Final Fantasy VI is one of the most beloved SNES RPGs by critics, fans, and me. There are countless aspects that make the game remarkable, and it's these things that many fans today wish would find their way back to the series. Don't worry; I won't rally against Final Fantasy XIII here, as tempting as it may be. One thing in particular I always found interesting about FFVI is that unlike most RPGs of the time, the heroes actually did not prevent the world from ending. Midway through the game, Kefka suddenly becomes the real enemy of the world and razes it to the ground. And that's both when things really get interesting and also what inspired this piece.
Now, when I include FFVI here, it's not to rally for a "Final Fantasy VI-2," or the kind of direct follow-up we've come to expect in the Final Fantasy world. Not that there's anything wrong with Final Fantasy X-2 (I, in fact, like the gameplay more than that of FFX. Oh yeah, I went there), or Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. But what if we made a follow-up that really broke tradition? What if instead of following Terra's child Gaga (her mom was Madonna, so obviously there's some pop music love there), or dressing Celes up like a Barbie doll, we simply... give Sabin a herd of cows and some crops?
Wait, am I seriously suggesting a psychotic merger of Final Fantasy VI and Harvest Moon/Rune Factory? Yes I am.
Remember, the world has been destroyed. With Kefka and his big bad tower with its big bad laser gone, it's time the survivors rebuilt the world. That means planting crops, building homes, educating the children, and of course keeping the people of the world safe while all this is going on. Maybe Terra goes back to the kids of Mobliz, and as we wait for the veggies to grow in the fields, she ventures out and forages for supplies. Or goblin meat. And hey, a Plants Vs. Zombies-esque mini-game to fend off Humbaba's minions? Why not.
Sabin left the comforts of the royal castle to live off the land, so I can see him running his own farm somewhere. Let's toss in an inappropriately-placed Shadow as the farmhand for comedic relief. After all, eventually he must be tired of fighting and may long for a simpler life. While the aforementioned cows may be too real-worldy, I imagine he would need some kind of animal besides chocobos to raise. Perhaps down the road the farm can be expanded by a chocobo-petting area for the kids.
Having our beloved cast spread across the world could open up some interesting gameplay possibilities: Perhaps we play the game from the point of view of just one character, or one area, and focus just on your own little slice of the world as one would do in Harvest Moon. And for those of us with more time on our hands, there would be a world map of sorts to get a birds-eye view of everything going on in the world and one could jump from scenario to scenario at will. Hell, let's put a big tree icon in the corner of this map with a percentage showing the world's "Revitalization" to pressure people to keep making the effort.
Since part of the rebirth process would be repopulating the world, we'll of course have several God of War-esque QuickTime Event mini-games to help Locke & Celes breed like bunnies and help the world in their own sexy way.
Farming and silly pairings aside (I think pairing up Cyan and Gau somewhere in the world is just a hilarious given), I suppose we'll have some dungeoning too and a new bad guy. But let's be honest: The world is a wreck already, so it would need to be a bit less "supervillain" and more "not so nice dude." So instead of the obvious "destroy the world" endgame, we'll have say, an enterprising former member of the Empire that's looking to control the agricultural world and make a profit in these uncertain times. I don't want to go overly Shin-Ra here, but hey, if the corporate suit fits...
These are just a few random thoughts; with a cast the size of Final Fantasy VI, I think there's all sorts of ways to make this work. And as a Final Fantasy game, I'm sure we'd have some big involved skill tree–a Crop Grid? But let's not bog it down with too many stats: Hit Points, Magic Points, Farm Points, Breeding Points, Animals-Love-You Points, etc. I picture something fairly involved, but not too difficult for people to get into.
So there it is. Am I insane? Maybe so. Will the hardcore fans of Final Fantasy VI–of which I am very much among–hate this idea and just want a direct follow-up with the same characters and identical gameplay as the original? Of course. But here's the thing: You can most likely never recapture that magic. You could build that "perfect" direct sequel you wanted in 1995, but the odds that it could live up to 15+ years of expectations are nearly nonexistent. So what to do? Go off in a completely different direction, yes, like Final Fantasy X-2 mostly did, or going outside of RPGs, like the recent Metroid: Other M. It's a huge gamble, but I have to give companies some serious credit for daring to try new things, especially in established franchises. You never know how it may be received, but if the industry stops innovating, things will quickly get boring.
Does that mean Final Fantasy VI: Rebirth will save the game industry from mediocrity? Of course not. But it would be wildly different, and some people will respond well to that. Plus, I want to live to see Shadow: The Chocobo Whisperer.