FFVIRMC – Chapter 1: How to start a game

This is a part of the Final Fantasy VI Red Mage Challenge run. If you want information on the rules please see here. This post will include spoilers for a, now reasonably old game. If you haven’t done so already, please play the game – it is great.

This game is amazing. I wanted to start this how I mean to end it. Final Fantasy VI is a brilliant game for so many reasons, something that I want to communicate throughout this playthrough. I don’t like thinking about what my favourite or the best Final Fantasy game is as I don’t think I have a singular answer (and picking one would undermine the impact that the other games had on the title). However, if I was forced to pick a Final Fantasy game that was the best implemented, it would probably be Final Fantasy VI. This game has some brilliant ideas that are executed fantastically with clear theming throughout, that is not always achieved in other games in the series. Final Fantasy VI is consistent in achieving all of the charm that I associate with the series, and I love it for that.

When I discuss this game throughout this, I am going to be biased. I am bad at finding problems with these games. I am someone who is able to suspend disbelief really easily and see positives in things where there are a lot of negatives. To this end, I genuinely love all of the games in the Final Fantasy series to some extent (I recently did a large playthrough all of the Final Fantasy XIII games and found myself really enjoying them). This being said I will be gushing about my love for the series in these posts. I do not intend this to be a full critique of any game, more just about my experience revisiting them in this manner.

That being said, it’s not time for me to explain how brilliant the start of this game is. In the context of other Final Fantasy games, at this time we had seen the first game where you are put in the world without much explanation of what is happening, the second and fourth games where in both you are thrust right into a battle that shows the state of the world (in different positions for each), and the fifth game where there was a comparatively whimsical start in comparison (I love Final Fantasy V for this whimsy). There was variety, but ultimately the games had become more narrative, with the starts generally being a good way to show the story.

By FFVI, Squaresoft had a lot of experience in how to start a Final Fantasy game, and had shown that they knew how to show the world not just tell people about the world (even better they showed it through the mechanics of the game, which is something I generally associate with a good game). The starting screen of the game is full of clouds and darkness (something that always freaked me out as a kid so I would skip it before the dissonant organ music played, which I guess highlights the darker tone). As the game starts, we are given some text telling us a bit about the past while looking over a desolate ice scape. This text does go against the idea of telling people about the world, but specifically it tells us about the War of the Magi, a war that put the world into an apocalyptic state with a touch of foreshadowing that people could be stupid enough to do it again.

This part goes against the idea of showing rather than telling but is probably essential. No one is going to bring up the War of the Magi for a long time and we aren’t going to properly learn about it for many hours, so it makes sense to put it in here. It also brings with it suspense about the past events as the present events could lead to the same consequences. People may learn from the past when they have seen it, but over time people forget and those lessons are forgotten. This is something that has been shown a lot in life, and produces a nice theme to bring into the story.

Biggs: Ah, yes…our witch. I hear she fried fifty of our Magitek armored soldiers in three minutes… Kinda makes your skin crawl, don’t it?

We are then introduced to Wedge, Biggs and a mysterious woman all riding big machines, planning how they are going to invade a city to find an esper for their aims. The group don’t feel like the good guys, which is a first for Final Fantasy. Even with Cecil in Final Fantasy IV, he at least believes he is on the right side initially (right enough at least, the King probably knows what he is doing right?). While this time you aren’t good. Something isn’t right. The mysterious woman is silent and it is revealed that she is under their control due to a slave crown on her head. She has had all autonomy stripped away. Not only that, but apparently, she is very dangerous. She killed fifty armoured soldiers in three minutes, which the soldiers seem a little disgusted by.

Here we have the first female protagonist in a Final Fantasy game. A hugely powerful magic user. As they invade the city we are shown how powerful she is. The magitech armour during these scenes is a good communication of the strength of the enemy. The guards at Narshe are dealing around 10 damage a hit, while the armour is dealing around 200 damage. More than that, the strength of the armour is reinforced by the party members HP, which is around 100. They would be capable of killing each other in one hit with their armour if they wanted to. Magic is dangerous and powerful, and the mysterious woman has the ability to use much more than the soldiers. She is powerful and dangerous, a theme that Terra must battle with throughout the game in all of her relationships.

