|Final Fantasy VI owned by Square Enix.|
Images used for educational purposes only.
Final Fantasy VI is a good game to choose if you're just getting into speedrunning and want to focus on RPGs. It's long without being too long, and once you've mastered the route you can expect to get through a run in six or seven hours, depending on how you go about beating the game. Getting that far requires a looooooot of practice, however, and you'll probably spend several hundred hours honing your technique before running Final Fantasy VI becomes second nature. The very best speedrunners have probably spent thousands of hours working on Final Fantasy VI, and they still change the run up constantly.
I've been working on Final Fantasy VI for about a month as of the writing of this article, which makes me a comparative noob to the scene. Nevertheless, I've learned an insane amount about speedrunning Final Fantasy VI in a fairly short time, and I thought it prudent to share what I've learned with you eager little players out there. Note that very few of the things I've discovered came from me originally: the more seasoned speedrunners for Final Fantasy VI are very open about their techniques, and will happily provide advice to up-and-comers. I will mention them regularly throughout this document, and I highly recommend watching them run the game and taking notes. Here are a few speedruns I suggest checking out when you have the time:
- A glitchless run by Puwexil. Puwexil is probably my favourite speedrunner, as he provides clear, concise advice on how to properly speedrun just about any game he plays. (Though, admittedly, not in this video. Check below.) You may also want to check out his Twitch channel, as he speedruns live on a regular basis.
- A glitched run by Essentia. Another popular speedrunner who's good at explanations, Essentia holds the world record for a single-segment run. (This is an old entry, but I assume she still has it.) Essentia also speedruns on Twitch regularly.
- A co-op run at SGDQ 2014 featuring Puwexil and Essentia, playing the game in tandem. Also on the couch is mistermv, another Final Fantasy VI speedrunner. All three provide excellent commentary throughout. (Guess what mistermv has...!) Also included in this speedrun is a breakdown of the Sketch glitch by runner Brossentia, which is just chock-full of informative nuttiness. (TWITCH)
- A relay race between four runners - Dreamboum, Essentia, TheLCC, and eLmaGus - that's also hosted by Puwexil. This video is part five of seven, and starts roughly when the four runners are jumping into Final Fantasy VI. This run is more up-to-date, so you'll find the tricks quite practiced. (I recommend watching the whole thing, if you have the time - Final Fantasy IV and V are pretty fun to speedrun as well.)
Pretty much every speedrunner I've ever seen plays the SNES version of Final Fantasy VI, aka Final Fantasy III. I do, too, and consequently I will use terminology from FFIII from this point onward. It's still FFVI.
I am sad to admit that I have not completed a full run of Final Fantasy VI as of yet. I'm still working on mastering the World of Balance, which constitutes a huge chunk of the game. (You can kinda skip most of the World of Ruin.) Consequently, I will focus on general tips for the moment, and expand this article as I improve my time and technique. This document, compiled by mistermv, is an excellent guide for speedrunners who want a step-by-step run through the game. I highly recommend using it as a base for practicing.
Glitched or Glitchless?
The first big question a FFVI speedrunner needs to ask themselves is whether or not they want to rely on glitches to get through the game. Glitches make an incredible difference to your final time, and will trivialize encounters that would otherwise be quite difficult. These glitches include:
- Bypassing most of Locke's scenario by glitching through a soldier
- Potentially using glitches to walk through other NPCs that get in your way
- Using Setzer's Joker Doom to instantly kill bosses
- Using the Vanish / Doom combo to instantly kill just about everything else
- Using Relm's Sketch command to access an insane amount of equipment - though at great risk to your game
All of the above can save upwards of two hours of time, depending on how you go about the game. Glitches are finicky, however, and some players simply don't want to rely on glitches to get the job done. Consequently, your run may turn out very different if you decide not to use glitches to beat the game. Decide which version of FFVI you'd like to run early, then focus on specializing yourself. (That said, it's always fun to try and learn alternate methods of taking on the game's many encounters.)
General Tips and Tricks
- Beat the game normally. I cannot stress this enough. It is a poor idea indeed to attempt to speedrun a game you've never played before. By doing this you'll have a solid working knowledge of where you need to go and what you need to do next. You'd be surprised how often you forget to do something as simple as visiting Jidoor after beating Zozo, rather than going straight to the Opera House. The better you know the base game, the better you'll be able to speedrun.
- Don't speedrun half-cocked. Play FFVI when you have lots of time, and preferably after a bathroom break. It'll be a while before you have enough time in the game to use the toilet. (Basically the opera scene.)
- Download and use a good timer. You should always have at least a basic timer running on your computer while you're playing the game, especially when you're trying to improve on specific splits. SpeedRunsLive offers a nice little list of available timers.
