Friday, May 27, 2011

Final Fantasy VI

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Final Fantasy VI
Developer - Square
Publisher - Square
Release date - September 30, 1999


Final Fantasy VI also known as Final Fantasy III for its initial North American release) is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Released in 1994, it is the sixth title in the mainline Final Fantasy series. Set in a fantasy world with a technology level equivalent to that of the Second Industrial Revolution, the game's story focuses on a group of rebels as they seek to overthrow an imperial dictatorship. The game features fourteen permanent playable characters, the most of any game in the main series.

It was ported by Tose with minor differences to Sony's PlayStation in 1999 and Nintendo's Game Boy Advance in 2006, and it was released for the Wii's Virtual Console in 2011. The game was known as Final Fantasy III when it was first released in North America, as the original Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, and Final Fantasy V had not been released outside Japan at the time (leaving IV as the second title released outside Japan and VI as the third). However, most later localizations used the original title. Final Fantasy VI was the first game in the series to be directed by someone other than producer and series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi; the role was filled instead by Yoshinori Kitase and Hiroyuki Ito. Yoshitaka Amano, a long-time contributor to the Final Fantasy series, returned as the image and character designer, while regular composer Nobuo Uematsu wrote the game's score, which has been released on several soundtrack albums.

Final Fantasy VI was released to critical acclaim and is seen as a landmark title for the role-playing genre; for instance, it was ranked as the number one RPG of all time by IGN. Its Super NES and PlayStation versions have sold over 3.48 million copies worldwide to date as a stand-alone game, as well as over 750,000 copies as part of the Japanese Final Fantasy Collection and the North American Final Fantasy Anthology. Final Fantasy VI has won numerous awards.


Story


Final Fantasy VI takes place on a large, unnamed world. During the course of the game, its geography and landscape change due to various developments in the game's plot. During the first half of the game, the world is divided into three major continents and referred to as the World of Balance. The northern continent is punctuated by a series of mountain ranges and contains many of the locations accessible to the player. Most of the southern continent has been taken over by the Empire, while the eastern continent is home to a large patch of land called the Veldt where monsters from all over the world can be found. Halfway through the game, the world's geographical layout is altered, resulting in its three large continents splitting into several islands of various size situated around a larger continent at their center. This altered layout of the game's locations is referred to as the World of Ruin.

In contrast to the medieval settings featured in previous Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy VI is set in a steampunk environment. The structure of society parallels that of the latter half of the 19th century, with opera and the fine arts serving as recurring motifs throughout the game, and a level of technology comparable to that of the Second Industrial Revolution. Railroads and steamships are in use, and a coal mining operation is run in the northern town of Narshe. Additionally, several examples of modern engineering and weaponry (such as a chainsaw and drill) have been developed in the Kingdom of Figaro. However, communication systems have not reached significant levels of development, with letters sent by way of carrier pigeon serving as the most common means of long-distance communication.

A thousand years before the events of the game, three entities known as the Warring Triad initiated a conflict that would come to be called the War of the Magi. This quarrel grew to catastrophic proportions, unleashing magical energy into the world which transformed afflicted humans into espers—magical beings who themselves were used as soldiers in the war. Eventually realizing the horrific calamity wrought by their hands, the Triad returned free will to the espers and sealed their own powers, becoming stone statues. Their only request was that the espers ensure their power remain locked away so it might never be used again. The espers carried their stone gods to a hidden land, sealing both the statues and themselves off from the realm of humans. The concept of magic gradually faded to legend and myth as mankind built a society extolling science and technology. At the game's opening, the most advanced nation is the Empire, a cruel and expanding dictatorship led by Emperor Gestahl and his clownish general Kefka Palazzo. Approximately eighteen years before the events of the game begin, the barrier between the espers' land and the rest of the world weakened. Soon after, Gestahl takes advantage of this and attacks the espers' land, capturing several of them.

