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|“||Soldiers of the Empire! We stand at the dawn of a new age! The lost power of magic has returned to us! We are the chosen ones! The time has come for us to claim our rightful dominion over the world! Nothing shall stand in our way!||„|
|~ Emperor Gestahl to all followers of the Gestahlian Empire.|
The Gestahlian Empire (in Japanese: ガストラ帝国, Gasutora Teikoku), also once referred to as the "Magitek Empire" (because it is notable for its use of Magitek which is also known as "Magical Technology"), is an ancient, governmental kingdom ruled by Emperor Gestahl which it is named after, and an antagonistic faction in Final Fantasy VI. In the original Super NES release, this dictatorship was simply called "The Empire", but is named the Gestahlian Empire in the Game Boy Advance release. The Empire and its officers serve as the primary antagonists for the first part of the game.
Though Gestahl is the charismatic king of the Gestahlian Empire as well as sole heir to the throne of the empire, but the real power behind the throne was the mad clown Kefka Palazzo, the Emperor's Court Mage and one of his 3 generals. The Empire was responsible for a number of repressive atrocities in the game, from poisoning the water supply of an entire town to actually destroying the entirety of civilization. People living under their rule were subjected to all manner of horrendous laws.
The Empire was formed 685 years ago where it had declared its independence from the world as a military state and intended to create a global police force. Several decades before Final Fantasy VI, Gestahl was born as heir to a military family. The empire experienced a military coup 13 years later. Little is known about the coup other than Gestahl's father being heavily involved. The Imperial Palace was constructed 21 years afterward as the Emperor was facing increasing pressure to expand its armaments. Gestahl becomes Emperor 18 years later, and mutual peace was later agreed upon, although Narshe refused to sell coal to the invading Gestahlian Empire with armed resistance. 2 years later, the Gestahlian Empire started its first military campaign, conquering the entire south continent. During this time Emperor Gestahl captures the Espers that fuel Magitek with the Magitek Research Facility being developed shortly thereafter. The technology was developed by Cid Del Norte Marquez, the Empire's chief engineer, after Gestahl led a band of troops into the Esper World and brought back numerous espers to Vector, where Cid developed a technique for extracting the magic out of them. He tested this technology on the Emperor's Court Mage Kefka Palazzo, but the process was still in development and was rudimentary - it shattered Kefka's mind and left him an insane psychopath. 6 years afterwards the military's command structure was restructured and the initial results of the research facility were published by the Empire.
Cid refined the process, and tested it on a young girl named Celes Chere, who did not turn mad as a result. After this, all soldiers were required to undergo the Magitek infusion. One notable exception was General Leo, whose proficiency with a sword and respect throughout the Empire, combined with his refusal to undergo the process gave him leeway. Cid also created Magitek Armor: large armored vehicles which, when piloted by a soldier, could release highly destructive beams of magical energy. As the process became more stable and commonplace, other machines were imbued with magic.
Rise to Power
Being as imperialistic as its name would suggest, The Empire then proceeded to conquer all of the continent which Vector was situated on. Most of the towns were taken very easily, but one notably horrible incident included the burning of the city of Maranda, which was conducted by none other than Celes herself. The men who lived in the occupied towns were taken away and drafted into the Imperial army. Vector became the Imperial Capital, housing both Gestahl's palace and the Magitek Factory.
Meanwhile, Gestahl was personally taking care of his secret weapon of mass destruction, a girl named Terra Branford who he abducted from the Esper world. Terra was half Esper and half human, and as such, could use magic naturally. Kefka decided to take advantage of her and put a Slave Crown on her head so he could directly control her actions. One of the first things Kefka made Terra do was to burn fifty of the Empire's most proficient soldiers as a test of her power. Later, he had Terra, accompanied by two soldiers named Biggs and Wedge, travel to the coal mining town of Narshe in the northern part of the world where a frozen Esper was recently dug up. During the investigation, Biggs and Wedge were killed and Terra was freed from Imperial control. As a result, Gestahl and Kefka began to search the world for her. Meanwhile, Imperial influence was growing in the northern regions of the world. A resistance movement, the Returners, had already sprouted up, and were lead by a man named Banon. However, many of the cities in the north were affected by the Imperial rise to power. Nikeah, a port city, suffered heavy losses due to the fact that any ship caught in Imperial waters would be searched rigorously, and security was very tight at Imperial ports such as Albrook. Many nations, such as Narshe, declared themselves officially neutral so they could avoid the conflict. Others, such as Doma, decided to fight the Empire. Eventually, though the Empire would wind up with interests in direct control of northern cities. The first to fall was South Figaro, which was invaded by an army presumably lead by Celes. However, when Celes began to hear rumors of an Imperial invasion of Narshe, a neutral state, and plans to poison Doma, she began to question the Empire. She was immediately jailed for treason, and Locke Cole was forced to rescue her.
