Analysis, inspiration, Revision

Final Fantasy 6

TLDR: Final Fantasy 6 is one of the greatest games of all time, has the greatest video game soundtrack of all time, and made a profound impact on me as a writer.

I was born in 1984 and when I was young there were two magical relics in the world: books and video game cartridges. I was already a ravenous consumer of books. My unrefined palate craved Goosebumps and Star Wars Extended Universe novels, but there was something special about video games.

A cartridge contained a whole world, unspoiled by internet guides, waiting to be discovered. And the greatest was Final Fantasy 6.

The impact that FF6 made on me as a writer cannot be understated. Like seeing the Empire Strikes Back for the first time, I was filled with so much awe by this game that I couldn’t contain it. I had to write my own story, which eventually lead to a 40,000 word fan fiction novella of which I am rather proud.

The game’s graphics are, of course, dated, and the difficulty curve of the game is utterly broken. Those were never the things that made FF6 great. YouTuber, Easy Allies explains what did make it great in this video:

It was the relationships that I watched develop between the separate characters that really fascinated me. Some party members absolutely despised others. Friends would leave the party, or go missing, or die. They had trouble forgiving one-another and understanding why their newfound friends made the decisions they did. …I was still in touch with their feelings. I worried about them. I was proud to fight for them.

Writing my FF6 fan fiction was immensely satisfying. I knew these characters so well that I could feel them urging me in the right direction, the inevitable direction that the story had to go in. After finalizing the fanfic and posting it online, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to write my own characters.

That was wrong. I can write my own characters because of what I learned from FF6.

I once described the plot of FF6 to a writer friend who replied, “Oh, so it’s a soap opera?” I was offended at the time, but now I get it. The story in FF6 is at times ridiculous, mostly due to the sheer volume of story packed into the game. But this was perfect for 10-year-old me, as were the simple graphics. Both left room for imagination. I filled in the behind-the-scenes moments between the characters that made each dramatic new story event flow seamlessly from what came before.

There is a necessary simplicity to the action-reaction cycle in a game like FF6 that is important for a young writer to learn. I’ve been thinking a lot about action-reaction recently as I revise my novel. I’ve found that some of my scenes are in a rush to move onward. I’ve written thing happens – thing happens – thing happens. Instead of thing happens – character reacts – as a consequence thing happens – as a consequence character reacts.

It’s the vital difference between a sequence of events and a story. Final Fantasy 6 took time to show us the characters reacting and their tiny pixellated emotes were sufficient to get my imagination started.

Lastly, I must mention the music of Final Fantasy 6. This game would not have had the impact it had without the emotional and memorable soundtrack composed by Nobuo Uematsu.

It’s brilliant. Don’t just take my word for it. If you have any interest in music theory or composition, you owe it to yourself to delve into this analysis of the development of melodic ideas in Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy 6 soundtrack.


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