If I've a gripe about Act 2 of FF6, it's that it's one of those bits that gives you flexibility to choose your party but where the plot clearly defines a correct party.
It's Edgar, Sabin, Locke, and Celes.
If you've got Edgar and Sabin, you'll get their cutscene in Figaro that tells the story of their father's death, the coin toss, and Sabin's departure.
And if you've got Locke, you'll see his cutscenes in Kohlingen about Rachel, her fall and amnesia, and her current state of suspended animation.
While it's true that Celes only gets one line of dialogue to react to all this, I think it's still valid to say she's a "correct" party member here, given that she becomes mandatory after Zozo.
Speaking of after Zozo, yes, you do get to choose half your party there -- but Locke and Celes are mandatory, and Sabin and Edgar are still the two remaining party members who contribute most to the plot if you pick them -- because then you get the punchline to the coin toss story.
Sure, you can get Shadow during this stretch -- but it's not really worth it. You might catch one of his dreams if you stay at an inn, but other than that, he doesn't do much except potentially run away at an awkward moment and leave you stranded. Plus, if it's your first time playing the game, you won't know he's coming and will leave Narshe with a full party and not be able to get him (without backtracking to Narshe and leaving somebody behind), and if it's not your first time, you'll know the correct party is Edgar, Sabin, Locke, and Celes.
Anyway. That aside? This is one of the great sequences of the game. Zozo is one of the most memorable locations, and the Opera House represents everything I love about Final Fantasy in general and this game in particular. And in the version I'm playing, with the music restoration patch, it's an actual recording, complete with real voices. Singing in Italian. Seriously, it is the crown jewel of an excellent game hack and you owe it to yourself to check this version of the game out.
And then the occupied cities of Albrook, Maranda, and Tzen -- if I've a gripe about them, it's that they're a little too samey, but that was a pretty common problem in 8- and 16-bit JRPG's and FF6 provides more variety than most.
And then Vector. Vector is marvelous. The slight sheen of fire and metal over everything, the soldiers everywhere and robbers in the inn, the oppressive music.
And the Magitek Research Facility is a whole other vibe: pure mad science.
The whole sequence is so fantastic that I hate to point out the places where the seams show, but what the hell, here they are.
First: it's stated in dialogue that Gestahl has known about Magicite for 20 years and that Celes's magical talents came at the expense of an Esper's life.
But Kefka and Cid are both quite clearly surprised by the revelation that the best way to obtain an Esper's power is by killing it.
I can understand Gestahl not telling Kefka -- I mean, would you? -- but Cid? That doesn't make a lick of sense. Cid is the guy in charge of extracting power from Espers. The entire purpose of this giant facility you're in is rendered moot if Gestahl knows magic is derived from dead Espers rather than Espers in giant fishtanks. Not to mention that Cid is the person who gave Celes her magic infusion when she was a child, so if it involved dead Espers he should presumably have known about it.
(And speaking of children, the Slattery and Woolsey translations both have Terra say "I was raised on the Esper world." and then immediately tell the story of how she left the Esper world at the age of two. That's more of a nitpick over a single word choice, but it still grates.)
Also very very silly: Locke seems to immediately buy Kefka and Cid's -- that would be, to those of you keeping score, the villain and a guy he just met -- allegation that Celes is a spy.
This is, of course, completely fucking ludicrous.
It relies on what Roger Ebert called the Fallacy of the Predictable Tree (after the scene in First Blood where Rambo drops out of a tree on top of a cop -- they are in a forest; how did he know a cop was going to stand under that exact tree before he climbed it?) and TV Tropes calls Gambit Roulette.
Let's paint a picture here.
Let's say Celes was a spy seeking to infiltrate the Returners.
When Locke meets her, she is chained up in a basement. (Or, in the GBA version, just kinda hanging out in a basement.)
So okay. She wanted to infiltrate the Returners.
So she...hid out chained up in a basement, and just waited for one of them to come into South Figaro, sneak past the armed guards by stealing clothes from people, bribe an old man with cider to be allowed use of his secret passageway, and just happen to look through the door into the smallest room in the biggest house in town and see her chained up there?
Locke believes this is a plausible scenario. Because Locke is a character in a video game. And in a video game, a plan like that is perfectly logical.
This is a medium where mad scientists regularly attempt to take over the world by sticking thematic robots into little rooms where they can hang out and wait until somebody walks in so they can shoot at him. Where dragons won't attack you until after you've talked to exactly the right villagers in precisely the correct order. And, lest you think these particular abuses of Video Game Logic are confined to classic games, I point you to my thoughts on Metroid: Other M, a game where a monster does not attack you until you notice a trail of bugs on the ground, and a woman will stand at a window for ten minutes while you look around and then act surprised and run away when you finally spot her.
So, all things considered? I guess Locke's got a point.