Tag Archives: story

SBC #08 Incineroar & Mortal Kombat 1

It is worrying that Mortal Kombat 1 has forgotten one simple fact: Mortal Kombat is and always has been about hype.

The latest Mortal Kombat game calls itself Mortal Kombat 1? Fine! You want to draw a comparison? Let’s go back to the beginning. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the best part of Mortal Kombat parenthesis one.

It's not an uppercut

Videogame historians have intermittently observed that the innovation of the Mortal Kombat franchise from the start was the emphasis on “stun” situations. The explanation goes that this key moment in any match is what separated MK from the army of contemporary fighting games that wanted a piece of the Street Fighter 2 pie. However, this is only half the story. Stun is an integral part of the Mortal Kombat formula, but not because this was something that impacted the mechanics of a fighting game. No, stun was integral because it generated hype. Stunning an opponent with Scorpion’s spear, Sub-Zero’s ice blast, or even Cage’s ball breaker offered an advantage to the attacker, but it also generated anticipation in the player, opponent, and audience. Liu Kang is helpless! That skeleton ninja could do anything to him! And, even if it was a pause that lasted less than a second, a stun generated hype that was unprecedented in fighting games. The continual push and pull of fighters being stunned created an incessant atmosphere of “anything can happen”. And that was before you got to the reason even your mom heard about Mortal Kombat…


This is the ultimate hype machine. A fighter is defeated! They stand there futilely, dizzied and helpless. What is the victor going to do? Will they spare their opponent? Will they simply punch air until their rival falls over? Roundhouse kick them across the screen? Or will they perform the supreme finisher: the fatality? It takes skill and knowledge to perform a fatality. A player must know the “secret code” that initiates the fatality, the proper distance between themselves and the opponent (which is never easy to negotiate in the limited fatality time window), and the appropriate sequence must be performed quickly and accurately. In situations where the victor fails to accurately enter the command, or accidentally punches the opponent mid input, the “winner” looks like a loser. But when they pull it off? It is the flawless finish to an ended encounter. The failure is missing key body parts! There is no coming back from that!

Welcome to the futureLater games within the initial Mortal Kombat Trilogy would offer alternatives to the basic fatality. Friendships and Babalities were widely derided as Mortal Kombat getting “too cartoon-y”, but they served the purpose of finishing an opponent in a unique way. They were not violent, but they were a way of embarrassing a defeated foe all the same. They even had particular use conditions that proved the player was superior, as a “silly” Babality could only be performed if the winner was expert enough to eke out a victory only using the kick buttons. That is extremely difficult when your color-coded ninja only uses punch-based special moves! Mortal Kombat imitator Killer Instinct ignored all pretense and called its similarly embarrassing finishing moves “Humiliations”, because subtly was not allowed in a game where a werewolf could fight a dinosaur. But that was the point: Fatalities, Friendships, Babalities, Animalities, and even the combo-based Brutalities were never just about gore or humor, they were all about one thing: humiliating the loser. One last stab of superiority before some other poor fool has to insert fifty cents.

And if you, an educated reader experiencing this article in the year of our Argus 2023, recognize this all as bullshit? Well… yeah. It is all bullshit. In Mortal Kombat, after Scorpion harpoons an opponent, there is a best move to use, because MK has extremely limited offensive options. An experienced Scorpion player is going to stun their opponent, and then use an uppercut every time, because that does the most damage. Similarly, once Scorpion wins, he is going to back up to sweep distance, hold block, and press up-up. Scorpion has one (1) fatality, and it is the only reasonable choice for finishing a match. Later games expand the repertoire, but even five different finishing options are going to be spent before a player clears the smallest of battle towers (left alone an arcade full of challengers). It’s fake! The idea that there is a choice, that there even could be hype involved here? It’s all fake!

And, yeah, buddy, but so is Pro Wrestling.

There's a centaur!If Street Fighter is the Olympic sport of fighting games. Mortal Kombat is Pro Wrestling. Not to imply that anyone playing MK11 or MK1 in a tournament is somehow “faking” their victories, but Mortal Kombat as a franchise has never been about exact technical execution. It takes skill to be a victor in Mortal Kombat! It takes a measured understanding of the game! But it also takes skill and understanding to properly piledrive an opponent in such a manner that no one is permanently hurt. Pro Wrestling is an amazing showing of physical prowess for everyone involved. It is a big, sweaty ballet (not to imply that ballet dancers do not sweat, it is simply less emphasized). But, in the same way that no one starts throwing cans on stage when the ending of Swan Lake is revealed (I think the swans win?), Pro Wrestling is not actually about “who is going to win”. Victories are “fake” insomuch as they are predetermined, but that does not mean that everyone involved is just a robot (except Business Robot, the robot businessman that can only communicate through bodyslams). It is a practiced art from toe to tip.

And Pro Wrestling lives and dies by hype. You cheer when the face wins, because you are excited about their possible victory. You boo the heel, because he did… uh… something? Pushed a grandma down some stairs? Conquered Earthrealm? Whatever. The point is that these stories, rivalries, and arcs are created whole cloth for the purpose of promoting matches. Fights are the only way to settle scores and win arguments, and you can buy a front row seat to it all. You are excited, because here are your favorites duking it out. That sassy thief with the robot eye is going to get a face full of sledgehammer because he’s been a bad little boy, and you are going to revel in his comeuppance.

Unless you are playing Mortal Kombat 1, where you are just going to watch the heel inexplicably run around like an idiot.

They have fun togetherTraditional caveat/mantra: Mortal Kombat 1 is not a bad game. It is a fun fighting game, and its story mode is still presented better than 95% of fighting games out there. There is significant single player content, and the online battles feel generally “right”. The usual NetherRealm Mortal Kombat checklist is properly completed: the cast is a good mix of important players and random mooks, and they all feel distinctive enough to warrant a slot on the roster. You are not going to get the exact same experience from Nitara the vampire as Havik the chaos priest. Mortal Kombat 1 is a good fighting game if you are looking for something to keep your thumbs twitching through the season (pass).

And part of the reason I am “emergency” slotting this into the review schedule is because I want to get these words to pixels while I still remember the hype leading up to Mortal Kombat 1. There were continual trailers showcasing the new-old characters. The old Mortal Kombat universe is dead! A new one stands in its place! And it’s coocoo crazygonuts! Scorpion and Sub-Zero are brothers! “Blind” Kenshi has perfectly working eyes. Baraka and Mileena are not a separate race/genetic freak (respectively), but afflicted with a strange new disease. The curators of Mortal Kombat knew damn well that this information would be exciting for the fanbase, and everyone was anxious to get hyped for the latest Mortal Kombat adventure.

And then Mortal Kombat 1 was released, and… Well, somebody forgot to tell the people in charge of the actual game that hype was important.

