Review by Gylgamesh
"An old school game that still bests most of the series."
Final Fantasy. Everyone knows the series, but few have actually played this one. The reason for that being that the third installment in the series has yet to reach out shores, a terrible tragedy, as it is easily the best of the three NES-era Final Fantasies. It introduced many new concepts to the series, and built on already established ones. It really is a shame that this one never made it here; luckily, that will change shortly with the release of the DS version in a few months.
Graphics - It is an NES game, after all, so one can't expect too much, but for a game released at the end of the system's life, it does as much as you can expect. Slightly increasing over the previous two installments of the series, the sprites are a bit sharper and there is more variety in the backgrounds, especially the environments. It's not a far shot away from the original Final Fantasy, but if you put the two back to back, you can notice the difference.
Story - You are the Light Warrior, and you are charged to rid the world of darkness. The archetype for a Final Fantasy story, and it certainly doesn't change here. There are crystals and magic and everything you'd expect, and nothing you wouldn't. Still, there are a few plot twists that will likely surprise you, one especially, that occurs about halfway through your quest. It's these few moments that keep you compelled enough to care about the mediocre story that fills in the space between.
Gameplay - This is where the game truly shines. Final Fantasy III introduces the job system to the series (something that comes back more than a few times in future games). Unlike the original Final Fantasy, where you were confined to a single class throughout the entire game, you can now switch classes to better suit the obstacles that black you way. Enemies weak against magic? Make a party of Black Wizards. There is a large selection of jobs (22 once all is said and done), and most of them have unique abilities, though not all of them prove to be useful. Truth be told, the balance between the jobs is pretty skewed, so you'll often find yourself gravitating towards certain ones over and over again.
There are other, more cosmetic changes here, too. No longer do party members swing at thin air should their target be slain before they get a turn. The amounts of windows on the menu screen are cut down significantly, and you can begin to see the battle system slowly evolve into what we see in today's Final Fantasy games. The menus are a lot friendlier this time around as well (including shop windows), which makes for a much smoother experience. The gameplay here is top-notch.
Sound - Surprisingly good for an NES game. Many of the tracks are very memorable, and overall, the soundtrack is fantastic. It really is quite an accomplishment for an NES game, regardless of the era is was spawned in. The sound effects are just as good too, in battles at least. The bleeps and bloops that you'll hear on the menu screens tend to get irritating when you have to hear them over and over again while selecting items or using magic spells. They didn't need to be completely removed, but having them be less obtrusive would have been nice.
Replay - The replay value isn't really all that great, but it helps that the game is short (about 15 hours). This enables you to play through the game again using different jobs in different situations, using different strategies as you play. It certainly is fun enough to warrant a few playthroughs over time. The difficulty, however, is very uneven. There are times when the game seems far too easy, and then yet other where is become unbearably difficult. Often these places are back-to-back areas, making it all the more frustrating. Luckily, it's not so bad that it will stop you from playing, but it does come close.
Final Fantasy III really is a lost gem. It seems odd to say that in a series that is so popular, but it true. It's easily the least played game in the series (once again, due in no small part to the fact that is wasn't released in America), but it remains one of the best. It paved the way for many of the other games in the series (Final Fantasy V, and Final Fantasy Tactics both make big use of the job system introduced here) and should be looked up for anyone who's never played it before.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/08/06
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