Life… Dreams… Hope… Where do they come from? And where do they go…? Such meaningless things… I’ll destroy them all!
This is the list of At the Buzzer’s top 25 games of all-time, as voted on by the main ATB cast members and other friends of the show. We’re now getting serious in the top 10. For more information on how this whole thing works or for the other games on the list, check out the Related Links at the bottom of this post.
8) Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Chris: Final Fantasy VI grabs you from the start and never lets go.
You’re in a world where the power of magic and technology have largely been lost since a great war. A girl pilots a mecha through a desolate, snowy town with two other soldiers. The soldiers are decimated by a monster, but the girl manages to survive thanks to a strange power. She learns that she was under someone else’s control, and before she has time to come to terms with any of this, more soldiers are after her. Such is just the beginning of what I think is the best story in the history of video games.
Sometimes games succeed because they have a strong protagonist. Series like Uncharted and Metal Gear Solid have main characters with tons of personality and development. FF VI doesn’t exactly follow that formula because there isn’t really one main character, but if anything, the game is stronger because the entire cast is so well developed. Sure, gun to your head, you’d probably say Terra was the star, but Locke’s story is compelling, Celes is involved in almost every key moment, the Figaro brothers have a ton of involvement…
VI is also home to some of the most emotional moments in gaming, a remarkable achievement considering that it was released almost 20 years ago. Cyan’s family. Shadow’s (possible) sacrifice. Locke’s heartbreak. Celes’ stunning opera performance, and her later despair. Setzer’s companion. Terra and the children. And the biggest heart punch of them all: the entire world’s destruction. That’s right: just as you’re coasting along, thinking you’re going to save the world, the exact opposite happens, throwing the planet into chaos and uprooting all of the characters. And that’s where VI goes from a great game to one of the best ever. Three-fourths of the cast is optional — you can beat the game with just a handful of characters if you head straight for revenge. Or you can gather everyone together again, get additional story for each character, and then travel to Kefka’s tower to battle a god.
Oh, Kefka. When people say that Sephiroth is a better villain than you — the same Sephiroth who doesn’t actually kill Aeris (Jenova does, kids! Sephiroth’s asleep until halfway through the game!) — my instinct is to slap the taste out of their ignorant mouths. The one-man insane clown posse doesn’t have much rhyme or reason to him; he wants power, and he wants to destroy things. Kefka snatches that power at his first opportunity, kicking what you thought was the main villain off of a mountain to his death. By this point he’s already poisoned an entire castle’s water supply, murdered multiple soldiers and made an innocent young girl his slave, but he’s not content with that — he’d rather have the power of the gods and watch while humanity squirms under his thumb.
I love Final Fantasy VI. I gave it strong consideration as my number one game ever. It’s that good. And if for some reason you haven’t played it, you are missing out on something tremendous.
Shaun: For me personally, we’re now breaching into the upper echelon of gaming with FF VI. The series alone is testament to the greatness this installment achieved; six main entries and almost 20 years later, and Square has failed to deliver a title as timeless and emotionally poignant as their SNES swan song. All of the advances in CGI cutscenes and voice acting have yet to instill the same level of investment into the characters and plot that VI had. Featuring an eclectic, endearing cast, all and none of whom are the main characters, VI was groundbreaking in the way that it handled story-telling. Gamers were treated to a broad, epic tale that doesn’t pull any punches. Characters you love are killed. Families are torn apart. Suicide is attempted. Genocide is committed. And oh yeah, THE ENTIRE WORLD IS DECIMATED.
Never before, and I don’t know of any instance since, has a story been so ballsy. Sure, Aerith is skewered in VII, but halfway through VI, our protagonists fail, and the world is completely altered after cataclysmic devastation. At this point, we don’t know if our heroes can pick up the pieces, or if they even want to anymore. This desolation is so rare in gaming, and its punctuated so acutely in VI.
Of course, talk of VI’s apocalypse can’t happen without mentioning Kefka, who, to this day, might be gaming’s greatest villain. GLaDOS is funny and tragic and all, but Kefka is great for the same reason the Joker is; underneath his comical facade and face paint is a truly twisted individual, an agent of complete chaos and anarchy who, terrifyingly, is capable of formulating his own complex plots to meet his dissonant ends. He’s insane, intelligent, and unreasonably powerful, and creates a perfect foil for the cast of heroes.
If I have one hope for the inevitable FF XV, it’s that Square throws out their blueprints of FF VII and XIII, and instead follows the template established in VI — where characters, story, and fun combat took precedent over edgy protagonists, feminine villains, and needlessly complicated narratives. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another 20 years to reach the heights of VI.
Dave: I’m still working on this one, sadly. Afer the ATB crew compiled their lists, and almost everyone had FF VI on their top 25, I decided to give it another shot, and I’m glad I did. I’ve gotten through the part where the world just blows up, and am excited as possible to see how this goes farther. This iteration of Final Fantasy really felt like it took the training wheels off, giving you a wide range of characters along with introducing the summoning of Espers to America. The huge story along with the always insane Kefka is making me want to finish this game up. Like right now.