They work togetherThe new Mortal Kombat Universe is hype. No questions there: it is exciting to see vaguely familiar characters filling new and exciting roles (or at least seeing Kuai-Liang wearing yellow). That said, Mortal Kombat already did this whole thing once or twice with other games (Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks and Mortal Kombat 9), and you know damn well that an unmarred Havik is going to have his face half-melted off somewhere amid this plot (I mean, if you remember Havik at all). It is how storytelling works! Similarly, without delving into entirely unwarranted spoilers, the main plot of Story Mode eventually reaches a point where it kind of gets bored with the “new” Mortal Kombat Universe, and drifts back to including more than a few luminaries from the “old” Mortal Kombat Universe. And, while that could be hype as heck (“That’s right, kombat fans, your Kitana is back, and she’s stronger than ever!”), it is more or less an excuse to have a Super Friends/Avengers-style “all the good guys and all the bad guys run into each other” melee. Exciting for three seconds… and then confusing and chaotic. And, special bonus, it entirely drops any of the plot threads for the new Mortal Kombateers so the old guard can steal the spotlight back. Kind of a weird choice after spending six hours with the new class! Your heroes for 80% of the game have about as much impact on the finale as ants. And nobody ever gets hyped about ants.

But whatever, right? That’s the story mode. You play it once, you internalize your feelings for Kung Lao (he’s so dreamy), and then you move on to the real reason you play a fighting game. Time to fight all those people! Like in some kind of game!

BloodyUnfortunately, things are quickly undercut by practically every aspect of the presentation. Pre-match taunts are limited, and we are left with generic chest puffing and alike. Fighters that have legitimate, centuries-long beefs (Edenians are really old!) vaguely gesture toward something about winning, and otherwise act like they do not recognize their opponent. Matches are zippy and fun, but when it comes time to perform a fatality, everyone involved seems… bored. And, heck, there is the option of your fighter stepping back and letting someone else exact vengeance. In fact, those Kameos are a huge problem for hype…

The Kameo system of Mortal Kombat 1 sounds brilliant. The franchise has a deep bench of memorable kharacters, and it would be nigh impossible to do another “Mortal Kombat Trilogy” where everyone got to participate. But the Kameo system not only allows a greater range of MK luminaries, it also comes with the justification that any given Kameo fighter can be from any given Mortal Kombat timeline/universe. MK1 has playable Scorpion and Kameo Scorpion, and they are two totally different people with totally different backstories (one of the Scorpions is dead! But otherwise okay!). This opens the floodgates for all sorts of peculiar shenanigans, as fighters like Smoke have approximately seven different versions immediately available (for the record: ninja, robot ninja, nanomachine demon robot ninja, “recovering” robot ninja, demon ninja, undead demon ninja, new universe ninja). The Kameo system could be the greatest thing that ever happened to the thirty-year-old franchise.

In practice, though, it is so underwhelming, it sucks the air out of the room (and, unfortunately, Smoke is not directly involved). While some of the kameo kharacters do perform in the story mode in a deliberate (or at least present) capacity, it appears that they do not have voice actors that are providing anything but grunts. Given some of these Kameos are some of the most iconic members of the Mortal Kombat kast (Kano! Sonya! Goro lives!), their hushed existences are noticeable. And then when they actually participate in matches, they are… gofers. Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs was an accomplished soldier before Mortal Kombat ever started, and then he experienced one of the most varied histories across two different timelines. He is a warrior, cyborg, father, and champion of Earthrealm. In Mortal Kombat 1, his kameo is… running around and smacking the ground randomly. He does not say anything. His fatality is his klassic “big boot” move from Mortal Kombat 3, which is performed without comment or explanation. Jax, one of the most I love stomppivotal kharacters in the whole of Mortal Kombat (he even had his own [terrible] spinoff!) is… just kind of there. It is hard to get excited about Jax’s appearance, because he is little more than a skin and five extra moves.

This is the biggest problem with Mortal Kombat 1. Mortal Kombat is a franchise about hype, and Mortal Kombat 1 is best described as a game where “it is hard to get excited”. All the pieces are there. All the potential is there. However, it falls short on that je ne sais quoi responsible for the most memorable moments of the last three decades of kombat. It is Pro Wrestling without the drama. It is steak without the sizzle. It is Mortal Kombat without some random dude shouting “Mortal Kombat!”

And if anyone does find the hype for Mortal Kombat 1, tell it to get over here.

SBC #08 Incineroar & Mortal Kombat 1

Incineroar in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Look at that guy

Look at that guy
I couldn’t decide between these two shots, so you get both

  • They any Good? Super strong! Super grappling! Super hype! … Absolutely terrible recovery and agility. As someone that enjoys the heavies, I would like Incineroar a lot more if I wasn’t convinced I’d be dead the absolute minute I made the wrong move. And, for what it is worth, this is the Pokémon in the playable cast that feels the most like a human. Reskin him as Randy Savage, and you wouldn’t even notice (Macho Man could independently generate fire, right?).
  • That final smash work? Max Malicious Moonsault is the most Pro Wrestling ability in Smash, but is otherwise unimpressive in a game frequently involving space lasers. It is obvious that more moves should end with an atomic explosion, but this one feels like an afterthought.
  • The background work? We are going to assign Incineroar to Prism Tower, as a proper Pokémon Hawaii never surfaced. This is the proto New Donk City, though slightly more survivable if you wind up on the wrong platform at the wrong time. It is pretty straightforward for a switching terrain stage. And, hey, you get legendary birds randomly appearing… even if Yveltal is a bird edge case.
  • Classic Mode: Burning Pro Wrestling Spirit! means fighting heavy characters in the squared circle. Donkey Kong is a king of the ring, which is probably a Punch-Out reference for the Punch-Out stage. It is nice that Incineroar gets a simple flat stage to survive with that hideous agility, but it doesn’t prepare you for the final battle against the hands…
  • Smash Trivia: Incineroar has the slowest movement speed in the game. This is why, when you attempt the obstacle course as part of Classic Mode, it feels like the poor feline is chugging through molasses.
  • Look at that guy

  • Amiibo Corner: You can feel the heat of that flaming belt, and it looks like they are grabbing someone. Can this kitty easily palm Kirby? Probably!
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? Look, I know I am exploiting the flimsiest of excuses to relate the hype-based cat to the hype-based fighting game franchise. But! Incineroar’s Classic Mode ends in a Mirror Match. That’s a Mortal Kombat staple! So these games are totally related!