Terra is a great protagonist. When the slave crown is removed after her encounter with the esper in the mines, we don’t find someone dangerous. We find a woman who is confused and in pain, someone who is quite vulnerable in the situation. That dichotomy rings through the introduction, as Terra is hugely powerful (having just used magic throughout the dungeon to keep to the Red Mage theme, I can say that her spells were very powerful) but also someone who had just had the shackles removed from her. Terra’s journey throughout the game will show bits of her trying to figure out her identity in a world where she had everything stripped away from her. I imagine we’ll discuss this more at a later date when we get to the events surrounding Terra’s parents, but it was likely that she was raised in the Empire for many years with lots of testing due to the potential abilities she could have. Terra has probably never had the chance to find out who she is properly, and this added with her amnesia from having been enslaved adds to this. All these things together, it is possible that Terra has post-traumatic stress disorder (to note, this is a game. There is insufficient data to actually make this diagnosis from this if we are using the DSM-V. But given the situation, it’s not implausible). All of these factors influence her interactions with others and the choices that she makes. Terra is an interesting protagonist, being a stand out to me in the series.

So we invaded a town and plowed through the guards there (because they don’t have mechs, it’s hardly a fair fight). We then go through the mine and encounter a giant snail called Ymir. Again, this is a good tutorial fight. We are told that attacking the shell is a no no. You then go on to target just the head, but occasionally the head disappears without warning, which means your attacks automatically target the shell resulting in a punishing (but not fatal) lightning attack being through at your party members. This is a pretty good lesson in the fighting system. You need to pay attention to the enemy and their patterns. Enemies may have scripted attacks if you target the wrong area, but they won’t necessarily make it that simple to avoid it. The fight it explained to you and simple, but is good nonetheless.

They then meet the esper, Wedge and Biggs get teleported out of existence and Terra has a blue lightning exchange with the esper leading to an explosion.

Terra gets rescued and her crown removed and then is forced to run away when the guards come looking for her. The man who saves her tries to explain the situation to the guards but they aren’t having it and chase Terra into the mines where she falls into a pit. On doing this she hits her head and has a flash back to when the crown was first put on her head, but a person who laughs a bit maniacally.

Kefka is brilliant. I’m not going to say much more right now, but Kefka is just super.

Terra also remembers standing in the imperial palace while soldiers are saluting and the emperor is announcing his evil plan. She is accompanied by Kefka and two other people, a woman and a man, who we will later learn are Celes (our other main protagonist) and Leo. It’s nice that they bring up these characters early on, there is a good bit of early establishment of themes in FF6.

The “old man” is visited by a rougish (treasure hunterish) looking gentleman called Locke. It is obvious that Locke is going after Terra for a reason that isn’t well explained, but he is not just doing it to be a hero. Locke runs in and finds Terra in the mines being ambushed by a bunch of monsters being used by the guard. Locke then teams up with a bunch of moogles to stop Terra from being ambushed, and it is lovely to have a bunch of moogles. FF5 had moogles prominently in the game, but you didn’t have the chance to interact with them too much, while FF6 allows them to be in your party. Each one uses a different type of weapon, which is a neat way to introduce the variety in weapons.

We are then introduced to the idea of splitting your party in 3 and switching between groups. It’s good to introduce here as it will be present throughout the game and gives a feeling of epicness to the encounter. I don’t think that this was necessarily the best implementation of this mechanic. Enemies go down different paths to reach Terra and you can choose to put groups at specific points to fight the enemies as they appear, but it is pretty simple to just walk up to them and defeat them. I managed to do this purely with the Locke party, but they were on pretty low HP for the final encounter, so I switched to Mog’s party to finish it off.

