Final Fantasy III
Review by KerntheGerm
"Not just the best of the NES, but one of the best in the entire series."
Final Fantasy III was the last to be released on its system. And much like FF6 and FF9, also the last to be released on their respective systems, it certainly goes out with a bang. One of my favorites in the entire series.
Enemy sprites have the same 4-color scheme as FF2, and are of roughly the same size and quality. Character sprites are vastly improved, with much more detail and uniqueness among the jobs, as well as addition of the green-brown color scheme. Where FF3 really shines is the skill and spell animations. From Ice2's crystal explosion to Karateka's Buildup energy vanishing into a puff of useless green smoke when he Overcharges, seemingly every animation has been given consideration in FF3. Detractors are the lingering "Black Battlefield" syndrome and overall lack of convincing battle backgrounds, but that's mostly a function of the NES's limited layering capability. I still think they could have done better than expecting me to believe that I'm fighting in a forest just from an impossibly small strip of trees at the top of the screen.
You begin your quests as 4 young orphans who fall into an abandoned cave and accidentally discover the Wind Crystal of Legend. The Crystal chooses them as the Bearers of the Light, and they embark on a world-spanning quest to save the world from the evil Demon King Zande by using the powers granted them by the four elemental Crystals. What impressed me most is the foresight of some of the background characters, particularly the Archmage Noah. Without spoiling too much, I'll just say that if you bother to think about it, you'll realize that this guy thought of every eventuality and designed his plans with them all in mind. Every eventuality except, of course, the one that starts this game's central conflict.
Like most of the early FFs (and, unfortunately, some of the later FFs), FF3 feels like a collection of random, jumbled quests rather than a truly cohesive story. Though all of the events have some eventual vital role in the outcome of the game, the way they start can sometimes be rather ridiculous. For example, you have to find one major NPC with no information about him to go on except his crying girlfriend who is sad that he up and left her for no reason. How bizarre is that?
Not as tedious as its fellow early-age FFs, not too simple like the new-era FFs. I'm rather ambivalent about certain sequences where the game practically forces you to use certain classes. It's nice to have someone slap me and say "Take a look at these underrated job classes! You might like one of them!" But then again, I don't really like being slapped. What's nice, though, is that if you're clever enough (and usually you can only do this on your second or third playthrough) sometimes you can find ways around such restrictions. Skipping scanning and magic altogether on the Wallchange boss and just going straight for physical beatdown, a handful of double-shield knights and some critical-health Karatekas to plow through splitting enemies, and dozens of other clever ways to use the system to your advantage. It loses points for being a little on the tedious side, even if it ain't as tedious as others. It's also a bit easy to power-level if you read a FAQ or otherwise know what you're doing: You can get a skill level up for virtually any job in just one battle if you know what commands to use.
Here's where it gets great. I'd give it an 11 if I could. FF3 has so many great things about its battle and job system, I hardly know where to start. Let's go with the most obvious improvement: No more Ineffective hits. Thank God! For those of you who don't know, FF1 and 2 had this silly battle quirk where if you chose to attack an enemy during a turn, but that enemy died before your character could execute the command, he would just swing his silly little sword at the air and the dreaded "Ineffective" message would pop up. At best, you simply lose one round of attacking. At worst, you use the last of your MP to cast Nuke on an enemy that already died. In FF3, however, attacks on dead enemies are simply reassigned to another random enemy still on screen. Woot, to say the least.
FF3 was the first FF to provide interchangeable Job classes. Each class is virtually unique, with wholly different equipment and skill sets. There are, of course, some throwaway jobs that just get replaced by better versions of themselves later in the game and some throwaway jobs that are never really worth using in the first place anyway, but some failures are to be expected in the first attempt. What is rather nice about the whole system is that some jobs don't really look effective until certain parts of the game. For example, Dragoons look like just another fighting class until you fight the boss that has a super-powerful hit-all attack that your Dragoons can simply Jump right over. Then you suddenly say to yourself: "Wow! What a cool special ability!"
