Well, I may as well get started with this, since I think I've kinda-sorta got my tech issues sorted out.
I have some very interesting memories of the year this game came out. It was my junior year of high school, and I was finally getting the hang of this whole business of what we were supposed to be doing for most of our K-12 school years. This is not to say that I was a bad student, or anything. I was hardly the greatest student ever, either. I guess the best way to describe myself academically was that I was pushing dead average at best.
Socially speaking, I'd always been something of a gimp, to put it nicely. Still am, to at least some degree, but not nearly as bad as I had been up until the fall of 1994. By then, I was 17 years old and finally starting to settle into being something of a halfway workable human being. Over the course of the previous school year and the ensuing summer, I'd begun to make some real friends and to think that there was just maybe a reason for people to think I was cool after all.
When this game was released here in the States at the end of October, 1994, it was as Final Fantasy III to keep the titles consistent with the original for the NES, and Final Fantasy 4, which had been released over here as II in 1991. I didn't get to play it right away because my folks were, wisely, I've come to understand, limiting the amount of time my brother and I spent playing video games that fall.
I can't recall what, exactly, my brother's issues were, but I do remember what mine were. I'm terrible at math, and it was terribly evident in my grades then. I'm also the kind of person who tends to take any and every distraction I can get to avoid doing something that I'm nervous or scared about doing, and video games were the perfect thing for that, to the point that it was affecting all my grades for the worse, even in subjects that I was passable or even good at.
When the winter break came that year, we were allowed to get the console out of the closet and hook it up again, at least for a little while, because we'd been good little boys who'd kept up with our studies, had decent grades, and had been well behaved in general for the few months preceding.
I remember the night we first rented this game. My brother and I and a couple friends of his went down to one of the local video rental places to pick out games, and one of them was this one. I just wish I could remember the name of the place we went. I don't think it was Blockbuster Video because I don't think we had that chain here yet, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't Video Mania, either, because we always went entirely other directions when we went there. I could probably find the place where it used to be if I went back to the old neighborhood.
The game itself is great. Technically, it was getting towards the high end of what 16-bit machines could do. The sound and graphics were really something else for its time.
The story's great, too. I certainly don't know this story as well as I do the one for Final Fantasy IV, but there's a couple reasons for that. First of all, Final Fantasy VI is my second-favorite video game of all time, as I may have mentioned before. Part of the reason for that is that this is the game where the main series really started changing into what it is today. The story was half again as long and at least as much more involved than they had been previously. The same holds true of the overall game mechanic, but I'll get into the specifics of those when I get to the relevant parts of the game.
So anyway, the story. Whereas Final Fantasy could probably be called a Tolkienesque setting and Final Fantasy IV was more Arthurian in nature, Final Fantasy VI is set in a decidedly steampunk world, set a thousand years after a devastating war known as the War of the Magi, which had brought the warring parties, humans and magical beings known as Espers, to the brink of mutual destruction. At the conclusion of said war both sides saw to the sealing of the three gods that had brought them to such ruin, and the Espers created their own special realm to live in, separate from the world of humans, with a seemingly unbreakable boundary between the two.
Though the game doesn't really go into what the Espers did over the next ten centuries, the humans developed science and technology to what, in our own terms, would be the steam age, with all sorts of cool stuff going on. I know that's not saying much, but there's not much I can think of to say now that wouldn't spoil things that might be better served by explanations when I finally get to them in the actual game. Truth is, I don't remember the game showing us an awful lot along those lines that didn't specifically relate to the game in some way.
Using this wonderful new technology, the Gestal Empire has rediscovered the magical powers that had vanished with the Espers at the end of their big war and is poised to use it to take over the world. We're introduced to our hero, a young woman named Terra, as she's been mind-controlled into helping the Empire follow up on one of its final leads.
And that's as far as I'm going to take it for now, folks. Trust me, in a lot of ways, this is actually a better game than FFIV was, and would be my all-time favorite, had its immediate predecessor, in terms of US release, not already taken the spot. We'll start to get into the hows and whys of all of this next time, in Issue #001: Vap-O-Rub. See you then!