Our next podcast recording (20.10.18) - 342: Final Fantasy VI

This is where you'll find threads specific to the games we're covering in Volume Six
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JaySevenZero
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Our next podcast recording (20.10.18) - 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by JaySevenZero » December 31st, 2017, 3:28 pm

Here's where you can leave your thoughts regarding Final Fantasy VI for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

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Craig
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Re: 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by Craig » April 29th, 2018, 4:07 am

I was a teenager when we first starting seeing JRPGs coming to consoles in Europe, or at least becoming popular. Pokemon and Final Fantasy VII where huge hits like nothing I'd seen before. At the same time, emulators and the internet were also on the rise so hearing and playing these older huge games was like opening a world I had never seen before. I later bought the PSX port, but the load times were as baffling as they were annoying.

I never did actually finish the game, but the music has stayed with me ever since. Saying "Nobuo Uematsu is a bit good" is like going on Desert Island Discs and choosing "The best of the Beatles" - everyone knows this, but sometimes you've got to do it.

This music was part of my formative years. I would load up winamp with the soundtrack in midi form, stick on my headphones and be engrossed. It's as dramatic as it is playful. Unified as it is varied. Triumphant as it is harrowing. The piano collection based on these tracks is a wonderful album showing how the melodies and harmonies still shine while being stripped to their bare bones and later orchestrated versions show they can excel in their bombast.

But it's important to remember just how considered these tracks are in game. The careful use of soundfonts gives everything a sound which doesn't sound constrained by the SNES hardware, but rather leans into what it can do. Even with the unbelievable scope Uematsu had with leit motifs, opera and huge prog-rock influences (you can practically see Rick Wakeman in his cape playing the keyboard in the final boss music), the attention to detail is also astounding. Take for example the soundscape created in the percussion for "Narshe" - it includes a breathy sound which adds to the huge unease the track. It's unclear whether it's an exasperated sigh or a release of steam, playing into the themes of unrest and blurred lines between the biological and natural world. It's something that is unlikely to see in a soundtrack which must abide by hardware limits, but it's clear they went above and beyond to set the mood.

This soundtrack is also important for me as it set me on the track to making music myself. In those days of midi files for soundtracks, you could import these files into the music notation software, Sibelius. From here I would look at the tracks I enjoyed and stuck with me so deeply - why does this part sound so dramatic? How did they make this part stand out so much? What would happen if I changed this? I would be doing very basic music analysis on these tracks and using them to make my own (admittedly rip offs at the time!) I always remember spending a Sunday comparing Edgar`s theme and the Coin song - at it's core, they are the same, but I was fascinated in how and why they managed to portray such dramatically different feelings. This game helped me to look deeper into music and to consider harmony, texture and melody at an important time in my development.

I want to go back and finish this game one day, but the music will always brighten my day regardless.

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Re: 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by duskvstweak » August 14th, 2018, 3:44 pm

In 2000, I had already had my Nintendo 64 for a few years, been a PC gamer since Commander Keen and was impressed with screenshots of what the PS2 was capable of. And yet, when I finally got around to playing Final Fantasy VI, my first Final Fantasy, my first J and non-J rpg, I was still knocked over by the quality. The pixal graphics were gorgeous and expressive, the music was atmospheric and memorable and the characters stuck in my mind whenever I wasn't playing the game.

Really, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't realize I could use summons until the last quarter of the game, my main combat party consisted of characters I thought were cool, which changed on a regular basis and had nothing to do with stats! Looking back, I still can't believe I beat the game, though my strategy of double casting Ultimas for half the cost seemed to do the trick.
Honestly, it's too difficult to put everything I love about this game down in words. The characters were a surrogate family while my own house was going through a divorce, the music finally got me listening to game soundtracks in the outside world, the strategy guide was massive and, with it's beautiful artwork, a constant read for me.

It's still my favorite Final Fantasy and one of my favorite games period, one that I go back to every few years, probably because it's one of my favorite stories, feeling like the Lord of the Rings or the Star Wars of video games.

