IGN Review of Final Fantasy VI Advance
I've always had an internal debate regarding which game is my single favorite of all time. Chrono Trigger, Symphony of the Night, Super Mario World and a few others are typically "up there", but at the end of the day, my ultimate pick always boils down to two: Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI. For me, picking between the two is almost impossible -- do I choose the game that forever sold me on the RPG genre or the one that set a standard for which all future role-playing games are judged? It's a tough call, and Square Enix's GBA reissue, appropriately called Final Fantasy VI Advance, reminds me why.
There's no doubt that FF6 (originally released in the US as Final Fantasy III in 1994) is the most polished Super Nintendo game in the franchise. In its day, the game's visuals were among the best on the system and its sheer size and scope dwarfed just about everything else on the market. Hell, even when compared to today's technologically-superior 3D adventures, Final Fantasy VI is still incredibly sophisticated with its deep well of playable characters, highly-customizable battle system and enormous list of sidequests. Of course, it's FF6's storyline that gives players the means to explore its wealth of options to begin with, and what a story it has...
Now, for old vets like me, there's really no plot explanation necessary -- just say "Kefka" in a room full of fans and the memories come flooding back. But for players who missed Final Fantasy VI the first time let's review: The Gestahlian Empire is taking over. Led by a trio of powerful generals, the Nazi-like regime headed by its Imperial namesake, Emperor Gestahl, is gaining power by the day. Having fused the properties of both magic and technology into one powerful combination (known as Magitek), the Empire continues its campaign to take over the world one kingdom at a time. Luckily for the rest of the planet, a rebellious group of insurgents known as "The Returners" have begun to fight back, and things only get more fascinating from there.
To say that the story is epic and emotional would be an understatement. FF6's cast of characters is huge and varied, and though several of them do draw from traditional RPG archetypes, this was the game that helped define those archetypes in the first place. Whether it's the brotherly treasure hunter Locke, the womanizing king Edgar, or the untamed child-primitive Gau, there's a vast pool of personality here and more than a dozen playable alter egos in all. That said, it's the game's maniacal nihilist Kefka that really stands out. The most evil and destructive villain in the entire Final Fantasy franchise, Kefka's brutality and ruthlessness is unmatched and he has to be seen to be believed.
Fortunately, watching the struggle between the Empire and the Returners has been made much clearer by the game's all-new translation. Supervised by the port-masters at Tose Software, Final Fantasy VI's revised script definitely adds a few more tidbits to the dialogue, but the main changes come in other areas. Item, spell, monster, and ability names have been heavily modified, and it makes the game's connection with more recent PlayStation titles (and the original Japanese version) a great deal closer. To be honest, most of Ted Woolsey's initial US changes from 1994 are still present (Tina and Mash remain "Terra" and "Sabin," the majority of Kefka and Ultros' discourse is intact, etc), but let's be honest -- as much flak as fans gave Woolsey for his videogame translations, his FF6 work was probably his best; reusing most of his interpretations isn't exactly devastating.
There are a couple of other fixes and additions worth mentioning as well. Bugs that were present in the older versions, for example, have been completely amended and four new Espers have been tacked on to the already-large lineup of summons (Gilgamesh, Leviathan, Gigantaur, and Diablos). Square Enix has also thrown in a couple of new spells, a special "Dragon's Den" dungeon, a "Soul Shrine" for level grinders in search of experience points, several new items and equipment, and the mainstay bestiary and music player options found in previous GBA Final Fantasy re-releases.
If there's a knock against all this re-working, it's that there is occasional slowdown during more populated or effects-heavy battles and that some of the content has been censored (Celes not getting beaten during her interrogation is the most publicized example, but there are other instances as well). Moreover, audiophiles will probably be perturbed with the GBA's inferior handling of the soundtrack, since all of its mixing is handled by the game and not the system. This means that some of the songs have been adjusted and aren't quite as complex as they used to be, but composer Nobuo Uematsu's general intention is still quite clear. Even at 80% of the quality it used to be, the score is still among the best in any videogame ever
Even with Final Fantasy VI's faults, there are still a million great things to say about it. After all, the game's battle system is ridiculously robust and offers completely different combat techniques for every character involved. Each hero can be customized in multiple ways too, and the quantity of hidden material, cool sidequests, neat boss battles, and other high-value content still stands up today. Just expect to run into enemies a little more often: the random encounter rate has been slightly augmented.
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