each of the fourteen characters is a main protagonist. Each character has his or her backstory, clear motivation, and an amazing character theme. A mysterious woman, a heart-broken treasure hunter, a loyal knight, and a wild boy are just a handful of the wonderful cast, and their stories weave an incredible
Final Fantasy IV and V each took turns expanding video game narratives, but Final Fantasy VI really lets these characters grow. Their stories intertwine and their growth delivers a rich experience. While the characters are some of my favorite in the series, this game also contains one of the franchise’s greatest antagonists.
Final Fantasy toys with Joker-esque style chaos in its main villain, Kefka. Previous series villains had players fighting devils, sorcerers, and larger-than-life bosses. Kefka is portrayed as an eccentric, physically weak, and unstable mage general under Emperor Gestahl. While his origin is largely unknown, what’s understood is that he is the product of the earliest attempts at infusing warriors with magical power. What gamers receive is a maniac without restraint or empathy in a position of unspeakable power. This provides an excellent balance in a way that is fresh for series veterans.