"Long ago, the War of the Magi reduced the world to a scorched wasteland, and magic simply ceased to exist. 1000 years have passed....Iron, gunpowder, and steam engines have been rediscovered, and high technology reigns.
"But there are some who would enslave the world by reviving the dread destructive force known as 'magic'.
"Could it be that those in power are on the verge of repeating a senseless and deadly mistake?"
A year and a half after Final Fantasy V (which, incidentally, had only been released in English officially as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology on the PlayStation in 1999), the Final Fantasy series returned in what was to be its last outing on Nintendo's SNES. The chaotic scenes upon its release in 1994 were a sign of things to come, and there are many long-term fans for whom Final Fantasy VI remains the favourite of the series.
One of the first 24Mb SNES cartridges, Final Fantasy VI was a huge success in Japan. Square squeezed every last ounce of performance out of the machine, pushing its graphics and sounds to the limit. All the special effects that the SNES could manage were packed in, as was some of the best music ever to grace the machine.
Replete with the most tortuous and involved plot in the series so far, Final Fantasy VI was also the first to introduce the blend of magic and technology to the series, a combination that was used again to great effect in Final Fantasy VII, and as a central aspect to Final Fantasy VIII. The game takes place in a world that was almost destroyed a thousand years previously, when evil powers created magical beings called Espers and pitted them against each other. Now, though a new civilisation had arisen, one based on technology and science, where magic was just an evil legend. As the Empire heard rumours of an Esper encased in ice, and sent soldiers to investigate. When the soldiers found the Esper, a strange glow surrounded them, killing all but a woman called Terra. Upon awakening, she discovered that the Empire had been controlling her thoughts, and that magic was once again being reported.
This was just the beginning of a story of epic proportions, which encompassed around 40-50 hours of gameplay. Final Fantasy VI dropped the innovative class-changing systems for a simplified version similar to that in use in Final Fantasy VII, and instead concentrated on the narrative atmosphere and multiple plot threads. Some hardcore players accused Square of making the title too easy, but even then they had to agree it was a stunning achievement.
Final Fantasy VI was released in North America to a greater success than was expected. For the second time, though, it was decided to stick to the different numbering system, and so the North American version was called Final Fantasy III.
Re-released on the PlayStation as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology package (only in North America; the U.K. and Europe are very unlikely to see Anthology, seeing as the originals were never released), the game has seen a lot more attention as of late, achieving moderate sales when it was released in October 1999.
Article by Andy Butcher for the Official U.K. PlayStation Magazine.