“FFVI is often called the best and here are VI reasons why! You won’t believe how even-minded and factual #5 is”

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You’re the best!
Around!
Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down
-Joe Esposito, The Karate Kid

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, NPCs of all ages, thank you for joining us for this monolithic, unprecedented Final Fantasy project, of which this article is just a droplet in a sea. If you somehow stumbled into this post first, you can check out the many others that have been written by talented scribes across the world by navigating to the hub article.

With Final Fantasy: a Crystal Compendium complete, I can rest easy. This has been a lot of work but it’s seen a lot of passion as well. I originally planned to write a review for my favorite Final Fantasy game, which would be Final Fantasy VI (first released in North America as Final Fantasy III), as my contribution to this project but when we began to take on so many interested writers, with some eyeing FFVI as their own subject, I decided to give it up for others and focus instead on other project duties. However, when some of the proposed contributors had to drop out altogether, FFVI was free again, needing someone to write about it. Call it fate or Providence.

I want to dedicate this article to lunaticpandora (who intended to write for FFVI) and The Jack Archer. They both had to leave the project due to health reasons. If you two haven’t already recovered, I wish you well. Heck, I wish you well anyway and there’s nothing you can do about it.

So my article is about Final Fantasy VI. It’s often cited as one of the best and the brightest in the Final Fantasy canon of titles. Why is that exactly? I mean, out of so many games why is this the one that people frequently come back to? It may be due to its structure, its moments, characters, gameplay, but here are VI reasons why I personally think that the 6th numerical entry in this franchise is just swell.

This is going to contain fairly light SPOILERS.

 

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#1. The Super Nintendo

Ah, the SNES. Some may say it’s one of the greatest systems ever made. While that is largely an argument for another article (though you can find some foundation for that assertion in this “doctorate thesis” here), it is well-accepted that the SNES had a fruitful run, a large and impressive library of games, a host of exclusives, a collection of nigh perfect experiences, and it was the leader dominator of the home console market of its generation, Nintendo in their prime. Yet out of the myriad of 10’s comes an 11 with a 6 in its title.

 

Consider the fact alone that Final Fantasy VI was able to stand out on a console that was known for its RPGs. There was its use of Mode 7 pseudo-3D displaying some of the unique qualities of the hardware, the darkness of its visual design was only dulled and muted by later renditions (such as with the pasty FFVI Advance or the atrocious PS1 FMVs…), its concept art lived on in the detailed enemy sprites, its borrowed, balanced Active Time Battle (ATB) system engaged the player, its 16-bit universe allowed for the audience to bring their own impressions to bear and fill in the details of the world that the graphics couldn’t, employ their imagination rather than let the proverbial cat out of the bag, as it were, and tell us everything visually that there is to know through high definition. Furthermore, its sprawling storyline demonstrated the power of memorable storytelling: the snowy hike toward Narshe, Celes’ suicide, the opera house, Ultros, the Espers, the branching adventures. All of this and more was possible, and in some cases exclusively possible, on the Super Nintendo.

On a system already crowded with great games, FFVI was a precious stone among the gold.

 

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#2. Ensemble cast

Nearly every subsequent non-MMO, numerical entry in the series has had a definable protagonist/main character: Cloud, Squall, Zidane, Tidus, Lightning, Noctis… except for Final Fantasy XII though of course Balthier is the self-professed leading man. The tendency in later Final Fantasy games is toward creating cults of personality with their main characters. Not so with FFVI.

VI is known for not having an easily identifiable lead. I tend to think of the game’s protagonist as Terra because we met her first, but then you reach the halfway point in the game and that spot seems to be occupied by Celes. I always identified with Locke and he too has his own time to shine and affect the plot and save the day. Fact is, most every playable character (minus the few secret ones or joke ones) get their own moments that flesh them out and provide the fundamentals for good characters: wants and wishes. If we can understand what a character desires, then we can understand the character. So much of FFVI isn’t spent wandering aimlessly, fetching items and running errands, so much as it is spent exploring the drive of its cast against a meaningful backdrop.

The balance of a core set of characters deepened and enrichened this linear/open world game before the advent of cinematic cutscenes, which are now so frequent as to be the new standard. These have almost become their own kind of exposition as slow and ponderous as old fashioned text crawls narrating films. Final Fantasy VI created a world impacted by people and a story driven by personalities, not politics or fate or mystical mumbo jumbo as seen in later series entries.