- Start your game by setting Battle Speed to 6 (slowest), Message Speed to 1 (highest), and Cursor to Memory. Battle Speed only applies to enemies, so you'll make the game much easier; Message Speed is obvious; and Memory will allow you to quickly desirable repeat actions, as the game will remember your menu choices from the last time you were in a battle.
- Always choose the most efficient walking route through a room. Go straight for the exit, assuming you know where it is (AND YOU ALWAYS SHOULD). Cut corners as closely as possible. The same goes for the world map, though if you read the document above, you'll probably notice that walking on specific tiles will allow you to decrease the chances of hitting a random battle.
- Along the same lines, try to remember where your character was whenever you enter the menu or hit a battle. That way you can start moving in the right direction as soon as you come back to the map.
- Whenever you get a new character, quickly rename them so they have only one letter in their name. This will cut down on the number of characters appearing on the screen during text boxes, thus cutting down on the amount of time needed to play through the game. This is much less important for characters you first get in the World of Ruin, as they'll virtually never come up in conversation beyond recruitment.
- Limit time spent in the menu. Try to pair multiple tasks together. You should not, for example, be going into the menu to change a single relic. Time is precious. Quick menuing is one of the most difficult elements of FFVI speedrunning.
- Save just often enough to be safe, especially during your first few practice runs. FFVI speedruns will force your team to remain at an abnormally-low level throughout the run, and your team's lack of health will result in some very hairy battles. Once you have a better grasp of the game you can cut down on saving.
- Speaking of which, don't expect a single set of armour and accessories to work for the entire game. You'll have to optimize your team's equipment constantly to defeat certain bosses, and even some basic enemies.
- Learn how to change your active character in combat. You can use both X and Y to change characters, though they function differently: X switches to the next character who had their ATB filled; while Y switches to the last character to have their ATB filled. This might seem like a small discrepancy, but learning which button to push in a given situation can save you a lot of time.
- RUN. A few battles at the beginning of the game aside, you don't want to fight random enemies. Flee from as many battles as you can.
- Get Sprint Shoes as early as possible. You can purchase them for 1,200 gold in South Figaro during your first visit. Get two pairs. Once you own Sprint Shoes you should never be without a pair - which, during the scenarios, can get a little tricky.
- Get Smoke Bombs as early as possible. Smoke Bombs are most commonly purchased in the Blackjack during the World of Balance, but you can get them much earlier than this by visiting Nikeah in Sabin's scenario. (In other words, do his scenario first.) Smoke Bombs are much faster than running normally, unless you manage to land a preemptive encounter. Smoke Bombs will also allow you to flee from otherwise lethal pincer attacks unscathed.
- Keep your team in the back row most of the time. Only pull the to the front if one of your team members needs to rely on basic attacks to deal damage. This doesn't happen too often (and it's usually either Sabin or Edgar who are jumping up front, with a few appearances from Locke).
- Mash your controller buttons whenever there's conversation on the screen. You want to skip through text boxes as quickly as possible. That said, you do not have to mash through conversations held during combat. Simply hold down the A button and you'll speed through the text. (Just... remember to go back to mashing after you're done with the battle.)
- Take advantage of your enemy's ATB. Foes accumulate ATB during battle, just like your team, only you can't see how close they are to their next attack. You can halt their progression by entering either the Item or Magic menus. This is quite handy if done while one of your team members is carrying out an attack - for example, have Edgar scroll down and enter the Item menu whenever Sabin is using AuraBolt. This doesn't sound like it would do much, but if you execute this technique properly you can rob bosses of the majority of their attacks.
- Speaking of Sabin, the only Blitz you really need to learn (as far as I know, anyway) is AuraBolt. Practice it a lot, as he gets tons of use in a FFVI speedrun.
- Watch your health. Running or not, Smoke Bombs or not, you're going to take damage. It's way too easy to forget that your characters are on the edge of death when you're trying to rush through an area. Try to heal via the menu rather than in-battle.
- Arrange your items while you're in battle. In addition to changing your weapon and shield via the Item menu, you can move around other items. You can do this between turns, or when a boss is slowly dying, to optimize item placement and make dips into your menu all the quicker.
- USE RODS. It's entirely possible that you overlooked Rods completely during your initial playthroughs of FFVI, but in a speedrun they're invaluable. When used as items in combat Rods will allow you to hit one or more enemies with a second-tier elemental spell, ignoring normal randomization in favour of high damage. In other words, if Terra uses a Fire Rod, the damage it inflicts will be as high as it can possibly get based on her current Magic stat. Mid- to late-run Rod usage is key to defeating some bosses, especially in a glitchless run. Hell, you can beat some bosses in one hit with a combination of a Rod and Terra's Morph command.
That's all for now. I will slowly compile a more comprehensive - and specific - list of suggestions for running through Final Fantasy VI in the days to come. Stay tuned, and keep practicing!