Final Fantasy VI

I always want these games to be better than they are.

This one was just… meh. It’s wasn’t as mind-numbingly boring as IV was, thank God, but it also never really was engaging. By the midgame I was breezing through all but major boss battles on autoplay. The charcaters and plot were a mess. The pet characters included a dude who was big on marital kidnapping and a guy who literally keeps the beautified corpse of his girlfriend locked in his basement (I swear this is not an exaggeration), so it really could only hold itself up on mediocre gameplay for so long.

The plot here was just this side of coherent, in that I understood the discrete events but adding them up into worldbuilding was a chore. If the story didn’t even bother with that weird ~ancient war~ stuff it would have been easier to follow and would have made no difference overall, and every time the game tried to tie the past into the present things got convoluted, so I’m not really sure why it approached things that way.

Meanwhile, a rote story can be saved by good characters, but the main cast of this game was deeply unlikable. I’ll say this again: the ‘protagonist’ you’re constantly forced to keep around despite my desperate attempts to not have him in my party keeps the dolled-up corpse of his girlfriend in his basement. It baffles me that no one was like, “Isn’t this a little weird, guys?” I mean, the game is from the 1990s, not the 1790s. Then there’s the apparently-obligaory rape-y plotline where some dude attempts to kidnap an actress and force her into marriage, but you thwart him… and then ask him to join you??? Like, what the fuck? The game recognizes he’s a villain, but then turns it around and tries to act like he’s also some kind of cool guy, and just??? He even gets some weird romance-redemption plotline as though everyone involved forgot the whole kidnapping thing. Then there’s the Brock. Early on, one of the women NPCs in his castle says, “No women here are safe!” literally “We are not safe,” and the game thinks this is a joke but let me tell you, never have I been so terrified for a townie NPC. Then there’s Celes, who I wanted to like, but then she rolls out of bed one day and decides she wants to bang Mr. Corpse Bride for some unfathomable reason, and from there on out her whole story is this horrible, horrible shoehorned-in romance.

Sabin, Relm, and the old dude were inoffensive, and I liked the idea of Relm a lot, but the game had no idea how to ensemble cast. There were 12 party members total, and only about 5 of them actually had characters. Everyone who I haven’t mentioned was a gimmick character, including the literal Yeti, because why the fuck not.

The only exception to this is Terra. I really liked Terra, and despite the game’s insistence that Corpsey was the protag, it really was her, from both a plot and character perspective — the FFVI wiki even lampshades it. See, there are humans, and there are “Espers” though the game will waffle on what exactly Espers are or what their origin is. Humans can apparently like, absorb Espers and obtain magic powers from them, so obviously they do, and as a result Espers lock themselves away in a separate dimension. But Terra is the result of a human stumbling into the Esper world and making a life there — she’s half-human, half-esper. And so, with an evil kingdom again trying to capture espers and abuse their power, she needs to not just stop the damage from happening, but unite both of her peoples. She was really great!

…except that, and I swear I’m not exaggerating here, the peak of her plot arc is a HOW DO YOU EMOTIONS wherein she randomly finds some children — not her children, to be clear, just random children — and decides she can no longer fight with the party because she has to take care of children. Boyfriend and I were laughing our asses off about this for days. She just stumbles across kids — or IDK, maybe her Uteran Homing Device kicked in and guided her to them (we ladies have those, because BABIES) — but either way she refuses to fight until the children grow up or something, because I guess making sure the world is saved for them to live in is secondary? Then the town is attacked and THE POWER OF LOVE makes her realize that if she doesn’t save the world the children’s lives will be kind of shitty and then there’s this weird revelation about how THIS STRANGE EMOTION SHE WAS FEELING was actually love for the children. She then brings this up in her monologue speech to the villain at the end, so the game ends with one woman bravely declaring, “I have found my purpose — babies!” and the other one, “I have found my purpose — a boyfriend!” and if I personally had sat down to write the most over-the-top terrible plot arc for a female character I could I could not possibly have come up with something this hilaribad.

Am I... *not* supposed to agree with this?Am I… not supposed to agree with this?

And then the whole final boss battle is a Very Shonen Lesson about dreams! and friendship! and for me, presumably, staying in the kitchen!

