There are very few games that inspire the sort of emotions that Final Fantasy VI does. For many old-school RPG players, this was the game that defined the 16-bit generation, and to this day there are still fans devoted to picking every single nuance of FFVI apart. Now, almost 13 years since its original release, Square-Enix has seen fit to reissue the game for GBA, complete with extra content to give fans something to drool over. While it’s not as amazing as it was when it was first released, FFVI is still a fantastic RPG.
FFVI wasn’t the first story-driven FF title, but it was the first game in the series where the plot could be accurately described as “epic.” Not only does this tale span a time period from ancient war to technological renaissance to the brink of apocalypse, it also features a cast of 14 playable characters, each with their own backstory, character traits, and motivations. Also, rather than featuring a “main” character, FFVI switches viewpoints many times over the course of the quest, giving players the opportunity to see how the unfolding story events affect everyone in the party.
One thing that might surprise both newcomers and those who haven’t revisited FFVI for a while are the sophistication of the design and the gameplay. Despite its sprite-based graphics, the environments, enemies, and characters boast amazing detail, and the special effects in battle are still as dazzling as they ever were. Combat is fast-paced and fun, and the fact that every character has their own unique abilities adds strategy and variety to party-building that many FFs still lack.
The pacing of the story is well-done, with very few sequences that drag on, and the dialogue has just the right mix of drama and humor. These were things that made the game such a breakout success in the first place, and they continue to impress to this day.
Unfortunately, the passage of time has also exposed the game’s flaws, many of which we were blind to thirteen years ago. Character development that used to be leaps and bounds above the bland archetypes of its day now seems a bit lacking. The story’s got bizarre leaps of logic and plot holes big enough to drive an airship through. The game’s second half feels somewhat disjointed and unfocused. And, despite the many near-useless skills and items FFVI contains, it’s still stupidly easy to turn your party into nigh-unstoppable damage-dealing machines.
So how does the GBA version stack up? We’d say it’s not quite as sloppy as FFIV, but not quite as solid as FFV, either. Though overall, it’s pretty darn good. Despite some issues with slowdown, the graphics are faithful to the SNES original. And the game’s revised translation, while being mostly the same as the original release, brings to light several new story details.
Extra content, which includes new dungeons, monsters, and magic, are welcome additions that add some much-needed challenge. Notorious bugs and exploits, such as the lethal Vanish/Doom one-two spell combo, the once-meaningless Evade stat, and the (literally) game-breaking Sketch command glitch have all been fixed up. Perhaps the only really negative aspect of the GBA version is the sound, which is noticeably different (and generally worse) from what we’ve heard before.
Is Final Fantasy VI the greatest RPG ever, as some of its most ardent fans will proclaim? We’d have to say no - despite all of its good qualities, it has some pretty severe flaws. Still, it remains a well-made game that’s better than most RPGs that we’ve seen released these past few years, and all of the new additions in this version only help make it even more awesome.