Using the espers as a power source, Gestahl initiated a research program to combine magic with machinery and infuse humans with magical powers, the result being a craft known as "Magitek". Kefka became the first experimental prototype of a line of magically empowered soldiers called Magitek Knights, drastically impairing his sanity. Magitek innovations have allowed the Empire to supplement its forces with mechanical infantry, armed with Magitek-powered weaponry. At the opening of the game, the Empire is on the verge of rediscovering the full potential of magic by reopening the gateway to the world of the espers. However, Gestahl's military dominion is opposed by the Returners, a rebel organization seeking to overthrow the Empire and free its territories.


Final Fantasy VI features fourteen permanent playable characters, the most of any game in the main series, as well as several secondary characters who are only briefly controlled by the player. The starting character, Terra Branford, is a reserved half-human, half-esper girl who spent most of her life as a slave to the Empire, thanks to a mind-controlling device, and is unfamiliar with love. Other primary characters include Locke Cole, a treasure hunter and rebel sympathizer with a powerful impulse to protect women; Celes Chere, a former general of the Empire, who joined the Returners after being jailed for questioning imperial practices; Edgar Figaro, a consummate womanizer and the king of Figaro, who claims allegiance to the Empire while secretly supplying aid to the Returners; Sabin Rene Figaro, Edgar's brother, who fled the royal court in order to pursue his own path and hone his martial arts skills; Cyan Garamonde, a loyal knight to the kingdom of Doma who lost his family and friends as a result of Kefka poisoning the kingdom's water supply; Setzer Gabbiani, a habitual gambler and thrill seeker and owner of the world's only airship; Shadow, a ninja mercenary, who offers his services to both the Empire and the Returners at various stages throughout the game; Relm Arrowny, a young but tough artistic girl with magical powers; Strago Magus, Relm's elderly grandfather and a Blue Mage; Gau, a feral child surviving since infancy in the harsh wilderness known as the Veldt; Mog, a Moogle from the mines of Narshe; Umaro, a savage but loyal sasquatch also from Narshe, talked into joining the Returners through Mog's persuasion; and Gogo, a mysterious, fully shrouded master of the art of mimicry.

Most of the main characters in the game hold a significant grudge against the Empire and, in particular, Kefka Palazzo, who serves as one of the game's main antagonists along with Emperor Gestahl. The supporting character Ultros serves as a recurring villain and comic relief throughout the game. A handful of Final Fantasy VI characters have reappeared in later games, such as Secret of Evermore. Additionally, Final Fantasy SGI, a short tech demo produced for the Silicon Graphics Onyx workstation, featured polygon-based 3D renderings of Locke, Terra, and Shadow.


Gameplay


Like previous Final Fantasy installments, Final Fantasy VI consists of four basic modes of gameplay: an overworld map, town and dungeon field maps, a battle screen, and a menu screen. The overworld map is a scaled-down version of the game's fictional world, which the player uses to direct characters to various locations. As with most games in the series, the three primary means of travel across the overworld are by foot, chocobo, and airship. With a few plot-driven exceptions, enemies are randomly encountered on field maps and on the overworld when traveling by foot. The menu screen is where the player makes such decisions as which characters will be in the traveling party, which equipment they wield, the magic they learn, and the configuration of the gameplay. It is also used to track experience points and levels.

The game's plot develops as the player progresses through towns and dungeons. Town citizens will offer helpful information and some residents own item or equipment shops. Later in the game, visiting certain towns will activate side-quests. Dungeons appear as a variety of areas, including caves, sewers, forests, and buildings. These dungeons often have treasure chests containing rare items that are not available in most stores. Some dungeons feature puzzles and mazes, which require the player to divide the characters into multiple parties.


Combat in Final Fantasy VI is menu-based, in which the player selects an action from a list of such options as Fight, Magic, and Item. A maximum of four characters may be used in battles, which are based on the series' traditional Active Time Battle (ATB) system first featured in Final Fantasy IV. Under this system, each character has an action bar that replenishes itself at a rate dependent on their speed statistic. When a character's action bar is filled, the player may assign an action. In addition to standard battle techniques, each character possesses a unique special ability. For example, Locke possesses the ability to steal items from enemies, while Celes' Runic ability allows her to absorb most magical attacks cast until her next turn.

