Final Fantasy 6’s intro sequence is perfect

Flashes of lightning lit up the stormy sky, accompanied by the sinister assortment of a church organ. The camera slowly descends into the stadium and the music picks up ominously, revealing the game’s logo wrapped in flames: FINAL FANTASY VI. It’s an impressive way to open a game, and just as powerful today as it was in 1994.

But then the organ fades away, replaced by a gentle, ethereal melody played subtly on the piano. The camera continues to descend and soon we see a town, Narshe, nestled in a snowy mountain range towering beneath the storm. The distant footprints of the warm light emanating from the houses are your only clue that anyone lives in this cold, barren place.

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This sequence is a master class at setting the mood, and it’s amazing that Square was able to pull off the humble SNES. Longtime composer Nobuo Uematsu often says that Final Fantasy 6 is the track he’s most proud of, and rightfully so. The part he wrote for this introduction, titled Omen, is his most evocative and impactful work.

Then it’s time for a history lesson. As the camera moves through a series of landscapes, we hear for the first time the main theme of Final Fantasy 6 and learn about the state of the world. In the past Aeons, the discovery and use of magic led to a war of destruction — and now, in the midst of a booming industrial revolution, it is on the verge of happening again.

Final Fantasy 6

We’re then introduced to Terra, one of Final Fantasy 6’s big cast, and the closest thing it has to a protagonist. As the wind howled, three figures in mechanical armor, imbued with magic, watched Narshe from afar, from the top of a snow-covered mountaintop. Terra is one of them; the others are Biggs and Wedge, Royal soldiers.

The soldiers were looking for something called an Esper, which miners had dug in the numerous mines that lay beneath Narshe. The Empire wants that, and for reasons unclear at this point in the game, they need Terra to help them. Although you control her for a short time, she is not herself. She was brainwashed to serve the Empire against her will.

Then, after some dialogue, we get to see the best opening credits of the Final Fantasy series. Taking full advantage of the SNES’s Mode 7 image scaling technology, we see characters trudging across the snow toward the city, the development team’s name appearing above them. The semi-3D effect is still amazing to this day.

And Music. This is the first time we hear Terra’s Theme, one of the best, most emotional pieces Uematsu has ever composed. Ennio Morricone’s iconic Western Score is an obvious source of inspiration, and it’s a subject full of mystery and melancholy, but also with a sense of hope. It perfectly fits the image of soldiers walking in the snow.

But the serenity did not last. You roam around Narshe in magitek armor, killing any locals who stand in your way. The armor is strangely tame, allowing you to unleash laser beams and magical rockets. This scene boldly establishes, in a very direct way, the sheer cruelty of the Empire, by making you participate in one of its brutal acts.

In just a few short minutes, the game lures you into its world, laying out lucrative payouts and introducing a mysterious protagonist whose predicament you become almost instantly. It’s impressive how it’s still in the atmosphere 30 years later.

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