Final Fantasy 6 came out my freshman year in college. I don't think i had my SNES there for the first semester, and i didn't actually get the game until christmas anyways. However there was a guy in the single across from my room that had a SNES and had picked it up. I believe kirinn and i both spent time watching him play.
The first year i was at college the internet consisted mainly of gopher and Usenet. (I got access to the "real" internet the year after the Eternal September, but i'd like to think that i adapted more to the previous mindset than a lot of people. Perhaps because i was on BBSes for quite awhile before that.) I remember reading quite a lot of posts about FF6 on the related Usenet channels, but i'm not sure if that happened before i got the game myself or not.
When i got the game i of course dumped a huge amount of time into it. I forget when i finished it the first time, but i got all the characters (except General Leo ;) and got the full ending. And then at some point in the next year or three it was pointed out to me that you could finish the game with only thee characters, so i set out to accomplish that. And at some point over that period i started a new game to research how to maximize stat gains from leveling with Espers. (I wonder what i ever did with that data? I'm sure someone else has done a better job of producing it by this point.)
Times played: 2-3 (Complete) 1 (Incomplete)
First played: 1994
Last completed: 1998?
Last seen: 1998? (It seems like i must have done something with it more recently than that, but i can't think of a specific example.)
Terra/Tina - Magically enslaved magical girl
Locke - Thief, er, treasure hunter.
Edgar - Ladies man prince (or so he'd like to think anyways.)
Sabin - Body-builder prince
Strago - Old Blue Mage, grandfather of Relm
Shadow - Ninja with "mysterious" past
Interceptor - Shadow's dog. Eats strangers.
Relm - Magic painter. Granddaughter of Strago. Gets along great with Interceptor.
Celes - Ex-imprisoned ex-Imperial ex-general.
Setzer - Lady's man gambler and airship pilot with a tragic backstory.
Cyan - Knight/samurai with a tragic backstory.
Rachel - Tragic backstory.
Cyan's wife - Tragic backstory.
Cyan's kid - Young tragic backstory.
??? - Tragic backstory.
Gogo - ???
Gau - Wild child
Mog - Wild Moogle (and wicked dancer.)
Umaru - Wild Yeti
Geshtal - Evil emperor
Kefka - Evil clown
Ultros - Evil octopus
As usual, this is long and spoilery:
• We open with Terra, Bicks, and Wedge marching on Narshe in their magical mecha. You're told that an Esper has been discovered there and you're supposed to deal with it. Bicks and Wedge do all the talking because Terra is magically enslaved.
• You fight... Shiva? and kick her ass. But the aftermath of that allows Terra to break free of her magical conditioning. I forget if she just outright murders Bicks and Wedge herself or if that's a side-effect of something else.
• After that you find Locke and Mog in quick succession, who decide to help for reasons i can't remember. (During this process you get to play some little turn-based mini-game or something like that.)
• You head towards... dessert castle place, where you meet the prince Edgar, who hits on Terra a lot.
• Then Kefka shows up and threatens to attack. Edgar tells him to bite it and orders the castle to submerge. Except you're not in the castle at that point, so you have to head cross-country.
• You go through a cave and have to fight a giant... machine thing at the end?
• I believe this is when you get to the... Returners(?) cave. Basically the rebel alliance fighting the empire. You make the decision to join up. Some mostly useless guy who can heal you and not much else joins you for awhile.
• You then have to go through the river sequence. This is the sequence where you can tape the buttons on your controller down to go in an infinite loop and get infinite experience.
• At some point along the river (the middle? Near the end?) you have to fight Ultros, i believe for the first time. You kick his ass, of course.
• I _think_ you go astray towards the end of this and end up washed ashore on the Veldt? Or is that later?
• If this is the Veldt part you run into Shadow at some point and recruit Gau. At least you _can_ recruit Gau, not 100% sure if that's mandatory or not.
• I think it's after you go through the Veldt that you get to the village where Sabin lives and recruit him. Or maybe it's before, i really can't remember. I do remember that part of the sequence events involves having to learn on of Sabin's moves, which i remember being a real pain at least one of the times through the game. (I'm not sure if i was playing with a non-standard controller at the time or if i just sucked or what.)
