Because it was about time for me to experience this classic for myself.
Final Fantasy VI Advance Review
Platforms: GBA(Emulated), SNES, PSX, and iOS
Developer/Publisher: Square Enix
As you’re apparently deep enough down the rabbit hole of gaming fandom to stumble upon this blog, I’ll assume the gists of Final Fantasy VI’s storyline is something you are at least somewhat familiar with. A large empire that makes use of a long forgotten magical power in the form of war machines is trying to conquer the world, and it is up to a ragtag assortment of rebels to try and stop them. However, their plans ultimately fail as one of the heads of the empire, a psychotic clown by the name of Kefka, eventually secures himself near god-like power and send the world into ruin. Effectively beginning another section of the game that amount to getting all fourteen playable characters together, finding extremely good gear, and eventually beating him down in a colossal boss battle.
However, my simplification of events is just that, as the story presented in Final Fantasy VI still does hold up. Oh sure, it is odd how there is a society where magic is nonexistent in most cases, but there are apparently ghosts and massive birds of prey that litter the countryside while also being very much tiered in terms of strength, but such oddities exist even in modern games. Despite whatever weaknesses the story may possess, it can still fall back on a well rounded and detailed cast of characters who do vary in levels of depth, you eventually pick up a yeti as a party member for crying out loud, but do have distinctions and in many cases some sort of arc for them as a person, which does occasionally come back as some breed of gameplay benefit. Emphasizing some, as there is not a single thing accomplished by, say, reuniting a feral youth with his father, who likely suffers from Alzheimer’s.
Even then, looking at the story from a broader perspective, it seems quite cobbled together when examining it as a whole. The best example I could think of would involve the definitive opera scene of the game that, while very well done as its own, has little to do with the game at large. Where a master thief is fighting a purple talking squid on the high rises above a stage who is trying to ruin it because he… is a jerk. All of which happened because you wanted to lure out an eccentric gambler who has the only flying machine in the world, because you want to infiltrate the empire’s headquarters. However, the core of the narrative is very solid, and while I would have appreciated a bit more depth to the cast in terms of development, what is provided does not disappoint.
Yet, I am hesitant to say the same about the gameplay and intertwining mechanics available in this game, as they have long since been improved upon, even a few years after the game’s initial release. In terms of the core active time battle system, it still works very well. Lots of moves available, each character having a unique skill to bring to the table, some more distinct and helpful than others, though, and quite a bit of customization for each of them through the use of relics that bestow a variety of effects, and the ability to equip pieces of Magicite. Starting the the relics, my core problem with the ability to pin these abilities to each character is simply being able to find then through the forty or so you can eventually acquire. As the order can easily be shifted and does not appear to have much reason to it, which when considering how often you shift out a party of four from in the later parts of this game goes more than a hair beyond tedious.
Magicite on the other hand is a remarkable idea that is met with a few too many setbacks that make me very glad I emulated this game and mapped the fast forward button to my controller. In Final Fantasy VI, you can, and probably should as magic is the only thing MP is used for, teach every spell in the entire game to nearly every single character, which is accomplished by equipping them with a piece of magicite that gradually teaches them a varying number of spells. However, it can take 100 AP, which you begin earning from battle when you obtain your first pieces of Magicite, to teach a single character a single spell. Even considering there is one enemy you can effectively grind for 10 AP during every encounter, the amount of busywork that entails is rather absurd, especially when considering the other aspects that magicite enable.
Every piece of Magicite enable its holder to utilize a summon, but only that specific one, and only once per battle following. An interesting idea, but one that can easily be glossed over, as it is very easy to ignore what each summon is suppose to do when you are regularly switching them around. Something that is done even more often due to how certain pieces of Magicite give you stat boosts upon leveling up, increasing the juggling and making occasional bursts of grinding on Tyrannosauruses something that is easiest with only two party members, or perhaps the method I devised was just greatly ineffective.
Though the biggest offender is when you are introduced to the character of Sabin in the middle of a boss battle early in the game, where you need to use a Blitz in order to beat the boss. How exactly you execute the Blitz is explained in the game itself, as it requires you to input a button and directional pattern instead of pressing A over the move you wish to execute. The problem is that you are not told what to do while in the boss battle, leaving me to believe this was something tied into the game’s instruction booklet, which is especially baffling considering the version of the game I played was supposedly remade for handhelds. It is a regular problem that results in the game feeling rather clunky in its execution, or perhaps I’m just too used to quest logs and the like telling me where I should go.
As for the visuals, the spritework is very detailed for the characters as their tiny form is still capable of expressing a good range of emotion, though some of the backgrounds can look a bit on the murky side, especially when the world gets blown up. This can be applied for the monsters, as this came from a time where pixelated art was not so much a design choice, but a limitation at the time, resulting in certain details being lost as the sprites were crafted. This is rather evident due to the little portraits for the main characters and the assortment of concept art of the title that is available to compare, but mostly contrasts as characters such as the iconic Kefka have little in common between their intended design and their 24 by 16 sprite.
As for the soundtrack, this is where I need to question the sound design of the Advance remake, or my emulation, as there were regular instances where the music did not properly fit the scene it was placed in, most commonly through the matter of length. Meanwhile, the transitions between certain tracks in the same scene were more than a little jarring, even though the medi score is still rather large and well composed, yet that could be gathered by how the game and series in general are rightfully well regarded for their music.
I feel as if games as a medium tend to age the most poorly, and even the most well crafted title from so little as, say, ten years ago has some degree of inconvenience that had been bred out in the past decade. Final Fantasy VI is no exception, mostly due to a menu system I can bang on about to now end, along with the old school mentality of finding where the blazes the next destination is, never knowing if you may have missed something really good. Yet, I could hardly stop myself from reimagining the game if it was assisted by modern technology, as the core of it is still a fun, well made, and classic RPG that I can safely say justifies its high regard. But at the same time naming it among the best of all time is something I’d very quickly debate against. Yeah, video games kinda suck in that regard, don’t they?