Over the next several weeks, staffer Martin Benn will accompany me in a discussion about Final Fantasy VI as we progress through a full playthrough. For those looking to join us, we stopped last week’s session right after the conclusion at the Battle of Narshe. Session 1 ended right after the conclusion of the events on the Lete River. This week takes us right up to Terra’s origin flashback, while next week we finally reach the “halfway point” of Final Fantasy VI.
Daniel George (Twitter): Last we left off, the story of Final Fantasy VI really takes a left turn by revealing Terra may be some Esper-like creature. However, what I find most interesting is that three sets of character-defining backstory sections follow it, and are completely missable if you don’t encounter them properly.
Going on the search to bring back Terra, who did you bring with you? Because, if I remember correctly, you may have missed out on one or two of those cutscene scenarios.
Martin Benn (Twitter): My initial group was Leo, the thief, Paul, the wild kid, Cassie, the former empire general. I thought this provided me a good balance. I always like to have a fast character to get a quick attack in before the enemy responds. Then a powerful attack character and a healer/mage to keep everyone alive.
I would have brought more people along, but I was not sure if the game would have an attack happen in Narshe I would need to defend with.
DG: That’s a very interesting point to end with, there. When I played through the game so many times, I was so focused on finding my friend that I figured a full group would be the best bet. But here you are, actively listening to what the game was suggesting, and leaving more people to defend Narshe. That would have been such an excellent idea to go back to, but I’m not that upset the game didn’t explore another Narshe attack.
I went with Locke, Edgar and Sabin this time because I wanted to explore some cutscenes I’ve only heard about recently, never seen during any of my previous playthroughs. I came in with a meta goal, and it’s unfortunate that some of the more crucial backstories come in chance moments like bringing the right people to your trips.
Like, for instance, one of the two backstories I’ve seen from gameplay happens when you’re trying to move Figaro Castle under the ocean: The Coin Toss. It highlights the struggles of two young princes, both reeling from the loss of their dad, who was poisoned by the Empire. It spurs on the cry for freedom in both of them, trying to pry themselves from a life that may lead to their untimely end. Yet, they have a duty to the crown and their kingdom to protect their citizens. As only one of them can truly be free, they settle the case of who gets to go with the toss of a coin.
It’s dark, tragic, but emboldens Edgar and Sabin’s brotherhood while giving the player more understanding into their relationship. How do you feel, seeing this video now, that you missed out on it during your playthrough?
MB: “Here’s to a couple of confused grown ups. Drink!” I think that pretty much sums up most people I have met in situations as that one. Not to go too deep into such things, but the preoccupation of the mind with the unknown expectations, realizations, and pride of a parent can really impact people.
I had a feeling a sequence surrounding the loss of their father would be something in the game. While I appreciate placing it behind a choice from a gaming design perspective, I cannot help but feel I would have liked to have seen that scene.
Further on game design, choosing scenarios and showing them based on who is in the party seems more effective than what many games try to do with the morality scale. I would be more likely to re-play a game if it is a matter of playing as different players to change what I see.
I do not think the idea of having these branching narrative stories which pop up at different times is a bad idea. It is pretty brilliant actually. Scenes such as these seem as if they would very much be welcome in the story though regardless. I do see reasons why they would have left it behind the choice, though.
DG: I guess I’m more concerned when the optional backstory content could have long-term effects on the characterization of our protagonists, which is definitely the case for Locke in Kohlingen. It is here where we see why Locke has been “white knight crusader” to literally every female character in this game. He’s not trying to protect ‘em and bed ‘em, he’s actually still haunted to each very day by the fact that he could not protect the love of his life when she needed him most: Rachel.
Without bringing Locke to this town, you would likely not have figured out that she was involved in an accident when they were out in a cave some years ago. (side note: what is possibly more romantic than rope bridges and stalactites?) Putting her into a coma, she came back to life losing her memory. Rachel’s parents blame Locke, and he leaves only because it brings pain to Rachel to see her parents worried about this unknown man she’s known intimately for some time.
Crazier yet, she came into sudden memorization about Locke just before she passes away. For some reason, Locke can’t move on, and has the local shaman suspend her in the age in which she died. There she remains until Locke can figure out a way to bring her back.
Seeing this unfold, how do you view Locke as a character now?
MB: Locke is a rather interesting character. On one hand, up to this point he has had the least amount of exposition. He just arrives and then he’s Captain Save Your Girl. So this was a welcome back story. Am I empathetic to his situation? Yes. To lose a loved one is difficult, but the response to it is always where you must learn and grow.
This characterizes Locke as someone who is stuck in a state of mind which will only lead to his ruin. As he mentally focuses so much on the resurrection and reclaiming his lost love he will not be able to move on. This makes Locke a sympathetic character for me, but ultimately also makes him a frustrating character for me as well.
It is really more of a personal thing as to why so I will not delve into it. But this does make me think more highly of the character now.
P.S. Freezing your dead girlfriend at a certain age is really weird though, man. He couldn’t ask the shaman to let her age? She’s going to wake up and he’s going to have seen the entire world without her. Not to mention he will have that weird old guy “have you ever done this” moments all the time. Ha.
DG: There’s also one last thing hidden in Kohlingen; Shadow. Personally, I don’t visit inns anymore, but finding him slinked up at the “Cafe” was odd to see. You can hire him to join you, again willing to dash in a moment’s notice. I guess it doesn’t make sense for him to join you if you didn’t bring Gau, Sabin or Cyan, but whatever! I guess he remembers someone from the Cafe in South Figaro.
Either way, something I got to experience for the first time was the flashbacks. Perhaps the most perplexing of all is that sleeping at an inn with Shadow in your party will random spawn seriously bone-chilling flashbacks, detailing an unknown hoodwink named Baram asking for “Clyde” to return and find him. It becomes clear that Baram and Clyde were involved in a million GP train heist of some sort, changing THEY’RE name to Shadow. The third scene has Baram on his last breaths near the Veldt, asking Clyde to finish him off before being thrown into jail. Shadow can’t do it, leaving him to perish.
It’s the final scene that’s most intriguing, with Shadow stumbling into the center of a town called “Thama,” where he is assisted by a dog and an unknown woman. This story is not finished, but brings some depth to what was otherwise an unknown, solitary renegade of a man. Because of just how mysterious the game is with Shadow as a character up to this point, what feelings are you left with?
MB: Shadowy figure has a shadowy past. Now, I do not mean such phrasing as a bad thing. It is the generic staple of what the story is. However, I am left with the consideration maybe, just maybe, jusssst maybe this Baram figure makes another appearance. For that, I cannot wait to see. If I do, in fact, see it.
DG: Trust me, the way I’ll be nudging you in the direction of his story throughout the rest of the game will make sure that you’ll enjoy something MUCH more rewarding!
Next: The Play That Defined A Series