It has been a long journey, full of ups and downs and quite a bit of self doubt, but here we are 4 days before the end of 2015 and I have achieved the goal I had set out to do. I had saved Final Fantasy VI for last for 2 reasons, the fact that I’ve attempted to play through the whole thing more times than anything else I’ve mentioned, and its place among fans as the best of the 2D Final Fantasy games.
I was worried that I had bitten off way more than I could chew when I’d only logged around 10 hours of Final Fantasy VI by early December, but after some hefty research into the second half of FFVI I powered through and reached end game content by Boxing Day morning. The last few hours were an emotional experience that I really didn’t expect as I came to the end of something that had dominated the last 5 months of my life. There was this almighty sense of relief as I dealt the final blow to Kefka in the 30 minute multistage behemoth of a final boss. I could finally say that I’d done something I have wanted to do since I was the small kid playing Final Fantasy VIII for the very first time.
The game itself is every bit the classic that I’ve read about, the first 3 hours that I had repeatedly played before were nothing next to the massive epic story that unfolds through the eyes of 14(!) playable characters. I had always found it difficult to comprehend the number of characters in this game, but I have to say I was wrong. Squaresoft did an amazing job of making you care for just about every one of these people, each having a distinctive battle style and reason for fighting. Of course I have my favourites, the most obvious being the brothers dynamic of Edgar and Sabin, or the will they won’t they relationship of Celes and Locke.
It’s curious that there’s no true central character in Final Fantasy VI, unlike just about every other Post SNES era game. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was Terra, her Esper lineage linking her directly to the main narrative, but I found that as the game continued it was told from the perspective of Celes, the ex Empire Knight who ends up having to search the world for her old comrades to help defeat Kefka for good. It’s a thrilling turning point in the game, Terra doesn’t even have to be in the party at the end, you can complete the final dungeon with just 4 of the 14 characters.
I opted to do it with 12, with my strongest party members split between the 3 teams required for the last section of the game. I was very shocked to reach the end without a single Game Over, something I never managed with either of the other SNES FF games. The fights in that end dungeon were brutal too, especially when forced to use underlevelled and pretty much useless characters like Gau and Relm. One in particular which I mention below was one of the most intense 20 minutes of the year.
As it stands, Final Fantasy VI has gone way up in my estimation after finally completing it. Kefka is a deliciously evil villain, without one of those, ‘sorry guys the true bad guy was controlling them all along’ type deals that Final Fantasy so often uses. The battle system is nicely different to IV and V, while delivering great character customization options that the games before V were lacking, while the world feels more alive than ever. Part of me still prefers FFV, I have a big thing for Job systems, but I now appreciate why FFVI was such a revolutionary RPG at the time.
And that brings us to the end of The Final Fantasy. I have completed all 12 single player main series Final Fantasy and for better or worse I appreciate the series so much more. Once 2016 arrives I’m planning on doing one more article to wrap things up, with a definitive ranked list of the games, but for now I’m bowing out from a series that has been one of my all time favourites on this blog. I love Final Fantasy, there’s nothing else quite like it.
Best Music Track: Celes’ Theme
A seemingly obvious choice, the moment that you hear Celes’ Theme ring out again when the Knight finds herself alone on an abandoned island is such a poignant one and is part of why Celes becomes the game’s most interesting character. The theme heard in the now famous Opera scene, this is a beautiful piece of classic Final Fantasy music.
As mentioned above, there was one boss fight in the final dungeon of FFVI that ended up being the most thrilling and terrifying 20 minutes of my whole play through. Using my underpowered third team of Sabin, Shadow, Setzer and Gau I was inches away from death on multiple occasions. Setzer and Shadow ended up reviving the other party members time after time, at one point Setzer was on about 20HP with three dead teammates. I still can’t believe I managed to pull through in the end, it was such an insane boss fight and one that I’m certain I’ll remember in years to come.