Incineroar (in spirit) in Mortal Kombat 1

  • He's back, babySystem: Currently available for Windows, Playstation 5, Xbox X/S, and the delightfully compromised Nintendo Switch. Everyone and everything in this game is ugly, but you do have the choice of picking a version where it is ugly and goofy.
  • Number of players: Until they make Kameos playable in the background like in Marvel vs. Capcom (1), we are going to stick to two simultaneous players.
  • What’s in a name? We have the original, 1992 Mortal Kombat. We have the 2011 Mortal Kombat that was the first official reboot of the franchise, and is often referred to as Mortal Kombat 9. And now we have Mortal Kombat 1, which 100% requires the backstory of knowing what the heck happened in Mortal Kombat 11. I’m not certain who NetherRealm is trying to fool here, but something like New Mortal Kombat or Mortal Kombat: ReMurdered might work better.
  • Favorite Fighter: Reptile has long been beloved (hey, my favorite color is green), and his current potential to randomly morph into a full or partial lizard is distinctive. He pairs well with Kameo Sareena, who similarly morphs into her demonic form. Those two crazy kids should get together.
  • Favorite Fatality: I prefer goofy to outright violent, so my current pick is Frost’s “freeze a dude’s abdomen, and then shatter that while leaving the rest of the body (marginally) intact”. That fatality probably has a better name… Regardless! It is a suitable mix of comical and violent that I prefer to a skull getting bisected.
  • This is a jokeUnlockable: Your reward for clearing Story Mode is obtaining a playable Havik. This is an odd choice, as Havik is D-Tier in the grand scheme of Mortal Kombat kharacters, and having to work for him is anomalous. He was originally designed as a possible skin for Noob Saibot! And is mostly just an angry zombie! Whatever! Shujinko being one of the hardest to obtain kameos feels slightly more earned. At least that guy damned the world once!
  • Plot Holes: So Liu Kang created his own universe with a generally more optimistic slant. Sindel is an independent, benevolent ruler. Mortal Kombat tournaments do not lead to dead participants. The villains of the world are generally less powerful. But good ol’ Liu also created a universe where an entire race has been demoted from “culture” to “fatal disease”. This feels… less than noble.
  • Did you know? Somehow, the weird relationship between Ermac and Kenshi continues. Straight from Kenshi’s introduction in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Kenshi and Ermac have always been telekinetic buddies despite having literally nothing else in common. Maybe they both just like the color green? Whatever. They are working together again in this new universe, though, so their bromance continues.
  • Would I play again: I find Mortal Kombat 1 disappointing, but I am not going to pretend that I will do anything but play it again for a week every time DLC drops. And the single player board game kontent has seasons and stories! I am all about that!

What’s next? Okay, so now we are going to get back to Pichu and his pals! Normal service resumes, so please look forward to it!

GIFs you can hear…

SBC #05 Mythra & Xenoblade Chronicles 3

This article contains spoilers for the Xenoblade Chronicles franchise. Well, X is barely mentioned… But 1, 2, and 3 all get spoiled to hell. Oh! And Xenogears and Xenosaga are in there, too. You have been warned!

Welcome to the latest XenoXenogears is a classic, deservedly laudable videogame. However, no one can say that the final product was what was imagined when the project was initially developed. Some of its most iconic moments, from Fei’s continual chair warming to entire dungeons that appeared only as JPEGs, were the result of a game that should have been two “episodes” being compressed into a single title. Whether you believe ChuChu on the cross is something that would have happened if anyone involved had longer than five seconds to consider the theological ramifications is immaterial, we simply know that Xenogears as we have it is not the same animal that would have come from an expanded development cycle. Even tracing back to its origins as a potential Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger sequel, Xenogears was forced to find its identity on the fly(ing robot). In short, Xenogears is great, but what we know as the final product “Xenogears” was totally an accident.

And then Xenogears begat Xenosaga. Xenosaga was a “saga” that was released over years, and, if that trilogy did not maintain a consistent cast, you would be forgiven for assuming they were three unrelated games. Classic RPG combat system! Or something about toppling now? Wait, now we’re done with that, and attempting a structure where you are supposed to draw aggro? And gameplay aside, the plot of Xenosaga was very publicly modified (almost exactly) halfway through, with its driving writer being canned, stories being heavily altered, and, oh yeah, the second game was supposed to be part of the first game that was supposed to be part of six games. You have about the same possibility of properly pacing a story in those circumstances as you do seeing a fish graduate law school (note: this jape should not be seen as related to my ongoing suit against The Law Firm of Fishguy and Octoman). I have objectively proven that Xenosaga is a trilogy worthy of its existence, but Xenosaga, after years of development shifts, is more of an accident than anything.

Working on itXenoblade Chronicles was arguably the first Xeno title that was a complete game. It was not initially planned as a “Xeno” title, but dropping the Monado from its title was suggested to honor what had come before. Xenoblade was designed from the start to be a perfect combination of gameplay and plot by the guy who was responsible for the 30-minute cutscenes of Xenosaga. In pursuit of this ideal, Xenoblade Chronicles became a franchise that rewarded the player not only for combat, but also other mundane tasks like talking to NPCs or discovering new locales. And this all worked well… but combined poorly with a world that eventually got whittled down to, like, two towns and a cave as the plot progressed. A game that simultaneously rewards you for looking everywhere but effectively locks you out of that option in favor of advancing the story is a major miss. Did the producers not understand the game they were making? Was this all just an accident?

(And we’re going to skip Xenoblade Chronicles X, because talking about that delightful mess should be an article all on its own…)

So Xenoblade Chronicles led to Xenoblade Chronicles 2…

FGC #655 Final Fantasy 6: Part 6

Final Fantasy 6 is one of my favorite games, so we are going to have seven different articles about Final Fantasy 6 over the course of three weeks. This week, there will be articles on Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and then the finale next Wednesday (just to be confusing). The Wild Arms 3 Let’s Play will resume on July 17. Now we continue Final Fantasy 6 coverage with…

Let's danceI had it in my head that when I finished Final Fantasy 6 Pixel Remaster, I would write some grand denouement for Final Fantasy 6. It is one of my favorite games, I have loved it since I was a child, and there are pieces of it that have been lodged in my brain since sixth grade. I have read here and there that Miyazaki’s works have influenced practically all fantasy to come out of Japan since the 80’s (obviously including this game), but, in replaying FF6, I realized that my own tropes and ticks are probably influenced by this narrative more than anything else (other chief influences: Xenogears, Breath of Fire 2, Chrono Trigger… I would say that I need to write the story of a time traveling furry that turns out to be Jesus, but I am moderately certain that is just the plot to Xenoblade Chronicles 3). I cannot ignore the fact that Final Fantasy 6 is somehow a part of my soul, and some essay about “the ending” or a roundup summary of the cast cannot do this game justice. In short, if Final Fantasy 6 cannot be found in Heaven, the afterlife holds no appeal to me, and I will wander this blighted earth until the last 16-bit save battery burns out of existence.

So when here on the site, I usually end the article with a list of “bullet point” observations that may not have naturally fit into the larger essay. Since I know I cannot properly do Final Fantasy 6 justice with just one, focused topic, I am going to transcribe some random thoughts on Final Fantasy 6 upon completing its attendant pixel remaster. It is marginally a different game! We’ll cover that at some point.

But for now, we will start with how The Moogle Narrator is the somehow the best thing that ever happened. Somebody had the idea to have Mog “host” a few tutorials here and there, and we get an odd Imp for Gau’s tutorial. And, on a superficial level, this is just kind of a cool thing, as it engages the audience a little better than a simple “now here is what you have to do to make this work” tutorial. You are going to listen to a teddy bear about how switching parties works, right? I believe all tutorials should be delivered by moogles across all genres and franchises.

