Editor’s Note: Over the past several weeks, staffer Martin Benn has accompanied me in a discussion about Final Fantasy VI as we progressed through a full playthrough. We stopped our last session right after Terra’s exploration into how she came into this world.. Session 1 ended right after the conclusion of the events on the Lete River. This week, we finally finish up the first half of Final Fantasy VI, ending in dramatic fashion.
Bonus Character Time #1
Daniel George (Twitter): Last we left off, our party was sent off to Narshe to talk the locals into facing off against the Empire. There’s not much else to do here, unless you go into the house with the previously locked treasure chest. Until now, Final Fantasy VI has been very linear, but with the Blackjack Airship in tow, the game becomes a lot more open. So, too, are the side quests, including the chase of Lone Wolf all the way to the top of the mountain. Which did you choose; the alluring item, or the safety of the Moogle?
Martin Benn (Twitter): Ha, I knew you were going to start with this. This is when I tell you that I had already flown away from Narshe and had not gone back as of yet to make this choice. I was going to go back, but after coming back from Esper land, the ship was downed.
DG: Yes, that’s right, the ship goes out of commission right after the Esper Cave. Let’s back up to the Cave of the Sealed Gate. It is here where, I find, the game starts to ramp up its difficulty. Weapons like the Assassin are given to you to equip, yet zombie enemies are not affected by them. In fact, killing them will result in reanimation, bringing them back to life. Others are healed by fire, others by poison. Plus, ninjas and hidden items on the ground are littered throughout.
How did you handle the jump in difficulty?
MB: This may explain a lot. It took me a minute to realize which ones were which characters. Some characters would swallow any attempts to heal. Or they had life sucking powers that would almost instantaneously kill you. It was lucky I have relatively high-level characters it seems.
I never died while playing against these enemies, but it did take me a minute to decipher which ones were which. I did not run into many zombies I do not think. I think I adjusted pretty well to it after a couple fights though. Enemies seemed to pop up a bit frequently while traveling through this area as well.
DG: They certainly forced combat to be varied, and for that I am grateful.
Meanwhile, Kefka is up to no good once again, tailing the group through the lakes of lava (did he fall down into the magma, too?) all the way to the gate itself. He proved his thirst for Espers is real, yet even he can’t control their wild and varied nature, with them running hog-wild throughout the countryside, even sending the one and only airship hurdling straight into the ground. So much for infinite exploration!
A Dinner With Gestahl
DG: It makes the trek back to the Empire’s capital, Vector, that much more of a nuisance, but it does serve as a means of a new story plot. With the Espers proving to be an unstoppable force and threat to Empire and Returner alike, we’re put into a weird circumstance where the group interacts not with the crazy left-hand man of Kefka, but the leader himself, Gestahl.
When requested for the dinner, what thoughts were running through your mind?
MB: Well, I thought it was a trap. I did not think the game would take the turn that would make the king into a sincere patron of peace.
DG: My first time playing this as a sweet summer child, even then I had some convincing. It wasn’t until the Emperor essentially has you bury the hatchet with soldiers around the base in the span of 4 minutes (and finding out that Kefka really was locked up in prison) that I was starting to let down my defenses. 24 soldiers, including several fights, is a hard task, and it’s not clear until afterward just how important it is to do a good job.
Which leads to the dinner. Now, as this point in time I pointed you towards a means of checking up on each specific point of interest in the World of Balance. How did you fare with the dinner, and how did you view this aspect of Final Fantasy VI compared to what you’ve played so far?
MB: I finished the dinner perfectly. I answered all the questions properly and also defeated the guards really quickly. It was weird though to know different answers would bring about different outcomes. The game really does use more branching narrative moments than any other Final Fantasy game I’ve played before.
DG: What remains a constant is that you will get access back to South Figaro. However, doing well will also let you pick up the items lying around Doma Castle, open up the Imperial Base door to give you a ton of treasure chests inside, in addition to some truly excellent items. Some places do open up, but there’s not much to do with them right now.
There is a scene possible in South Figaro when you talk to Duncan’s Wife with Sabin in your group. In fact, this was actually possible previously, as early as immediately when you get Sabin. Instead of going down the other side of Mt. Koltz, you would have to backtrack all the way to South Figaro to talk to her. Otherwise, once you landed on the overworld map, some imperial guards would chase you away in Magitek armor. I truly love how many hidden branches there are in that aspect of storytelling.
