Final Fantasy VI (originally released in North America as Final Fantasy III)
Original North American Release Date: October 11th, 1994
Upon its original release (as Final Fantasy III in North America), Final Fantasy VI quickly became (and still remains to this day) one of my personal all-time favorite games. Usually considered by gamers to be one of the best RPGs ever made, Final Fantasy VI blew away all expectations thanks to an absolutely engrossing story, an incredibly large world, and a beautiful soundtrack composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Final Fantasy VI didn’t really feature one central protagonist, unlike prior entries in the series, as the game broadly focuses instead on a large and diverse cast of characters, all with his or her own backstories and motivations.
The game excels at making almost every major point in the story feel very epic, from the Empire’s attack on Doma castle to the famous opera house event. Final Fantasy VI continues to wonderfully surprise players after reaching a certain key point in the story, when it reshapes the map and environments that raises the stakes thanks to incredible writing and character dialogue. So few games, no matter how great, manage to juggle good storytelling with multiple characters, yet Final Fantasy VI perfected this trait with ease.
In addition to its excellent story, Final Fantasy VI also allowed players to customize what spells each character can learn. Different spells can be permanently learned by equipping each character with specific “Espers,” essentially reimagined monsters that previously served in earlier Final Fantasy games (usually as summonable creatures). Characters learn spells based on different experience multipliers, as more powerful magic spells naturally take longer to master compared to lower level spells. The game’s Esper-based magic system’s influence can be seen in later Final Fantasy entries, including the recently remade Final Fantasy VII, which basically switches out Espers for “Materia.”
Although Square Enix continues to release several of the classic 3D Final Fantasy titles, masterpieces like Final Fantasy VI still gets largely ignored. If there was ever a Final Fantasy title truly worthy of a remake, it’s Final Fantasy VI.