That said, using Mog to choose your scenario during the “split” after fighting Ultros is inspired. It would be incredibly easy to make this momentary portion of the game a list with selectable characters, or some variation on the character select screen with an elementary pointer. But no, in a “room” where you can only take something like twelve steps, you are Mog making the decision on what scenario to follow. You can play with equipment, use the nearby savepoint, or… I don’t know… pretend you are an omnipotent bat boy that controls the fates of Locke, Sabin, and Terra. There is absolutely no reason you must have a playable character for this choice, but the fact that you get to inhabit obvious cool guy Mog for this moment is amazing.

You can understand why that white-furred weirdo was all over the North American advertising…

Let's danceOn an extremely related note, the Maduin Flashback is tops. The lore dump of the history of Terra could be a simple series of text boxes, but actively “playing” the story as Terra’s father is an excellent way to get the audience to empathize with the espers. Up to this point in Final Fantasy 6, you had screaming maniac Pink Terra, a mysterious ice sculpture, a friendly old man, and magic-spewing demons to represent the esper population. Hanging with Maduin in his pastoral village highlights how these mystical creatures are normal dudes that grow cabbages just like us. They might have wings, but they have routine lives and are in no way deserving of having their lifeforces sucked out through tubes.

The fanboy in me wants it to go another way, but I also admire the restraint shown through this whole sequence. Maduin is the focal-esper of this story, and while his village mates all seem very nice and relatable, they do not have names. There are maybe three espers in this whole sequence that even get so much as a title! And, considering you will eventually have an itemized list of every chunk of esper remains you will ever find, you damn well know that the designers could have casually included a few big boys here. Some espers must be preserved in the World of Balance (Odin, for instance, hasn’t left his basement in a millennia), but literally every esper you find with Ramuh or in the Magitek Factory could have been namedropped during this sequence. And that’s ignoring all the old guard that appear in The World of Ruin. Bahamut could be chatting about how he is itching to get back to the other world and fight that guy with the dooming gaze, or random espers could be spreading gossip of the great Crusader being sealed by dragons long ago. But no, this sequence is about Maduin and his baby mama, so this obvious mark for a lore dump stays on the target of the story of Terra’s parents.

Considering “can an esper (or half esper) feel love” is central to Final Fantasy 6, the section where we get a definitive answer and an origin for a main character is essential. And it is terrific that this section is given the internal reverence it deserves.

Some things never changeAnd speaking of espers, the existence of magic in Final Fantasy 6 might be the most restraint there has ever been in the franchise. Terra has magic right from the start. Once you get her out of her death machine, Terra can use “magic” as her main skill, and she has fire and cure. From there, a new player may correctly assume that there is a greater spell list available, but it works just like Edgar’s tools or Sabin’s blitzes. You will earn greater skills as you go, and you can guess that she will have a more robust spell list by the finale. This is not unlike Final Fantasy 4, where everyone’s roles were very regimented, and Kain was never going to pick up White Magic in the same way that Rydia was never going to jump. Pretty normal that the magical girl (and, eventually, the magical general) would have magic spells while Locke or Cyan had to showcase their specialties in other ways. Everybody has their place in this party.

And then, after traipsing over half the world, seeing the infamous scenario split, acquiring a healthy chunk of your party, and finding the lost Terra up in a tower of liars, you get magic. You get the whole esper system, magic points are introduced, and now everyone can learn the Sleep spell with a little effort. While this is technically only a few hours into the adventure, a whole lot of story happens before this point. Everything feels well and firmly established, and the fact that your party now has infinite options for customization is incredible. Siren, where have you been all my (Locke’s) life!? And it is a seamless system, too. You don’t need a tutorial on filling in a new sphere grid or learning how to properly farm magic points in some disconnected mini game: you just get a new kind of experience point, and it will be automatically applied to the multiplication tables of magic. Easy peasy!

And this never happens in the whole of the franchise before or since, right? Final Fantasy 1 and 2 had whatever level of customization available right from the start. Final Fantasy 3 and 5 both had crystal jobs that were available in less time than it took to learn the characters’ names. FF4 had its regimented cast that rotated in and out according to the story. Final Fantasy 710 all had their “ability customization” explained and functioning inside of the game’s first hour (sometimes with the most blunt “pay attention now” tutorials in history), and 12 and 15 were the same way. Final Fantasy 13 found a good way to “delay” the system of the game to match story progression, but, despite the time that must be involved to get there, it is hard to say that happened at any point other than “after the prologue”. I am unfamiliar with the intricacies of the MMORPG entries, but I was able to get a job inside the free trial period I had for Final Fantasy 14…

Final Fantasy 6, though? The delay of the introduction of basic mechanics combines perfectly with the overarching story of a world that is taking baby steps back to a magical cataclysm (these may be ill-advised baby steps, but baby steps all the same). This is a move that really sells the “world without magic”, and all it takes is withholding the cure spell from the majority of your party until after a world tour.

Considering how well-regarded Final Fantasy 6 has been in the popular consciousness, it is marginally weird that Square never tried such a thing again…

Very scenicBut speaking of trying themes again, it turns out my favorite characters are The Figaro Brothers. In the fullness of time, I do not know how I feel about this. I have always liked Edgar, because I always headcanoned his sexual misconduct as a sort of false front for a noble dude (basically, he is Bruce Wayne’ing his Batman-ness; this is 100% canon in his dealings with the Empire [until they burn the place down]), and, well, I did make him provide my yearbook quote…

Nothing will ever happen to me
I assure you, the sheer uncoolness of this picture was meant to pair with the quote

And he pairs well with Sabin, who is not usually my favorite archetype (the strong guy), but it is hard to downplay how much Sabin works as a character during his side adventure back to Narshe. He got washed away from the party due to overzealously attacking an octopus, wound up trying and failing to save a kingdom, and then suplexed the physical embodiment of mortality before joining a wild child for an extremely long swim. It is obvious we get this extended characterization because Sabin is the only POV character available for this section, but it works. Sabin really is a good guy who gets into “whacky” situations, and is wholly unequipped for a world where he has to survive a genocide event after being asked to repair a stove. He’s… just kind of a cool guy, and we never get a similar bit of development for Setzer or the Thamasa crew.

Oh, and I’ve always found Tools and Blitz to be indispensable through a healthy 75% of the game. That always helps me like a character more. Stopping to pick up the Bum Rush is always my Falcon’s first destination.

