It’s fair to say the reaction to most Final Fantasy titles since the turn of the century has been mixed. In my humble opinion, the golden age of Final Fantasy started around Final Fantasy 4 and ended at Final Fantasy 10. During this period every title was a massive critical success and cemented Final Fantasy’s place as one of the most popular and successful RPG series ever made.
In the last fifteen years, the mothership titles of XII, XIII and XV have been… fine, but haven’t captured the majesty of old school Final Fantasy. In my view, Final Fantasy 7 Remake was mostly a return to form, and with so many RPG remakes and remasters being made every year, maybe Square Enix’s best option is to again look to the past for inspiration. There have been suggestions that Final Fantasy V might be the next title to get a makeover, but with SPOILERS ahead, here are the reasons I would much prefer a Final Fantasy 6 Remake.
The graphics and set pieces potential
I’ll start with the obvious. Final Fantasy 6 is the last 16-bit title of the series. First released on the SNES in 1994, it uses 2D sprites and the traditional top-down view that featured in most RPGs of the time. There is an undeniable, everlasting charm to the character models and low-key settings, but so much more immersion can be achieved with the jaw-dropping visuals at the disposal of today’s developers.
As we’ve seen in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, the graphical capabilities open up huge possibilities to develop the characters through their facial expressions, voice acting and lifelike body language. It is also fascinating to imagine how some of Final Fantasy 6’s iconic moments could be redone with the newest engines, creating special set pieces that blow the original out of the water.
Celes’ opera performance still stands out as one of the most memorable moments of the series, and the spectacle could surely be made into something truly incredible. The battle against the Phantom Train is bizarrely brilliant, and I’m intrigued to see if they still allow Sabin to try and perform a suplex on it. The same challenge applies to Cyan and Gau battling hordes of monsters as they plunge down a waterfall, or the showdown against “Octopus Royalty” Ultros aboard a raft. And of the course, the climactic conclusion of the World of Balance offers a chance to showcase the full power of whatever console is around when Final Fantasy 6 Remake comes along.
The story themes
Unlike some remake plots, time has done nothing to undermine the messages and themes within Final Fantasy 6’s superb story and character arcs. Despite critical acclaim, Final Fantasy 6 actually recorded poor sales upon release, and it’s theorised that the darker tone was a huge factor. 26 years on, it’s still a novelty to see how a relatively typical RPG story of rebellion against an oppressive empire was turned so suddenly on its head with a crushing defeat that changed the world forever.
We’re left with the huge challenge being posed to humanity to find a glimmer of hope in the face of dire, lonely desolation, where an evil omnipotent overlord can reign even more terror on a whim. One of the main characters even attempts suicide before finding the resolve to keep going, and as we travel the world and see how the merry band of the first half have each been shaken, we see how they individually re-find their hope and purpose in their own way, in their own time. Far from tired, out of date clichés that struggle to stand up today (sorry Trials of Mana), Final Fantasy 6‘s tale is grounded with real world parallels that would be so worthwhile to explore again.
A Japanese word commonly quoted from Final Fantasy 6’s story writer Hironobu Sakaguchi is “Sabishii”, meaning “lonely”. What could be more relevant after what the world has experienced in 2020? But I fear the lukewarm response towards the original in Japan may ultimately be what dooms the idea of Final Fantasy 6 Remake before it gets started.
The potential of the battle system
A typical battle in Final Fantasy 6 uses the ATB system seen in many earlier Final Fantasy games. The most recent entry was FF7R’s amalgamation of the ATB turn-based system with more modern action elements to quickly charge up ATB bars and then slow time to utilise magic and skills. For me, this was a huge success and the battle system worked brilliantly with the different characters each having their own unique abilities as well as completely distinct animations and play styles.
I bring this up because Final Fantasy 6 was a forerunner of this, giving each fighter bespoke skills like Locke’s Steal, Sabin’s Blitz, Cyan’s Bushido and Edgar’s Tools. This means the characters are tailor-made to slot seamlessly into a similar system that gives a wonderful variety to the combat. The downside for Square Enix’s development team is that final Fantasy 6 has one of the biggest casts of playable characters, but for all the great characters there are a handful of forgettable ones that rather make up the numbers. It would hardly be a tragedy if they cut out the likes of Umaro and Gogo altogether. And while we’re cutting things out, let’s forget the town of Zozo ever existed.