At the same time, the Empire was planning an invasion of Doma. This army was presumably led by General Leo, but Kefka also participated in the raid. Instead of merely occupying Doma, it was completely destroyed. Leo was forced to return to Vector on a technicality, and Kefka was left in charge of camp. As a result, he decided to dump poison into the river that provided Doma's water supply, killing all the residents but Cyan Garamonde, who swore to personally get revenge on Kefka. Later, Kefka tried to invade Narshe again in order to obtain Valigarmanda, but the attack was successfully repelled by the Returners.
Shortly after Kefka's failed attack, the Returners allied with Setzer Gabbiani and used his airship to launch a sneak attack on Vector itself. The Magitek Factory was heavily damaged, and the Espers inside the facility were turned into Magicite and taken. This ultimately cut off the Empire's source of Magitek, but revealed to them that magic is much more potent when learned from Magicite rather than extracted from Espers.
After Vector was destroyed by Yura and an army of Espers, Gestahl appeared to have lost the will to fight, and Kefka was imprisoned. He hosted a banquet with the Returners in which he proposed peace and asked Terra to be an ambassador to the Espers; she complied. At this moment, most of the Imperial army was disbanded, and all Imperial possessions were liberated. However, Gestahl kept his true plans to himself and Kefka. They were plotting to lure the Espers out to a place where they were easily vulnerable, and they would then obtain enough Magicite to give them godlike powers. Their plan was a success, and the Floating Continent was created, atop which Kefka and Gestahl used the power of the Statues to oppress the people of the world.
However, Kefka eventually obtained the power to overthrow Gestahl and claim the world for himself. Most of the former Imperial soldiers presumably died in the apocalypse, and only one soldier remained in the World of Ruin's Dragon's Neck Colosseum. It is also speculated that the remainder of them chose to become the honor guards of his tower to preserve their own lives as well as their own free will (since soldiers in Magitek Armor appear in random encounters in the hi-tech parts of his tower), while others who may have sought to preserve their lives more safely but at the expense of their free will joined the Cult of Kefka, a sinister secret society bound to forever serve Kefka Palazzo. What would happen to them after Kefka perished remains unclear.
At the height of their rule, the Empire commanded the entire Southern Continent along with Doma and South Figaro. It is unspecified exactly when the Empire took control of the Southern Continent, but for the most part their rule is unopposed, although a few people secretly support the Returners. The Imperial Capitol is Vector, located at the heart of the Southern Continent. Vector consists of the city dominated by the Imperial Palace and Magitek Factory looming over it. Tzen and Maranda are occupied by Imperial Troops, and Albrook is heavily patrolled and used as a port city for the Empire's ships. South Figaro was occupied for a springboard attack on Narshe, and Doma was destroyed due to them being Returner sympathizers.
In addition to their control over various towns, the Empire maintained a base near the Cave to the Sealed Gate and one near Doma. A few places succeeded in remaining outside Imperial influence - Thamasa and Mobliz were neutral and used their isolation to their advantage. Jidoor likely used its wealth to avoid attack, and Zozo was probably considered too uncivilized to target. It is mentioned that the Empire invaded Kohlingen in the past, but their attack was repelled.
The Empire is ruled over by Emperor Gestahl and his two highest-ranking generals, Celes Chere and Leo Cristophe. Leo led the attack on Doma, and Celes may have led the attack on South Figaro, as this is where she is held prisoner when she rebels. It is also mentioned that Celes is the one who attacked Maranda. Along with the two generals is Kefka Palazzo, Gestahl's ambassador and court mage who acts as a sort of free-lance agent, pursuing interests the Empire has that for whatever reason Leo is not dispatched on. In addition to these four, various lesser-ranked officers often lead the Empire's field skirmishes.
