Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Review of Final Fantasy VI

A review by a gamer is sorely needed for Final Fantasy VI. Written for a website that was soliciting reviews. However, said site was subsequently lost during an unrecoverable brain fade. The darned site had so many ads on it, something leached onto my PC, and everything needed to be cleaned out and defragged, etc.

Hate to waste a good review. If you've never played FFVI, there are no spoilers below.

Overview:

A power mad emperor intends to use long-forbidden and mostly-forgotten magic to rule the world, by draining the lifeforce from magic users, called Espers, kidnapped from their own separate realm. The resistance aids and finally enlists an escaped prisoner who seems a unique hybrid, both human and magic user. They are hunted and harassed by the emperor’s insane right-hand man, who has his own evil designs, and absolutely no scruples whatsoever.

Gameplay:

This game allows movement in all directions on a world map, with towns, camps, towers and hideaways, some with distinct climates and ecological environments. Playable characters are assembled as the story advances, allowing up to fourteen, including hidden ones that must be sought in unusual circumstances. Once the resistance fighters are brought together, there is no main character: all have stories to tell and issues to resolve before the game is won. The Espers are also appropriated and become allies that can be called to battle and provide various classes of magic. Each human has skills to learn and refine, based on various archetypes: thief, ninja, warriors, princes, and some surprises, like the artist and nonhumans with special abilities. Each takes a turn in battle, using the special skill and acquired magic.

Items, armor, weapons and relics that allow special attributes and abilities are collected as the game advances, as loot dropped by (or stolen from) vanquished enemies, treasure in chests and purchased in stores. There are puzzles to solve and victims to rescue. Later in the game a battle Coliseum allows the gamer to bet specific items for desired prizes. Opportunities arise to quickly acquire magic or experience, usually in the form of a special environment with very difficult adversaries. For example, an innocuous-looking cactus with legs can be fought in the desert for magic points and gold pieces.

Aesthetics:

Final Fantasy VI has the classic bright, contrasting colors and (primitive) graphics from the height of the Super Nintendo era. Nearly every element of each screen shot is now considered iconic, such as the multi-leveled towns and blocky, two-dimensional buildings and furniture. Even the little characters play through their full-motion scenarios as pixies, the same that fight the battles and move across the world map. The sound is quite good, appropriate to battles, magic and situations. The music is catchy and particular themes are attached to each character. Character themes and battle music tend to become earworms, haunting the player, unintentionally hummed or whistled during work or daily life. This is especially true for the operatic aria (!) sung in the first half of the story.

Extras:
Side quests are a must for any Final Fantasy and this one has so many that, even after countless replays the gamer will always find something new. There are different approaches to be tried, including denying magic to a character for an entire game, or keeping weapons and armor light to increase speed or enhance magic power. Various scenes can also play out differently, according to the character chosen to lead the party, another signature of the series.

Difficulty of gameplay can be controlled by speed of advance through the story line. For more challenge a gamer can simply push on quickly, without leveling up or acquiring stronger weapons and armor. On the other hand, more careful exploration, collecting of clues, and building of skills and experience can ease the transition through the levels. There is just as much fun and challenge for the impatient gamer who finishes in 40 hours, as for the methodical treasure hunter, wringing out every secret.

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