I started and stopped this post many times and looking back at this one, I still failed to give the game any sort of justice. Final Fantasy VI is special, the combination of story, pixel art, music and gameplay make this something that sticks with you. It's a masterpiece.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (20.10.18) - 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by Mr Ixolite » September 3rd, 2018, 11:18 am

Story
I find that the plot of FFVI takes a while to get going, with too many return trips to Narshe, though it does eventually get exciting, especially when it reaches the floating continent. But this is where my investment stops. Simply put, I find the world of ruin boring. It was a ballsy, ambitious move, but it also makes the narrative momentum come to an abrupt halt. The game becomes episodic as it tasks you with re-recruiting people you just finished recruiting, and theres not much of a sense of urgency. Part of the fun of the first half was that both the returners and Kefka were being pro-active in their fight against each other, but in the World Of Ruin everyone seems to be just sort of minding their own business. This includes the scene-stealing Kefka, whos' cooped up in a tower until the very end.
Not helping matters is that I never found the World of Ruin that ruined; the games color palate was pretty muted from the beginning, and the world of ruin still has a fully functional Opera house, among other things. Thus, when everyone goes to fight Kefka, it feels less like a last-ditch effort to save the world, and more “eh, might as well”. It reminds me of contemporary open-world games, though unlike something like Skyrim I did beat FF 6 once, even if I’ve never been compelled to do it again.
I am aware that the nature of the World of Ruin was intentional as FF VIs main priority was developing its massive cast, but I just don’t think said cast is placed in that interesting a story (I like my Final Fantasy dialed towards pulpy adventure). This combined with the sheer number of party members, made me care about only a handful of them.

Gameplay
Replaying FFVI in preparation for your podcast, I was surprised how dull I found the first stretch of the game. Not so much because the individual characters’ abilities are more limited than in some of the other games, but because said abilities are quite overpowered. For a good chunk of the game, it feels like every battle was a matter of waiting for Edgars Auto-Crossbow or Sabins Blitz moves, which could wipe out enemies in an instant at no cost.
Overall, the difficulty of the game (and series) has taken a sharp drop, but things do get more interesting once magicite gets introduced. However, I found this system flawed as well. First you need to wait for the system to get introduced, then you need to equip an esper, then you need to grind, and only then you get the magicites’ abilities. As a result, the system discourages experimentation and casual swapping, in favor of sticking it out with a particular esper. On the flip side, once you’ve learnt a spell theres no restrictions at all, and every learnt spell can be used from then on. On the surface this is fine, but it creates a push towards making your characters clones, as the most useful espers will be continuously swapped around between them-especially early on, when theres not so many Espers to go around. Theres simply no reason not to teach every character cure, raise, and so on. You have to go out of your way to make diverse parties, instead of the other way around.

Conclusion
Being the7th game in the series I played, I just don’t think Final Fantasy VI could ever have lived up to the hype of “best in the series” for me. Though undoubtedly revolutionary for its time, for me later games had it beat in terms of setting, characters, story, music and even villain, and its immediate predecessor trumped it in pure gameplay terms.
Ultimately, I think Final Fantasy VI is an OK game, which feels is a bit like saying The Godfather is a decent movie.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (20.10.18) - 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by ryanmega2 » October 4th, 2018, 8:30 am

Hi, this is my first time posting a reply to one of these threads. I have been a long time listener to the show and have been meaning contribute to the site for a while now and I am just now getting around to doing so.

I first played FF6 in the summer of 2015 after I had just moved to Edmonton and was working for the summer. I played the Play Station version that came on the Final Fantasy anthology, not the best version of the game apparently but it was the one I had. At the time I had been on a Final Fantasy kick for about two years, starting with the Steam version of FF7 when that came out and then going on to the PS1 version of FFV, FFX and then FFVIII on the original hardware and I think I played a bit of FFXII as well. Going into this I had a lot of high expectations given that this seems to be the consensus pick for best Final Fantasy game right now and like I said I had absolutely loved FFVII, VIII and X and so I was quite excited to play this game after work for the course of several weeks, I remember during this period I was alternating between FFVI and Halo 2 while watching old reruns of Law & Order (I nearly always watch TV when playing video games)

