by Andrew Skelton (Outfoxed)
I might have mentioned it once before, but Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) was my favorite game on the SNES when I was growing up. Its story line, the large cast of characters, and sheer scope of the title on a simple cartridge seemed miles ahead of its time. I couldn’t even begin to fathom how many hours I logged into the game playing, completing, and replaying it. When the Pixel Remasters were originally announced, Final Fantasy VI was one I was especially looking forward to. How does the game hold up in these modern times, though, given its release was almost 30 years ago?
The game opens with two soldiers in mechanical armor leading a third armored, green-haired person along. This green haired woman will come to be known as Terra, and is one of the main characters of the plot. That’s one thing somewhat unique about Final Fantasy VI versus other games in the series; there is no central main character. Almost every character that joins your party has some importance to the overall story throughout the game. To this day people debate on who the main character is, and almost all opinions on the matter can be considered valid.
Your characters are trying to stop an event from recurring called the War of the Magi, where humanity almost wiped out the world with the combination of technology and magic. If it seems a bit cliche, it is, but there are enough twists and turns to really subvert the whole trope most of the time. In fact, the mid game twist might be one of the more memorable ones in Final Fantasy history, if you ask me. The level of storytelling in the game is quite strong, especially given how long ago the original game was developed.
With a cast of 14 playable characters, you might think it difficult to make each of them unique. Thankfully every single party member brings their own unique abilities to battle. For example, Locke, the thief – excuse me, treasure hunter – you meet shortly after the beginning events can steal from enemies. Some items are quite rare and valuable, making Locke a very useful party member. Edgar, the next character you meet, can use a variety of tools in battle which range in effects to damaging all opponents, to poisoning, confusing, or blinding them. The variety offered in the game means you can create a wide range of parties to suit your playstyle perfectly.
Terra is unique in that she starts with the ability to use magic, a talent thought long gone from the world. Later on you’ll gain access to magicite, which can be equipped to other characters to teach magic contained within. They can also be used once per battle to summon the esper inside of them. Some espers simply deal damage. Others can inflict opponents with debilitating statuses like sleep or charm, and others still can provide buffs to your party that will make battles that much easier. The one problem I tend to have with this system is it suddenly makes the few magical characters you have redundant when every other character can learn every spell on their own, but thankfully they all have their unique abilities to set them apart from everyone else too.
As you fight enemies, you’ll gain experience, and eventually level up, which confers increased health (and magic points for the mage characters/when everyone gets access to magic). Some characters also gain additional abilities in their speciality as they level up, expanding the options they have in combat. Remember the magicite I spoke of before? Well, some of them also give additional bonuses whenever the character equipped with them levels up. These bonuses may seem minor – a point of strength or magic doesn’t seem all that much – but since your characters also gain stats per level to make them stronger, these bonuses can add up quickly to really ramp up your power. They can also be used to shore up some shortcomings characters have, such as limited health or low defenses.
In addition to leveling up and utilizing your espers wisely, your equipment will also be very important to how powerful your characters will be. Unlike magic, not all gear can be equipped to every character, and sometimes the most powerful gear isn’t the best choice for a character that can equip it if a lesser piece offers bonuses or elemental and status resistances the stronger piece does not. Each character can also equip two relics, which are powerful pieces designed to give you more customization on each character. Some relics are simple enough, offering nothing more than status immunities (which can already be quite powerful as it is), but others can completely change how a character plays. Using the example of Locke from earlier, he’ll eventually get a relic called the Brigand’s Glove that changes his steal command to Mug, which attacks an enemy in addition to stealing from them. This simple change means you’ll be able to dispatch enemies much faster while still being able to steal valuable items in the process.
What are some of the changes from the original to the pixel remaster then? Outside of the complete pixel graphics overhaul, you have access to a bestiary of every monster you’ve encountered in the game. There’s also a gallery of concept art made available from famed illustrator Yoshitaka Amano. My personal favorite is the music player that contains the entire remastered soundtrack of the game (note: some spoilers in that particular feature if you haven’t played the game before) – yes, I was one of those kids back in the initial release of Final Fantasy III for the SNES that also ordered the soundtrack being offered at the time. A large number of balancing and bug fixes were also implemented between the two games to make the pixel remaster a much more polished experience.
Final Fantasy VI is a very nostalgic experience for me. I played so much of the original that so much was ingrained into muscle memory even after decades of not playing. The graphical changes looked great to me, the soundtrack was fabulous minus a couple of tracks I felt were better in the original, and the balancing pass was welcome. It was nice to have status effects (like poison, confuse, blind, etc) be useful for a change, and to also have to plan around should your own party be affected by them. It’s a fitting finale for the pixel remaster line of games, and it scratches an itch for nostalgia that few other games can reach.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.