So on my apparent quest to play every Final Fantasy game, after ragequitting FF3, I decided to try FF6 because I heard great things about the story. Fortunately as many have praised it, the story was pretty good, but as usual, we are faced with an archaic battle system that only emulation could get me through.
Disclaimer: I used cheat codes to give myself 9999 HP, max attack (so most of my hits did 7k-9k) and turned off random encounters to speed up the game. Thanks to this it only took me a few days to get through the story, but I imagine that if you were playing this legit you’d need to do a lot of grinding, leveling up and and making sure you had all the best equipment (which fortunately you can mostly buy in shops through out the game.) I play these RPGs like I play visual novels – I just wanna see the story, and I couldn’t care less about a 20+ year old battle system. After seeing how all the newer FF ports basically give you “legit” cheat modes like Turbon, 9999atk etc. I realized that Square Enix also realizes nobody wants to grind through this old shit. They recently announced remasters of their pixel series FF1-6 so maybe they will add that as an option in those games. Additionally, the biggest reason I used an emulator is because like with FF4 and a FF13-2, the Steam reviews had many complaints about not only the game crashing a lot, but also they had completely redrawn the sprites to look really weird. Example below:
I get they were trying to “redraw” the sprite to make it more modernized but it just looks terrible like all the details are lost! Also kinda defeats the purpose of a “sprite”. I do like the newer character plates because I’m just not a fan of Amano’s artwork.
Anyway regardless, I played on the GBA version as that appeared to be the most fan-patched edition fixing both sounds, graphics and translations. The steam version may look cleaner and smoother but with crashing, and poorly remade sprites it’s not a surprise Square is remaking their original series. Anyway on to the review! (and also spoiler warning)
The story has a lot of characters but focuses on Tina Branford (or as all the NA versions rename her to Terra) who is the daughter of a human and an esper – or as we know from FFXIV – a primal. Similar to FF4 how Cecil and Golbez were sons of Kluya a moon man, Tina is the son of someone from the primal world and is therefore able to wield powerful magic. She’s captured by the Empire and rescued by gentleman thief Locke (Who is extremely hot in the Dissidia remake WTF LOOK AT HIM:)
So from then on they build their merry man band with the addition of prince Edgar and his brother Sabin (Mash in Japanese). They eventually also pick up Celes, a traitor to the Empire who got tired of their shit (and also falls in love with Locke and it’s mutual fuck yea my OTP for this game 👀) and Setzer, some card throwing man who basically is only around because his airship takes us all over the world. There’s a Cid as usual who dies because I couldn’t figure out the stupid fishing game, and Mog who learned to speak human language thanks to Ramuh kupo.
There also an old blue mage grandpa named Strago, and his grand daughter Relm, who is also the secret daughter of Shadow, the ninja who just comes & goes throughout the game for no reason😂. And finally the 3 characters I never bothered to really pick up were Gao, Umaro and Gogo. Gogo actually shows up to fight you in the blue mage quest line in FFXIV, and Umaro is just some yetti, but Gau does show up earlier in the game…but sadly he’s annoying to level and you have to constantly have him use abilities that force you to look for him to come back to your party. I couldn’t be bothered and since I was using turbo mode anyway, I didn’t need all 12 people for the final boss fight so I went in with 11 and somehow managed.
Overall though I really enjoyed the story. It didn’t have weird time travel, it was pretty clear on what was going on, and every character had a decent enough back story that you truly got to know them (except the 3 randos I mentioned above.) So because of that I really wanted to finish the game, even when I got stuck in weird puzzle dungeons where you had to constantly press different switches between 3 teams to figure out where the doors open and close. Needless to say I had to pull out a guide for that because it got really confusing. Other than that though , the game was mostly straight forward and at least there was a map with white dots on it so you could at least kinda see where a town is supposed to be. Still the old timey 2D pixel graphics sometimes made it hard to tell where something was particularly from the airship and when you were on a chocobo.
Apparently the original SNES version was super censored to the point where Pubs were called “CAFEs” or they would add more pixels to cover up “skin” of some partly nude bosses. They even censored the infamous magazine prominent in so many FF games but GBA restored its original glory:
Overall if you can stomach the battle system, or can find a way around it, I would definitely recommend this game. Maybe it might be good to wait to see what SE does with the re-release of the original 5 games before attempting as well. Me, I plan to trek my way through FF5 and FF2 in the same fashion but I’ll be skipping 1 and 3 because no real character personalities, grindy system for little plot reward and apparently FF1 has no Cids, Moogles or Chocobos. Travesty! And now as usual, some parting words from my husband who played along with me.
The main thing I kept thinking about while playing through this game is how and why we were using cheats. FFXII is probably the first game in the series (which means it took Squeenix about 20 years of game design advances to get to this point) where it didn’t feel like we “needed” to cheat, and I would chalk that up to the combination of the quasi-open world setup and the gambit system. The importance of both of these is that they massively reduced the level of busywork that we had to do while playing the game which let us focus on what mattered. Trash fights against random battles aren’t what matters. Boss battles, yeah let’s say that those matter. Exploring the world, talking to characters, doing quests, yep those all matter.
And this stuff really adds up. I kept thinking while we were doing some dungeons like Kefka’s Tower or the Phoenix Cave about how man, it would suuuuuuuuuck trying to do this with random encounters popping up every three steps because it that would constantly derail your (phantom) train of thought of trying to remember which direction to go in to activate the switches for the other party (you know, like that one stupid platform right near the end of the game in the platform puzzle in FFXIII-2.) Oh and don’t forget that then you need to stop and manually heal the party and maybe drink an ether to gain back the MP you spent doing this. Or when we’re ready to fight The Warring Triad and maybe Zurvan wiped the floor with the party that goes down that route (he actually was able to tear through a level 99 party that wasn’t trying to explicitly counter him). Now it’s time to teleport out, go look for where to get the appropriate resistance gear, hopefully just buy it rather than have to farm enemies for it trudge all the way back through the castle again (fighting random battles every five steps), and so on. So even you can figure out “oh okay, that’s how I could counter this tough battle”, there’s still going to be a lot of grinding in some kind of way to then accomplish those goals, whether that’s “smart” grinding like what I spelled out above to get items or skills that hard counter the enemy or “dumb” grinding where you just try to overlevel yourself past the fight so you can ignore everything.
This means that even though we stripped the game down to almost its barest levels with these cheats, the game still took almost about 20 hours to beat. Again, that’s with no random encounters and fights that generally end in a few rounds. There’s still tons of game left in there after all the busywork gets removed! Unfortunately, with Game Genie codes everything is basically either/or, where you’re either playing all the battles legit and managing your items and inventory the real way, or you’re crushing everything in sight. There’s no code for like “recalibrate the entire game’s encounter design so that you get a handful of low-stakes battles to set the scene and provide some color to the current area that you’re in followed by a challenging-but-beatable boss fight which builds upon what you encountered in the current area.”
So ultimately, it all comes back to the disclaimer. If you can ignore/bypass everything that’s annoying, it’s pretty obvious why this is usually considered one of the best Final Fantasy games. And if you actually like the busywork, then we’re still also in a way using the same kind of standards and again, still one of the best Final Fantasy games.
PS: the game also made me realize the secret to making a good Final Fantasy story: don’t go overboard with all the proprietary terms for everything (“draw magic to junction to your GF”), avoid the blatantly obvious narrative pitfalls (NO TIME TRAVEL!!!!!!!!!), and let the player get to spend more time with the characters rather than constantly forcing party members (cough cough FFIV cough cough).