Various armored soldiers make up the largest wing of the Empire's army. Various ranks of soldier appear, including Commander, Sergeant, Cadet, Imperial Soldier, Corporal, and Soldier. Although they are highly weak in comparison to the Empire's mechanical forces, they are much more numerous and often comprise the first wave of attacks in the Empire's sieges. Slighty stronger soldiers, the Templar, Officer, Captain, and General also appear, as well as Gestahl's bodyguards, the Imperial Elite. Various hunting dogs, including Hunting Hounds, Dobermans, Belzecues, Vector Hounds, Dons, and Fidors are used to accompany the soldiers into battle.
The most powerful wing of the Empire's army is the Magitek Armor division. Consisting of various armored machines, three variations of Armor are shown; Magitek Armor, Heavy Armor, and Mega Armor. Proto Armor also appears in the Magitek Factory, but is never sent out to the field. After the apocalypse, a few suits of Magitek Armor were enhanced and turned into Duel Armor, which appear in Kefka's Tower.
Imperial Air Force
The Empire's relatively small and weak air power, the Air Force consists of Sky Armor and Spitfire. Although the Anthologierrs release shows the Air Force patrolling Vector, they are only ever fought in the Battle over the Floating Continent. Like the Duel Armor, Death Machines are found in Kefka's Tower.
In addition to the above forces, several unique machines and soldiers are used by the Empire, as follows:
Tunnel Armor: a burrowing machine, it was part of the South Figaro forces and was tunneling in the cave to Figaro Castle, possibly to find out where the castle had burrowed and gone to. It had a great deal of strong magic.
Hell's Rider: a soldier riding an unknown beast, it was Kefka's bodyguard during his attack on Narshe. It knew a variety of debilitating attacks. Number 024: a stronger Magitek machine, it guarded the Magitek Research Facility. It may have been based on the Magic Master, an older and much stronger magical being. It could change its elemental weaknesses at will and had strong magic.
Number 128: an even stronger machine, it guarded the railroad tracks leading out of the Facility. A modified version called Inferno appeared in Kefka's Tower. It uses a variety of dangerous attacks
Cranes: two cranes atop the Imperial Castle, Kefka used them to attack the Blackjack as it escaped. By attacking each other, they can unleash several high-powered spells.
Air Force: the commander of the Imperial Air Force, it battled the Returners as they attempted to land on the Floating Continent. Its attachments Missile Bay and Laser Gun help it in battle, and it can launch Bits to absorb magic.
Guardian: the Empire's ultimate weapon, used to protect the Imperial Palace. Three Guardians accompanied Kefka on his attack on Thamasa, but he destroyed them. The Guardian eventually guards the tower summit in Kefka's Tower. It is able to mimic the battle styles of other bosses like Ultros and Dadaluma by running different battle programs.
The theme music for the Empire is called "Troops March On" or "Empire Gestahl".
- The Gestahlian Empire contains many allusions to the Galactic Empire (also known as "The Empire") from the Star Wars universe.
- In A New Hope, Grand Moff Tarkin uses the phrase "Rebel Scum." A common phrase Imperial soldiers use to refer to the Returners is "Returner Scum," or "Scum! You're Returners!".
- The Imperial soldiers tend to act like the Imperial Stormtroopers due to their perceived incompetence. When Locke rescues Celes, if he is dressed in an Imperial soldier's uniform, Celes asks him, "Aren't you a little short for an Imperial soldier?" an allusion to the same line given by Leia Organa to Luke Skywalker.
- Magitek Armor units are similar to All Terrain Personnel Transports. Setzer says that "The Empire has made me a rich man" before joining the Returners. This is an allusion to The Empire Strikes Back, in which Lando Calrissian makes a deal with the Galactic Empire, though not for money, but to save his city. Lando later joined the Rebel Alliance.
- Setzer also ended up piloting the airship called the Falcon, the fastest airship in the world; this is likely a reference to the Millenium Falcon, an exceptionally fast space ship piloted at one point by Lando, and later by Han Solo.
- Biggs and Wedge are named after the Star Wars characters, although the original characters are members of the rebel alliance, not the Galactic Empire.
- Kefka's betrayal and murder of Gestahl mirrored that of Vader turning against Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. Unlike Vader, however, Kefka's betrayal was out of his own evil desire for power.