The absence of crystals seemed to bewilder some of the more serious fans of the series…
Final Fantasy VI, Square, 1994
From Games Radar:
Even back in 1994, the Final Fantasy series was settling into the sort of routine for which it later became well known – and was often scorned for. While each of the five formative games was set in an unfamiliar universe, with an unfamiliar clutch of characters to serve and know, recurring rhythms and themes had already been established that seemed fundamental to its identity.
Crystals and oversized chickens, knights and castles, a mystical power threatening the world and an unexpected orphan hero: all echoes of Tolkien bottled, infused with Japanese aromas, and then blasted out in bombastic, near-annual game releases. The details changed with each game, but the tone – not to mention the systemic DNA – remained a constant. Lose these anchors and you’d risk losing the Final Fantasy spirit, the only thing yoking one game to the next.
The sixth game, however, interrupted that rhythm in many unexpected ways. Drawing back the curtain on a steampunk world quite unlike any seen in Final Fantasy before, it opened not with the burning of a village or a vainglorious battle between buff-armoured knights, but with a squadron of weary robots trudging mournfully through the snow. It’s here, in the remote town of Narshe (population 2,100), that we first meet the ensemble cast, a rogue’s gallery of eccentrics pulled from the extremities of society – the high royal and penniless pauper – whose stories soon intertwine in delightful, unexpected ways.