After this Locke takes Terra and escapes. Terra explains to Locke that she doesn’t know what is happening and that she has amnesia and Locke tells her that he will stay with her no matter what until her memory returns, that she isn’t just going to leave someone with no memory. This is really interesting. Given that Locke has shown that he is not necessarily helping Terra to just be a hero and save the princess ect. then this could be seen as quite manipulative. Locke is looking after Terra just to get her to his objective. However, as the game progresses we learn that Locke’s history has him in a relationship with a woman who ended up having amnesia after a fall that he was present for, and he ultimately was forced to leave where she subsequently died (ish, she ended up being preserved. It’s going to be a fun section to discuss). Therefore, Locke is likely saying this because of the parallels in the situation. The sentence he uses sounds heroic and not like something someone logical would say, and this is likely because it is not a logical thing, it’s an emotional one. However, from Terra’s (and our) perspective, we are left not knowing whether we can trust this person but knowing that he at least came and saved us. It’s good scenario writing.

We leave Narshe and there is the beginner’s house which we promptly take the treasure from and leave without learning any of the tips (although there are some pretty advanced tips in there, it was nifty). We then go for a walk down to Figaro Castle. This is where the Red Mage portion starts to become a bit more important. Terra doesn’t have a sword at this point, so she is purely using magic. I try to have Locke kill himself, but he doesn’t deal himself much damage so it takes a while. I try to do a bit of grinding with Terra, as I know that at some point we’ll get to Mt Kolts where I know the encounters are pretty hard when I have three good party members and so I want her to be a bit stronger.

This highlights an issue that I’m cautious about in this run. Some espers have the ability to give you a bonus to stats on levelling up. Therefore, it makes sense to level up as little as possible so we can get the most stat boosts as the game progresses. However, as we are working with less party members (basically being just Terra for the start of the game), then I am going to need her to be at a higher level so she can progress through the game. Therefore, I need to plan to have Terra at the lowest level that I can while making sure we can progress through the game. This bodes well for the split path encounters later on, as Terra will be on the path where grinding is not possible and so hopefully that path will be simpler if I plan it correctly. But this still makes the game tricky.

So I try to grind a bit, using the healing pot at the Beginner’s House to heal, but this means that Locke is revived from the dead so needs to be killed off again. It’s not the most efficient, so I progress the story a little by going to Figaro Castle. Figaro Castle is interesting. All of the guards seem to be doing their job more than most guards I’ve encountered in games. They check who you are and all tell you where you need to go, directing you to the King.

The King who appears to be a flirtatious rascal.

To add to our list of great characters, Edgar is a well done character. Edgar appears to be laid back and relaxed, flirting with Terra during the conversation with her. But Edgar is the King of Figaro. He was part of the effort organising for Terra to come here. He instructed the guards. While he is flirty and appears laid back, he was calculating all of this and being prepared. He tells Terra that they are allies to the empire, which allows him to assess how Terra would respond to that. This lets him know if he can trust her for the future of the Returner’s mission. He communicates that his interest in Terra’s ability is far below his interest in her beauty, but he shows that he is still very much interested in her ability in an optional bit of fight dialogue later on in the game if Terra uses magic infront of him. Edgar is able to put on a front of being relaxed, but is being the good tactician behind it. This comes up for his relationships later on in the game.

Meanwhile, adding more strength to Terra’s characterisation, she is not interested in Edgar’s advances. Normally in games and anime around this time, there may be a dramatic reaction to Edgar, calling him an idiot and punching him or running away and hiding. But with Terra there is emptiness. She notes that other people may feel something, but she feels nothing. Terra is not romantically attracted to any of the main characters in the game, and that is great. It’s nice to have a female protagonist, and even better that she is not defined by her relationship with a man. Terra is great.

Terra: Why are you being so kind to me? Is it because of my…abilities?
Edgar: I’ll give you three reasons. First of all, your beauty has captivated me! Second…I’m dying to know if I’m your type! I guess your… abilities…would rank a distant third.

After this I left the castle and did a bit more grinding (as now Terra was by herself). This was mostly uneventful but I did run into some scorpions in the desert that would paralyze Terra, which given that she was the only party member and these scorpions consisted of a group of 3, was potentially a fatal issue. But one way or another Terra survived after this.

And that is where we got up to for now. Thanks for reading, I’m going to be trying to write in this sort of style throughout. I may do some more in depth looks at specific topics (such as looking more in depth at Terra and her mental health during the series as I’ve found that interesting while writing this up so far), but mostly will write something like this. Thanks again!

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