Sunday, 13 April 2014

My 2nd Favourite Video Game of All Time

Final Fantasy VI (a.k.a. FFIII[US]) (SNES – 1994)

(Warning: This blog post contains some plot spoilers.)

When I drew up my list of my all time favourite video games, getting the top end of the list right was a little tricky. But, ultimately, the silver medal goes to Final Fantasy VI, which is a turn based RPG. When drawing up this list I had decided to only include one game from any series, and a Final Fantasy game was pretty much guaranteed to appear in the list. And with 14 games now released in the main series, you might have thought that picking just one of these would have been hard. But, for me, it was no contest. It had to be Final Fantasy VI.

When picking their favourite Final Fantasy game, many people will choose Final Fantasy VII, which was the first game in the series to appear on a PlayStation console. But, whilst I think that Final Fantasy VII is a good game, I will always consider Final Fantasy VI to be a better game.

I first played the game back when I was 16. It wasn’t officially released in Europe at the time, and so I had to buy an expensive American copy, and then exchange my English SNES for an American one, as (for complicated technical reasons which can’t be overcome with an adaptor) the game wouldn’t run properly on English machines.

The game was released on the SNES in America as Final Fantasy III, as it was only the third Final Fantasy game to have been released there. But in subsequent releases it has been released under its proper name of Final Fantasy VI.

The game is set in a world where magic was lost after a great war 1,000 years ago. The world has been rebuilt, but an evil empire is trying to regain magic once more. The game opens with the character Terra, who, for reasons unknown at the start of the game, possesses magic.

Travelling throughout the world, more and more characters join in the fight against the Empire. There are a total of 14 playable characters in the game – the most of any game in the main series – and most of them have their own subplots which play out throughout the game. The world is vast and in depth, with many different locations to explore, including Castle Figaro in the desert, a ghost train, mountain caves, and, of course, the Empire itself.

The game will also sometimes go in some quite unusual directions. At one point, for complicated reasons which I won’t go into here, you have to take part in an opera (“I’m a general, not some opera floozy!”), singing the right lines at the right point, and making sure you stand in the right place at the right time.

Eventually, our heroes confront the Empire, up on the Floating Continent, where the three Goddess statues are located. It is these statues which maintain the balance in the world. Then comes the big twist. One of the Empire’s henchmen, Kefka, who has become mad as a result of experiments conducted on him to try and obtain magic, kills the Emperor. He then deliberately moves the Goddess statues out of alignment, resulting in the end of the world...

At this point we’re only halfway through the game. In the second half, which takes place one year later, you have to find as many of our heroes as you can. They are scattered throughout a ruined world, with people living under Kefka’s tyranny and wrath, and without hope. This second half of the game is largely open, and you can choose which order you visit the various locations in, before you take on Kefka in his tower, where he is intent on destroying everything as a result of his rage...

Music plays a big part in the Final Fantasy games, where most of it is composed by Nobuo Uematsu, considered one of the greatest composers of video game music. Here’s the music from the opera scene again (“Aria de Mezzo Carattere”), but this time recorded with real instruments and a real singer, with Italian lyrics:

As ever, there are fan videos based around the music of this game which can be found on YouTube. Here’s Smooth McGroove with his acapella arrangement of the decisive battle theme:

And here’s Lara de Wit with her version of the Prelude theme, which features in most Final Fantasy games:

Here’s Lara again, this time accompanied by Zorsy, with their version of Terra’s theme, which is a key theme in the game:

(There’s an interesting story about Terra’s name. I’m not sure how true it is, but I’ll repeat it here anyway. In the original Japanese version of the game Terra was called Tina. In Japan “Tina” is seen as an unusual and exotic name, but not so in the West. It’s believed that the translator for the SNES version in America, Ted Woolsey, wanted to rename her with a name which would be seen as exotic. Looking out of his window, he saw the offices of a company called “Terra Communications”. And thus Tina became Terra...)

Finally, there have been various other treatments of the music. I have a couple of official CDs, entitled “Pray” and “Love Will Grow”, which take pieces of music from various Final Fantasy games, and turn them into songs with lyrics in various languages. Here’s Não Chora Menina, which is based on a piece of music from Final Fantasy VI:

Overall, Final Fantasy VI is a truly great game, with an in depth story line, detailed characters, and a battle system which works perfectly. If you only ever play one Final Fantasy game, make it this one. In my opinion, Final Fantasy VI is the greatest Final Fantasy game there ever has been, and, sadly, is the greatest Final Fantasy game there is ever likely to be...

So, there you have it. We’ve now had nine of my top ten video games of all time featured on this blog. Join me again next week when I unveil my favourite video game of all time. The game which I love more then all of the other games which I’ve played in nearly a quarter of a century. A game which marked a key point in the life of my young video game playing self. It’s a game that not many people have heard of, but those who have will remember it fondly. It will be a game which has truly earned the gold medal position on my list of my favourite video games of all time...

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