Final Fantasy VI was a highly successful game, and there was thus no pressing need for revision. This is plain to see from the remake itself, which doesn’t make any groundbreaking changes, apart from squishing the major bugs (the evade glitch, the Vanish-Doom glitch and the Sketch glitch). Additions include two optional dungeons and four new Espers (and three new spells with them), which is just excessive, considering the game was already easy without them. Apart from that, the main body of the game remains largely intact, barring the obligatory renaming (e.g. Tinctures and Tonics become the more customary Ethers and Potions, respectively) and some retranslation, which doesn’t make any significant script improvements. Graphically and musically, nothing changes, apart from a minor font upgrade, the addition of character portraits to dialogue boxes, and the now-customary bestiary and music player.
Three of the new Espers have to be fought before you can obtain them. Leviathan can be encountered in the second part of the game by taking the Nikeah ferry. It doesn’t present much of a challenge if you put water-absorbing equipment on your characters, and comes with a rather superfluous party-effect water spell called Flood. Few enemies are weak to water, and once you have Meteor and Ultima, Flood becomes obsolete anyway. Leviathan’s Stamina+2 boost also does nothing to redeem it, as Stamina is possibly the last stat you’d want to boost (since almost all it does is improve a character’s HP regeneration rate).
Cactuar is obtained by fighting Gigantuar, which, as its name implies, is a giant Cactuar, sporting a moustache, of all things. It appears in the Maranda desert in the second part of the game, after the party defeats 10 Cactuars. This battle is more technical, but Cactuar is distinctly more useful than Leviathan, as it teaches Hastega at a much better rate than Quetzalli, and grants a Speed+2 bonus, thus compensating for transforming Odin into Raiden.
Gilgamesh requires a financial investment, as you first need to buy the Excalipoor at the Auction House, where it appears in the second part of the game for the hefty price of 500,000 gil, probably as a way to make the Auction House a bit more useful. Betting the Excalipoor at the Coliseum then pits the party against Gilgamesh. His summoned attack is as random as it was in FFVIII, but at least he grants a Strength+2 bonus, and both Quick (thus rendering Raiden all but obsolete) and Valor, the second new spell, which results in a massive strength boost for the entire party.
Diabolos is obtained after defeating the final boss of the main optional dungeon. Figures that they’d put the most useful Esper of the lot so far into the game that its usefulness is all but cancelled out. Diabolos comes with his trademark Dark Messenger attack, which is almost identical to FFVIII, but also grants an HP+100% (!) bonus and teaches the last new spell, Gravija. It’s pretty awesome, as it consistently deals 9999 damage, until the enemy is weak enough that the party can finish it off with physical attacks, thus making the spell more MP-efficient than Ultima.
As for the optional dungeons, the main one, the Dragon’s Den, becomes available once the party defeats the last of the eight dragons in Kefka’s tower (thus unlocking Crusader). They then find a stone tablet which indicates the location of the Dragon’s Den, and, if you so desire, you can get your teams out of Kefka’s place and go poke around right away. Much like Kefka’s Tower and the Phoenix Cave, the Dragon’s Den requires splitting the party up to explore and brings back the canned optional boss, Czar Dragon, now renamed Kaiser Dragon. It can be fought after going through a network of caves filled with buffed up versions of the eight dragons from the main game. It’s a pretty tense battle, and you have to stay on your toes, but it’s perfectly doable at about level 61-62, with Diabolos as the reward. Also, throughout the dungeon, you’ll find the ultimate weapon or piece of equipment for each character, including Gogo and Umaro. All of it is excellent gear, but turns the party into killing machines, which, again, doesn’t improve the game’s difficulty level.
If you make the effort of going through the dungeon again after beating Kaiser Dragon, you’ll encounter Omega Weapon sitting in its place. Which is a cheap trick, since there’s no indication that it’ll be there, and no reason for it to be there either. At least Kaiser Dragon wanted revenge for the party’s senseless slaughter of its dragon kin. There are also no rewards for beating Omega, so it just feels hugely anticlimactic.
The second optional dungeon, the Soul Shrine, becomes available once you’ve cleared both the game and the Dragon’s Den, and is essentially a more extensive version of the Cloister of the Dead from FFV Advance, i.e. an enemy gauntlet. The party faces 10 series of nonstop battles against enemies and bosses encountered throughout the game, for a grand total of 128 fights. The further they go, the tougher the battles become, and they will end up facing the bosses from Kefka’s tower, the eight ‘normal’ dragons, the eight ‘upgraded’ dragons from the Dragon’s Den and, finally, a second helping of Kaiser Dragon as the last opponent. By the time they reach it, provided they entered the Dragon’s Den at level 60, then proceeded to finish Kefka’s Tower, they should be pushing level 67, thus making the battle easier than the previous showdown with it. The reward is the Master’s Crown, which is basically just visual proof of success. All in all, the only difficult thing about the Soul Shrine is that you need to finish it in one go, as when you exit, the battle cycle is reset. Apart from that, you should have no problems if your party is anywhere near the aforementioned levels.
Overall, I’m rather indifferent to this remake, as, besides bugfixes, it makes no substantial changes to an already great game. The optional dungeons are good enough for what they are, and fill a spot left vacant by the original game. They don’t have the spark of inventiveness that the character trials from FFIV Advance had, but if you’re looking for a couple more hours of playtime, it’s as good a way to spend them as any. You might also be amused to see just how thoroughly your party can wipe the floor with Kefka’s face using the new equipment from the Dragon’s Den.