• Then at some point you swing by Cyan's castle. Actually i'm not sure if you're really there, or if this is a flashback from Cyan's point of view or what. But in any case Cyan's castle is under siege. Kefka decides to poison the river to end the siege. General Leo disagrees with this idea, but i'm not sure if he disagrees before and doesn't have the ability to stop him, or only disagrees when he finds out afterwards. But in any case this scene is Kefka's real Kick the Dog moment, and sets up General Leo for a redemption arc. And incidentally it also kills the entire castle population, including Cyan's family. (I don't remember how Cyan managed to escape being poisoned.)
• At some point after that you... fall off a cliff or something? And end up taking a haunted train ride in which you get some salt rubbed in Cyan's wounds.
• At some point in the same vague middle period you run into Relm and Strago. There's some side quest involving something or other you need to help them with, and the only thing i remember about it is that Relm paints Ultros.
• At some point you decide to infiltrate the Imperial capital for reconnaissance or some such. While there you discover Celes, who was an Imperial general but now has been imprisoned because... something something probably Kefka being a jerk.
• Sooner or later you get to the point where you need to acquire an airship. The only person with an airship who's likely to help you out is Setzer, the sky gambler. For some reason you suspect he's going to raid an opera performance. So you develop a plan to replace the star of the opera with one of your party members. But then you get ambushed by an octopus.
• ...okay, that sounds like a really dumb plan even from the start, but it all made sense in context! And it's an awesome scene! So shut up!
• So now you've got the airship and there's all kinds of stuff you can do, at least for a little while. I'm having a tough time remembering what you fly around the world doing in the first half vs what you do in the second half.
• At some point you infiltrate the Imperial capital (again?) during which you sneak down into the labs where magicite are created, and you discover that it's actually made from soylent green, i mean dead Espers. You rescue a lot of Espers, and by "rescue" i mean they die and you grab their crystals. Then there's some climactic escape where Setzer swoops in on the airship to rescue you or some such. (Unless it was a climactic rush _into_ the capital on the airship to drop you off? One or the other.)
• This may or may not be the point where you meet Cid. He's an imperial engineer who's responsible for developing the magitech stuff i think, but not _directly_ involved in torturing Espers to death to claim their (crystallized) souls? =P
• At some other point, i _think_ after the Imperial capital raid but possibly before, you go to Esper land. There you learn that Terra is half Esper. Then Geshtal and Kefka try to invade. You know, maybe this happens first, the Espers get captured, and you invade the lab to (try to) free them?
• One way or another the next big plot thing after that is going to the floating continent. I forget what causes the floating continent to rise, probably something involving the Espers?
• On the floating continent you have the chance to find one of the best weapons in the Final Fantasy series (Ultima Weapon) and fight one of the most iconic monsters in the Final Fantasy series (Ultima Weapon), and then confront one of the craziest villains in the Final Fantasy series (Ultima Weapon. ...er, i mean Kefka.)
• Kefka arranges the three magical statues at the top of the floating continent, giving himself ultimate power and destroying the world. Game over.
• Okay, not _destroying_ the world, just maiming it a bit. (It's only a flesh wound!) And not game over, just end of part one, the "World of Balance."
• Although during the time while the world is being not-quite-destroyed you have the opportunity to go save Shadow. Or not. Either way you race to the airship and get away form the floating continent before everything falls apart. Or not (in which case it really is game over =) However then the airship gets smashed out of the sky...
• When you wake up you're just Celes. The rest of the party is missing, and you're now in the "World of Ruin."
• Celes is trapped on some crappy little island. She contemplates suicide for a bit, but doesn't go through with it. Instead she finds some symbol of hope floating on the wind or something like that. And then she gets off the island by... some means that i've totally forgotten.
• But in any case she finds Setzer somewhere or other, and the two of them set out to get another airship.
• On the way you get to a town... the one with the auction house maybe? And discover that one of the buildings is on fire. And Sabin is holding it up. You help him out somehow (rescue the people trapped inside while he's busy holding it up? I dunno. But this is another one of those big "gotta get stuff done in a limited amount of time while everything is on fire scenes.") But in any case Sabin joins you after that. (Though it's possible i'm confused about the order in which Sabin and Setzer join.)