Kefka remains one of the most famous video game villains of all time, and goes to show a great antagonist doesn’t always need a sympathetic motive to be compelling. Kefka’s infamous laugh, his mischievous, zany dialogue and flamboyant appearance more than make up for any lack of relatability we have with him. If anything, the notion of a madman wishing for destruction has become something refreshingly simple, and perhaps just as necessary as ever.
Like all of the popular cast members of Final Fantasy 6, Kefka will be difficult to recreate in a way that does him justice, but Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s greatest strength was in its flawless characterisation of beloved heroes and villains alike, giving me confidence Kefka can stand tall again as one of gaming’s most menacing baddies.
A chance to remaster a brilliant soundtrack
In my book, anything composed by Nobuo Uematsu is worth listening to. Final Fantasy 6’s OST is no exception, with some excellent character themes such as Locke, Celes, Cyan and Awakening – derived from Terra’s theme, the world map music.
Not forgetting the brilliant Decisive Battle and of course, Dancing Mad, the 17-minute epic final boss music Uematsu himself deems one of his favourites. It’s exciting to think of remastered versions of these glorious tracks, and I can’t wait to see what they do with Aria de Mezzo Caraterre. Searching For Friends, the airship theme in the World of Ruin, is another wonderfully appropriate track. It hands us hints of courage and hope, nothing more – fitting for a world where tragedy and despair still overwhelm.
The female leads
Final Fantasy 6 doesn’t have a lead character in the traditional sense, and is still one of the best gaming examples of an ensemble cast. The majority of the playable cast is male but if anyone holds the mantle, then the main protagonists are surely Terra in the World of Balance and Celes in the World of Ruin. Terra seeks to discover the secrets of her esper lineage after her powers are manipulated for evil at the start of the game by the Gestahlian Empire. Her journey also includes a pursuit for the human connection and emotions that are so alien to her.
In the second half, Celes takes centre stage as she hunts for Locke, the man she loves, and attempts to reunite the heroes for a final assault of Kefka‘s Tower. Both characters are tremendous, and it’s telling that these 16-bit sprites from the mid-90s are more relatable and inspirational than the flawless Mary Sue types currently being passed as ‘strong female characters’ such as Rey from Star Wars or Captain Marvel.
For my gil, the insistence to force female empowerment politics into media has ironically compromised the quality of female characters. The stereotype of headstrong, confident, empowered women who are better than men in every way simply because they are women is tired, on-the-nose nonsense. Celes and Terra have realistic vulnerabilities and motivations that put them head and shoulders above many current characters. Hopefully identity politics won’t find their way into a Final Fantasy 6 remake, and the superb portrayal of Tifa in Final Fantasy 7 Remake gives me hope they would do the characters justice rather than pandering to the vocal minority.
It naturally works as two parts
Final Fantasy 6 did something truly revolutionary at the halfway point. The bad guy won, leaving the world in disarray and the heroes disbanded. In many ways it mirrors the way things are left at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, with a cliffhanger that helped produce the highest grossing movie of all time when Endgame was released a year later. Come to think of it, the Returners and the Avengers don’t sound too dissimilar.
Final Fantasy 6 isn’t a ridiculously long game, but if Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s model is anything to go by it’ll be difficult to conclude the tale in one instalment. Thankfully for Square Enix, the game already makes the decision for them. Ending the first part as the World of Balance falls is the natural point to break in the story, leaving us reeling and begging for more.
The World of Ruin was really as long or as short as you wanted it to be, taking a similar approach to Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Chrono Trigger, where you could actually take on the final boss fairly quickly if you wished. Therefore, the first part of Final Fantasy 6 Remake could follow a more traditional linear RPG path whereas the World of Ruin can grant the player with greater discretion of how they want to play, giving us literally the best of both worlds.
What do you think? Should Square Enix start working on a Final Fantasy 6 Remake?