ToastyBut with the last hundred years of hindsight (how long has it been since Final Fantasy 6 was released? Oh… that’s all? Felt like longer), I now feel marginally manipulated by my affection for Edgar and Sabin. A significant part of the reason I like them is that they actually get a story, and have a clear (but fairly quiet) arc where two long-estranged twins learn to accept that they are very different people, but with common values. And, while some of this story could use a little bit of polish (if I could change one silly thing about Final Fantasy 6, it would be that initial appearance, “Young” Sabin would not have the same sprite, and look more like his brother before he leaves to become a bear-man), it is presented well through flashbacks and current events (“Hey, Edgar, let me borrow that trick coin I know you have”) that occur at a measured pace throughout the story. Many 16-bit RPGs followed the pattern of “introduce character – present character’s issue – solve character’s issue at the end game” with nary a word about these topics between the featured plot events. Here, it feels like Edgar and Sabin have a long simmering relationship, and, like how Locke and Celes grow into something more, the twins reach a natural end organically (well, as organically as is possible in a game where you must stop to murder a group of six mice with swords every few steps). But all of that comes through because they are frequently featured. In fact, my adult playthrough (that sounds dirty) caught a big whiff of “this is a writer’s favorite character”.

And who is responsible for Edgar and Sabin? Apparently Soraya Saga lists those two knuckleheads on her resume to this day:

It's right there

And that’s the woman responsible for Xenogears and (a good chunk of) Xenosaga. And those are two narratives that I have… let’s say… overanalyzed a bit. So now I feel like I was tricked! She planted the Figaro seeds in my head, and now I care about a goddamned blue-haired space robot! Gah!

And it’s not like “king of a desert kingdom that has to disguise himself as a goofy thief to save his people” is an archetype ever seen again in any franchises… Rassin’ frassin…

Oh, and has anyone ever properly sussed out the solution to the Zozo-chainsaw puzzle? Or have we all been working off the same Nintendo Power guide since 1994?

Get 'emWhile we’re marginally on the subject of Blitzes, we must address how the Pixel Remaster changed how things work, and now there is never any risk.

All of Sabin’s Blitzes used to be high risk, high reward affairs that praised a player for having muscle memory in an RPG. Choosing to “blitz” meant you had to memorize a motion sequence from a menu beforehand, properly recall said motion, and then actually perform that sequence with no immediate feedback. If you were successful, the attack would work. If you failed, you would waste a turn, and receive zero explanation of where you went wrong. This seemed “fair”, as many of the blitzes simulated magical attacks that always had an MP cost. Sabin gets to use his own version of Fira on the monsters, but only if he can properly recall/recite in the heat of battle. And if you are no good at “fighting game motions”, you have eleven (or so) other characters that do not require that skill. It is a surprisingly effective method of marrying Sabin’s “years of training” narrative to actual gameplay conventions. If you trained with Ryu, you can Aura Cannon, too.

The Pixel Remaster has changed this system. Now you select a Blitz from a list of available moves, just like regular magic or any other skill. Now the sequence is displayed on screen. Now you get an immediate “incorrect buzzer” if you enter the wrong command, and you are asked to start again. Now the only way to get an “Incorrect Input” waste of a turn is if you very distinctly and deliberately enter the wrong input, are told you entered the wrong input, and then hit confirm anyway. So, in the end, you are getting all the rewards of a Blitz (high damage, no MP cost of any kind) but zero chance of getting it wrong and wasting a turn. I haven’t tested it extensively, but it appears the battle even freezes during “enter command” time regardless of Wait or Active battling. It couldn’t be easier!

And, brother, do I appreciate not experiencing Blitz Stress every battle. It’s awesome. But still! It feels like something was lost here.

Look awayAnd on a related note, Doomgaze’s spiked tile for an aerial battle in the World of Ruin is now visible on the world map. You want to fight the bat-skull? Just steer your airship into the gigantic swirl of black that FuSoYa could see from the moon. This change has now saved hours of my life.

Unfortunately, the Pixel Remaster has done nothing to circumvent the “required” waste of time of visiting the Auction House in two different worlds, and waiting through seventeen auctions for “cute” items that you cannot hope to win while you just want your goddamned Golem esper to appear on the docket. Take your mecha-chocobo elsewhere, screaming child, I am trying to save the world here.

Apropos of nothing, I would also like to state for the record that there is a minecart level in Final Fantasy 6. While I feel the presence of minecarts in videogames have been exaggerated over the years, this could be evidence they were a requirement for the 16-bit era…

Goggle Bob’s Partial List of Unanswered Questions That Do Not in Any Way Matter!

I don't understand· Ramuh distinctly notes that he fled the Magitek Factory, and your first magicite crystals are the friends he lost along the way. Ramuh also notes that he has been able to survive in Zozo because he looked like a human. So… were Kirin, Siren, and Cait Sith hunted and killed by the populace of Zozo? Wait! Siren is pretty human looking! And Cait Sith is just a cat. Did someone in Zozo kill a magical cat for no good reason? Or was it the empire? And can we get a prequel about Ramuh living in the liarest town that ever lied while he is telepathically communicating with moogles? There must be some good stories there.

· Did we have to get the Ultima Weapon so early? You don’t usually see a sword with HP-based variable effects until the end of a Final Fantasy, and never mind this is labeled as the ultimate weapon before the game even fakes its first “ending”. And finding it on the way to Esper Village even makes it thematically paired with approaching the ancient realm of war beasts. All that said, though, I have a hard time imagining Gestahl missed such an important artifact during his first trip. Bro was able to find the phoenix magicite all on his own! Of course he would be on the lookout for a blue laser sword while kidnapping a baby.

Excellent Stairs· What is the deal with Darill’s Tomb? I can understand Setzer setting up a maze to keep people away from one of the two airships on the planet, but it sure seems like a hassle anytime he wants to visit his old friend. An NPC claims that the crypt is ancient, but it is hard to determine if that is just window dressing for explaining the Growth Egg’s secret passage, or if this is legitimate world building. And is this place one giant dungeon meant to house one body? Or are the army of skeletons all the other corpses? Was Darill’s remains mutated into one of the monsters? Was she the Dullahan? Whatever is happening there, it had to be hell for Setzer to repair the Falcon in the first place.

I know that guy· What happened to all the magitek nonsense after Kefka took over the world? Like, okay, we already covered that Kefka hoovered up a lot of it into his private citadel, but you would think there would be a warlord or two stomping around with (literally) magic armor. I understand how the narrative didn’t “need” magitek anymore, because the whole point was that this was something that could get out of control, and Kefka proved it would destroy the world… But still! Magitek was cool! And it is a shame the only time we get to play with it after the intro is in a dreamscape meant to highlight Cyan’s mechanophobia. I would take a lost Magitek soldier as a hidden character over Umaro. Would finally explain what happened to Biggs…

Gogo is Gogo, and nothing around them makes a lick of sense. Zone Eater is a giant worm that only surfaces on a single island in the World of Ruin. Zone Eater is literally incapable of killing anyone (it uses gravity and freezing dust, and does not have an actual attack that can reduce HP by anything but a percentage), but will eat your party if you give it enough time. Inside of Zone Eater is an entire dungeon. Zone Eater’s Belly is filled with difficult monsters that are generally human-esque. Multi-armed dudes, shambling corpses, ninja: that kind of party. There are also weirdly dressed humans that seem to exist exclusively to kick people off of bridges. Then we’ve got a room with a mobile ceiling (maybe meant to simulate Zone Eater chewing? Or digesting?), followed by a quick chest-based obstacle course (are the “chests” supposed to be an anatomy pun?). There are treasures for warriors and pictomancers scattered about, and, of course, Gogo waits in the central-most chamber.

