Up until this week Final Fantasy VI has been a constant flow of action and drama so far. Something important is always happening, and there’s a constant need to reach the next destination. This week, however, things slowed right down.
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Following Celes’ year in a coma, Final Fantasy VI becomes a massive game of hide and seek. Your companions are all scattered throughout the world, and you must find them and convince them to rejoin your efforts to take down Kefka. Some join right away, no questions asked, while others take a bit of persuasion and side questing. Similar to FFXIII, it feels like the game really opens up at the 20-hour mark. It’s not nearly as linear from the get-go, but you’ve always got a specific destination or goal in mind. Now, aside from a handful of specifics, most of your allies can be procured in seemingly any order.
Once you’ve got Setzer and the new airship you basically just fly around, revisiting previous locations and talking to townsfolk in hopes that someone has something to say about one of your friends. I’ve found all but two – Relm and Shadow – though I’m unsure what’s happened to Shadow. Everyone else still shows up on-screen when I’m at a shop buying new gear, but he is noticeably absent from the line-up. I reckon he’ll show up again later, when I need him most. It’s what he does. Oh, and while I’ve found Strago, he has yet to rejoin my party. I reckon that’ll happen real soon.
Aside from trying like mad to find my missing party members, there are also many different activities I can partake in. From the Auction House (I’ve procured a few Magicite additions here), to the Coliseum (I found my series-first Cactuar here!), to searching for and defeating 8 ultimate dragons (I’ve taken down five so far), to some good old-fashioned grinding, there’s plenty to do to distract you from progressing the story at this point.
There are also numerous character-specific events that will only happen if the right conditions are met; i.e. visiting the crazy old man in the Veldt with Gau in your party, or taking a nap in Doma Castle with Cyan. These all feel like bonus moments thrown in for added character development, which is a really nice touch. People who just want to play the game can potentially pass right by them, while those interested in learning more about their party can poke around all the nooks and crannies to get a more intimate look at their characters’ lives. I almost wish these moments were mandatory, as without them these teammates don’t have as much depth or feel as important. In any case, I really enjoyed these moments.
Something else I’ve noticed is that this game is packed with puzzles. Of course, puzzles are far from uncommon in Final Fantasy, but it just feels like FFVI has so many more than the standard. Not the fun kind, either. Case in point: I spent 20 minutes using trial and error to progress past a closed passage on the Phantom Train (revisited) because there were no hints, tips, or clues to indicate what pattern to follow to unlock it. This was neither challenging nor interesting; it was tedious and stupid. I wish I could say that was the first such puzzle I’d come across.
Ultimately, that’s not a frequent enough occurrence to really get under my skin; just a minor frustration. Now after this week of wandering around, collecting summons and re-collecting party members, and grinding to my heart’s content, I think it’s about time to get into the action again. I’m in the middle of climbing Kefka’s tower, and I am expecting big things from this coming week. COME AT ME, KEFKA.
By the way, remember that you can follow my daily tweets on the Road to XV in ’15 at my personal Twitter, @zacharyplyons!