FINAL FANTASY VI: Making A World Worth SavingWith the launch of FINAL FANTASY VI Pixel Remaster on PS4 and Switch, we revisit the World of Balance to discuss how this adventure creates a world worth saving.
The FINAL FANTASY Pixel Remaster series is now available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, and allows long-time fans and first-time adventurers to embark on six incredible adventures. One adventure in particular is thought of by many as one of the greatest triumphs in the series’ storied history: FINAL FANTASY VI.
First released nearly 30 years ago, this stunning tale told of a world on the brink of disaster due to the actions of the brutal Empire, and the ragtag band of heroes trying to stop them. Every previous FINAL FANTASY title bought something different to the potluck, and FINAL FANTASY VI was absolutely no different. In fact, the journey undertaken by the Returners is often considered one of the most important in RPG history. So, what makes this game so fantastic and so beloved?
There are so, so many reasons why, but in the name of achieving some sort of brevity (I checked, I’m not allowed to write a novella here) and thematic cohesion, let’s go with six.
“I hear she fried fifty of our Magitek armored soldiers in three minutes… Kinda makes your skin crawl, don’t it?”
Battles in FINAL FANTASY games have always been fun and strategic, but for the last of the Super Nintendo instalments, FINAL FANTASY VI did a tremendous job of taking what had come before and refining it to a point as sharp as the blades you use to cut through enemies. In fact, it's a perfect evolution of the previous games.
Did you love the wide cast of heroes from FINAL FANTASY IV and their unique skillsets? This makes a return in FINAL FANTASY VI, but the additions are a lot less temporary. Each hero you recruit on your adventure has their own ability that separates them from the rest, from Locke's thievery to Cyan's Bushido, and Celes' incredible Runic skill, which absorbs all magic being cast. Everyone has something to separate them from others on the battlefield, and you can easily swap between heroes depending on what's be best for the combat situation ahead.
Did you love the customizability of the job system from FINAL FANTASY V? FINAL FANTASY VI streamlines this, while still giving you and equally satisfying level of freedom. Throughout the world are Espers contained within Magicite and equipping them to your heroes allows them to learn a range of abilities. Hunting them down doesn't just make your party stronger, but gives you a much needed strategic bonus, and the chance to customize your crew as you see fit.
Do you want to push Terra into becoming an even more fearsome Black Mage, or will you make her just as adept a healer? Will you give Edgar more spells to trouble your enemies, or use the stat boosts from Espers to make Locke even quicker and deadlier? Or will you train everyone to be as powerful as possible, and rain down Dualcast Ultima after Dualcast Ultima spells on your foes?
While you have your heroes and their preferred classes, you can use Espers to round out their skillset, or turbo-charge their greatest attributes. It's a perfect marriage of what FINAL FANTASY IV and V gave us before.
Here's a quick tip for free: don't overlevel in the early game. Instead, wait until you can collect Espers and Magicite so you can get some great additional stat bonuses when you level up.
“We’ll approach from the east. Move out!”
Every FINAL FANTASY game has incredible music. It’s practically a legal requirement for the series’ composers to deliver legit bangers, and FINAL FANTASY VI helped set the gold standard. Nobuo Uematsu once again took the reins, and as a result your ears will be in for the ride of a lifetime.
From the first time you hear the opening theme to the tenth time you’re Dancing Mad, the soundtrack is a consistent wonder. With the game set in a more mechanised and technological world than before, you can feel that influence permeate throughout tracks such as the Devil’s Lab. However, the soundtrack doesn’t have a singular focus, and this is also one of its greatest strengths.
Throughout the tension of a world on the precipice of despair, Nobuo’s music still manages to evoke every emotion, whether it’s the pounding drums of the Veldt, the forlorn hope of Searching for Friends, or the derring-do excitement of Locke’s theme. There’s a song for every occasion, and by the time your journey ends, you’re more likely to have a top ten list than a singular favourite.
These tunes get an even bigger boost in FINAL FANTASY VI Pixel Remaster, with brand new rearrangements supervised by Uematsu-san himself. Now iconic tracks are even moreso, with brilliant new instrumentation that brings new life into near-thirty year old songs. The Decisive Battle with electric guitars? Don’t mind if we do.
But what if you want to listen to the original arrangements? The FINAL FANTASY Pixel Remaster series on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 allow you to change between these and the new soundtrack in the options.