Another element is a powerful attack substitution that occasionally appears when a character's health is low. Similar features appear in later Final Fantasy titles under a variety of different names, including Limit Breaks, Desperation Moves, Trances, and Overdrives. Characters are rewarded for victorious battles with experience points and money, called gil (Gold Piece (GP) in the original North American localization). When characters attain a certain amount of experience points, they gain a level, which increases their statistics. An additional player may play during battle scenarios, with control of individual characters assigned from the configuration menu.


Characters in Final Fantasy VI can be equipped with a wide variety of weapons, armor and accessories (known as "Relics") to increase their statistics and obtain special abilities. Most of this equipment can be used by several different characters, and each character may equip up to two Relics. Relics have a variety of uses and effects, some of which alter basic battle commands, allow characters to use multiple weapons, provide permanent status changes during battle or use protective magical spells in response to being near death.

Although only two characters start the game with the ability to use magic, almost every character can learn to do so. Characters may equip magicite, which enables the summoning of espers, this game's incarnation of summoned monsters (including several recurring summons such as Ifrit, Shiva, Bahamut and Odin, along with many new summons exclusive to Final Fantasy VI), as well as that of specific magic spells. If a character has a piece of magicite equipped, he or she will gain "Magic Acquisition Points" after most battles. As a character gains magic AP, he or she gradually learns spells from the magicite equipped and will gain additional statistic bonuses when leveling up, depending on the magicite.


Development


Final Fantasy VI entered development after the release of its predecessor Final Fantasy V in December 1992. The development of the game took just one year to be completed. Series creator and director Hironobu Sakaguchi could not be as intimately involved as in previous installments due to his other projects and his promotion to Executive Vice President of the company in 1991. For that reason, he became the producer and split director responsibilities for Final Fantasy VI up between Yoshinori Kitase and Hiroyuki Ito: Kitase was in charge of event production and the scenario, while Ito handled all battle aspects. Sakaguchi supervised Kitase's cutscene direction and ensured that the project would coalesce as a whole. The idea behind the story of Final Fantasy VI was that every character is the protagonist. All members of the development team contributed ideas for characters and their "episodes" for the overall plot in what Kitase described as a "hybrid process". Consequently, Terra and Locke were conceived by Sakaguchi; Celes and Gau by Kitase; Shadow and Setzer by graphic director Tetsuya Nomura; and Edgar and Sabin by field graphic designer Kaori Tanaka. Then it was Kitase's task to unite the story premise provided by Sakaguchi with all the individual ideas for character episodes to create a cohesive narrative. The scenario of Final Fantasy VI was written by a group of four or five people, among them Kitase who provided key elements of the story, such as the opera scene and Celes' suicide attempt, as well as all of Kefka's appearances.


Regular series character designer Yoshitaka Amano's concept art became the basis for the models in the full motion videos produced for the game's PlayStation re-release. Tetsuya Takahashi, one of the graphic directors, drew the imperial Magitek Armors seen in the opening scene. By doing so, he disregarded Sakaguchi's intention to reuse the regular designs from elsewhere in the game. The sprite art for the characters' in-game appearance was drawn by Kazuko Shibuya. While in the earlier installments, the sprites were less detailed on the map than in battle, Final Fantasy VI's had an equally high resolution regardless of the screen. This enabled the use of animations depicting a variety of movements and facial expressions. Though it was not the first game to utilize the Super NES' Mode 7 graphics, Final Fantasy VI made more extensive use of them than its predecessors. For instance, unlike both Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V, the world map is rendered in Mode 7, which lends a somewhat three-dimensional perspective to an otherwise two-dimensional game.


