Final Fantasy III – NES
Release Date (JP): April 27, 1990
Nerd Rating: 7.5/10
Reviewed by Paladin
Hang on, isn’t this game for the Super Nintendo? Yeah! Terra, Locke, and Kefka, right? And who could forget Ultros? Oh man, I love the opera scene! I can’t believe I didn’t wait for Shadow the first time I played! Haha, good times.
If this is your thought process upon seeing the title of this game you need to retire your RPG fan status. I can’t believe that anyone reading this doesn’t already know, but JUST IN CASE, here’s an FYI; Final Fantasy III was never released in the United States in its original format. For many reasons, FF’s II, III and V were initially skipped over. As a result, Final Fantasy IV became the American FF II and Final Fantasy VI (mentioned above) became what many in this country came to know as Final Fantasy III. Therefore, the actual release platform for this game was the Famicom and the only way for Americans to experience all of its original 8-Bit glory is to use an emulator, which is what I did. Easy to find, easy to use, and I feel that the translation for this title is superior to that of FF II. There is also a 3D remake available on the Nintendo DS.
Final Fantasy III starts off with the player getting to name the main characters, and we see that all four of them look exactly alike with varying colors. That’s because this game reintroduces not only the crystals, but multiple combat classes, or jobs, just like the first Final Fantasy. The big difference? You don’t start with all the classes. All four characters begin as the “Onion Knight” class and as you obtain each crystal, you unlock more jobs, resulting in a whopping 24 to choose from by the end of the game. That’s right, you can CHOOSE which class you wish to be at any time. You’re not stuck with the same one from beginning to end. This aspect alone provides hours of enjoyable gameplay and even makes level grinding fun! Granted, you need points obtained from battle to switch, which can be annoying at first, but the further you get into the game the more points you accumulate. This feature was eliminated altogether in the 2006 remake for the DS.
Other notable standouts are the graphics and sound. Where the visual and auditory differences between FF’s I and II were minimal, III looks and sounds noticeably crisper and sharper from the get-go, with every sprite having more recognizable features and each character’s individual movements being fluid and clean. After the first two installments, its almost surprising to witness spells actually soar across the battlefield instead of just flashing onscreen for a second or seeing a character’s damage points pop out of them in the form of white numbers rather than just being displayed below the action. The sound effects have a solid, definable quality to them and regular Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu delivers one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, soundtracks ever to be heard on an 8-bit console. His music seamlessly augments the activity onscreen while remaining unique enough to be gratifying on its own.
Ok, ok. If this game’s so great why only a 7 out of 10? Well…hang with me for a moment. The story begins with some exposition about an earthquake and our eerily identical protagonists navigating their way out of a cave they fell into. After a few battles they arrive at the first boss in the form of an Adamantoise and it’s immediately clear why not everyone enjoys this game: it’s hard. Like, really hard. In fact, if you didn’t hit the treasure chests for the potions and, especially, the Antarctic Wind on your way, I dare say your chances of defeating this giant turtle are slim. And this is just the beginning.
From there our heroes explore, make friends and get drawn into a conflict that eventually determines the fate of the world. On the one hand, FF III is extremely innovative and inventive as it unfolds. Along with the main plot, every town you enter has its own unique dilemma that needs solving, each more fun than the last. How creepy is it to walk into a town full of ghosts? Wait, I’m walking up a steep trail TOWARD Bahamut? I’d jump off a mountain too when faced with that prospect. However, it’s not just the events that define this game, but how they’re solved. For instance, there’s a dungeon with a deep lake barring the way. How to get across? Use the Toad spell on your party of course, enabling you to swim. How about having to crawl through a microscopic hole in the eye of a statue? Try the Mini spell. In fact, once inside, the physics are pretty well thought out as you fight things like rats and insects instead of monsters and your physical attacks render no damage due to your decreased size. The game is full of creative twists; my favorite being the main characters’ discovery that the land they’ve been navigating this entire time is only a small part of a much larger world and, upon acquiring their first airship, fly beyond their borders for the first time. The sight that greets them is so shocking that I don’t dare ruin it here. From there the fun only escalates as you traverse a crystal tower, get caught up in a civil war, and encounter increasingly diverse friends and enemies.
On the other hand, this was all before the invention of the Save Point. Yeah, how often have we taken those little guys for granted? Play Final Fantasy III and you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for them. These dungeons are not only filled with difficult enemies, they’re long. (Hands down the worst is Falgabard Cave, where the monsters can only be killed with a specific kind of blade. Use any other weapon and they not only don’t die, they multiply!) To make matters worse, your party can only carry a certain amount of items, so you have to make your potions count. But we’re not done yet! For some reason, instead of Magic Points, this game brought back that annoying limited number of uses per spell level feature, previously seen in Final Fantasy I, so you can’t rely too heavily on your healing spells either, otherwise you’ll have no magic left for the bosses. Its a good thing the different combat classes make battle so enjoyable because a lot of level grinding is required to get through this game. I fully admit to using my emulator’s “instant freeze state” when playing.
Looking back, its probably a good thing that Final Fantasy III wasn’t brought over here initially. Without the internet for help the difficulty would probably have been too much for American gamers at the time, backlash would have arisen, and who knows what the fate of the franchise in this country would have been. Therefore, having played this for the first time after graduating college, I was very surprised how in-depth it was for an NES/Famicom title and it quickly jumped to my third favorite Final Fantasy after IX and X. True, sometimes it’s so frustrating I want to rip my hair out, but so are plenty of other games and when reading negative reviews of this title, the difficulty is the only thing consistently discussed. I may be biased, but I feel that the good in this game greatly outweighs the bad and while I can’t call it an essential entry for fans of the genre, its not a disappointing one either. But if you’re a Final Fantasy fan, definitely give it a play-through. You’ll be glad you did.
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