In general I enjoyed the game quite a lot and while I probably enjoy it less than the seventh, eighth and tenth entries it is still an extremely good game, with excellent gameplay, plot and character development. The one big flaw I do remember is that the PS1 version has an absolutely terrible translation and I would strongly recommend against playing that particular version.
The two things stand out to me most in my memory. First, is that this probably has the second best gameplay in the series behind only FFX (I am not as big a fan of the job system in FFV as some people are) with the classic turn based gameplay that series never should have went away from and really interesting class system where the gameplay of the characters really feel distinct from each other (my biggest sticking point with FF7 & 8 is that the characters really do play the same).
The other thing that really stands out in my memory is the final area where you confront Kefka which forces you to use all your characters to complete that final dungeon (something I really wish other FF games would do) and probably the single coolest looking boss fight in all of video games, the art for Kefka is absolutely gorgeous.
In summary, while this game did not completely live up to it's reputation it is still a great RPG which everyone needs to play.

For what it's worth, my ranking of Final Fantasy games from best to worst.
X
VII
VIII (I would probably have problems defending putting this above VI, but I do like VIII more)
VI
V
XIV
XIII
XII (I really can't stand XII and do not understand why everyone likes this so much.)
XI

I still need to play IX, IV and Tactics.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (20.10.18) - 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by paleAvenger » October 8th, 2018, 9:43 pm

I was lucky to be able to pick up a shiny new SNES classic for my birthday, and besides Super Metroid, the game I was most excited to get my hands on was Final Fantasy.

I’ve tried my hand at JRPG’s a few times, and always bounced off them. But I had heard so many good things about Final Fantasy 6 that I figured if anything could get me into the genre, this would be the game to do it. And playing it for the podcast would be the perfect motivation to actually finish the thing!

While I still wouldn’t say that I’m going to become a JRPG regular anytime soon, I am very glad to have played this one. There's so much to like: The character sprites and environmental design are really attractive, even coming to them fresh in 2018. The music ranges from functional, to absolutely wonderful. There is a great variety of characters and powers to suit many different playstyles.

My complaints are few and minor, and mostly due to the era it's from: the battle music gets repetitive, the menus aren't that helpful, and it weakened some of the emotional impact when I caught on to the way the dialogue leaned on saying: “Character name” “ellipsis” to express a range of emotions. ( “Locke…”)

But those are petty gripes for a 25 year old game. More memorable is how surprisingly deep some of the characters are, and how affecting their journey can be.

I choked up watching Cyan chasing after the train carrying the ghosts of his dead family. And I was heartbroken when Celes’ old mentor slowly wasted away and died in his bed, leaving her alone on a desert island with all the world broken around her. (I later realized that I could have saved Cid, but the moment was so perfectly tragic that I couldn’t bear to reload an old save and change it). Genuinely touching moments like these are few and far between in videogaming, and they're a big part of why Final Fantasy 6 is so special.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (20.10.18) - 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by Will » October 16th, 2018, 6:11 pm

As a dyed-in-the-wool Final Fanboy in the 90s I was tremendously excited when FFVI came out on the SNES. To my chagrin, however, I initially bounced off of the game and never finished it as a teenager. While I had loved Cecil’s propulsively-paced hero’s journey in IV, FFVI left me cold. The story felt lumpy, the tone felt off, and who even was the main character, anyway? I also struggled with a lot of the combat innovations that Ito brought to the game which upped the difficulty and massively reduced the fun factor for me. Of course I loved the opera scene and the World of Ruin turn was exciting (albeit telegraphed by the map that came packed with the cartridge) but overall the game didn’t feel consistent or fun and I just kept getting lost and bored.

Returning to the game today, however, I’m totally in love. Gameplay that felt haphazard to me then feels experimental and dazzling today. The music and sound design are evocative and rightly considered iconic. Instead of one central “main” character, VI has an amazing collection of parallel stories that bounce off each other narratively and thematically. As an adult (and a dad) I definitely relate differently now to “boring” melancholy things like Terra’s role as a mother figure or Cyan’s goodbye to his family. And the actually silly stuff that I was too cool for back then - looking at you, octopus planning to drop a 4 ton weight on an opera singer - now seems delightfully whimsical.

