Oct 12, 2014

Final Fantasy VI

I'm not sure what inspired me to do it, but a few days ago I hunted down the Final Fantasy VI original soundtrack buried deep within my music collection, dragged it onto my player, and gave it a listen while driving around for work. I must admit, the moment I heard the first few notes of the second track, "The Mines of Narshe," memories suddenly came bubbling to the surface, and I was embraced by a familiar warm tingle of nostalgia.

Final Fantasy VI (known as Final Fantasy III in the U.S.) is one of those rare games from my childhood that left an indelible impression on me as a child and stirred the deepest reaches of my soul. The overwhelming majority of such games to have such a powerful impact on me were RPG's/fantasy adventure games for the Super Nintendo, such as The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger, Illusion of Gaia, and Secret of Mana. But I think out of all those masterpieces, Final Fantasy VI drew me in and inspired me the most, affecting my emotions in ways no other game has been able to do. Not even its exalted successor, FFVII, went that far, in spite of its greatness.

Here we have what appears to be, at first glance, a typical RPG for its day: top-down perspective following little midget characters through towns, caves, and overworlds, a sophisticated leveling up system, a slew of dialogue boxes, and random enemy attacks (an element that I HATED when I first rented and played it, but later on adjusted to). What makes this one such a unique, unforgettable experience for me? The musical score, for starters, is not a single notch below superb. Beautifully orchestrated numbers grace the game from beginning to end. Some tracks from the game, such as "Mt. Kolts" and "The Phantom Forest," stuck with me almost constantly for years after hearing them just a few times, and I found they would simply start playing in my head whenever I was in a certain situations. My real life wanderings through an enchanting moonlit forest by the coast at night, for instance, easily brought "Phantom Forest" to the forefront of my mental jukebox, only enhancing the effect of my beautiful surroundings on me. 20 years later, the soundtrack still sounds just as grandiose.

Besides the gripping storyline and character depth alike, the lush environments in the game really pulled me in and deeply inspired my imagination. In spite of the graphical limitations imposed by the technology of its day, the richness of the background art in battle scenes and top-down mode is impressive, to say the least. It is part of the reason I became so immersed in the game I lost all track of time, back when school day afternoons and weekends were full of nothing but spare time. I shouldn't neglect to mention all the secrets in the game, from the wealth of hidden treasures and side quests to discover and accomplish later on, when the game really sets the player free to wander around at their leisure.

I will unabashedly acknowledge that my gushing over this game is largely fueled by nostalgia. As I stated, it made a major impression on me in my middle school days, a rough time in my life plagued by depression and self-doubt, naturally. When I broke my foot after the first day of school in 6th grade, we had to travel the two hours to Hilo to have a cast put on, and I was taken to the mall afterwards to pick out a video game in a local comic book shop. There I spotted the game box featuring the much beloved Mog. Having rented it at least six or seven different times prior, I decided on the spot that I had to finally own it, so I would never have to give it up again. So I used all my allowance money and my dad lovingly pitched in to cover the rest of the cool $59.99 asking price. The game, box, instruction manual, and maps are all still safely in my possession... and probably worth some dough. Though, in a tough spot, I'd sooner beg for change on the street than let it all go.

I became caught up in the game for months. Every afternoon following a particularly rough or average day at school, I headed into the den to lose myself in the majesty of the experience. I distinctly recall when I first secured the first airship, exclaiming out loud that, "this is the most amazing fucking thing ever!" It inspired many dreams of mine later on, as did so many other memorable moments from the game. I even experienced a couple terrifying nightmares taking place in the decaying city of Zozo, that I could still describe sequence by sequence even though they happened when I was a child.

I think it's simultaneously astonishing and fantastic that a game has the ability to permeate the core of my being the way Final Fantasy VI has. It's always been a fascinating thing to ponder, how certain attachments from one's childhood are nigh impossible to forget, or not be moved by later on in life. In any case, this game certainly deserves my personal tribute.

I have half a mind to turn off all the lights downstairs and start a brand new game tonight, if it wasn't for feeling so drained and unable to concentrate on much due to being sick. I'm surprised I even managed to finish this. Maybe tomorrow.