That’s not even getting into the awful ending. After the defeat of the final boss, all of the Espers die. All of them, presumably even the ones that were locked away. And no one seems to take issue with this, despite human/esper peace and saving the Espers theoretically being their goals. Terra manages to survive, I shit you not, because she loves the children so much. Somehow this turns her human and she’s presumably a just mothering from there on out. As if to drive the point home, the games ends with one of the older girls giving birth (because teen pregnancy, woo!). The ending is a complete mess.

The gameplay was… meh. It was mildly enjoyable in the most bare-bones, typical jRPG sense. I did like the magicite method of learning magic attacks, I thought that was pretty cool. But the cast was like 70% gimmick characters who were completely useless, so you just ended up taking the same few with you the whole time. It was too easy to get the main party badly overpowered.

Meanwhile, after about 2/3 through the game, it just kind of throws its hands up in the air and gives up. The last third of so has no clear method of progression. You just wake up, and then wander the world aimlessly trying to find other party members until you have enough to go tackle the final boss. There’s no really story, few hints as to how to get everyone back, and no real reason for what you do aside from “if I don’t have enough party members I won’t win.” It’s like the devs just stopped caring and said, eh, let them do whatever the hell they want. It was so bizarre. This is supposed to be the tense time leading up to the final confrontation, but there’s literally nothing.

And… this pains me to admit, but I actually did not finish the game. See, the final dungeon forces you to split up your characters into four parties, using all but one character, which mean you inevitably end up with shitty parties and they never cross paths, and there didn’t seem to be a way out after I saved late in the dungeon. So I had my worst party get stuck at a save point near the end where I couldn’t defeat a boss, and even if there was some way back I didn’t want to go back and do the long-ass thing all over again! AND there was no way to even know beforehand which party would be facing bosses and when, so without getting through the whole damn thing there was no way to plan! After hours and fucking hours of grinding to level them up having no effect on my chances of winning, I got so frustrated I just watched an LP of the end. The final dungeon was a complete nightmare. The whole endgame was. It left me with a really bad taste in my mouth about the whole experience, which I would have rated as ‘mediocre’ up until that point but now thoroughly resent.

What else? Well, on a positive note, I liked the portrait art a lot. And also the monster design, I thought there was a nice grotesqueness to everything that lent it some good atmosphere. Especially the more humanoid boss and Esper sprites, they were just really well done:

PFF Kefka

It also bares noting that the feminine, bemakeuped man is the Ultimate Evil, because of course he is. Not the dude who gave him power in the first place, he’s a woobie.

(Also, this is neither here nor there, but why are all the bad guys in old FF games apparently Italian? Did 1990s Japan have some weird obsession with mobster movies? Even Pokemon was run by the mafia.)

So, I have now played two of these games, and am still at a complete loss as to why this series has any following. That said, Boyfriend just started VII, and to my relief it looks kind of futuristic, not the bland nonsense pseudo-fantasy IV and VI were, so it promises some originality, at least? But ugh, I badly need another wRPG first.


  1. illhousen says:
    “But ugh, I badly need another wRPG first.”

    Do Planescape; Torment! Just remember to play as a mage (you start as a fighter, but there is a quest to change the class given by an old lady once you get out of the morgue) and prioritize social stats (Wisdom is the most important, you need it to be 22-23 by the end of the game at least. Intellect is more mechanically important, while Charisma has more use in dialogues, so they’re about equal in priority, but you’ll get a few Intellect points for free if you stick with the mage class).

  2. Heatth says:
    “(…)despite the game’s insistence that Corpsey was the protag(..)”

    That was the case? It have been a while since I played but I never got the impression he was the protagonist. It was always Terra, with Celes taking over for a little while at one point.

    Anyway, nice review. I am too deep myself in the FF nostalgia, but it is nice to see the game be criticized every once in a while. Make me wish you would play FFV (it have a more interesting gameplay, at last).

    As for wRPG, how about Baldur’s Gate? There have been a bunch of re-releases these days, so, if nothing else, it is easy to find and get to work. An old school game I used to like was Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. It is a isometric steam-punk RPG. I never finished the game (or followed the main story much), but the setting and mechanics were very cool.

