$70 is a whole lot to a child under the age of 12. This was the case for myself, as I was too lazy to maintain a paper delivery route so I had to rely on my allowance and birthday money if I wanted to game on my own dollar. This was back when the newest games were quite expensive, but I knew that if Final Fantasy III was even half as good as Final Fantasy II, than it would be well worth the fortune. It took me quite some time to gather my funds, but I was quite stoked when I finally had enough. Now ten years have passed and Final Fantasy III has become one of the most highly regarded RPGs of all time, considered by many to be the pinnacle of this terrific RPG series. The advancement of technology hasn't managed to dampen most fan's passion for this title. Was Final Fantasy III worth my grand childhood fortune? Read on to find out.
It wasn't until I embraced the information age (read: I got the internet) that I realized just what everyone else thought of the Final Fantasy series. I was quite shocked to see just how many people had played this game on the Super Nintendo. Though Final Fantasy II (IV in Japan) was the real eye opener as for as the North American RPG market is concerned, Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) seems to have been undoubtedly more popular. This is widely regarded as the greatest game ever created. You won't be hearing such a praise in this review (if you couldn't already tell from my four star rating), but that's not to say that I don't like Final Fantasy III as it is quite the amazing game. This installment of the Final Fantasy series really shows Square's growth as a developer.
Around a thousand years ago a fierce war broke out, involving magical entities known as Espers. Since then, the art of magic has seemingly all but disappeared, and Espers haven't been seen in a very long time. That is until, a powerful empire has developed armor that has magical characteristics. With the Magitek Armor, and a mysterious girl talented in the use of magic, the Empire is searching for Espers so that they can take over the world.
You begin the game as a green haired girl named Terra, as she leads a team of two other soldiers in magitek armor into a small mining town called Narshe. You soon learn that this girl was being controlled by the army, and after she ditches the device used in controlling her she has no memories of her past. Now with the empire chasing her down, she's in a hurt of trouble. After being saved by a "treasure hunter" named Locke, she is helped by a rebel group called the returners. From here, the adventure unfolds. One unique element to Final Fantasy III's storyline is the fact that it was the first Final Fantasy title to feature a female as the lead character (at least she's the main character in the beginning).
Okay so there are a couple of things here that Final Fantasy III does right. First off, you'd have been hard pressed to find another RPG back then which featured so many characters. This is a cool feature, because the character's all have distinct personalities and work well within their roles in the story. The problem here is that the characters aren't fleshed out quite as much as you'd want them to be, as the game skimps out a bit in character development in situations where you can select your own party. At times, the character's don't even speak out of the game's main dialogue. This means that quite a bit of the time when you can choose your own party, you won't hear any character specific dialogue. Very disappointing, especially because you'll learn to love some of the personalities.
It also certainly helps that the character with the most personality is the main enemy, Kefka. With the most memorable laugh (and dialogue) ever put into an RPG, you'll wonder why Square doesn't base more characters off of this guy.
In a nutshell, Final Fantasy III is a turn based, random encounter RPG. Though a rather vague description, most people will know what to expect from the game just based off of that statement. You can carry up to four characters in your group at a time, which adds just the right amount of diversity in the battles. The game is heavy on adventure, and so you'll be travelling around throughout the face of the world quite a bit of the time. I must say, Final Fantasy III captured a rather unique sense of travel, because of the skewed view of the world map, and travelling by airship was crafted brilliantly. If you're a fan of mode 7 graphics techniques, than you'll certainly find a lot to like about this game at face value.
Final Fantasy III handles the turn based elements pretty standardly, but performs quite well in this area. Basically it's all about your party exchanging blows with the enemies repeatedly. There are numerous options that you can go with, including casting magic spells, summoning espers, using the character's special moves, using items, defending, and even running away from battle. Magic is the most diverse of these commands, as you can do a lot with the various spells you've learned. It's possible to heal, manipulate character response speeds, damage enemies, and even view your enemies' weaknesses. Magic consumes Magic Points however, so it's wise to be conservative sometimes.
Throughout quite a bit of the adventure you will be given total control over which characters you want to use in your group, which can allow you to micro-manage each of them to your liking. Characters are distinguished differently through not only their possible equipment and through their individual statistics (strength, HP, MP, etc.) but also through a special move all of their own. For example, Locke can steal items from enemies, Edgar can use tools against his foes, Celes can absorb magic with her runic blade, and much more. These special moves are sometimes absolutely necessary in winning certain battles, and sometimes they are stronger than the character's normal attack. What's cool is that one of the secret characters in the game can use nearly all of the special moves in the game.
