Final Fantasy VI (Part 2)

This is part two of my look at some of Final Fantasy VI’s best scenes, which I could not do without mentioning (drumroll)… the opera scene. Never has Pixel Theater been more literal.

The Opera Scene:

Celes was a general in the Empire who was branded a traitor for speaking out against the poisoning of Doma Castle.

When the party needs transportation to the Empire, they are told that an eccentric gambler named Setzer owns an airship. Setzer can be a hard man to find, but he is enamored with a local opera singer named Maria and has vowed to kidnap her on the night of her big performance.

Because that’s how he rolls, that’s why.

As luck would have it, Celes looks just like Maria, and so the plan is for the former general to take her place. Now this military woman, who has no singing experience, must get in touch with her more delicate side to fill Maria’s shoes.

The player must memorize her lines and get them right during the performance.

Incidentally, the song (“Aria di Mezzo Carattere”) became very popular with fans of the series, and has been performed live in concert a number of times.

If the MIDI voice substitutes don’t do it for you, here’s a version with actual vocals dubbed in.

This scene is remarkable because, for one thing, it’s so unexpected. Even in an RPG, gameplay typically revolve around hitting things until they die, so to play through a fully realized opera scene was a bold move on the developer’s part. And it paid off, as the opera scene is treasured by fans to this day.

Celes’ Suicide:

Later in the game, right after Kefka turns the Floating Continent into the Rapidly Falling Continent and rearranges the entire world, Celes wakes up on a remote island. Her only companion is Cid, a scientist for the Empire and a father figure to Celes (or a grandfather figure; she calls him “Granddad”).

I still don’t know what the hell he’s wearing.

Of those who washed up on that island, they are the only survivors. For all they know, they’re the only people left alive period.

Soon after Celes wakes up, Cid falls ill, and you must catch fish to feed him. Catch healthy, fast-moving fish and you can nurse him back to health (a process that can take quite a while, actually). Catch poor-quality fish, however, and he dies.

Either way, Celes finds a raft and the game continues, but if you let him die, a very emotional scene plays out. In a shocking moment, especially for a mid-nineties game, Celes walks to the top of a cliff and jumps off.

(Note the instrumental version of her opera song in the background.)

Attempted suicide was not a topic you would expect to see in a game back then, and I suspect that Cid’s odd note (“…perked ’em right up!”) was added to appease the censors, or else Cid just has a dark sense of humor.

Of course, what happens next is contrived, but then again that would have been quite a bummer if the game had ended there. Celes survives the fall somehow, and a bird shows up at that exact moment with the bandana that belonged to Locke, Celes’ companion and possible love interest. This convinces her that others must be alive, and she sets out on a raft.

Don’t question it; just accept it.

Final Fantasy VI contains what I believe is one of the greatest gaming narratives of all time (I don’t have one definitive winner in that category because comparing, for example, this game to Silent Hill 2 is an apple-and-oranges scenario). Too often, in all forms of writing, characters are stereotypes, stock characters, or plot devices. FF6 manages to develop each of its cast members in a way that not only drives the plot but lets the audience relate to them and their human flaws.

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