  3. SpoonyViking says:
    Eh, “VII” starts out very promising, but… Nevermind, your husband is playing and you’ll form your own opinions. :-)

    Yeah, Terra and Ceres’ plotlines have disappointing endings (I mean, the basic idea of a woman who was viewed only as a weapon by others finding peace is fine, but the execution was bad, indeed), and Locke’s is very creepy (I mean, to be fair, he does live in a fantasy world where true resurrection is theoretically possible, and at least the story acknowledges his obsession is tremendously unhealthy, but Rachel is basically the protagonist of a cheap Victorian melodrama about an ill wife). But Edgar, Sabin, Cyan and Kefka, they’re awesome! Even Gau can be funny when he’s got Sabin, of all people, playing the straight man. My only complaint is that after their stories are done, they’re shunted off to the side (except for an optional sidequest so Cyan can get all his Sword Techs. By the way, when you recruited Setzer, did you have both Edgar and Sabin in the party?).

    I would argue that the emperor isn’t treated sympathetically by the narrative. And yes, you ARE meant to agree with Kefka that the party sounds like chapters from a self-help book; you’re just also meant to agree with the party, I’d say.

    I liked the gameplay. Yeah, the actual fighting tends to be bland like in most JRPGs, but there’s a surprising amount of strategy and customisation with the relics and the magicite.

    That said, I’m not disagreeing with your review. I mean, I did like more characters (and more about them) than you seem to have, but in general, the plot is mostly an excuse to “go there and do things” (it’s a shame the focus changes from Terra to Celes and Locke; her deciding she didn’t want to be used as a weapon of mass destruction by either the Empire or the Resistance would have been a cool story, and I thought they were going for that at first), and most of the characters (nearly all, I’d say; I mean, I like Sabin, but he doesn’t really push the envelope of storytelling) really are basically gameplay gimmicks with tacked-on stories.

    I think what made the “FF” series so famous is that it was the first one to do a lot of those things, especially for the Western market. For its time, “FF VI” was almost Shakespearian for a game.

    1. Heatth says:
      “But Edgar, Sabin, Cyan and Kefka, they’re awesome! Even Gau can be funny
      when he’s got Sabin, of all people, playing the straight man. My only
      complaint is that after their stories are done, they’re shunted off to
      the side”

      That is true. FFVI really suffered from having too many characters for its own good. It is hard to divide attention properly, specially back then, when game size was more limited.

  4. Mini-Farla says:
    Yeah, this is all pretty fair.

    I do give the game points for having the villain actually win midway through and forcing you to pick up the pieces of a shattered world instead of tidily averting the apocalypse, though. That’s not a very common route to take, as far as I know, so I thought it was interestingly original. I also thought the open-ended nature of the second half was a similarly neat idea, even if the execution was botched by the fact the characters weren’t good enough to compensate for the elimination of an overarching plot. It could have been a really effective way to show the different ways the party members and civilization in general were coping with the ruined world and tie up the character arcs in a meaningful way before the finale, and I think that’s what it tried to do, but… nope.

    And yes, those gimmick characters needed to die by fire.

  5. RandomName says:
    Honestly you should’ve tried playing V, its a really lighthearted and fun game that doesn’t take itself seriously and its a blast to play for me
  6. PostguestivePostistPhase says:
    I’ve never played any FF because I despise jrpg gameplay. Folks who like FFs told me they have good stories. Maybe this one’s a fluke and others are all cool?
    Yeah, probably not.

    At least it has the world is destroyed by baddie thing going for it, even I know about that from cultural osmosis, that’s probably revolutionary.

    “terrible endgame”
    A universal gaming plague that plagues many rpgs. In other news, you should play KotoR2 for schadenfreua change.

    “another wRPG first”
    Baldur’s Gate/Fallout/KotoR/Pillars of Eternity are good for short reviews like this. Torment’s less of a rpg and more of a great visual novel welded to horribad gameplay. Lionheart is a spectacular trainwreck that’s sure to amuse us. SWTOR is actually 8 badly stapled single player rpgs and mountains of random flower collecting crap pretending to be an mmo, you can play class stories for free. Alpha Protocol is the undisputed king of rpg interactivity, but you must play it a few times or never. Every game Spiderweb Soft (the original indie rpg dude) put out is cool and eminently playable (assuming you can run it on today’s computers).