 

#3. Reason Number Three

Reason III has been renamed to Reason VI. See below.

#4. The Villain

Speaking of cults and characters, the Final Fantasy series is renown for its cutting edge, well-developed villains… Wait, no, that’s not right. Outside of Sephiroth, you barely hear crooning and euphoric ah-ing over Garland, Vayne, Exdeath, or Kuja. That’s why Kefka exists to remind us that not all villains need a tragic back story or a set path to redemption. There is such a thing as irredeemable evil and that is part of what made Kefka one of the most successful and memorable antagonists of Final Fantasy. He stands out from the pantheon of FF villains still as less than serious, less than brooding, more flamboyant, talkative, humorous, brash, and sadistic.

No discussion of Final Fantasy VI is complete withoutFF6_Kefkaart mentioning Kefka. It has been said that a hero is only as good as their villain, a statement which I wholly affirm to be true since the best of a character is seen when they undergo the harshest challenges. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is when I read that writers should put their characters through the worst. The more you brutalize your heroes, the better they’ll come out in the end, the better their personalities will be displayed. Everyone can be a moderately decent person when life is going great but it’s when we find ourselves suffering that our cores are laid bare and we show who we really are.

Kefka is here to ensure the heroes of FFVI suffer as much as possible. Kefka Palazzo is an imperial agent, the court mage, a military leader and a failed science experiment. At first, he seems like a mere thug, comical relief, though his impact on the plot steadily increases. He was the first test subject to undergo Magitek infusion but the primitive process warped his mind, removing all empathy and compassion, turning him into a psychotic murderer with great whimsy but without any sense of value for human life. When he achieves ultimate power through magical means halfway through the game, he actually does what villains hardly ever do: he succeeds. Setting himself up as a god to be worshiped, he wipes out entire civilizations and throws the world into primordial chaos before becoming tired of his plaything planet and turning to nihilism. He uttered his infamous, nonsensical phrase “I will create a monument to non-existence!” He was essentially Emperor Joker (you may recall the story where The Joker obtains omnipotence; not a good day for Batman).

What’s so remarkable about Kefka is just how unfailingly evil he is. He is proof that not every villain needs a sob story. He’s not Golbez, he’s not Sephiroth, he’s not Edea, he’s not Kuja, he’s not Jecht, he’s not Ardyn. Neither does Kefka fall into the common phrasing of “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. Kefka has no good intentions. He doesn’t do bad in order to reach good. He does bad to reach worse. He doesn’t accidentally do evil or present himself as not in control of his actions. He certainly doesn’t fall into the rut of every villain ever: revenge. Kefka has no grasp of trying to obtain peace through militaristic strength (setting him a head higher than even Emperor Palpatine). He has no golden ideal he wishes to construct while morally faltering along the way, a kind of justification of his means through his end. No, he is purposeless, immutable, hideous pain, the laughing personification of the meaninglessness of his own worldview, which drives right at the heart of the themes of FFVI. The only response is to prove to him that life is valuable, worth being protected, by taking the shattered remains of his own from him.

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We don’t know if he was a bad man before the Magitek or if he was always a sadist but we don’t need to know. The game doesn’t need to tell us whether there’s no hope for his recuperation or not. There’s no purifying his soul, deflating his delusions of grandeur, or saving him from the control of another, greater villain Few baddies exist like this anymore in our modern fiction of empathizing with the fallen and FFVI is powerful for it. Kefka exists as a force, as incapable of being reasoned with as a hurricane or the passionless hostility of the void of space.

Plus his has to be one of the most iconic laughs ever. When can we get an adaptation of FFVI with Mark Hamill as Kefka? Why do clowns have to be so scary?

 

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#5. The Soundtrack

How many Final Fantasy soundtracks can boast that they are Nobuo Uematsu’s favorite?  In 2010, the legendary composer admitted that FFVI’s OST was his favorite soundtrack to compose. Additionally, he also said that FFVI is his favorite FF game to play! Uematsu brought all of his talent together for crafting emotional and personal melodies, impressive and distinctive leitmotifs, and his particular fusion of classical, Eastern, and rock influenced sensations.

