When those who aren't familiar with video games ask me how the interactive medium can compete with the greatest works of the literary world or the sensory allure of the big screen, I am always left with a single argument. Video games, by their nature, entertain through immersion. You don't read about someone else's epic battle against dragons, you're swinging a magic sword and slaying them yourself. You aren't watching the FBI agent take down the terrorist, you're actually aiming the crosshairs and squeezing the trigger. It's a very powerful form of make-believe that remains relevant and culturally significant no matter the age of the player.

I bring this up because there are some games that have left a particularly powerful impact upon me, on par with any film I've seen or book I've read. Final Fantasy VI, originally released as Final Fantasy III for the Super NES is one of these games. It holds a special place in the hearts of countless gamers worldwide, and while the dusty old SNES cartridge may be the ideal way to experience what many consider to be the pinnacle of Square's craft in the 16-bit era, this latest re-release on the Game Boy Advance allows a whole new generation of gamers to experience this lovingly crafted tale in the palms of their hands.


This re-release and repackaging of Final Fantasy VI is made for the fans, as evidenced by the new box art illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. Slight updates to the game's visuals do much to re-emphasize the strength of Amano's character design work this time around, most notably being the inclusion of his characters' portraits inside their respective dialogue boxes. The basic storyline is intact all the way through, as the fans wouldn't have it any other way, but there are a few new characters to encounter, a couple new spells and a new dungeon to explore. Once you've saved a game, you can also peruse a bestiary showing all the statistics behind the monsters you've encountered. Unique to this handheld version is the ability to quick save anywhere, so you'll never lose your place in the game when playing on the road.

The large cast of characters that is one of this game's hallmarks is most impressive because of their individuality, both from a story and from a gameplay perspective, as well as the amount of effort that was put in to exploring their personalities, motivations and histories. These characters tackle important themes that are still relevant today; they face the pains of life and death, and they do it in such a way that feels honest. This translation holds true to the original SNES translation, except that a few minor changes were made to correct previous censorship decisions where naming conventions were changed for the North American audience, so for example, characters can actually use holy magic instead of inflicting 'pearl' damage. From a localization standpoint, this feels like a director's cut version of the game, Star Wars references and all.

For some people, it's hard to go back to sprites. It's remarkable how much of a character's personality and imagery came across all those years ago considering just a few pixels were allotted to each personage. That these sprites were able to at least somewhat impart the general feel of the Amano character designs is a testament to Square's artists. The tile sets that make up each miniature environment are simple yet elegant, and even today, this remains an attractive game. One can even see how shrinking everything down to the small screen has done wonders for the game's visuals. Some of the battles do, however, cause the game to slow down.