This has nothing to do with anythingAnd there is nothing else like this in Final Fantasy 6, nor is it ever remotely explained.

It would be the easiest thing in the world, right? Add a comment to any of the many Final Fantasy 6 rereleases that a circus troop got swallowed by the worm god. Or change Gogo’s airship dialogue to “I wonder if my worm buddies back at the worm cave are doing their wormiest”. Or, by the crystals, you could even make a quick change to Final Fantasy 5, and have Enemy-Gogo cast “be-wormed” on themselves. Conversely, while we have had a Gogo cameo or two in future games (is there a single bit of Final Fantasy Lore that is not referenced in Final Fantasy 14?), there was never a dang thing that explained The Worm Dimension.

Now, at this point, there have been interviews and alike that have confirmed that Gogo originally had a very different appearance/recruiting method. Apparently, there was going to be some nonsense where you would see a party member at a random bar out in the world, and the “joke” would be that your friend was hanging out without you, but, oh man, it was actually Gogo mimicking your buddy. The recruitment method would involve some level of luck, and you would have to already have that party member in your current gang, and then you would be able to confront the master mimic and reveal the ruse once and for all. While this is one of those ideas that sounds marginally cool (and is also a clearer reference to Gogo’s previous appearance), it is hard to ignore how it would be a complete pain in the ass to actually program and for the player to figure out what to do when. Dropping such a system was probably the right call.

So the most likely answer here is that Worm Daddy was probably just a mishmash of ideas that didn’t fit anywhere else. The Bridge Folk would fit right in in Zozo or the Mt. Zozo return, the collapsing ceiling is a classic dungeon trap that was likely orphaned in a game where the “instant kill” loss condition is not seen elsewhere, and even the “get eaten by an enemy” thing seems like a logical (albeit obstruse) inversion of the sneeze mechanic seen elsewhere in this world. So the most logical explanation here is simply that this was a developer’s graveyard, and Gogo simply became quing of the trash heap.

But what’s important is that Adlai Stevenson has never had anything to do with anything.

So scenicAlright, I think I’m ready to talk about the elephant rotting in Celes’s room: Let’s address the (potential) death of Cid Del Norte “Grandpa” Marguez.

There is a lot going on here.

First of all: Cid is supposed to die. No question, it is 100% clear that Cid dying is a perfectly normal part of the Final Fantasy 6 lifecycle, and Celes throwing herself off a cliff in despair is the exact right move at that point in the game.

Of course, I mean this from a “lowest point” drama perspective. It cannot be ignored that the whole thing is rather misogynistic (a grief stricken Strago joins a cult, Setzer turns to drinking, and Cyan pioneers the concept of being an internet weirdo; but none of the boys seem to even consider the ol’ suicidal “widow” route), and, while you can make the excuse that Celes always had the support network of an army behind her (even if that army included a moogle), the fact that this all seems to be intentionally related to Locke… Well, it ain’t great. Some more deft writing would have benefitted Celes, Cid, and Locke. More of an emphasis on how Celes distinctly regrets leaving things unsaid with Locke could have been a little more relatable than “where my man? I die now.” Similarly, Cid and Celes had exactly one interaction together in all the World of Balance, and Cid’s position at the time was “Huh? Celes?” like a dog that thought they heard their owner outside (and it is the mailperson every time). While he hastily explains their shared past before shoving the party into a minecart, the actual “present” relationship between Cid and Celes is practically nonexistent before the world goes sideways. And, again, this might have been remarkable with more focused writing (Celes immediately adopting Cid as literal family could have a couple of different motivations, but the text is just basically “You’re my grandpa now!” like Celes is a toddler), but the reality of it is trite and arguably too shallow for such a potentially deep character and moment.

But holy cow is the “game” portion of this fascinating.

Has anyone ever saved Cid on an initial playthrough? It seems vaguely impossible, as the deck is very stacked against Celes. Enterprising programmers have uncovered the exact mechanics of Cid’s life and death, and apparently not only must you fish the proper fishies, but Cid’s health decreases for every second Celes is puttering around. Couple this with the fact that the slow Death Fish are a lot more common than the yummy fish, and how you must speak to Cid and unload Death Fish to reset the pool at all… And, yeah, he doesn’t have a chance. FF6 Designer Yoshinori Kitase has stated that Cid is supposed to die, but the option of saving him was included so the player had some agency over the proceedings. So the obfuscation of mechanics for saving the old man is deliberate, and the difficulty included is calculated. Saving Cid is like… Well… It’s like trying to save a feeble old man with absolutely no help and a pile of potentially murderous fish. It’s thematically appropriate!

Cid isn't here, eitherBut, on a personal note, despite the fact that there is literally no reward for saving Cid in any capacity, I am incapable of not saving Cid. As of the advent of emulators, I used to savescum the best fish, but after a few decades, I now have it down to a science. I only kill Cid if I want to kill Cid. I am the master of Celes’s destiny. And on the rare occasions when I do want to see Celes taking a dive, I let Cid die, and then I reset from the previous save. I am pathologically incapable of moving on in this game knowing there is a yellow raincoat starting to smell back on Solitary Island.

I even know that Cid surviving is somehow sadder than if he just dies. Spending the entire length of The World of Ruin alone on an island with exploding squirrels sounds more like a waking Hell than anything Kefka could concoct. Does Celes even visit when she returns for that bird magicite on the beach? Does somebody else head the search party there? Our former general would really love to leave the airship, but she’s right in the middle of polishing Ragnarok, and… be a dear and go and see if there is anything left on the beach? Thanks. No, I don’t want to hear about the old man standing by the bed and weeping…

But… yeah, I think that’s where I’m going to end this. I could spend the next thousand words discussing the differences between Tonberry, Tonberries, and Master Tonberry, but… I think that’s just how Final Fantasy 6 is in my head. I understand why this game hit me so hard as a child: it is a good game (Gogo can customize his skills!) coupled with a story and concepts that could light my imagination aflame (Gogo is secretly Darill!). This is the game with the largest playable cast in mainline Final Fantasy history, and that seems apt: it is a gestalt of a bunch of weird little concepts and set pieces, and, while much of it is extremely shallow, it somehow unites into something more. When I was a toddler, I was excited to see the Voltron lions go-lion in a giant man with a blazing sword, and a decade later, I was excited to see how Strago, Locke, Mog, and Terra all combined into an amazing game.

So that’s my final word on Final Fantasy 6.

Next time on Final Fantasy 6: Psyche! Let’s read about reading.