Your Character Level determines what stats you have with any given job. That is to say, a Knight may not look like he'd make a good mage, but once you change his job his stats will follow suit. Having a higher Level will increase these stats. The only thing that carries over from Job to Job is your HP, so be advised. The best way to keep your fighters from getting too far ahead of your mages is to routinely switch your fighters and mages to keep things even. Another strategy is to turn your mages into Monks or Vikings at every level up just to get that HP bonus. A third strategy, and my personal favorite, is to simply forgo mages entirely and just use Monks all the time. How you do it is really up to you.
Independent of your Character Level, each Job has its own Skill Level that you raise by executing certain commands, much like FF2 and later FFT. Once your Skill count reaches a certain value, you get a job level up. A Monk, for example, will get a large Skill increase from Fighting, but no increase from using an item. A Black Wizard will get a big Skill increase from casting a spell, but almost nothing from a physical attack. And guys like Scholars get a huge bonus from doing pretty much anything. Your job's skill level is used for determining multipliers: Number of attacks made per Fight command, Number of attacks blocked when hit, Spell damage multipliers, the works. This is important because of the way FF3's damage is calculated. Everything is quantified in increments of hits. If it hits, an attack will either do next to no damage at all or do 1 hit's worth of damage, 2 hits, 3 hits, or possibly even up to 12 hits worth of damage. What this means for the player is none of that ridiculous 1-2 damage against a high defense enemy. In FF3, when you hit at all, you hit hard.
Another great aspect of FF3 is the equipment system. Each character has two arms, and each arm can carry either a weapon or a shield (if your current class permits you to use a shield). You want high attack? Go ahead and equip two weapons. But be advised that your enemies will get double the amount of hits on you if you don't have a shield. Every time you equip a new weapon or shield you're faced with a strategic decision: Do I want to hit harder or stay alive longer? This may not seem too impressive. In fact I just went with two weapons throughout most of the game. My four-fighter party had no need of measly healers with so many Potions and Hi-Potions in abundance. And then one day I finally got tired of running out of Hi-Potions and said to myself "You know what? Now is a good time to get a shield." So, depending on your play style, the shield versus sword decision can have a major impact on how you play the game. I only wish there were more uses for all my accessory slots. I mean, what exactly can any helmet besides a Ribbon do for me that my armor can't? I would just as soon have that defense put on to my armor and have had one less thing to worry about upgrading and re-equipping. Also, some elemental-flavored shields (ala FF6) would have been really nice, but I guess it's too much to ask for something so early. Still, a remake would benefit much from inclusion of elemental shields, in my opinion.
Though, admittedly, I would have liked FF5's ability to equip a secondary skill on my jobs, that's probably asking a bit too much from the game. I think that's the only thing from FF5 that I would want in this game, though. I personally felt that FF3's skill system was handled in a much more appealing fashion.
So many of the great FF traditions got their start here. Jobs like Dragoons, Hunters, Thieves, Scholars, Geomancers, Mystic Knights, and even the lowly Bard got their start here. Almost all summons got their start here: Chocobo summon, Shiva, Ramuh, Titan, Ifrit, Odin, Leviathan, and even the mighty Bahamut appears for the first time as a summon monster in FF3. The entire Geomancer Terrain ability set was created in this game, as were the Bard's songs, and the Thief's ability to actually steal. Moogles show up for the first time in FF3. Multiple airships show up show up here first as well. More than any FF since the first, FF3 has contributed a wealth of mainstays to the FF series.
Not necessarily an average, but this time the math works out fine. Some of the greatest gameplay in any FF to date, it only loses some points because I've been spoiled on the later FFs and their improvements on they series.
Superlative gameplay, superior innovation, a few excellent plot points.
Otherwise lackluster plot, a bit tedious.
We'll probably never see it stateside. Nyar har! Those guys at Square are real jerks sometimes.
The only place you can find it these days is in ROM form, as almost all of the original cards and FDS consoles have likely either been destroyed, lost, or hermetically sealed in some freak collector's vault. I wish to discourage lawbreaking, but those of you who are dirty software pirates will probably bootleg it anyway. Thief or not, pick it up any way you can. You'll probably regret it if you've been weaned on the newer FFs in the series, but who knows? You might actually be able to recognize this great game for what it's worth!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/19/04
Got Your Own Opinion?
You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.