Final Fantasy III - Staff Retroview  

Lightness and Darkness and Jobs, Oh My!
by Mike Moehnke

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20-40 Hours
+ Introduction of the Job system
+ Plenty of challenge
+ Aesthetics are nice
- Story was fine in 1990 - not anymore
- No save points anywhere
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   Final Fantasy III missed out on the multiple ports its predecessors received. No PS1, GBA, or PSP iterations exist for this game, only its original 1990 Famicom rendition and the 2006 DS remake. This remake changed quite a few parts of the game in minor-to-moderate ways but strove to remain faithful to the original version, and it succeeded in accomplishing that aim. Final Fantasy III eschews modern conventions of the RPG genre and hearkens back to a time when stories were perfunctory and combat was the major component of playing time.

   Luneth, an orphan wandering around in the caves near his home, finds himself set upon by nasty creatures and displays a surprising aptitude for dispatching them. He quickly is joined by Arc, Refia, and Ingus, also orphans with a surprising knack for killing off creatures of darkness. These four unite at the behest of the Crystals to bring light back into balance with darkness, as the world is in jeopardy thanks to darkness's overflow. The tale of four prodigies going to battle against the forces of darkness is well told and well localized. It also lacks much depth and in this respect shows clearly its 1990 origins, when RPGs did not need intricate stories.

   The four characters are granted Job abilities by the four Crystals they encounter in the game, one set of Jobs from each Crystal. These Jobs can be switched between whenever the player wishes, though not without penalty: there will be a certain number of battles to fight before the character's statistics recover from the Job change. If changing from a non-magic user to a magic user, the character will have to recover Magic Points from resting somewhere. These two points make the Job system a little less versatile than would be optimal.

This poor fellow was wandering around the galactic jogging track when he was suddenly and viciously attacked by a gang of teenage hoodlums!  More at 11. This poor fellow was wandering around the galactic jogging track when he was suddenly and viciously attacked by a gang of teenage hoodlums! More at 11.

   Combat is conducted via random, turn-based battles. The turn order is unpredictable, an unfortunate state of affairs when enemies are able to deliver powerful attacks capable of killing characters. Enemies bequeath money and experience upon death, with experience granting level-ups that increase character statistics. The Job a character is currently using affects the statistics gained, and the Jobs have their own levels separate from experience. Increasing Job level increases the effectiveness of either magic, physical attacks, or both, whichever that Job specializes in. Magic is bought in stores and uses an atypical system of magic points compared to later games, whereby there are eight spell levels and a character has a certain number of uses for each level.

   Weapon and armor shops are courteous enough to display the attack/defense power of items prior to purchase, and the characters that can equip them are highlighted. The unfortunate part of purchasing equipment lies in the Job system, because in neither the shops nor the player's inventory will there be an explanation of which Jobs can equip what. It is up to the player to switch classes around until something can be equipped.

Darkness freezes time?  Who knew? Darkness freezes time? Who knew?

   Aesthetically, Final Fantasy III's Famicom origins cannot be discerned, for its 3D makeover is quite thorough. The characters are not terribly impressive thanks to their lack of effective expressions, but the enemy and terrain animations are quite nice. Most enemies only have one or two attack movements, but they had none in the original version of the game. The music is not Nobuo Uematsu's finest work, but the majority of the pieces are at least pleasant and some are very memorable. Sound effects are pretty good also.

   Challenge is derived partially from the absence of save points in the game, but more from the game's enemies offering a very real fight. Enemies late in the game attack multiple times a round, characters either have terrible magic defense or terrible physical defense with equipment options forbidding the player from remedying this, and Phoenix Downs for revival of the dead cannot be bought. Killing a boss does revive the player's party completely, which can be very helpful in deep dungeons.

   Completing Final Fantasy III will require somewhere between 20 and 30 hours, with the amount of level grinding one chooses to do greatly affecting this time. There are some optional dungeons and bosses to encounter, along with a Mognet function that can be used to communicate with fellow players and obtain extra items. There is also the possibility of playing the game with different Jobs to invite replay.

   Final Fantasy III is not a game for a player valuing story above combat. It is a representative of an earlier era in RPGs, when challenge and battling were prized before narrative. In those qualities it is abundant despite the modern makeover. RPGamers with an affinity for such traits will find that Final Fantasy III delivers them. The issues it possesses were endemic to RPGs in 1990 and their moderation here can be thought of as the developers' compromise between old-school challenge and modern convenience.

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