Look out
Before “doink” was a household term

FGC #655 Final Fantasy 6: Part 5

Final Fantasy 6 is one of my favorite games, so we are going to have seven different articles about Final Fantasy 6 over the course of three weeks. This week, there will be articles on Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and then the finale next Wednesday (just to be confusing). The Wild Arms 3 Let’s Play will resume on July 17. Now we continue Final Fantasy 6 coverage with…

Let us gaze into the face of madness.

So a while back, I saw this tweet on the ol’ bird app…

Bwa ha ha

So this is a comment where Amano compares Final Fantasy 6’s Kefka to Batman’s Joker. This is significant, as Amano is an artist that has professionally drawn Batman before, and, despite all odds, his Batman did not look like a wispy dude with white hair. As everyone knows, Amano was cursed by a nefarious djinn from the 5th dimension to be an amazing artist that can only draw wispy people with white hair, and it was only in drawing Batman that the spell was broken. So believe me when I say that Amano knows what he is talking about when he references Batman lore.

Bwa ha haNow, the Joker has been many things since he first premiered in 1940, from “clown prince of crime” to a gangster that just really likes murdering people. He is a character that has appeared in comics, videogames, television shows, and movies (many of which included an unusually high number of boomboxes). And what has been consistent through these eighty years of Joker? He’s crazy! While Bruce Wayne isn’t out there every night with a psychiatrist in tow (that’s Dr. Strange’s job… or maybe Scarecrow… dang does Bats have a lot of doctor villains…), it is generally accepted that Joker’s superpower is either being completely insane, or some kind of “super sane” that allows him to break the fourth wall and identify Deadpool as a crossover character. Whatever the case, we are all firmly confident that The Joker is the fictional definition of nuts, and it is only the mentally stable billionaire running around all night in a bat suit that can save us from the insanity.

So, since Amano made the comparison, we must ask ourselves: is Kefka Palazzo insane?

Let us begin with his origin story. The scuttlebutt amongst the rabble at Vector is that Kefka had his “mind shattered” when he became the first magitek knight. Long before Celes or the entire army wound up with esper-infusions, Cid used Kefka as his guinea pig, and the process… did not work out correctly. Kefka gained some meager magic (ice and poison seem to be his preferred moves), but was never the same since. Given Kefka was magically powerful, but mentally compromised, he was immediately kicked out of the Vector forces, and damned to wander the world alone and broken.

Oh… No… Wait. That didn’t happen. What happened was that Kefka was promoted to high general of the imperial forces, a position apparently only ever held by three people.

So Kefka made out okay.

Looking hot

This is one of the first and most important points we must note: whatever is “wrong” with Kefka? Gestahl was totally into it. Random NPCs will elaborate on Kefka’s tragic origins, but Gestahl? He never makes so much as a peep about Kefka being anything but an ideal general. His only moment of dissent is during the banquet, when he notes that Kefka has been locked up for his crimes against Doma Castle. But we learn about an hour later that every bit of Kefka’s punishment was a feint, and Gestahl has never not supported the “court mage”. And for further evidence that Kefka has always been supported by Gestahl, look no further than Gestahl seeing his first “experimental” magitek soldier off cackling in the corner, and then telling Cid to make more Kefkas. According to Gestahl’s marginally homicidal machinations, it is only by the grace of a good scientist in a yellow raincoat that the formula saw improvements, and Locke’s future girlfriend didn’t turn out as murderous as ol’ frilly collar.

There can be entire armies of Gestahlian forces skulking around and muttering about how they think their superior officer is nuttier than a squirrel’s breakfast burrito, but the big boss of the organization is handing out promotions for anyone “crazy enough” to laugh about having his shoes shined in the desert.

So much dirt

So screw the official timeline, how are we first introduced to Kefka? Well, he’s right there in Terra’s first flashback, and he is presented not only as the reason she is wearing a “slave collar” (a device so heinous that its name speaks for itself), but also someone who stood around while she committed unwilling murder and screamed for her to “burn up everything”. After that, we see him live and in person for his visit to Figaro Castle where he ultimately decides to… burn up everything. And lest we think all of the soldiers in his service think he’s a maniac, there seem to be more than a few brown hats that are enjoying the Figaro BBQ. So this “he’s crazy” thinking is not unanimous among the Vector citizenry. Sure, there is some dissent here and there, but, in the court of opinion of his ostensible underlings, he is more regarded as a lousy boss than anything else.

This is gonna end poorly

How about amongst Kefka’s peers? General Leo is the obvious counterpart to Kefka, as he is not only a general of matching rank to Kefka, but is distinctly in charge of the siege of Doma before Kefka takes over. Does Leo disparage Kefka in Doma? Well, he does not seem to trust him, but he also willingly concedes his beloved troops to the guy in the jester costume. And when Kefka poisons every last soul in Doma to win that war and hear the sweet music of hundreds of voices screaming in unison, what was Leo doing? Who knows! But what’s important is that Leo doesn’t come riding back to rectify the situation. Hell, he (eventually) apologizes to Cyan for what happened, but does he personally punish Kefka in any way? Nope. Ever the consummate soldier, Leo doesn’t approve of Kefka, but doesn’t do a thing to stop him at any point, either.

Well, until Leo finally grows a spine, but that gets him killed immediately. So who is the crazy one here? The mage conquering the world with unspeakable magics, or the knight that finally decided to challenge ultimate power exactly when that power became ultimate. The answer is written on the front of Leo’s grave.

This ends poorly

And Celes? It is never 100% confirmed, but the best explanation for Celes being marked as a traitor in South Figaro is that she was a little too loose-lipped with Kefka’s “kill ‘em all and let the Triad sort ‘em out” plan. How did Celes learn of Kefka’s rotten ambitions? Eh, Kefka probably told her during some random Vector function in between recounting how funny he found episodes of Rick and Morty (“And then he says ‘I turned myself into a pickle,’ funniest shit I’ve ever seen, Celes”), but Celes had the damned lack of sense to tell an adult, and she was punished for it. Who would she have told? The only commander of these knuckleheads, Gestahl, of course! And this is further evidence that Kefka has unlimited support for his plotting, and anyone that gets in his way is punished by the highest echelons of power. And when they are finally in the same room/Magitek Factory again, Kefka screws with Celes because he knows he can. He is not trying to trick the Returners into believing their new friend is a traitor, he just wants to pick on his female coworker again. Perfectly sane, terribly dickish behavior. And Kefka’s outburst on the Floating Continent when Celes definitively fights back and makes him bleed? Typical abuser activity of being shocked when their victim is pushed to fight back. Even when the literal fate of the world is on the line, Kefka cannot imagine his prey fighting back against him.

Thanks, dad

And speaking of the end of the world and Kefka’s prey, the bad general has been laser focused on the espers and Triad for some time. Even before most of the cast knows that the Triad exists, Kefka is ranting to the empty halls of the Magitek Factory that he wants to reawaken the warring gods that once nearly destroyed the world. Then, when he leads a raiding party to the Esper Gate, he claims “Mercy is for wimps” and demands his soldiers slaughter the magical creatures that were just minding their own business. So don’t worry, kiddies, Kefka wants to see the deaths of humans and magical beings equally! He’s ruthless… but all of this is unwritten Vector protocol. After all, Gestahl stomped through those same gates a couple decades back and kidnapped a baby. And that was just on the hunch that the green-haired tyke might work out in helping him conquer the world.