Speaking of incredible new refinements to the music…
“Oh my hero, my beloved…”
It’s one of the most memorable scenes from one of the most memorable games ever made, and it’s not difficult to see why.
An attempt to foil a premeditated kidnapping thrusts party member Celes is into lead role of an opera with little preparation. As the player you must help her remember her lines and stage actions, while the rest of the party try to catch the perpetrators.
It’s awe-inspiring, beautiful, but knows when to be comedic, and that’s not just because it marks one of many appearances of everyone’s favourite spiritual-gremlin-but-actual-Octopus, Ultros.
The opera itself isn’t just a beautiful moment, but also thematically links to the story of the sudden singing substitute Celes. Melancholic, melodramatic, and with unrequited love echoing in her voice, it acts as a great foreshadowing to the journey she’ll undertake.
It was an incredible technical achievement when FINAL FANTASY VI first launched, utilising everything the Super Nintendo was capable of, and seemingly even more than that. Players simply hadn’t heard anything like it in games before, and it still stands the test of time.
So, how do you make an incredible scene even better? FINAL FANTASY VI Pixel Remaster not only portrays the scene in a visual style reminiscent of other Square Enix RPGs OCTOPATH TRAVELER and LIVE A LIVE, but recreates the music with orchestration and vocals. Now Celes’ moment in the spotlight is even more impactful for a new generation of players.
Such was the dedication to making the scene as memorable as possible that the composers recorded the vocals in multiple languages. Want to listen to it in Japanese, French, German, Spanish, or have an authentic experience by listening to opera in its mother tongue of Italian? The world is your oyster, and as Shakespeare once said, all the world is a stage. Would Shakespeare have loved FINAL FANTASY VI Pixel Remaster? We may never know. But probably.
“Yet there now stands one who would reawaken the magic of ages past, and use its dread power as a means by which to conquer all the world… could anyone truly be foolish enough to repeat that mistake?”
Every FINAL FANTASY game sees you embarking on an epic quest to save the world, but FINAL FANTASY VI had one of the greatest journeys yet. It begins with a warning of where its world could soon lead, then introduces one of our many protagonists on this journey: Terra. Something is wrong however - she’s been brainwashed and subdued by an evil empire, forced into a suit of intimidating Magitek armor, and marched across a snowblind.
Once she regains her freedom, she’s recruited into a motley crew whose mission is to resist and hopefully put an end to Emperor Gestahl’s machinations. However, this scheming ne’er-do-well has two massive advantages our heroes simply do not: the might of a mechanised militia, and a deranged court mage.
From here, the story evolves in ways that you couldn’t anticipate even if you’d played the previous FINAL FANTASY games. FINAL FANTASY VI takes you on an rollercoaster ride with nary a moment of downtime, and full of every emotion your body could possibly muster. Do you want a tale of redemption and atonement? It’s here. Do you want the story of someone struggling with the burden of a nation and maintaining a legacy? It’s also here. How about following the life of someone failing to cope with loss and moving on, and the person who sacrifices everything to help them? Yup. What if you simply want to hang out with someone who rejected their destiny to learn how to be the best at punching things, and also they can suplex a train?
Yes, you can suplex a train in FINAL FANTASY VI. It’s phenomenal.
Above all, FINAL FANTASY VI is a masterclass of storytelling. There’s barely a moment where you won’t be affected by joy, pathos, or awe. This truly has it all, from submerging castles to sleeping beauties, the devastation of war to its horrific consequences. You’ll meet compelling villains who’ll leave you in awe of their schemes, while motivating you to never stop fighting until they’re nothing but a smear mark on the face of the planet.
Which means it’s time to talk about…
Kefka Palazzo is the court mage of Emperor Gestahl. He’s nearly 5ft 6, hates long walks on the beach but loves the sound of laughter - especially his. He’s also the scariest, most dangerous clown in fiction. In fact, he may well be one of the most devious, horrific villains ever seen in a FINAL FANTASY game.
Previous antagonists may have always had an upper hand or a trick up their sleeve, but Kefka can seemingly pull them out like a never-ending pile of handkerchiefs. After your initial encounter leaves him seemingly humiliated, you may think that this jester is a comical distraction or a powerful goof, much like FINAL FANTASY V’s beloved Gilgamesh, but he soon proves that you underestimate him at your peril… and the peril of everyone you’ve ever dared love.
