#FFVI20Years: The War of the Magi
This is an introspective I’m doing for Final Fantasy III, better known as Final Fantasy VI for the Super Nintendo. While the game was first released in Japan on April 2, 1994 and I first owned it on December 24, 1994, the North American release was on October 20, 1994. That’s a good place for North American readers to go back 20 years ago to when they first could play the game. I’ll be discussing everything from my thoughts of playing the game again to its impact on the industry to why more games should be like Final Fantasy VI. Enjoy #FFVI20Years
It was Christmas Eve in 1994 when I first got to turn on my Super Nintendo and play a bit of my big gift of the Christmas season.
At the time (I think from 1993-1995), my family was going through a difficult bankruptcy and money wasn’t like it used to be. I used to get an allowance every week. That was gone. My dad didn’t have a car for a good portion of one of the years. Gifts at Christmas were not as abundant as they used to be. I used to excitedly circle a bunch of gifts in the Sears catalogue. This year, my mom was concerned when I did. The entire time this was happening, I didn’t have a clue about what bankruptcy was or what it meant to the family. More importantly, at Christmas, my mom asked me what the number one gift I wanted was. That gift was Final Fantasy III.
The fact I got it at Christmas Eve meant it came from my grandmother and aunt, who likely paid the $129.99 price tag for the game (the dollar in Canada was extremely low compared to the United States, resulting in most SNES games being around the ninety dollar mark and JRPGs breaking the $100 threshold) I would again own 20 years later at a likely inflated price of $199.99 from a local videogame store. Reddit was happy to tell me I overpaid for it like I give a fuck. I don’t recall any other gifts I got that year and I don’t recall if that was the year we had Goodfellows come and give me some extra gifts. All I remember is that between 1993 and 1995, money was tight. I never really noticed. I had the game I wanted.
My parents let me play it after we got back from my grandmothers. My excitement was compounded for the fact that Final Fantasy II was my favourite game ever at the time. When my dad got Final Fantasy for the NES, he loved it. It was the only Nintendo game he played anymore. He was a Dungeons and Dragons kind of guy so Final Fantasy was perfect for him. At the time I was around five years old and too young to understand it, or properly play it. Whenever I tried, I would end up deleting my save file or someone else’s. This would anger my father (and sister, who the NES was originally for). But soon came the Super Nintendo and that wasn’t for my sister. That was my system. While Christmas meant getting a SNES, Final Fantasy II wouldn’t come until my birthday in February. Even though I received Final Fantasy II (IV) in 1992, I would still play it from time to time. I used to draw pictures of what I thought the next Final Fantasy would look like. I thought it would be a sequel, where I got to play as Cecil and Rydia and Edge and Kain and Rosa again. Find out what happened to Golbez and FuSoYa. Maybe meet Cecil’s dad or see if Rydia and Edge got married. I wouldn’t get to find out about those characters futures until 2009.
While I read about the game in gaming magazines, I still had no idea what I was prepared for. 32-bit systems were just around the corner in late 1994. Donkey Kong Country was blowing my socks off with the graphic capabilities. Just what was this going to do for me? What story was I going to get? How was this going to change my life at the edge of 10 years old?
I didn’t care about packaging. I just opened the box up so I could get to that cartridge. I slipped off the plastic protection at the bottom and gently slid it into the top of the SNES. I turned the TV on and then pushed the little purple switch up.
The first thing I saw was an off purple screen showing the name of the game. I didn’t press a button and suddenly the screen changed to black. Soon there were clouds and bolts of lightning with an organ playing. The screen scrolled down as the music got louder and louder. A flash of fire streaked the screen as FINAL FANTASY III was written in fire, the organ at high crescendo. The ominous organ gave way for a light piano, the sky still struck in purple lightning, title still ablaze. My heart was pounding, holding the controller, not touching a single button. The intro started to replay with the music not repeating. It came down to the sight of a mountain.
“Aaron, you should goto bed. You can play this tomorrow. It’s Christmas Day tomorrow!” my mom said, my mouth dropped a little.
The screen was just going to black, going to a new scene as I leaned into the Super Nintendo to turn it off. I soon read the words, “Long ago, the War of the Magi…” before flipping the notch down.
War of the Magi.
War of the Magi?
As I gathered up the game box, I grabbed the booklet and took it to my room to goto bed. Not sleep, mind you. There was no way I was sleeping. War of the Magi?
I needed to know more. I needed to know why the title was on fire. I needed to know why I had this feeling of dread and black from just a few seconds of a title screen. This wasn’t Final Fantasy II with a beautiful sword and golden dipped title, overlaid with the Crystal Room music. There was a sense of wonder before Final Fantasy II took you high in the skies with the airships so you could see you were not playing as a Dark Knight. Final Fantasy III wasn’t giving me that.
Final Fantasy III was preparing me for war.