Review by The Vic Viper

"While it isn't that great of a game, it did introduce a lot of things that would be used in future Final Fantasy games with better results"

Final Fantasy III isn't what I would call a great RPG, though it was very good by NES RPG standards. It is the best Final Fantasy on the NES and better than Dragon Warrior I and II. However, by today's standards, the storyline is very shallow and the gameplay is clunky and slow. While the game may not have been amazing, Final Fantasy III is important to the series because it introduced a lot of concepts and characters that have reappeared in almost all of the following Final Fantasy games.

While Final Fantasy II went off on a tangent in terms of gameplay, Final Fantasy III is much more in the style of the original, but greatly expanded. While you had a variety of classes in the original (six to be exact), there are many, many more in Final Fantasy III. There are twenty-two classes total, however you will not have access to all of them from the beginning. Instead (and this is perhaps the most significant change from the first game to this one) you can change classes at any point, except when you are in battle. Classes (or jobs as they were called back then) determine what spells you can cast, what weapons and armor you can equip, and your stats. This gives the game a lot more variety, as well as lets the player use more strategy.

While it is an interesting concept, I find that I don't switch classes as often as I originally though I would. From the beginning you get the five basic classes (Fighter, Monk, Red, White, and Black Wizards), which are almost always good enough since you can have a wonderfully balanced party. Later on you get the more specialized classes, which have some interesting skills. However they tend to be too specialized – there attacks may prove useful in certain situations, but in others they are absolutely useless. Except for a few boss fights I usually don't switch out of my standard Fighter-Monk-Red Wizard-Red Wizard setup until much later in the game when you get better class. When I do change it's usually to a class that is basically an upgrade of my old one, such as changing a Fighter into a Knight. Aside from the fact that most classes are too specialized to be useful it is a pain to change them. First you have to unequip the character, then change jobs, then reequip them. This is a very tedious process if it's just to make a battle take a few rounds less.

There are a few classes other than the standard ones (or upgrades of the standard ones) that are important, specifically Summoners and Dragoons. Dragoons can do massive damage with their special skill ‘Jump' and Summoners can summon monsters to beat the crap out of your opponents for you. Now, in this game they aren't great classes, however they are important because they would created something that would be perfected in future Final Fantasy games. Dragoons are important in Final Fantasy IV and VI to a certain extent (and they have one major use in III), and Summoners are in every following Final Fantasy game created so far. Summons and summoners are not only important gameplay-wise, but the stories also revolve around them in VI through X-2. This is actually why Final Fantasy III is such a noteworthy game – not because it's great as a game, it's great for what it did for the series.

From the very start of the game it will be obvious that it was built using Final Fantasy I as a foundation. The same character sets are used for many of the classes, the story is basically the same, the same menu system, same battle system, and so on. The fighting system is basically the same as it is in every NES turn-based RPG: at the beginning of the round you select commands for all characters and then all characters and enemies attack in order based on agility (with some randomness thrown in). After than (assuming one side isn't wiped out) you select your movies again and it repeats. This is not the active time system that would be developed during the Super Nintendo era and overall navigating the menus and the character animations are really slow. Combat is unfortunately really boring since you will be fighting a lot. The encounters are entirely random (with the exception of bosses) and the encounter rate is fairly high. Since I have to play the game on my PC I generally setup the round then go browse some webpage until the fight is over or I have to choose more commands.

The storyline is marginally improved over the first game, though it is still weak. Rather than have four Light Warriors appear one day out of nowhere, it involves four kids being chosen by the crystals to save the world after a great evil appears. The individual characters lack personalities and nothing about the characters, or how others relate to them (aside from “Please save us” becoming “Thank you for saving us”) develops, but you really can't expect too much from a game of this generation. Of course, that is why while there are tons of NES era games that are still fun to play few of them are RPGs. With the next generation of consoles RPGs would begin to have lasting value.

Anyway, the story almost seems like a retelling of the original game's story. Perhaps that is what it's meant to be, I don't know, however since Squaresoft changed all of the names and the world map around I doubt it. There are more sidequests, so the game doesn't seem quite as straightforward as the original. Some of these sidequests are good, though they usually involve finding an item of importance or saving somebody who will be important in opening up the next area or at some point later on. The game is completely linear though, so even though they are sidequests in terms of the plot, you have to complete them since that's the only way to unblock the way forward so you can continue saving the world. The sidequests do extend the game time a lot, so it will take you much longer to complete than the first game.

Dungeons are usually fairly short, though there are a lot of them since there are so many sidequests. Part of the reason why the dungeons have to be so short is because monsters are usually very powerful, and with the encounter rate being so high, you wouldn't survive a really long dungeon. There are no save points or healing spots either, so you have to get to the end and defeat the boss with what you have from the start. Now, I'm not one to complain about hard games (usually my complaint about RPGs is that they are too easy), but the difficulty comes from you having bad luck. Damage you (and enemies) do is so random that one turn you might do 400+ damage and the next turn you'll do 40. It's all depending on your luck, not on your skill or stats, which is not where difficulty should come from. Now, this game is certainly beatable, however since so much relies on luck you'll have to keep trying the same areas repeatedly or spends time leveling up. Both of which get really, really frustrating and boring after a very short amount of time.

Now, because Squaresoft decided not to export the game outside of Japan (perhaps it was a good move, perhaps they're just boneheads. We'll never know) the only way for most people to play the game at this point is to download a ROM. Fortunately they are fairly easy to find if you know where to look, and there are good English translations out there made by fans. I'm not sure if there is only one English version or more, but if so the only thing that would be different is some of the names. You can either play the ROM on a PC which is free and easy or put it onto a console such as an Xbox, GBA, Nintendo DS, or Sony PSP.

There is some hope for those of us that prefer to play legit versions of games now that Squaresoft has figured out that Westerners like Final Fantasy. Supposedly Final Fantasy III will make it to the Nintendo DS handheld at some point as a global release. If so, that's great, otherwise just download the ROM and play away. Hell, you can download the ROM, put it on a flash card, and play it on your DS if you really want.

If you are a fan of Final Fantasy series I would recommend playing through III at least once. Even though the game isn't that great it is worth it just so you can see where a lot of the things (such as many of the summoned monsters, chocobos, many of the classes, and so on) that are in future games got their start.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/28/05, Updated 10/10/05

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