And do we need to address Thamasa? Is that when Kefka’s assault on the espers finally cracks the “genocide” mark? You sure don’t see a lot of espers flying around the World of Ruin…

Show no mercy

But it’s the relationship between Gestahl and Kefka that we must return to before the world ends. Your party fights the Vector Air Force on your way onto the Floating Continent, but you know what you don’t fight once you land there? Any Vector soldiers. There are monsters creeping about, and at least one ancient creature of untold destruction, but Gestahl left his army at home for this mission. The only man Gestahl trusted to follow Terra back to the Esper Gate was Kefka (Kefka explains that he is there because, “just like the Emperor said…”), and it was Kefka that was tasked with attacking Thamasa while Gestahl’s “public relations team” was distracted with diplomatic matters. So once again, Gestahl only brings Kefka to the Floating Continent to witness the Warring Triad in action. And, while Gestahl is rewarded for this trust by hitting the ground with all the force of a Link that forgot he had a paraglider, it is a clear statement of how the man that was the whole empire up until that point trusted Kefka implicitly. Kefka betrayed everyone in his immediate area across the whole of Final Fantasy 6 seemingly for Gestahl, so maybe we can forgive the monarch for not expecting to be betrayed just the same as everybody else.

And what does Kefka do after murdering the one guy that had complete faith in him? He feels bad about it forever.


Now, I can hear objections to that statement immediately. After all, what Kefka does after killing Gestahl is purposely unbalance the Warring Triad, and cause destruction across the globe. Continents are torn asunder, families are ripped apart, and I’m pretty sure that one gossipy old lady in Thamasa straight up dies (you know the one). And then, once Kefka has absorbed enough power from the Triad, he creates his new home in the center of universal ruin.

And damned if that thing ain’t an enormous monument to his old boss.

“Hey, Kefka, I’m the voice inside your head that does everything with your omnipotent powers. Think of me as a magical Clippy the Paperclip. What would you like to do today?”
“Well, I’ll create a tower where I can rule the world.”
“Great! Where will it be?”
“How about in the middle of the same continent with Tzen and Albrook?”
“So basically where Vector was?”
“I guess.”
“And you have access to all the material on the planet…”
“Let’s build this place out of ruins of the old world.”
“Brilliant! Like what?”
“Well, how about some distinct pieces of the Magitek Factory…”
“From Vector…”
“And the old Imperial Palace…”
“From Vector…”
“And… that’s all I can think of.”
“Fine. Alright. And what kind of monsters will be here?”
“Well, the Warring Triad of course.”
“Great! Those guys have nothing to do with Vector!”
“… And the Guardian from Vector… and a color swap of that one guy from the Magitek Factory… And some more giant robots from the Vector army…”
“And I want there to be a random creature called the Vector Lythos.”
“And put the Ultima Buster in my old Vector prison cell. I had some good laughs in that place.”

Bwa ha ha

So yeah, Kefka is nuts. Nuts about how much he misses Vector!

And thus we are left to examine Kefka’s actions after Celes successfully poisons her grandpa. In the World of Ruin, Kefka uses his Light of Judgment on exactly one (1) house in one (1) town, and… that’s it. Every other challenge that your party faces is either the result of Kefka’s initial destruction of the world, or the one other time the Light of Judgment torched a town. Did Kefka not like the price of Dried Meat at Mobliz? We never learn why that town got so obliterated. Thamasa, Doma, or Figaro would have been more relevant targets, but Mobliz takes the brunt. And we do know all the “ancient evil” monsters stalking around the world were released incidentally by the planet being torn open, and not because Kefka decided Doomgaze needed to stretch his wings. There is never even any evidence that Kefka is aware there is an entire Cult of Kefka building a tower in his image! Those fanatics could be the bootleg Ricky Rouses of the New Palazzo Empire!

Stay in your boxKefka doesn’t even say a word in the World of Ruin until the party pours into his deepest apartment (his bedroom? Kitchen? … Floating rock pondering chamber?). Then he admits that he was waiting for everybody to show up, and his latest belief system is heavily based on the kind of nihilism that comes from ultimate power. He is the god of this world now, nothing matters, he can play around with his death laser at will, yada yada yada, everybody should just give up now. Not unlike his confrontation with Celes a year back, though, he launches into a tantrum the minute the party doesn’t immediately capitulate to his convictions. Though, what did he think was going to happen? He created a world that was a monument to suffering kinda by accident, but he deliberately placed himself at the center of literally the world’s longest and most tedious escape room. Anybody that had the guts to make it through three intersecting paths of devious puzzles and deadly monsters was obviously going to have some drive to survive, so of course he was immediately rebuffed when he claimed that there was nothing worth living for in this fallen world. Relm found something worth living for! It was a rainbow paintbrush you stuffed in a chest a couple rooms back! She’s gotta survive to try that out!

So maybe because he truly was a heartless nihilist, or maybe because he didn’t think his plan through to its logical endpoint, Kefka goes out with a whimper. Sure, he built his brand-new three-part statue with pieces of the Blackjack and hookers (that is to say, at least one figure equipped with hooks), but once you actually face Kefka mono a mono, he falls pretty easily and quietly. He says something like “the end comes through chaos” or “the end draws near”, and then he just… ends. No desperate parting words, no final laugh; just a crumble to dust. He’s as empty and weak as his beliefs, and now he’s gone for good (along with all magic, his tower, and at least a couple of Strago’s newest drinking buddies). That’s it for the big bad.

Here he comes to die

What’s the verdict? We have hard evidence that Kefka displays a lack of emotional maturity, and has the temper of a toddler. Hell, you could even claim his “final form” at the World of Ruin is just a man-child leveling up to his man-teenager (lack of) maturity. He is even doing that “goth phase” nonsense of perverting Christian symbolism for no good reason. And his many sins back in the World of Balance? Well, 90% of those actions were all for the doting support of Emperor Gestahl, with the final 10% disapproval only occurring when Kefka kicked the guy off a continent. Our little boy is growing up and becoming more independent! So this portrays a Kefka that is not crazy, just immature for his age (damn near 40). He seeks approval. He lashes out when he feels threatened. He sees other people as mere playthings. He is homicidally immature, and enabled by the emperor of a country. The real bad guy never sees the true scope of the damage he has wrought on the world…

And Kefka? He is perfectly sane. He is no Joker, he’s just a joke.

… That happened to conquer the world.

So, uh, sorry, Gotham City’s scourge. You have a lot to live up to.

Next time on Final Fantasy 6: Potpourri.

That freak
You ever wonder if this soldier is still around to see Kefka rule the world?