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Pixie The Fairy avatar 8:29 PM on 11.04.2013  (server time)
The simple elegance of Final Fantasy VI

So playing FFVIII started me on a little Final Fantasy kick, steering me away from my binging on Shin Megami Tensei, Persona, Fire Emblem and other games I've played this year. Its actually rather refreshing to go back and see how different things were. I'm not really in it for the nostalgia of it all so much as seeing how much I've grown and also how RPGs have changed for the better (or possibly worse).

I'm about only eleven hours in, just past the part where Relm shows Interceptor to be a bit more gentle and playful than Shadow said he was. Now we're off tracking the Espers, seeing the larger mythos of the world and even as the plot deepens the game keeps most of its elements quite simple. The story isn't convoluted or self-important, the scenarios are perfectly suited for the characters thrown into them and the slightest gesture or animation is enough to support the feelings of the characters.

Its kind of easy to see why a game like Final Fantasy XIII failed to have the spark this game did - even when it assembles the central cast of characters like FFVI does and splits them up apart early on.

Part of it was, again, keeping the story simple. When Sabin, Terra, Edgar, Banon and Locke go their separate ways, each storyarc expands the world, it introduces new playable characters with new abilities. Each scenario is crafted so potential character deficiencies are covered up with the appropriate loot drops, merchant shops and plot devices.

FFXIII left you with the same set cast with a limited range of same-y jobs to learn. And practially none of the characters were cool - just annoying.

When we find Sabin washed ashore in FFVI, though, he stumbles into your first opportunity to recruit Shadow and you can take his powerful throw ability for a spin. Potions regularly drop in random encounters to compensate for the fact you don't have a healer and you can rock some Magitek armor later to access free nukes and heals -allowing you to save those potions.

Its in this particular scenario you really see what a monster Kefka can be and that some of the generals in the Empire aren't evil - just on a different side of the conflict. The act of Kefka poisoning the water supply of Doma shows he's not only willing to murder countless innocents, but his own captured troops - all just for his own twisted kicks.

And its in this situation that Sabin and Shadow meet Cyan. Cyan is the loyal retainer of the king, sworn to serve him and his kingdom. The men Cyan trained and fought alongside, the king, along with his wife and child all die from the poison. An entire kingdom dead and he's the sole survivor. This is more than enough reason for Cyan or anyone from the Returners to hate the Empire and Kefka.

And they could have just left Cyan's motivation there, but there's that bit with the Phantom Train shortly after. Once they realize its the train to the afterlife and fight the train itself to let them off, you see Cyan's wife and son on board as it departs to the Great Beyond. Cyan starts desperately chasing it, wanting to go with them and then... its just gone.

Just.. damn. That's a bad day. Hits you in the heart like Mother Brain killing your baby metroid. Its stuff like that which makes that wicked 16-bit laughter Kefka projects all the more insidious. He's still somewhat amusingly evil in that Joker kind of way, but man you want him dead after that bit of the game alone - and the Doma poisoning is really just the start of his list of atrocities.

And again, none of that section was made too difficult even with the lack of a healer. Save points, merchants and the appropriate items are plentiful. Even if you don't have all the status cures the scenario and ailments can lead to some amazing results.

Like Sabin suplexing a train while berzerked. 

And all this is just the beginning of the game, really. There are many more exciting and heartbreaking moments  Squaresoft knew what they were doing with this game.

When I think about the fact that this is a game that SE wants to streamline for iOS I just hope they're doing it with their heads on straight. There's not a lot about this game that needs to be retouched, though perhaps you could tweak the spell-learning rate on some of the Magicite, I suppose.

The variety of the cast is also something we really haven't seen Square nail aside from FFIX and FFX. Each cast member has a purpose in FFVI, but the game ultimately leaves it to you to build the party you like.

Will you sow magical destruction with Terra and Strago? Add Sabin and Edgar for shoot-em-up/beat-em-up action? Perhaps the patience of a samurai or the way of the ninja is your bag. Maybe you want a wild child and magical child artists to lay waste to your enemies. Maybe you just want a gambler and a moogle to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat or a thie... ahem.. Treasure Hunter to steal phat lewt. Or to have a elegant lady that can absorb enemy spells into her sword. Or some ambiguous character that just does what the last character did.

Or that yeti thing.

In FFVI, the protagonist and how you play is really for you to decide. Terra may be the canon protagonist and she's still among my favorites, but there hasn't been a cast in Final Fantasy this varied and vast before or since. 

It really is a great game to revisit and I hope SE really does take a good long look at it when they do the iOS edition. It actually amazes me that when I meet self-proclaimed Final Fantasy fans that this is a game that is still on their to-do list or they've just not gotten around to or don't want to play it because its not 3D.

This is a game that can still hold its own, almost 20 years later and Terra is still a character that reminds me more of myself than Squall or Cloud might. Being a girl trapped between two worlds - I know what its like to just want to burn the bridges and withdraw because of who you are and how people might take to that. That people may feel threatened or want to take advantage of you.

Not everyone will, though.

Someone like that needs a little protection until they know who they are, can mend their own heart and find that thing they cherish and wish to protect. Rather than burn the bridges, perhaps you were meant to build them.

There are sure to be people out there that want to see you fall just because they have or because they feel only their way is right. The bridges leading to people like that are really the only ones worth burning.

The others? Those might be worth building or crossing, even worth protecting.

Sometimes its not so much the nostalgia I seek from the past as important reminders like that. I've always felt a kinship to Terra, perhaps now more than ever. It doesn't hurt that the simple approach to telling a story and elegant game design are there to maintain the magic.

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