The original North American localization and release of Final Fantasy VI by Square for the Super NES featured several changes from the original Japanese version. The most obvious of these is the change of the game's title from Final Fantasy VI to Final Fantasy III; because only two games of the series had been localized in North America at the time, Final Fantasy VI was distributed as Final Fantasy III to maintain naming continuity. Unlike Final Fantasy IV (which was first released in North America as Final Fantasy II), there are no major changes to gameplay, though several changes of contents and editorial adjustments exist in the English script. In a January 1995 interview with Super Play magazine, translator Ted Woolsey explained that "there's a certain level of playfulness and ... sexuality in Japanese games that just doesn't exist here [in the USA], basically because of Nintendo of America's rules and guidelines". Consequently, objectionable graphics (e.g. nudity) were censored and building signs in towns were changed (such as Bar being changed to Café), as well as religious allusions (e.g. the spell Holy was renamed Pearl).

Also, some direct allusions to death, killing actions, and violent expressions, as well as offensive words have been replaced by softer expressions. For example, after Edgar, Locke and Terra flee on chocobos from Figaro Castle, Kefka orders two Magitek Armored soldiers to chase them by shouting "Go! KILL THEM!", in the Japanese version. It was translated as "Go! Get them!" Also, when Imperial Troopers burn Figaro Castle, and Edgar claims Terra is not hidden inside the castle, Kefka replies "then you can burn to death" in the Japanese version, which was replaced in the English version by "Then welcome to my barbecue!". Similarly, as Magitek soldiers watch Edgar and his guests escape on Chocobos, one swears in Japanese, "Son of a bitch!", which was translated by Ted Woolsey as "Son of a submariner!". The localization also featured changes to several names, such as "Tina" being changed to "Terra". Finally, dialogue text files had to be shortened due to the limited data storage space available on the game cartridge's read-only memory. As a result, additional changes were rendered to dialogue in order to compress it into the available space.

The PlayStation re-release featured only minor changes to the English localization. The title of the game was reverted to Final Fantasy VI from Final Fantasy III, to unify the numbering scheme of the series in North America and Japan with the earlier release of Final Fantasy VII. A few item and character names were adjusted, as in the expansion of "Fenix Down" to "Phoenix Down". Unlike the PlayStation re-release of Final Fantasy IV included in the later Final Fantasy Chronicles compilation, the script was left essentially unchanged. The Game Boy Advance re-release featured a new translation by a different translator, Tom Slattery. This translation preserved most of the character names, location names, and terminology from the Woolsey translation, but changed item and spell names to match the conventions used in more recent titles in the series. The revised script preserved certain quirky lines from the original while changing or editing others, and it cleared up certain points of confusion in the original translation. The Wii Virtual Console release used the Final Fantasy III name of the SNES game.


Music


The soundtrack for Final Fantasy VI was composed by long-time series contributor Nobuo Uematsu. The score consists of themes for each major character and location, as well as music for standard battles, fights with boss enemies and for special cutscenes. The extensive use of leitmotif is one of the defining points of the audio tracks. The "Aria di Mezzo Carattere" is one of the latter tracks, played during a cutscene involving an opera performance. This track features an unintelligible synthesized "voice" that harmonizes with the melody, as technical limitations for the SPC700 sound format chip prevented the use of an actual vocal track (although some developers eventually figured out how to overcome the limitation a few years later). The orchestral album Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale features an arranged version of the aria, using Italian lyrics performed by Svetla Krasteva with an orchestral accompaniment. This version is also found in the ending full motion video of the game's Sony PlayStation re-release, with the same lyrics but a different musical arrangement. In addition, the album Orchestral Game Concert 4 includes an extended version of the opera arranged and conducted by Kōsuke Onozaki and performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, featuring Wakako Aokimi, Tetsuya Ōno, and Hiroshi Kuroda on vocals. It was also performed at the "More Friends" concert at the Gibson Amphitheatre in 2005 using a new English translation of the lyrics, an album of which is now available. "Dancing Mad", accompanying the game's final battle with Kefka, is 17 minutes long and contains an organ cadenza, with variations on Kefka's theme. The "Ending Theme" combines every playable character theme into one composition lasting over 21 minutes.

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