FFVI has, as we’ve seen, a very large cast of characters and nearly all of them received their own theme, which then is adapted throughout the game into other forms of music. The greatest example of this is “Dancing Mad” (“wild dance of a calamitous star” in Japanese). This is the theme of the final fight against Kefka and what a boss theme it is, one of the greatest and longest in games and the longest in the FF series! It is a complex, organic, multilayered composition divided into a quartet of movements corresponding with the tiers of Kefka’s godlike form. Uematsu combined flavors of Bach and opera with themes presented earlier in the game, making this final song the crown jewel of a magnificent soundtrack that helps to bring all of the game’s elements to a close.

“Well, usually when you make a song it’s two to three minutes in length, you have the introduction, the main part and the ending. But… for ‘Dancing Mad’ I didn’t really put a stop on it, so I kept on working on it, working on it, working on it and that really let the song… you know… I got to play around with it for something like fourteen minutes, and it’s really one of my favorites.”
-Nobuo Uematsu

 

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#6. Its place in history

Imagine with ineffable horror what FFVI would be like if it were made today…

It would be a lot prettier with HD graphics and you would have voice actors to read the script for you but Shadow would be restricted to DLC as would all character backstories, leaving tons of space of sidequests but little actual story or character development in the game itself. Also, Edgar’s weapons would be microtransactions, Sabin’s special attacks would turn into simple quicktime events for cutscene boss fights, the Espers would be hidden in lootboxes, the second half of the game when the world’s destroyed would be released as a separate episode, there would be spin offs, merch tie-ins and sequels galore to muddy the clarity of this game’s vision, Gogo would be only available in the day one edition, Umaro would only be obtainable in the limited edition GameStop GOTY version, and Mog would only be playable in the steelbook hardcover edition. But hey, you’d get an art leaflet with images you could Google for free for an extra $10 dollars. Good deal!

Final Fantasy VI is as robust and intact as it is because of its place in gaming history. It is pointed and pure, with secrets hid only behind exploration and skill, self-contained, aspirational only within its prescribed borders, and free from sequelitis where it is, wedged between FFIV that got a sequel and FFVII that never stops getting spin offs. In many ways, it is one of the last sentiments to the ancient ways of this series, a truly final fantasy.

 

 

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Final Fantasy VI may not be your favorite FF but maybe you can catch a glimmer of its greatness. It is after all, a member of one of the longest running and best received franchises in gaming history. As ever, you decide. Your unique blend of emotions, experiences, memories and personality indicate that you’re an individual capable of engaging with entertainment in different and beautiful ways. Final Fantasy VI may indeed be cited often as one of the best, if not the best, and I hope I was able at least to convince you of a sliver of what it has to offer.

If you haven’t played this landmark, a title that appeared fairly consistently across lists like this one, then go find it and enjoy.

 

In your service,
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-The Well-Red Mage

 

***This post is part of a larger undertaking. Final Fantasy: a Crystal Compendium is a community project bringing together over two dozen writers to create quality work on games from all across this beloved franchise. Check out more at this hub article.***

 

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40 thoughts on ““FFVI is often called the best and here are VI reasons why! You won’t believe how even-minded and factual #5 is”

  1. I have thank my psp and being able play older game i dont have a Snes sad but i play the PlayStation and I have to say i can see why many love ff6 the cast are my favorite and rememberable, Love Locke. But My favorite has to be Kefka what can i say that wasn’t said by this alot people compare him to joker and that fine he Villian Yet I couldn’t truly hate Kefka because of how he was written yet was the embodiment of evil what he did to Doma and stealing power from esper in result Killing them Yet another reason I love him is that he destroyed the world or has many said wins yeah you beat him but that doesn’t change the fact he win half way and nearing destroyed hope.No but a Villian is what make heroes because of the struggle he/she put them thought. while 8 and 7 are games from my childhood like everyone else yet going back i can see why many love these games personally Tactics and 6 are my top favorite, i cant get into 9 and 4 maybe down the line. Great Article

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great read! I’ve always wanted a proper insight into this game because I know people love it but I’ve never played it. It’s a real failing of mine but I don’t think I’ll ever play it because of its age – my brain just can’t cope with the way it looks, but it really does sound like something I would have enjoyed. Particularly like your discussion of Kefka and the concept of true evil. The nature of evil is something I like exploring when thinking about villains, and that kind of unapologetic evil isn’t something you see often.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well for a proper insight, I do plan to critique and analyze this game eventually! It’s just such an important one, I’m intimidated in writing about it. I hope you get to play it someday, either the original or some remake that touches it up. This is one of those games that was at the height of the SNES so in my opinion it’s got a lot of beauty, definitely in a different sense than modern games though.

