Final Fantasy VI: Splitting the Party

I began this weekend hoping that I’d have just one more post to do on FF6, but after multiple hours of play, I still haven’t made a serious attempt as Kefka’s junkyard-like tower of magically-attracted debris. Oh, I’ve visited it, and I think I might even be able to conquer it at my current level, but it’s going to take more time and preparation than I felt like giving it at the time. You see, it splits the party in three, and that complicates things.

This isn’t the first time the party has been split. Way back near the beginning, there was a part with three sub-scenarios that I had to play out with different characters, but that was different: the scenarios were self-contained and independent from one another, and were played out in sequence. More recently, the descent into the treasure cave to find Locke involved splitting the party however you like into two groups, then switching to control whichever group you like at any given moment. And you couldn’t just use one group and leave the other alone: every so often, each group would run into an obstacle that could only be cleared by having the other group stand on a pressure plate somewhere.

Kefka’s tower works like that, but with three groups, which makes it a lot harder to decide how to split things up. Through most of the game, you get your pick of four characters out of the entire party roster, so it’s easy to take your choice of combat specialist, your choice of mage, and your choice of guys with weird special abilities, and still have one slot left over for whoever you’re trying to level up. With three groups and 14 playable characters, you don’t get much choice of who to take. You just get to choose who to partner them with — and my experience is that some combinations have a much easier time surviving than others. It isn’t just a matter of taking one from each of the four categories I just mentioned — you have to take into account that characters are going to be killed or disabled sometimes, and get some redundancy in there, like a mage who can fight in a pinch. (Or, I suppose, you could just grind until everyone is level 99 and not worry about it, but I want to enjoy playing this game.)

Then there’s the equipment. The very best armor and weapons are, of course, not available in stores: you have to find them locked away in dungeons or loot them from bosses. There’s an item called the Atma Weapon 1Another questionable transliteration: some versions call it Ultima Weapon. But Atma fits pretty well too. It’s a glowing lightsaber-like thing that visibly grows with the wielder’s experience level, as if responding to the strength of your soul. that simply does way more damage than any other weapon I’ve seen. I try to always have it equipped, but there’s only one in the game, which means only one of the three groups can have it. I suppose I could just unequip it whenever I switch control to a different group, but that starts to get cumbersome. And it becomes even more cumbersome when you factor in the Espers. I frequently swap those around between characters even when I’m dealing with only one group, to make sure everyone gets a chance to learn their spells, and also because many of them grant permanent stat increases when their wielder levels up. I’ll probably have to just abandon that habit in the tower if I don’t want to spend 90% of my play time in inventory menus.

Or, like I said, I could stop optimizing and do more grinding. I think it was Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw who said that Final Fantasy gives you a choice at the end: you can spend 40 hours building up your characters to the point where you can take the end boss easily, or you can spend 40 hours fighting the end boss. This kind of applies to the entire final dungeon as well.

1 Another questionable transliteration: some versions call it Ultima Weapon. But Atma fits pretty well too. It’s a glowing lightsaber-like thing that visibly grows with the wielder’s experience level, as if responding to the strength of your soul.

5 Comments so far

  1. Mark on 16 May 2010

    The risk with the Atma Weapon is that it becomes weaker as your HP decreases relative to the maximum. Even at its strongest, too, it’s noticeably weaker than the strongest weapon in the game… but that’s kind of difficult to acquire.

    Not without reason, however, is FFVI regarded as the easiest game in the series, particularly the endgame. As long as you’ve got a good assortment of spells, and have learned enough of the battle system to understand that it’s not always best to just spam your most powerful ability (unless that ability happens to involve casting Ultima five times in a row) then you shouldn’t have a problem. I’m positive you’re leveled enough. There are far more difficult challenges than the ones that await you in Kefka’s Tower.

    Still, the game is rich with secrets in a way that would definitely inform its successors’ design, where having access to a strategy guide is assumed. To that end, if you’re really worried about power, here’s a spoiler-free checklist of some things you may want to do to power up for the end. I’m omitting some things that I’m sure you’ve done, but you may have done a lot of this already.

    – Make it to the top of the Cultists’ Tower
    – Reunite Sabin with his master
    – Uncurse the Cursed Shield
    – Teach Strago the ultimate Lore (it’s actually not all that useful)
    – Return to Doma
    – Explore the underground ruins accessible from Figaro

    If it’s experience points you want, though, by far the fastest place to grind is in a forest north of the Veldt, where all of the random encounters are with incredibly dangerous dinosaurs. The rarer of the two enemies found there also occasionally drops an extremely powerful relic.

    There are some pieces of equipment that teach magic just like Espers do, which is not mentioned anywhere in-game.

    If you do all the sidequests and really get deep into the coliseum, you’ll definitely have enough top-notch equipment for everybody, which is no mean feat. But you won’t need to be that well-equipped.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 17 May 2010

    Hm. I noticed that Celes, or possibly Terra, had managed to pick up a couple of the level-3 elemental damage spells without an Esper that knew them, but I assumed that this was simply the result of leveling up.

  3. Mark on 17 May 2010

    Terra and Celes also learn some spells naturally, because of their magical background.

  4. mohammed akeal on 10 Oct 2010

    i think you have missed the point of the game it is to defet kafka not just to get everyone powerful also i now a asome secret to find out email me

  5. How to Split Up Groups in Final Fantasy VI | Daily Life - Popular Question & Answer on 4 Jan 2014

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