Many people know Final Fantasy VI as “the greatest Final Fantasy of all time”. I even hear “the greatest JRPG of all time” from time to time. This is the common narrative. But is it? The phrase “of all time” is a pretty weighty assessment. Decades have passed. This isn’t the 90’s anymore. And we’ve got to play many other Final Fantasy titles.
So where did this line of thought come from? Probably Sakaguchi-san himself, during the Final Fantasy VI launch party:
“Thanks to every one of you we have created the best game in the world! No! The universe!”
…clearly an overblown statement. But he has a point. Final Fantasy VI contained far superior technical advances than most other JRPGs at the time. Sakaguchi seems to base his opinion on an objective criterion for video games at the time. And of course, everyone else follows suit.
But, is it fair, or even accurate to still say Final Fantasy VI is the greatest JRPG of all time?
First, if you personally believe it’s the greatest, then it is. This is a valid subjective statement. No one can dispute your opinion of what you like. IGN and GameSpot, on the other hand, tend to have an objective criterion they supposedly apply universally.
Objective colloquially means “not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts”. In a strictly philosophical sense, it would mean “independent of the subject’s perception”. But either of these can’t be the case when reviewing the game itself. The latter’s strict philosophical sense is impossible and the former’s colloquial sense is infeasible. You have to have an opinion when reviewing the game, and that opinion is always based on subjectivity. IGN and GameSpot objectively have their own criterion, but the criteria itself isn’t based on an objective value system.
So then no objective criterion, in itself, exists.
What most criteria rely on is a universal appeal. In a philosophical sense, Universals are a “class of mind-independent entities”. Colloquially, universals are “of, affecting, or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group; applicable to all cases.”
When it comes to subjective tastes in art and popular culture, not even a universal measure applies.
So then, what Sakaguchi said about Final Fantasy VI is the best game “in the world…no! the universe!” is moot. What you, your friends, IGN and everyone else say about Final Fantasy VI is moot. All we’re really saying is “I like Final Fantasy VI a lot” and that’s not very authoritative.
But certainly that’s not the end of the discussion, is it?
No, because we can say Final Fantasy VI is great both universally AND objectively – through its influence.
Final Fantasy VI used a utilitarian approach to capture but the greatest amount of happiness possible. That is, developers improved the graphics and sound quality. They added deeper characters. The story was simple but effective. This was everything most gamers could have wanted at the time. This was also the main reason it became so popular. Other game developers took notes on Final Fantasy VI’s iconic style.
But all of this was for the time. Final Fantasy VII became more influential than Final Fantasy VI. So in terms of a universal and objective criterion, FF7 would be the greatest…of its time. And many Final Fantasy titles have superseded it since then.
Saying Final Fantasy VI is still the greatest JRPG of all time is like accepting Newton’s physics over Einstein’s. Because you like it. We’ve come a long way…