Introduction to Final Fantasy VI

One of the most beloved Final Fantasy games has to be the sixth. Though not as celebrated as the seventh, nor as widely-known-and-played as the even newer ones, FFVI has nonetheless made its way into many gamers’ hearts, from its first release on the SNES (marketed in North America as FFII) to its bundle on PSX, to its new – and decidedly more recent – revamp and re-release on GBA, receiving the same treatment as its two older siblings, FFs IV and V, with updated translations and bonus dungeons.

FFVI is very unique in the line of Final Fantasy games. It is the first to not concern itself with crystals and their balances, choosing instead to explore a complete different – and enthralling – story; it has the largest cast of playable characters; and definitely concerns itself with plot more than battle, becoming, arguably, the easiest FF game thus far, if one knows a few tricks and doesn’t limit oneself from using them.

As a game that focuses, as mentioned, more on storyline than battle, FFVI features a gigantic cast of 14 possible playable characters, though not all obtainable unless one knows beforehand what to do, and some permanently missable if, on the other hand, one does not know what to do (ie, Shadow, Mog, and Umaro by extension; you have been warned). Each character brings with him or her a vibrant personality, a unique ability, and, in the second half of the game, a fun sidequest that reveals the character’s past, and hopes and dreams. Though not necessary – the whole game can be completed by obtaining only three default characters in total in the second half – these sidequests generally net new equipment and/or magicite in addition to the characters. And with a – again, very unique – final dungeon where the characters must split into three separate parties just to navigate, most players would be thankful for all the help they can get.

Despite the sound of that, however, FFVI can be an exceedingly easy game to beat for players that know its secrets, mainly through its magicite system. Each character in FFVI possesses a special ability. At the start, main character Terra’s (Japanese version Tina) appears to be magic. In a world where magical espers sealed themselves into a different realm 1000 years ago, Terra alone is born with magic. Before long, however, all playable characters gain the ability to learn magic by equipping magicite, the essence of espers, as well as a once-per-battle allowance to summon the esper itself. (For those curious, Terra gains the ability “Trance”, the predecessor of later limit breaks, trances, overdrives, etc.) Essentially, with some work – stronger spells are learned very slowly, and the magicites are harder to find – it is possible to have 12 Ultima-casting mages raining down doom and destruction on everything in their way. (Two of the optional characters cannot learn magic. One, however, is a mimic, and can mimic another character’s Ultima at no MP cost.) The only limit would be the characters’ MP, as the maximum possible MP is 999, and Ultima costs 99. But wait! There is the Gold Hairpin relic (ie, accessory equip) that reduces MP consumption by 50%, and, even better, the Celestriad (originally called the Economizer, and a royal pain to find), which reduces all spell costs to 1 MP. Coupled with the Soul of Thamasa (originally Gem Box), which gives Dualcast, even the terrifying, multi-stage final boss falls in no time. To make matters even better, Terra and Celes, your two main mages (presumably, anyway, as they start off with magic, and have the highest magic stats), can equip the Minerva Bustier armor, which absorbes, negates, or halves all the elements as well as drives their evasion rates sky-high. And, as if that’s not enough, some magicite, in the GBA version, gives additional stat boosts upon leveling up. They may not look like much – just a +1 or +2 in one stat, usually – but they add up, and a character with a maxed magic stat casting Ultima is a scary thing indeed, as well as a guarantee to do 9999 damage to everything. Many people, however, do like completing the game without the use of Ultima, simply because there is no challenge otherwise. And besides, Ultima is extremely time-consuming to learn.

Potentially Goddess-like stats aside, FFVI’s Terra and Celes also share the position as the game’s main character (“main” here designating the first character the player controls) in the first and second half of the game, respectively. As one might notice, they are both female. Though other FFs later feature female characters amongst whom the story revolves, like Rinoa, Garnet, Yuna, and Ashe, they are not introduced at the start, and the true “main” characters are, instead, Squall, Zidane, Tidus, and Vaan. Though FFVI does not have more female characters (only three out of 14; four if one counts the enigmatic Gogo), it places a significantly greater importance on the ones it has.

Through its differences, Final Fantasy VI has made its mark as one of the greatest games of the series. Driven by plot and characters, offering a wide variety of skills and tricks to make it easier for even new players, but still filled with challenges for hard-core veterans, it is still, after all these years, many people’s favourite Final Fantasy game. For those who have yet to experience the magic of FFVI, go on and give it a try, and join Terra and her companions through their story of honour and betrayal, good and evil, hope in the face of devastation, and love in all its myriad forms.

-Arivess


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