      As for the nature of evil, I approach that from an Augustinian sense that evil is the absence of good. Kefka is like someone that has had every single positive attribute removed, so there’s no empathizing with him. One could argue that perhaps he was a better person before the experimentation on him, but the game isn’t interested in making that distinction so irredeemable evil it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Moogles > Chocobos.
    The fact you can play as a Moogle? Awesome.
    The fact he takes down enemies with his cute dancing? Even awesomer.
    The fact that Mog is wicked tank with a right setup, making him a good choice in any party? Super awesome!
    The fact that Mog is the super-cute, fluffy round type instead of the skinner, uglier Ivalice type? AWESOMENESS!!

    Seriously, though, VI is a blast, and I’d love to see a port/remaster outside of mobile or Steam.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Okay so I’m not alone in thinking classic moogles are much much cuter than the Ivalice counterparts! THANK you!

      I also want a solid remake for this game. Something stupendous that comes to consoles. This is still a very robust RPG by modern standards.

      Like

  4. Well, what else is there to say? This pinpoints all of the major reasons I’ve loved this game and it’s become a perennial favorite to run through.

    Celes Chere has been my favorite character in an RPG for as long as I can remember analyzing characters as more than just stats to build up. The entire cast having their story moments- especially throughout the second half of the game- was such a unique feature for such a large cast. Given Kefka’s climb to villainy playing out over the course of the story, he’s also cemented his place as my favorite adversary.

    Oh, and I will always stop whatever I’m doing to listen to ‘Aria di Mezzo Carattere’.

    I guess this is my way of saying this is a fantastic list and well-written. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! This is much more of a casual overview take than I would’ve like, but I think a lot of people bring their own reasons to this list. What would you say are you top 3 favorite Final Fantasy games?

      Like

      1. Even a casual overview is useful, but I definitely enjoy reminders as to why I love this game so much.

        VI always tops the list for me, with XII as a close second. My third flip-flops between VIII and Tactics, depending on my mood. I’m a huge fan of the characters and plots that those had to offer- and I can’t wait to read the pieces on them soon. I don’t want to take up too much space on it here, but if you get bored, I’ve got a quick write-up on the reasons in my editorials. I’m just a fan of the games that make you feel like your characters are cogs in something greater that are transcending their station- though that kind of covers a lot of Final Fantasies.

        I feel like I should check through the Compendium before I ask (or it’s probably common knowledge), but which three rank highest for you?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I love Tactics and the gameplay from XII specifically. I think it’s common knowledge that VI is my favorite, simply because I can never shut my fat mouth about it, but ranking my top three is pretty hard! As of this moment, I’d say it’s something like VI, IX, and VII, though I really enjoyed X in its time and IV as well. And then there’s still Tactics too! Gaaaahhh!!!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The struggle to sort favorites in this series is real. I have a soft spot for IV and Tactics Advance, too, and I find XIII-2 creeping into my top tier, too.

            However they shift, though, it’s great to talk to folks about them and see why everyone connects to whichever entry/entries they do. If you ever find you need someone to rave about Final Fantasy VI around, though, count me in!

            Liked by 1 person

              1. Agreed! That’s something I’ve discussed with people too- but at this point, I may have to just do a passion piece at this point (though I dig the idea of a collaboration of some sort if something comes up again sometime!)

                Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m gonna comment before I read this, and then I’ll take a dive in a bit later. First, I am sure this is well-written. Second, I am sure you didn’t skip any numbers. Third, FFVI is tied with FFVII for my favorite FF game of all time. So all I can say is – no pressure! Now I shall step away for a bit and come back to read what I am sure is an amazing and insightful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just read it, and kudos (or kupo’s) to you, my friend. I agree with everything here – the cast was diverse and brilliant, full of memorable exchanges and plot development, with a villain who is unabashedly villainous for no reason other than to revel in chaos. The world had a logic and rhythm that puts even some of the most robust fantasy novels to shame, and they tackled the magic vs. technology trope in a way that added an element of tragedy in the drained lifeforce of an entire race (I guess FFVII’s lifestream was the evolution of that – but this felt more personal with Terra’s folks and all the Espers you meet). The music is amazing, and I was obsessed, OBSESSED with Aria de Mezzo Carattere and Dancing Mad – back in the day I used to collect different MIDI files.