He isn’t just a mere jester, Kefka becomes a force to be reckoned with, emboldened by his first humiliation to make you regret the day you even so much as scoffed in his general direction. In fact, the only person left laughing at his antics will be Kefka himself, and believe us when we say he’ll be laughing last, and longest, too.
While people who have experienced FINAL FANTASY VI will know all too well the depths this pauper is willing to dredge, we simply can’t bear to spoil it for everyone picking up the Pixel Remaster and playing for the first time. So, let’s put it like this: his actions become so evil, so heinous, that we simply couldn’t write them all down even if we wanted to. You wouldn’t believe us - you couldn’t - when we told you the list of atrocities Kefka commits. He’d probably look at the crime sheet like a shopping list.
All we’re willing to say is that Kefka will leave a mark on you as distinct as the one he leaves on FINAL FANTASY VI’s World of Balance.
Who could possibly take down this absolute menace?
"I now realise that we must fight for the future of our children."
FINAL FANTASY VI gave players the largest recruitable party in the mainline series to date, with a staggering ten heroes you had to recruit throughout the story, and an additional four optional characters to bolster your ranks too. As mentioned, each came with their own unique abilities and strategies in combat, giving players a formidable amount of choice with how they approached battles.
Dubbed The Returners, these plucky souls set out to help put a stop to Emperor Gestahl and Kefka’s plans to conquer the World of Balance. Little do they know, they’re in for the journey of a lifetime. Despite the large roster, nearly everyone gets their own narrative arc, and this is one of the places where the game shines brightest.
At its core, FINAL FANTASY VI is about broken people trying to find meaning and salvation in a world that they feel is on the precipice of giving up on them. Everyone has their own demons, and it’s up to you to help exorcise them.
There’s Terra, a woman with a mysterious past and origin, whose immense magic power was exploited by the Empire. She spends her journey reckoning with the actions she was forced to take while searching for something to truly fight for. She soon meets Locke, who is absolutely a treasure hunter and definitely not a thief. We soon discover that his past is defined by an incalculable loss, and his drive is the smallest of hopes of reversing it.
Locke and Terra soon team up with Edgar, whose parents’ death has caused him to be thrust upon a throne he doesn’t truly feel ready for, unable to feel comfortable with others’ lives in his hands, and his twin brother having abandoned the nation. Their quest to stop the Emperor sees them team up with Celes, the former wunderkind of the Empire, whose road to a found family is paved with tragedy.
Speaking of tragedy, we can’t even begin to talk about that without mentioning Sabin or the traumatic pasts of Gau and Shadow, Strago’s past and his worries about leaving a legacy for his granddaughter Relm. Even Setzer, the cocky gambler whose airship soon becomes your base of operations, has a backstory like life dealt him a bad hand. At times it feels like optional character Gogo is probably the only person who isn’t looking for meaning or recovering from a broken past. But then again, what life leads someone to becoming a mime? We may never know.
Not only does this make the party of heroes one of the strongest to ever grace the series, but it also means that nearly everyone has a stake to being your favourite, or the most important in your heart. When your party is forcibly split apart and you hear Nobuo Uematsu’s incredible track Searching for Friends for the first time, it’s not just a hauntingly beautiful melody, it’s a simple fact.
To explain the true majesty of the game’s impeccable cast, all we need to do is ask a simple question: “who, in your opinion, is the main protagonist of FINAL FANTASY VI?” If we had a comment section, the debate would potentially never end.
Put all together, it sounds too good to be true. Incredible combat, iconic music, a stellar story, a monstrous villain, and a memorable cast of heroes? Yet FINAL FANTASY VI has it all, and more. In its quest to learn and grow from every FINAL FANTASY before it, the developers didn’t just make a world worth exploring and experiencing, they made a world worth saving.
All six games in the FINAL FANTASY pixel remaster series are now available to buy digitally on PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Each title can be bought individually or as a complete series in the FINAL FANTASY I - VI BUNDLE.
Purchase the game on Switch before May 25, 2023 to receive two themed Wallpapers for each individual game. Buy the complete series in the FINAL FANTASY I-VI BUNDLE to get all 12 themed Wallpapers.
Buy the games digitally on PlayStation 4 before May 25, 2023 to get a Theme and Avatar for each title purchased. Players who purchase the complete series in the FINAL FANTASY I-VI BUNDLE will receive every Theme and Avatar included with the individual games - a total of six Themes and six Avatars.
The FINAL FANTASY Pixel Remaster series is also available on PC via Steam, as well as iOS and Android:
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