I think part of my initial disengagement came from the fact that VI is the first FF to REALLY require the internet or a strategy guide. Replaying now I love how the structure united FFIV and FFV with a fast paced, mostly linear World of Balance populated with distinctly-powered characters that is broken into a chaotic, free form World of Ruin. Even today, however, I still need to peek into GameFAQs now and again to remember where to find this item or that person. It’s amazing that there’ so much to discover, but that’s cold comfort if you left Shadow on the Floating Continent or opened all those chests in the World of Balance so won’t be getting that Ribbon you really need.

With Sakaguchi in a reduced role, there are also some changes that come back to bite the series in the long run. It’s a matter of record that several different developers created characters and scenarios in isolation and then Kitase stitched them all together. When framed with Mog’s fourth wall-breaking narration, this feels charming, but that lack of a central vision also lays some groundwork for the mess of unrelated corridors that broke FFXIII. Magicite is a fun idea but it has the potential to flatten every character into the same pool of high DPS spells. And a young turk named Tetsuya Nomura also brings an aesthetic to Shadow and Setzer that will come to dominate and eventually drown Square in a tsunami of spiked hair and buckles. FFVI is both the culmination of everything that made FFI through V great and the first inkling of the excess that has sometimes swamped the series in the past few years.

In many ways, FFVI was just a bit ahead of its time. The emphasis on open world exploration would fit in well with RPGs today. The steampunk/industrial revolution aesthetic likewise feels more of this moment than it did of the mid-1990s. FFVI also gets some bonus points for representation with two female leads and one of the first (briefly) playable characters of color in General Leo. In a series famously dominated by teenagers off to save the world, FFVI is, unfortunately the last to have any major characters older than about 40. It also aligns really well with the emerging internet culture of urban legends and glitches. Can you revive General Leo? (Only with some crazy glitch work). What does Vanish/X Zone not kill? (Not much). Who is Gogo really? (My money is on either Daryl or Adlai Stevenson).

Playing today, FFVI stands for me as one of the crowning achievements of the 16-bit era. It’s a game that hits me harder than it did when it came out and about as hard as anything I’ve played since. The spritework and sound design take my breath away, the stories are adult and evocative, and Kefka’s upjumped buffonishness and pathological narcissism seem all too familiar as I’m following U.S. politics in 2018. Ultimately, FFVI soars when it asks the player to do what each of the Returners must: make meaning in their uncertain lives and find a way to go on despite personal tragedy and existential doubt. As a teenager, that just didn’t seem “badass” enough. Today I can’t imagine a more resonant theme or a more lovely way to explore it.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (20.10.18) - 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by Magical_Isopod » October 19th, 2018, 5:12 am

(Phew, got in just in time!)

Final Fantasy VI is, in my mind, both a great game and a mixed bag.
The story starts off really strong - it gives off an entrancing aura of mystery and fantasy that feels incredibly alluring and drives you forward into the unknown. Who is Terra? What was the frozen monster in Narshe? What stake does Locke have in all of this? What is the resistance, and why is the Empire a threat in this world? The opening to this game bombards you with open-ended questions, and the first few hours are a truly an adventure.

The next section of the story - something I generally refer to as "The Split" where your party is divided in three - is where the game starts to lose focus a little. The three different mini-stories are all good, and run a wide range of emotional notes. This is where a lot of the character building happens - everyone grows, improves their combat skills, finds new allies, and the resistance against the evil empire suddenly feels like an army.

But the story always loses me when everything comes back together. Kefka murders the Big Bad and goes from colourful henchman to evil antagonist. Not a bad angle, to be sure, but for me, this is when the game becomes a little too dour and sadistic. Kefka is simply an irredeemable monster. Earlier in the game, he's portrayed as posh, petty, and a bit of a spoiled brat in a sorcerer's body. But once Kefka takes the lead, he just becomes a destructive psychopath; his persona changes entirely, and he becomes terrifyingly brutal. His pursuit of destruction and power is not really explained, and while you can FEEL his ominous presence pressing down on you as the player, it feels very much at odds with what the story was leading up to.