      The game wasn’t afraid to be dark, sometimes brutally so. Which made the spark of hope shine all the brighter. Yes, FFVII would expand on these themes, and in very different and also brilliant ways, but as you say there is just something magic about the SNES and how this was all put together.

      So yes, a big KUPO to you for this piece, and for putting this entire project together! Herding bloggers really is like herding moogles at the end of the day :p

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Herding moogles or malboros, eh I’m just happy it’s all said and done! Good work putting a little fire under my tail to get this thing up and finished before it hit a full year of production, and thanks for participating in it yourself!

        As for the article, this is much less detailed than I should have liked to write, but like I explained (I think; I wrote this a long time ago), I had to write this because while I originally intended to review FFVI, I dropped out when someone else asked for the game as their subject and then they dropped out so I needed to swoop back in. It’s very much an overview and I feel like I made too many sweeping generalizations and ended up gushing. Someday I’ll critique the full game in a full TWRM piece of unwieldy length so as to parse out all the best of what I think this game has to offer. Someone already pointed out to me that one great thing about it is how well it balanced linear and open-world gameplay. Heck, you could write a whole ‘nother VI reasons why FFVI is so great!

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Don’t ever write on Chrono Trigger… trust me. LOL just kidding of course but I burnt the heck out when I tackled that game. I got paid for it and I made sure they got more words than they could stomach, but that’s kept me away from reviewing FFVI because I don’t want to break a 15k limit again!

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Final Fantasy VI may not be my favorite in the series, but it is certainly an excellent game. Kefka as you said is a fantastic villain, the kind you love to hate – I remember being so angry when he killed Leo because I really liked Leo and thought that he might eventually change sides and join the party.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for commenting! Yes, the storytelling did the same thing to me too because I thought Leo was going to be playable. They had Kefka do some terrible things but he’s so attractive as a character, makes you feel awful about laughing over his dialogue. I remember when he poisoned the water and I was like “that’s absolutely evil”.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh goodness, yes, that scene still stands out pretty clearly in my mind even though its been ages since I played the game.
        He’s definitely done well in regards to his humor. I’ve seen other games try to do the whole “hilarious sociopath” thing and usually it falls flat either in the witty banter or the bottomless evil.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. THANK you! I do think that after Kefka and the Joker there are a looooong line of pretenders. The dialogue has to be pitch perfect and it’s not enough to just have a laughing maniac to make a compelling villain. A lot of failures in that regard. Even in the context of the FF series, Kefka stands out, plus there’s Dancing Mad….

          Liked by 2 people

          1. A good theme song is definitely a necessary part of the package, and Dancing Mad is excellent. Of course, with Uematsu at the helm you know you’re gonna get quality when it comes to the music. His tunes stick with you in a way that few others do, at least in my experience.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. They definitely do, and that’s one reason why the flavor of the new Final Fantasy games seem off to me, because of the absence of Uematsu. He talked about how he could just go nuts and let loose when writing Dancing Mad, whereas in my opinion a lot of new FF music isn’t as catchy or memorable, or as full of character. It’s become very by-the-book, as has the series as a whole, again in my opinion. But I suppose that’s the nature of formulism and making so much money lol!

              Liked by 2 people

              1. For sure. It’s interesting because the gameplay itself isn’t necessarily formulaic – it changes with nearly every numbered entry now – but the characters and storytelling are so samey that the gameplay differences almost don’t matter.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. That’s correct and it bears pointing out that I mean the gameplay seems to be less innovative as time goes on. FFXV to me felt very pedestrian. As for the characters though, they’re like right out of an anime by now…

                  Liked by 2 people

                2. Have you tried Cup Noodles? Cup Noodles are so delicious. They really hit the spot after a long day of work. I enjoy them with all kinds of toppings that you can find locally grown by ordinary people like you and me. I prefer mine with steak but you can’t beat classic shrimp flavor, or chicken for that dash of tradition. There’s also vegetarian Cup Noodles and the new green tea flavor. Talking about Cup Noodles really makes me crave that good old fashioned taste and texture right now, hot out of the cup. I don’t care if I get diarrhea. How do you think I lose so much weight? Cup Noodles. I’m dedicated to the righteous cause of Cup Noodles for life. Cup Noodles will save the world. Cup Noodles will bring back Lunafreya. Cup Noodles restores sight to the blind. Cup Noodles materia for sale. Cup Noodles spin off for Square Enix’s next Final Fantasy game.

                  Liked by 1 person

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