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Third Time's Hardly the Charm
Final Fantasy III has the unfortunate honor of being the only installment of Squaresoft’s long-running franchise not to be released in America, having come two years after the Famicom version of Final Fantasy II was released, towards the end of the 8-bit era. Sadly, the third installment contains a lion’s share of annoyances as with its predecessors that makes it rather difficult to enjoy.
Many of these annoyances can be found, firstly, in the battle system. As with the first two Final Fantasies, battles are turn-based, where you input all your characters’ commands and let them go at it with the enemies; as with most other turn-based RPGs, the typical flaws of the Run command not always working, the slowness of battles, and the fact that enemies can beat you to healing, are present. However, the third installment does introduce the class system to the Final Fantasy series, with your choices increasing after you’ve obtained one of a few crystals found throughout the game. The third title also marks the return of Suikoden-esque MP levels and a traditional experience system, and in addition to experience and money, you receive Capacity Points after battle (and can hold up to 255), which, when consumed, allow a character to change classes. When you use a certain class often, less capacity points become required to change to it.
Interaction with the game also contains its share of annoyances. While the menu system wasn’t too bad and items stack up to 99, unlike in the second Final Fantasy, you’ll nonetheless find yourself running out of inventory space frequently, although you can give unneeded items to Fat Chocobos found throughout the game. Furthermore, you must remove all of a character’s equipment before changing classes, and remove a weapon or piece of armor in order to equip another (which can really bug you when your inventory’s completely full). Seems a bit unnecessary, doesn’t it?
Concerning originality, as I’ve said before, the third Final Fantasy introduces the class system, which would influence the fifth game and X-2. Still, the most glaring flaw in originality is the recycled visual style, and the magic system from the original title makes a comeback, yet would influence the magic system found in the Suikoden games.
Yes, the third Final Fantasy, with the exception of a few new character sprites and colored battle menus, uses exactly the same graphics as the second installment. Fights still contain a heavy degree of darkness, and while the environments were well designed, the sprites could have definitely used some improvement.
Furthermore, the third Final Fantasy unfortunately features less story than the second. The game stars four orphans stranded in a cave that defeat a turtle for a crystal and gain the ability to change classes, after which they seek more crystals and defeat whatever flat nemeses may come in their way. It’s as simple as that, folks, although the third Final Fantasy does introduce moogles. Additionally, there’s very subtle referencing to the Mana Tree, which would spawn the Seiken Densetsu series, whose first installment was subtitled Final Fantasy Gaiden in Japan.
The strongest aspect of the third Final Fantasy is Nobuo Uematsu’s soundtrack, which features some very beautiful tunes, even with the 8-bit blippety-bloppetiness. As for sound effects, those you hear in this game are pretty much as far as 8-bit sounds can go.
Finally, think of fighting Chaos at level one. That’s the difficulty of most bosses in the third Final Fantasy. They hardly give you a chance. You will die often in this game, and endure painful rounds of leveling up, though enemies are still very hard in the end. Still, the third installment takes less time to beat than the second, ranging from twenty-five to forty hours.
In the end, the Final Fantasy series really didn’t go out with a bang on the Famicom, what with the third installment's average battle system and a very questionable interface, among other average aspects, with the exception of the gorgeous soundtrack. You really won’t endure any great psychological damage if you avoid this title, but if you really, really want to play it, fine; there’s a complete translation available, for those who are interested. Hopefully, this installment’s remake, which has been in limbo for a few years, will prove itself to be redeeming.
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