The airship glitch in Final Fantasy VI allows the player to use the Blackjack airship early, potentially as early as entering the overworld for the first time after leaving Narshe. It requires the player to play from whichever point they want to use the airship all the way to the Floating Continent without saving. It is known to work with the original SNES and Super Famicom versions, but may also be possible on the PlayStation and GBA ports.
The glitch is triggered by saving on the overworld at whatever point the player wants to access the airship, and then continuing as normal without saving. The player must cross the Floating Continent and return to the Blackjack, fly around without landing, then return to the Floating Continent and trigger a Game Over there. When the game resumes, the player returns to the point they last saved, except they will be on board the airship.
Because the airship is acquired through glitching, its use comes with many limitations. The interior cannot be accessed, and the player can only land once before the airship becomes inaccessible, depending on when in the story the glitch is triggered. It's recommended to land near Zozo if one intends to complete the game, as it's close to where the player would first acquire the airship normally, and the furthest point in the story where the game can be completed using the glitch, as the airship becomes accessible again after Setzer is named. Because triggering the glitch requires the player to play through the entire World of Balance up to the Floating Continent without saving, it is impractical (but possible) to perform without using emulators and savestates.
The glitch can be used to cause numerous scripting errors, as skipping from Narshe to Zozo fails to trigger many in-game scripts with many interesting effects:
- The player can swap out Banon for some of the other temporary characters, such as Maduin and General Leo. Because temporary characters share the same character slot, the player can use the glitch to skip Banon's scenario, visit Thamasa and play out the sequence with General Leo, and then return to Banon's scenario earlier in the game, where Banon is replaced with Leo. The player can also trigger the glitch again to use these temporary characters outside of their intended areas, though their use is limited as they disappear from the party as soon as the player enters the party selection screen.
- By skipping scenes where characters are named, it's possible to use the Ten Moogles in their stead, not unlike the infamous Moghan glitch. The Ten Moogles share character slots with permanent player characters who appear later, but the slots are overwritten when the characters are named. If the player skips naming them, the game continues to use the moogle in that character's slot in their stead. If the player brings Terra, Locke, Edgar, and Sabin (as a moogle) to Mt. Kolts, after the battle with Vargas, Sabin will regain his abilities and equipment choices, but stay as a moogle.
- If the player skips the Phantom Train sequence they can replace Relm and Strago with the two Ghosts by first recruiting Relm and Strago, then visiting the Phantom Train and recruiting one or two Ghosts. Since Relm and Strago share character slots with the Ghosts, the Ghosts are permanently written to their character slots after this event. The Ghosts' Possess command can then be used outside of the Phantom Train where no enemies are programmed with resistance/immunity against it (even bosses, up to and including Kefka). The Possess command can also be used by Gogo if one or two ghosts are kept in the party.
- If any character besides Celes is kept in the party for the Opera House sequence (such as Banon or Terra), their sprite breaks because only Celes has animations for the sequence—for any other character, the game simply loads garbage graphics.
- If the player plays the Lethe River sequence with a different party than intended, the main character may never get off and stay on the raft for various other sequences in the game.
- If the player skips the Figaro Castle scenario early in the game, they can trigger it in the World of Ruin to return to the World of Balance. With this glitch it's possible to use Gogo and Umaro in the World of Balance.
- If the player skips Sabin's scenario early in the game, it will become impossible to finish it later as at a certain point in the story NPCs are removed from Doma Castle. Visiting the castle during Sabin's scenario afterward will cause a cinematic to lock up, making it impossible to complete.
The reason the airship glitch happens is unclear, but there are theories on how it works. When the player boards the Floating Continent, because they go directly from the airship to the floating landmass, the player never actually leaves the airship. When the player gets a Game Over, the on-airship flag is removed, like when dying in most airship encounters. However, by jumping back onto the airship from the Floating Continent and flying around, the game activates another flag that says the player is on the airship, effectively giving the "do you have an airship?" a value of 2. Upon a Game Over that value gets decreased by one, giving the "do you have an airship?" a value of 1. That way, when the player emerges wherever they last saved, they keep the airship. The reason it only works with the Floating Continent may be because the game developers wanted to do a map change while still technically being on the airship, because normally at the end of the Floating Continent the player reappears on the airship, and performing this task in that way would perhaps save on game memory.
- How to Break Final Fantasy VI at kotaku.com