I’m finally done with Final Fantasy VI! And only 17 years after I started it for the first time! I have so, so many thoughts. I’m collapsing all this because it’s so long and full of spoilers.
-Even though I liked it and I’m glad I finally finished it, I’m not sure going back to it deepened my appreciation of it in any meaningful way. I’d already seen a lot of the most memorable moments (the Opera House, Kefka’s various meltdowns, the end of the World of Balance) and going back with an older, more critical eye made me more aware of its flaws and areas where it hasn’t aged well.
-I know it gets a lot of credit for its good writing, but I think it’s maybe more complicated than that. It might be more accurate to say that it benefits from a lack of bad writing, which was pretty much standard for games at the time, and from an excellent localization. There’s barely any plot or dialogue in the second half of the game, and even in the first half, there are so many characters and so much going on that no one character or plotline ever takes center stage for too long. I can imagine versions of the game where the plots for Locke and Celes’ romance or Terra’s past become bloated and overwrought, but because the script is so tight, that never happens. Most character moments are actually so brief that they come across as very genuine, and leave plenty of space for you to fill in on your own.
-One of the things that stands out for me is how bleak the World of Ruin is. We’re used to post-apocalyptic settings in video games, but I think it’s rare to see a world as utterly devastated as this one. Part of that comes down to seeing what the world was like before the calamity of the floating continent, but one of the things I think think this game gets really right is its deep dive into how broken and traumatized everybody is in this new world. You spend the entire second half of the game working through your party’s emotional baggage, and in a lot of cases you don’t actually solve anything, you just get your characters to a point where they can at least function again. It’s really heavy stuff, especially for an SNES game, and seeing the depths of despair everyone falls to makes it a lot more meaningful when the plot takes a turn towards the hopeful again.
After that I started Super Metroid and after about 6 hours I’d guess I’m very nearly done with it. It’s the first time I’ve ever played it and just… wow. I didn’t expect it to be this good. It’s maybe a little smaller than Metroidvania’s I’m used to, but it’s really striking how packed every corner of the map is and how every upgrade gives you a significant boost in power. I have the plasma beam, spring ball and space jump now, and I feel like a monster going back through old parts of the map. Aside from shinesparking and wall-jumping not being explained super well, it doesn’t seem like it’s aged at all. I remember reading that Nintendo thought it was so close to perfect that they were nervous about making a sequel, and I actually understand why now.