• Then you get to the something or other cave. Which is notable because you hear a lot about Rachel, Setzer's tragic backstory, and you have to solve a puzzle whose answer is "The World Is Square", which is a cute multi-layered joke.
• So now you have an airship again and once again you have lots of different options. You can actually go pretty much straight to the end at this point with just Celes, Setzer and Sabin (which i've done once and was rather fun.) Or you can do a lot of side-quests to collect various useful equipment and to recollect your whole party.
• Terra is living on some farm where she collects stray orphans. Actually i think the plot requires you to run into her. She refuses to come along the first time, but you have the option to come back later and change her mind.
• Locke is busy looting some cave or dungeon somewhere for some reason. Wait, i think he might have a tragic backstory too? Some dead old girlfriend he wants to revive and he's trying to find some resurrection item? Wait, now that i think about it, Rachel is _Locke's_ dead girlfriend, and Setzer has some different dead girlfriend. (How many of those are there in this game???) In any case he eventually gets over it and gets fixated on Celes.
• Edgar's castle has gotten stuck underground somewhere and you can go find it. This is presumably where you get Edgar?
• You can find a small empty island where you can get eaten by a monster and find Gogo, the mysterious mime, who may or may not have a history with Shadow (according to a popular fan theory at least.)
• I think you get both Mog and Umaro back in Narshe.
• Gau you probably just encounter in the Veldt again.
• I think you find Cyan in a ghost version of his castle? Or something like that?
• I think Relm and Strago are just hanging out somewhere.
• There's a coliseum where you can get in fights. I think it's also where you find someone... maybe Shadow?
• You can bid on stuff at the auction house, and i think there are one or two key items you need (or at least ought) to get there, but can't remember the details.
• There's a tower... in the rainy slum city? where you can fight some magic people at the top to get the... gem box? In any case it's either the thing that let's you double-cast spells or the thing that lets you cast spells for 1 MP each. (That being one of the two uber-combos in the game.)
• There's a patch of forest shaped like a dinosaur head where you can fight dinosaurs for huge amounts of experience. This spot features prominently in a lot of fan theories about how to resurrect General Leo. (*spoilers*, you can't.)
• Eventually you decide to take everyone you've collected and go challenge Kefka... who's still on the flying continent i think?
• During the dungeon you have to split into three parties. This is kind of challenging if you're doing the three character challenge. Especially for the path with monsters that can cast the Death spell.
• You finally get to Kefka and get a long cutscene. Probably one of the longest and most interesting dialogues with a bad guy before the final confrontation in any FF game. (You all sound like chapters from a self-help booklet!)
• Then Kefka turns into an evil angel, blazing the trail for so many final bosses who would come after him.
• Once you kill him the flying continent starts to fall apart and you have to get the hell out of there. There may be a timed escape component to it, but if so it doesn't last that long. At some point you switch over to the ending cutscene...
FF5 had an ending that would vary a little bit depending on how many people survived the final fight. FF6 carries that idea to new extremes, except based on how many characters you found before the end. There are 14 permanent playable characters (assuming i counted right, and assuming not General Leo =) and aside from the core 3 there is an alternate cutscene for each of them if you didn't find them in the World of Ruin. If you beat the game once with everyone and then again with just the 3 core people you'll cover almost everything, though there are probably a couple minor variations for partial sets of characters who interact with each other. (I think Shadow features prominently among those?) All of this is set to an awesome ending medley composed of the individual themes for each of the characters. And this is all taking place via character interaction and flashbacks as they're escaping from the flying continent, and occupies about 75-90% of the final cutscene(s). Once you do escape you spend awhile zooming around on the airship and get to see a few select scenes from what's going on with the people back down on the ground.
Altogether it's definitely one of the best Final Fantasy endings and definitely has the best musical composition of all of them. I sometimes lean towards the FF5 ending as my favorite because it gives more detail about the aftermath, but this one is definitely right up there. I'm not sure if they had tried to extend the FF6 ending a little to show more aftermath if it would have made it the most perfect ending possible, or if the additional scenes would have just ended up seeming anticlimactic.