Final Fantasy VI is the sixth installment in the Final Fantasy series, first released in 1994 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was directed by Yoshinori Kitase and Hiroyuki Itō, who took over from series creator and producer Hironobu Sakaguchi, director of the five previous installments of the franchise. Long-time series contributor Nobuo Uematsu composed the musical score, while Yoshitaka Amano contributed to the image design.
Final Fantasy VI was the third installment in the Final Fantasy series to be released in North America (after the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy IV). As a result, it was first released in North America as Final Fantasy III to maintain naming continuity; however, when the next game, Final Fantasy VII, was released, it retained the number VII for its western localizations. Due to various content guidelines imposed by Nintendo of America at the time, several other changes were made to the original North American version, including restrictions against nudity and profanity.
The game’s story focuses on a conflict between the Empire, a dictatorship slowly conquering the world, and the Returners, a rebel faction opposed to them. The Empire has acquired its great army through experiments with Espers, magical demi-gods that were thought to be myths. The Returners begin to seek magical power to fight the Empire on equal terms, and an amnesiac former imperial soldier, Terra Branford, eventually proves key to both sides for understanding magic and Espers.
Final Fantasy VI features fourteen playable characters, the largest cast of any game in the Final Fantasy series to date, excluding spin-off titles. The game is set in a fantasy steampunk-styled world, at a technological level roughly corresponding to Earth during the Second Industrial Revolution. It is also the last title in the series to be released for the Super Nintendo console and the last title to be renamed.
Final Fantasy VI was ported to the PlayStation and released in Japan in 1999, both individually and as part of the Final Fantasy Collection. In North America, this port is available as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology. In 2002, the PlayStation port was released individually in Europe and Australia. A new port of the game was released on the Game Boy Advance as Final Fantasy VI Advance on November 30th, 2006 in Japan and February 5th in North America.The gameplay of Final Fantasy VI is similar in some ways to that of Final Fantasy V. Players can equip Espers that teach spells and give stat boosts, similar to the Jobs of the Job System. What abilities cannot be taught by Espers can usually be learned by equipping Relics, which give abilities like Jump and Two Hands to the equipped party member. The characters can also each equip a weapon, a shield, a helmet and a piece of clothing, each equipment piece often with its own unique properties such as stat boosts or elemental immunities. Unlike previous entries like Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy IV where party members come and go as the story dictates, Final Fantasy VI introduces the ability to change the party at almost any given time. Fairly early into the game, in a feature that would be repeated in later installments, players are allowed to form their own party from whatever allies the resistance has gathered. Each of these allies has a specific talent; for example, Locke is a Thief, Cyan is a Samurai, etc. At times, such as the infiltration of the Southern Continent, the storyline demands specific party members be taken along, but for the most part the player can use whichever party they like. This means that a total of fourteen playable characters – the largest playable cast in the main series – were created for the game, each of them representing a different aspect of the Job System and possessing their own fighting style. Because of the vast number of characters, several dungeons in the game require the player to form multiple parties, using two or three groups to open paths for each other and work together to progress.
Though some characters have special abilities similar to magic, the only characters to learn normal magic naturally are Celes and Terra, who even then have a very limited spell pool. The characters as a whole can only learn magic by equipping Magicite, or a few select weapons and armor. Magicite is the crystalized remains of a dead Esper, mystical creatures with intense magical power. Each character can equip a single piece of Magicite at a time, and each Magicite shard can only be used by a single character at any given time. Once equipped, Magicite teaches magic by way of Ability Points. Each Esper teaches a spell by a certain percentage rate, and winning Ability Points increases the equipped character’s aptitude with that spell by the specified amount – once enough Ability Points have been won to put the percentage rate at 100%, the spell is learned and can be cast. Some Espers like Lakshmi teach several basic spells quickly, while others like Valigarmanda teach a small handful of powerful spells slowly. This system means that with patience, any character can learn any spell (with the exception of Umaro and Gogo).
In addition to teaching normal magic, the Espers also give access to Summon Magic. A character can summon their equipped Esper into battle one time, even if they know no magic themselves. At times these summons are merely more powerful versions of the spells they teach, like Ramuh, at other times they are entirely different, such as Quetzalli. Some Espers also give permanent stat boosts when the equipped character levels up. For example, Gilgamesh gives +2 Strength, Fenrir gives an additional 30% boost to maximum MP, and so forth. This means that characters could have their stats changed at will to suit whatever task the player wished them to – even physical fighters like Edgar could be powerful mages with enough leveling to increase their magic power. This system overall gives Summoned Monsters a much larger role in the strength of the party than previous installments, something that later installments like Final Fantasy VIII would expand on
Yoshitaka Amano, also a long-time contributor to the Final Fantasy series, returned as the image designer. Amano provided concept sketches to the programmers, who converted them into the sprites that feature in the game. Some liberties were taken during the conversion, such as the changing of Terra’s hair from blond to green. The PlayStation release includes full-motion video produced specifically for the re-release: the character designs in these video sequences are based on Amano’s designs, rather than the sprites in the game.
Though not the first game to utilize the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 graphics, Final Fantasy VI made much more extensive use of them than either of its two predecessors. Unlike both Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V, for example, the world map is rendered in Mode 7, which lends a somewhat three-dimensional perspective to an otherwise two-dimensional game.
Early screenshots of the original Japanese version of the game reveal some minor, different plans made during development. At the start of the game, instead of Valigarmanda being the frozen Esper, Maduin appeared encased in the ice. Though Final Fantasy VI is the first appearance of Biggs and Wedge (ビックス and ウェッジ), they were originally going to be called Les and Bafra