Now this leads me to an explanation of Magic. Once the storyline progresses to the point at which your characters recieve "magicite" shards, every single one of your permanent characters will be able to learn and cast magical spells. Every permanent character (save for a few special ones) can learn every spell, provided you equip the magicite onto them as they learn the magic. This however, puts a serious hinderance on much of the character differences later on. Magicite can also be used to manipulate individual character stats. This also, hinders many differences between characters. By the end of the game the only real difference between each will be their special move, but many of these special moves aren't so useful when you're at this point anyway.
One of the coolest aspects of the game is definitely the moments when you can select from multiple scenarios. Basically this happens only twice in the game's storyline (once in a sidequest), but it's still one of the most memorable elements. Basically, this allows you to play through segments of the storyline in an order of your choice as different characters. This is used once early in the game for three different character parties, and is used later in the game for solving puzzles in the final dungeon. Though it wasn't integrated as much as I would have liked, it's certainly enjoyable.
There's certainly a lot to do in Final Fantasy III. At a certain point in the story you will almost all of the game's characters. From here it's your choice as to whether or not you'd like to go face the final dungeon, or go searching around the world for them. Searching for them is quite a big task to pursue, and if after you've found them all you're still not satisfied with finishing there's still more at your fingertips. The hidden characters, hidden espers, secret items, colliseum, and side quests will keep you plenty busy. It's really only up to you to decide how much of a game you'll get out of this title, but I can assure you that doing and seeing everything is extremely rewarding. Some of these secrets are plainly obvious, while others are hidden quite well. Most of the time you'll be given hints for the bigger stuff.
Final Fantasy III features a very cool system for vehicles. At some point in the game you will recieve an airship. From here the Super Nintendo is pushed to it's graphical limits, featuring a behind the airship view while flying, multiple levels of altitude, and some of the most expansive mode 7 techniques I've ever seen. Along with the airship, is the ability to ride standard ground dwelling Chocobos. The same from behind view is used, along with impressive scaling, but due to the overuse of mode 7 the different terrain seem completely flat, even the mountains. Though it's nothing major, I still felt like this was worth a mention considering the sheer wow factor that hit me back the first time that I saddled up on a chocobo.
Graphics, Sound, Controls, and Replay Value
As far as 16-bit RPGs go, I'd rate this as the best looking, probably. It's obvious that Square was rather fond of the mode 7 abilities of the Super Nintendo, but since the terrain all looks completely flat (especially when flying) it may have been overused. The game is not as colorful or vibrant as the other SNES Final Fantasy titles, but this conveys a more serious mood, though less of a "fantasy" setting. The characters were all drawn out with great care, with a lot of attention to the pixels. Also worth mentioning are the backgrounds, which look quite nice, especially the ones used during battle which appear to be pre-rendered.
The music and compositions for Final Fantasy III don't quite manage to, well, pull me in. The world map theme, Edgar's theme, Atma Weapon song, and Celes' theme are all cool and nice sounding, but not quite Final Fantasy caliber. The game was seriously hindered for me by the boring battle theme that doesn't have nearly enough energy to convey what was going on in the screen. The one song that is amazing is the opera song, and the different renderings of it. Outside of that though, this soundtrack just isn't my cup of tea. The sound effects are pretty standard, but the only one worth highlighting is Kefka's goofy laughter, which still makes me crack a smile everytime I hear it.
RPGs rarely take a hit when it comes to control, so this isn't such a necessary subject to be talking about pertaining to Final Fantasy III. Everything is rather standard, with navigating through the menus being the only thing that should trouble you in the least. Switching between different parties to solve puzzles takes a bit of getting used to, but this element is used so infrequently that it doesn't even matter. Basically if you've got two hands, ten fingers, a brain, and eyes than you should be able to figure out everything within minutes.
I still find myself replaying Final Fantasy III to be honest, and it's been quite a long time. Not only is there so much else to do that doesn't pertain to the storyline, but the quest is a fun one, and I don't see why you wouldn't want to relive the storyline a couple of times. The ending is also quite pleasing, and so you won't be let down after finishing the game. I would say that Final Fantasy III is even more playable than my favorite game of all time, Final Fantasy II.
If you're one of the few (and I mean, scant few) that doesn't own a Super Nintendo and/or Sony Playstation, than you should be out there looking for a copy of this wonderful title. Though it does have it's problems, it's still a solid play and I definitely recommend it.
Overall Score: 8.6
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