A muted retelling of a grand old story

Another day, another controversial remake of a classic RPG from Square Enix. This time, the beloved SNES epic Final Fantasy VI is getting the “Vaseline treatment” – that is to say, this mobile rerelease has had its scenery and characters smoothed out to hide its pixel-based shame.

The end result looks awful, but what’s really important is how Final Fantasy VI plays on mobile. And, well, after all these years, the game still ranks amongst the best RPGs released during the 90s and early aughts, a golden era for the genre.

Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI has a pretty ambitious story that’s still compelling to follow. One thousand years after the destructive “War of the Magi,” magic vanished from the planet and was replaced by steampunk and other technology. Magic and the people that used it faded into legend – but a slow trickle of magic is coming from an unidentifiable source, and it’s enough to send the land’s Emperor on a hunt for this ancient power.

War quickly follows, and the conflict grows until the apocalypse cracks the earth, poisons the water, and mutates the animals. No, really.

Final Fantasy VI has an epic cast to match its grand story. The game is still quite unique in that it has no central character. However, each warrior has a unique skill that they bring to the fight. Sabin the monk can use “Blitzes,” a series of powerful attacks you pull off with d-pad swivels that recall Street Fighter games. His twin brother, Edgar, is a talented engineer whose inventions can blind the enemy or rain multiple arrows on them. Relm is a young girl capable of turning the bad guys’ own powers against them, and Gau is a feral child who can study and learn enemy attacks.

Final Fantasy VI

Despite its unique setting, player skills, and highly customizable magic-learning system, Final Fantasy VI is still a retro RPG. If you don’t like random encounters, super-deformed sprites, or issuing menu-based attacks, you might be content to let Armageddon swallow the world.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t help that Final Fantasy VI on mobile does little to entice players that might’ve missed out on the game when it was first released for the SNES in 1994. The redrawn graphics lack any serious effort, for instance: In the original game, the character sprites would stand in front of chairs to give the illusion of sitting. The characters still stand up in cafes and bars, and the old illusion doesn’t work anymore because there are no pixels to “blur” the scene.

Why not take a little extra time to actually draw new positions for the characters? Final Fantasy VI is special for fans of 16-bit RPGs, but its mobile port is sloppy.

Final Fantasy VI

That’s not to say it’s utterly unworthy of a purchase, though. Fans of the SNES original will be interested to know that Final Fantasy VI on mobile utilizes the 2006 Game Boy Advance translation, which restores much of the censorship and story points that were axed from the first release. Also, the game’s soundtrack is as magnificent as ever.

Final Fantasy VI on mobile is a lackluster port of a great game – but thankfully, not even a “blah” remake can bring down this classic. It’s a worthwhile investment if you want a handheld version of Final Fantasy VI (but don’t want to pay high eBay prices for the Game Boy Advance port), and if you’re a stickler for preservation, you can always get the original on the Wii’s Virtual Console.