    Also you should play Epic Battle Fantasy flashgames instead of these silly FFs. They’re probably better.

  7. Nerem says:
    Just go to Original Generation. The only closest thing to the kid plot is that a character retires from piloting after getting pregnant… but her boyfriend also retires to help her, which is kind of surprising.

    Anyways as far as FF, FF5’s story is basically nonexistent but it’s pretty fun gameplay-wise. There’s a Four Job Fiesta where you can only use four jobs the entire game. Knight/Time Mage/Bard/Samurai is a surprisingly workable class setup, even when you notice there’s absolutely no real healing between the four of them.

    I think the English version kind of screwed up on the part you were upset about with Terra, if you’re playing the SNES version. Since IIRC, it was less she didn’t want to fight at all, but more that she wanted to specifically protect these kids, since one of them was pregnant and was new life in new world etc etc. I mean, the world had already ended.

    Locke is totally a weirdo, but he’s not really considered the protag. Terra and Celes are.

    … you can be forgiven for thinking otherwise, considering his subplot is the most prominent for a lot of the game.

    I was always sympathetic to Gestahl admittedly. I mean, he had the right idea locking up Kefka.

    Kefka at least is suppose to be a jester sort, and not a gay-joke.

  8. Doortothe says:
    While I was reading this, there was a voice in my head taking the form of some people I know who like the game crying out in defense of the game. Your interpretation of the story is by no means wrong, just very different from what I usually hear.

    Granted I myself can’t say much in this game’s defense because I’ve never finished it either (furthest I got is where Terra goes super sayain for the first time), and I like this series. I do have some positives: this game has some really good sprite quality for a SNES game. I also really appreciated the in-battle cutscenes, like when you first use magic with Terra while you’re with Locke and Flirty. It’d be nice if more games could try to include stuff like that but without breaking the pace, which it looks like that’s what FFXV is trying to do, so fingers crossed on that end.

    Also love the paradox where the heroes are very respectful and try to not force Terra to join their cause… but the only way to progress the game is to join the cause. Xenoblade Chronicles X did a similar thing but every time you refused the guy kept guilt tripping you in different ways. Pretty funny, but off topic.

    Part of why VI is so popular has to be because of the villain. Kefka becoming the big bad and ultimately winning was a huge twist back in the day. Most JRPG villains don’t win like Kefka did.

    “That said, Boyfriend just started VII”

    Chances are you two will enjoy FFVII: Machinabridged more. Its pretty good.

  9. Elisabeth says:
    No Square/Enix (Squaresoft at the time) game from this era has aged particularly well, except for Chrono Trigger. VI has a messy plot and too many characters to properly flesh out, and like all the other RPGs of the time, the gameplay gets pretty repetitive. And every Square game I’ve played (not a lot, admittedly) has gone downhill in the second half.

    When I was a kid, I loved that there were three playable female characters in FFVI and no blatant “stay inside while us men fight the scary monsters” moments like in Final Fantasy IV. This was the LEAST sexist game I had as a child until Chrono Trigger came out – there was simply nothing else available for the SNES. In games not made by Squaresoft, women were sexpot bimbos, classic damsels in distress, or they simply didn’t appear at all. I know VI has a lot of flaws, but I always overlook them because it was THE formative piece of media for several years of my childhood, until I got into the Harry Potter series and Tamora Pierce’s books.

    I would wish for a remake if I had any confidence left in Square’s game-making abilities, but I don’t. And I know it’s never going to happen, unless Square REALLY gets desperate. Oh well.

    Final Fantasy VII has a better ratio of playable female characters to male characters (3 female: 5 male: 1 sort-of male?), and Aeris is a great character. On the other hand, Tifa and Yuffie wear ridiculously skimpy outfits (and hanging a lampshade by having them complain about being so cold when they’re hiking in snowy mountains doesn’t make the fanservice any less silly), and the black character is angry all the time and talks like Mr. T.

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