Okay, so I'm replaying what seems to be the majority of Kotakuites' favorite Final Fantasy, VI. I've played the game twice before. Once when I was little, and again as a young adult, but neither time did the story really stick with me or stand out to me other than one specific scene. This time, I'm paying more attention as well as being critical of its design.
I've reached some rebel hideout. I think I'm supposed to be one of them, or at least my three other teammates are.
Initial story impressions: For a game that's supposed to have one of the strongest stories ever, the first sections of the game are surprisingly underwhelming. After an amazing opening sequence — more because of the great art and music than the dialogue — the game begins to wane as I'm directed to various locations with very little real story actually connecting them. The game sortof meanders me to a castle, then directs me to a city for apparently no reason, since it has no plot points in it. Instead, I find a small hut north of town that prompts my party to go searching for somebody. Why did my party need to visit the city if it was of no importance? Maybe I was actually directed to that hideout instead of the city. In any case, there was very little weight to the decision and it felt more like I was wandering aimlessly than trying to achieve a goal.
I might say this is just due to old game design, but FFVI was immediately followed up by Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII. Both of those games had an amazingly cohesive plot, and I always felt the weight and emotion behind my next goal. Nothing ever seemed "just there" and the game did a very good job of directing the player. I think the major difference is that those two games specifically used emotion as a driver, whereas VI, so far, has been using physical barrier as one. In VI, I go to the castle because why not? In Chrono Trigger, I go to the castle because my friend is lost and I'm trying to find her. I as a player personally want to go to the castle in Trigger, but in VI I'm going to the castle simply because I'm told to.
Maybe things will turn around in the story department, but so far I'm not impressed.
One thing that really annoyed me is that I spent most of my money stocking up on equipment in the city, and then literally two minutes later I replaced half of it with better items I found in the next dungeon. This is backwards. The game should have given me that equipment in the previous dungeon, then allowed me to fill in any empty slots when I reached the city. Again, this is something that VI's immediate successors never messed up.
I'm also hating the lack of a dedicated run button, another thing that was introduced right after this game.
Either Auto-Bolt is overpowered, or everything else is underpowered. Battles are incredibly easy with it, and would be long and tedious without it.
So far my impressions of this game are that it feels like it's stuck between wanting to break free of the classic mold and being tied down to tradition. It almost feels like Chrono Trigger was Squaresoft declaring freedom from the FF shackles and giving players everything a then-next-gen RPG should have been. We see so many new things introduced in that game that are curiously absent from FFVI.