A Thief & A General
DG: Speaking of, the story gets to take a very interesting turn with an Imperial mission with some of the Empire’s greatest leaders; Celes and Leo. Joined by the Returners’ Locke and Terra, we come into this mission with a bit of awkwardness all around. Celes doesn’t have Locke’s trust, Terra questions her capability to love another, Shadow proves he’s a true sword for hire and Locke blows chunks over the side of the ship.
Walk us through your thoughts approaching each circumstance.
MB: It was a little weird. The game does not tiptoe into these storylines as much as you’ll be moving along at a pretty even pace and then bam; now you’re here at emotional turmoil. I really just walked through and spoke to each character’s issues.
Terra, or Domino, is looking for love. She seems to be pressing on this point a bit here. I am not sure why. Maybe I am heartless, but it would seem there are other matters a bit more important going on. Nevertheless, I walked her through her despondent feeling of isolation. It seems they are setting her up to be with someone. I am not sure who as of yet.
The Locke and Celes story is a bit more weird. I do not really know how to explain it. Locke did not trust Celes, and Celes did not appreciate his lack of faith. Even if it was understandable, it makes sense she would leave him alone. The question is it seems like he is justifying why he felt that way. Come on, Locke. That’s not how you play the game!
As for Shadow, I am pretty sure that guy exists just to disappear at exactly the moment I need him. With all my relics and things too. Ha.
DG: As Chief Wiggum said in the Simpsons Spin-off Showcase: I have the feeling we’ll meet again, each and every week. Always in more sexy and exciting ways! For now, he mostly sticks around.
As the boat disembarks, we finally reach the last continent in the World of Balance. There is only one real city in the area, and the most powerful variety of enemies you’ll encounter. Better yet is the fact that with Locke in tow and a patient grind, you can steal and find drops for some of the first half’s best armor. The Gaia Gear even absorbs Earth elemental attacks!
Magic seems to take precedence here, as we approach Thamasa. Before I go any further, dating back before you played the rest of Final Fantasy VI so far, did you recognize this town?
MB: I did recognize this town. I ran across it a bit before we started this portion. I was floating around in the area on the Blackjack and landed there. Here it is they did not even attempt to give me anything because they didn’t know me. Ha.
DG: Turns out they might have been right to turn down strangers! But that’s even too far ahead of what I’m talking about. Remember “Clyde’s” 4th flashback, when he was limping into a town called “Thama,” and a woman with a dog nearby helped him out?
MB: Oh yes, I do remember that. I can tell you I was not remembering it at the time, though. It seems as if this would explain why “Clyde’s” dog was so warmly welcomed.
DG: Yes, you do find that Relm, the granddaughter of elderly Strago, does take quite a taking to Interceptor.
Either way, when playing through this portion again, plus hearing your issues with nothing to do in the town should you get there early, I realize there’s no real prompt as for what to do next. The only indicator is that the inn is now super cheap at 1 GP, instead of thousands or whatever it was before. In fact, I don’t think the town’s citizens guide you towards the inn to progress the story, either. You’re just left to “guess” what happens next.
So, when you do finally go to sleep, Shadow’s sleep gets interrupted once again. This time, however, it’s a fire in the real world that has everyone (but Shadow) distracted. It’s here where we learn that there still are natural-born magic users left in the world, and they weren’t even the offspring of Espers! Strago, Locke and Terra go in head first in order to save the very young Relm.
Strago, in terms of a party member, is quite unlike the others in that he is a Blue Mage. He learns certain monster attacks when he is hit by them, and can repeat them as Lore spells later on. Did you appreciate his skill set once he joins the party?
MB: I did because he made use of a couple “rods” I had picked up. Especially when I pick up the heal rod, he saves me a lot of MP by being able to heal pretty quickly. I did enjoy his abilities initially. It really helps to have someone else who can do broad attacks on characters. It does take some getting used to with his character to learn which moves do what. It is a similar problem I have with Gau, or my Paul, who has such an extensive list of rage abilities I am not always sure which one will do which.
DG: I think there’s a way to get the ice rod early, but if not it’s in the burning building, anyways. It’s not like his rod abilities were the main draw, as Aqua Rake did water damage to groups of fire enemies. Seemed more of a demonstration of what Strago could do than a legitimate challenge, even with a fiery boss that summoned add-on fireballs.
Afterwards, right on cue, Shadow leaves the party once again, with Interceptor almost pried away from Relm’s hands. The party is tipped off to the location of a gathering spot for Espers, and off they go.
Next: It's The End Of The World As We Know It!