The SNES truly ushered in the era of true story-telling for the Final Fantasy series, with each title since Final Fantasy IV upping the ante. At around 16 hours, Final Fantasy VI has its claws well dug into me, making me eager to load it back up each day.
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During Final Fantasy IV I mentioned how much I enjoyed the emphasis on the summons, and how cool it was that they had their own world and importance to the story. Final Fantasy VI pushes that concept even further with espers, making them so much more than just one arc throughout the game. In fact it seems they ARE the game. I found out that Terra is the offspring of a human and an esper, which explains her innate magical abilities in a decidedly less than magical world. In addition, antagonists Kefka and Emperor Gesthal both longed to open the gateway to the esper world to obtain their awesome powers.
Well this week that gate opened, and a whole slew of creatures came flying out, causing a fair bit of death and destruction before settling out of sight on a mountain with a strong magical properties. Kefka was able to overpower and weaken many of them, turning them into magicite and taking their power for his own. Soon after he also killed of Gesthal, so that nobody would fight to claim the same power. He’s not too keen on sharing, that Kefka.
After all this Kefka released a great, destructive force that tore the islands of the world apart, cementing his power over the world. My team’s airship was caught up in the terrors, showing my party split up all over the world. When the curtain rose next, I found Cid taking care of a comatose Celes who had awoken at last, a year later, the two alone on an island. AN ENTIRE YEAR. Other Final Fantasies deal with time travel, but actually waking up a year later and having to deal with the aftermath of a catastrophic event such as that is completely new to me. It adds such weight and gravitas to the situation at hand. Like, you really feel that this world is in big trouble.
In past games there’s bad stuff happening, but you stop it at the last minute. Sometimes people die, but in the end it’s all happy. I’m sure Final Fantasy VI will have a happy ending as well, but there is no doubt about this being the most mature title to date. Hell, when (spoiler alert) Cid dies on that island and Celes is all alone, she doesn’t know what to do. She actually jumps off a ledge and tries to kill herself. She doesn’t just think about doing it. Nobody comes at the last second to talk hew out of it. She’s depressed, and she actually jumps. That’s some heavy stuff, man. I can definitely understand why this game has struck such a strong chord with so many over the years.
Digressing back to a point I touched on last week, the ensemble cast is still proving to be a bit difficult. So many intense moments have happened, but only for a few characters. And I haven’t even obtained them all yet! I’m up to 12 of 14, and I imagine some of them are optional, so perhaps 12 is all I’ll have for the rest of the game. But so far there’s been a big emphasis on Terra, Locke, and Celes, with others such as Edgar, Sabin, Setzer and Shadow playing important roles occasionally, while characters like Gau, Mog, and Cyan are just kind of there.
I mean Cyan had his big, emotional scene at the Phantom Train last week, but he’s been a bit part ever since. Then while it’s awesome having a moogle character that can wield lances, Mog simply hasn’t had any major significance yet. Again, there’s still plenty of time for all that to change, but it’s pretty obvious right now who the main characters are, and who’s just added fluff. Following FFV’s quintet that shared near equal importance to the story, spreading a story between a team of potentially 14 is seriously daunting.
An interesting point I feel compelled to make is that there has still been absolutely no mention of crystals. They’re not particularly important in games like VII or VIII either, if memory serves, but they still show up in other forms, like VII’s four Huge Materia. Perhaps FFVI is where they begin to step away from the basic premise the series has been known for since its start, and truly create a fresh and original plot. That’s certainly how it seems to be shaping up, at any rate.
Finally, I must mention the esper system. Once you acquire espers, you may equip one per character. Example: I can equip Terra with Shiva. As I battle with Terra, she will learn skills specific to Shiva, such as Ice and Ice2. Lower level spells learn faster, and once you’ve completely learned a spell you may unequip that summon and retain the spells. This seems like obvious inspiration for FFVIII’s Guardian Force and FFIX’s weapon systems. Both of those also have you equipping summons and weapons respectively, each letting you learn new spells or abilities once you’ve used them enough or earned enough experience/ability points. As I’ve said before, it’s just so much fun playing these early games and finding where some later ideas and mechanics first popped up.
So that’s another week, done and dusted. I’ve seen death and I’ve seen life; I’ve seen despair and I’ve seen hope; I’ve seen hatred and I’ve seen compassion.
Oh, and I’ve also fought Ultros like half a dozen times. Seriously, what is up with this crazy cephalopod??