"A lost classic"

Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo (not to be confused with Final Fantasy VI's American release, which was also called FF3) is one of many great Japanese games which have never seen an official release abroad. This is a crying shame, because not only is it the best of Square's 8-bit installments, it's also in my opinion the first true Final Fantasy, introducing moogles and other things we now associate with those magical two words Final Fantasy, to the series. FF1 might have been a historical moment inasmuch that it's the first of the lot, but I sincerely doubt the subsequent installments would have been as fantastic as they patently are if it hadn't been for FF3j.

FF3j's premise itself is not marginally different from its predecessors; you start off by naming your four protagonists and can eventually choose their classes (Fighter, Black Mage, White Mage, etc). The sprites/graphics also look exactly the same as in FF1 and FF2j, but, this being a NES game with all the graphical limitations the console brings, I can forgive Square for that. It's when it comes to the narrative itself that the differences begin to emerge - it was with this game that Square mastered the plot twist (and trust me, they are never few and far between), and, while your protagonists themselves have no obvious input into the storyline (as opposed to FF2j, where they do), you actively meet characters who follow you around, engage in the narrative and generally help move things along. It's a simple premise, but an effective one nevertheless, and a welcome change from FF1 where at times the plot would just drag on and on. The music is also great, as great as music on a NES can be: Uematsu-san already showed potential with his brilliant compositions for FF1, and once again he excels here. Furthermore, as opposed to the limited range of music available on the first two FF's, here every dungeon seems to have its own special theme tune. And the airship theme is fun too!

One problem I do have with FF3j, and that's where my total score is lowered from 9 to 8, is its difficulty. It is fiendishly difficult, impossible at times. This does occasionally divert from what is (for its time and the NES format) a great storyline, and unless you have the patience to level up, level up, and level up some more, you will find this game a frustrating experience as opposing to a rewarding one. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

However, all in all, FF3j is an enjoyable game. Sure, it's no FF7, but then again what is. Whether you're a retro gamer who wants to take a stroll down memory lane, or whether you just want to find out where it all really started, you need look no further than Final Fantasy III, a hugely underrated, underplayed game, and a lost classic to boot. Who knows, you might even be the first to figure out what an ''Onion Kid'' is. :-)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/19/02, Updated 04/02/03

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