Following Kefka's seizure of the spotlight, the party faces a series of hard losses and minor victories, culminating in the World of Ruin segment, where the world we've been exploring the entire game is torn asunder and replaced with a broken hellscape. What started as a fun adventure full of mystery has, by this point, become a depressing slog. I will credit the game for succeeding in manipulating my emotions so effectively, but the latter half of FF6 just feels so cynical and downbeat that it doesn't bring me much joy at all. The mysteries I was promised at the beginning of the game are resolved, but with very little enthusiasm and in very dull language. The final battle feels less like a heroic journey, and more like a desperate struggle to make things less terrible.

When it comes to the gameplay, this one feels like a bit of a downgrade coming off FF5. There's a diverse cast, but most of them are not especially great in combat... By the end of the game, most people tend to roll the same party of Edgar, Sabin, Gogo and either Celes or Terra. You're generally using the first three to repeatedly spam the same attack for big damage. You hit your ability cap too early, and there's nothing really left to fight for - which makes the dour tone all that much more deflating.

I will say, however, that the music is phenomenal. The composers involved here expanded upon FF5's great work and fully established the style that Uematsu-san would use for the rest of his career. These are sweeping symphonies, styled after classical opera. The majority of the tunes on display here hit the right emotional beats, and very few tracks are irritating.

In summary, I am generally positive on Final Fantasy 6, but I feel like it's sandwiched between two superior games, both in tone and style. FF5 is a simple joyride through a generally fun story with a great villain and heartwarming optimistic protagonists. FF7 dives straight into the darkness with a very threatening and downbeat story, but it never loses the sense of hope that pushes the main characters through an incredible adventure. Final Fantasy 6 is, to me, a game about defeat. There is no light in the darkness. It's a game about building up your joy and expectations, then smashing them like a glass vase. Playing this game brings me no joy - it's an exploration of darkness. If 5, 6 and 7 were a trilogy, 6 is definitely the Empire Strikes Back. It just leaves me feeling so profoundly hopeless that I have difficulty saying I love it. And the boring gameplay by late game only serves to highlight the intense nihilism this game so effortly stirs.

Oh, and on the topic of version differences, just play the GBA or SNES versions. I have personal preference for the cleaner UI, better translation, and remastered music of the GBA version, but the SNES one is just fine. Avoid the PS1 version like the plague, unless you absolutely love long load times and bad 90s CGI. There is no mobile version. It does not exist. Do not search for it. Spare your eyes. Kefka commits no atrocity greater that what Square did to the mobile port of this game.

Three word review:
Nihilism, chaos and hopelessness.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (20.10.18) - 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by ColinAlonso » October 20th, 2018, 12:34 pm

TWR: Epic but aged

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Mr Ixolite
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Re: Our next podcast recording (20.10.18) - 342: Final Fantasy VI

Post by Mr Ixolite » October 20th, 2018, 12:47 pm

Magical_Isopod wrote:
October 19th, 2018, 5:12 am


In summary, I am generally positive on Final Fantasy 6, but I feel like it's sandwiched between two superior games, both in tone and style. FF5 is a simple joyride through a generally fun story with a great villain and heartwarming optimistic protagonists. FF7 dives straight into the darkness with a very threatening and downbeat story, but it never loses the sense of hope that pushes the main characters through an incredible adventure. Final Fantasy 6 is, to me, a game about defeat. There is no light in the darkness. It's a game about building up your joy and expectations, then smashing them like a glass vase. Playing this game brings me no joy - it's an exploration of darkness. If 5, 6 and 7 were a trilogy, 6 is definitely the Empire Strikes Back. It just leaves me feeling so profoundly hopeless that I have difficulty saying I love it. And the boring gameplay by late game only serves to highlight the intense nihilism this game so effortly stirs.
Well put. I will say though, that as dark as VI gets, it never compares to the dread opressiveness of the looming Meteor in FFVII. Part of that I think is because the contrast between the world of balance and ruin isn't big enough, If the Balanced world was more like in FFV, the impact would be devastating.
But I also think my lack of engagement with VI is because I like my FF the best when it feels like a globe-trotting rollercoaster of an adventure. FFV obviously strives for this, but the VII world too - for all its gloom and doom - is a wondrous place that draws you in, and seems worth preserving. I've never goten that feeling from VI. Maybe I'd feel different about VI if it had PSX-style pre-rendered graphics, but as is, it has interesting characters in a world I don't particularly care for.



Three Word Review:

The Gear Shift

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