Final Fantasy III

My first steps in Final Fantasy III were met with both familiarity and uncertainty. Before this, the oldest game I had played in the series was VII. Since then I've gone on to play (and complete almost all of) VIII, IX, X, X-2, XII, XIII, XIII-2, XIV. The initial trepidation in seeing what was instantly recognizable as a Final Fantasy game but stripped down to the bare essentials burdened my first hour or so with the game, but thirty hours later I concluded an engrossing, rewarding and challenging role-playing game.

The game begins with lead protagonist Luneth finding himself having fallen into a dungeon due to an earthquake. Serving as a tutorial section, this dungeon teaches you the basic mechanics of battles and dungeon crawling. It's all familiar territory if you've played a game in the series before. Upon finding the exit, Luneth discovers a crystal and is told he is one of the warriors of light; destined to fight the great approaching evil. This is the beginning of the journey that will take Luneth and his companions to faraway lands.

Final Fantasy III

You swiftly find your three companions that will accompany you throughout the game and begin completing objectives. When speaking with NPCs one thing you need to do is pay attention. There is no objective screen or recap, and it can be difficult to know where to go if you are unsure, especially when the game opens up. This caught me out a couple times until I learnt to read carefully and remember. This isn't a bad thing. I just can't remember the last game of this ilk I played that relied on the player knowing what they're supposed to do as much. Ultimately this felt refreshing. I kept check on my required destination but still found time to explore the many towns and areas around me.

The world will be familiar to those with experience of the series. Airships, Moogles, summons (Shiva, Ifrit etc.), chocobos, Cid et al are present. You walk across a world map, through dungeons, have many, many random battle encounters, get vehicles to travel the world, and visit towns. While initially comforting in the known terminologies and species, it feels like a vastly different game to its later sequels.

There are a number of aspects to Final Fantasy III that make it highly enjoyable. The job system is an interesting way of assigning battling techniques to each character. Any character can use any job but their abilities in each are restricted. You can choose warrior and have stronger attacks but unable to cast any magic or guard. Black mages can only cast aggressive magic; fire, ice and the such. White mages cast healing spells and so on. More jobs become available as you progress and jobs such as Evoker and Summoner; calling forth spirits to attack, and more powerful versions of the basic level jobs that can combine different abilities.

Deciding how to assign jobs across your four characters is surprisingly challenging. You'll need someone with powerful attacks, someone that casts black magic and someone that can heal. Of course, if your white mage dies during a fight you are stuck without someone to heal your other characters have to rely on the initially limited items. It is up to the player to how the fourth character plays. At the start of the game I assigned my fourth character the thief job; though that changed as soon as the evoker became available.

Final Fantasy III

I found the game to be pretty difficult in places. One of the first dungeons caused me great trouble. There are no save points away from the world map so you need to ensure you are good enough to survive an entire dungeon, including the boss, in one go. This took me some time to get used to at first; my save time shows twenty-eight hours and my Steam counter shows thirty-two. I found grinding for levels a necessity at various points in the game. Others, I found I could breeze through several dungeons in quick succession.

There were several frustrations I encountered while playing. I had finished my objective and hadn't received the next. I spent a considerable amount of time flying around the map but not quite in the right spot to trigger the next plot point. Due to a narrow miss, had I not checked a wiki I would have been stumped. Of course, losing a lot of progress after going through a dungeon and dying at the last is tremendously frustrating; especially when it comes down to bad luck.

The final dungeon in the game is an example of this. It is long, and full of tough enemies. Once you get to the point of no return all you can do is go forwards. My first time I died at the final boss instantly; as I hadn't done four things required to be able to beat it. Second time I did all this, at a higher level than before; whittled the boss to low health, then encountered some bad luck and ultimately died. I feel no desire to retread those two hours yet again and attempt to beat the game. I was at about level fifty-seven.

Despite this ultimate frustration, I found the game to be refreshing and highly enjoyable. The narrative takes a back seat to gameplay and the open nature of the world maps allow you to fully explore and familiarise yourself with your environment before progressing the story. There protagonists have only a shred of personality and various thoughts are never expanded. While I like my narrative heavy games, this is okay. Final Fantasy III is a game about adapting your character's abilities to the surroundings, levelling up, finding loot, uncovering secrets and besting enemies.

Final Fantasy III

I think the following analogy describes how I felt about the game. The first experience that told me this title came from more humble beginnings was in a bar in an early town. There was a piano in the corner and I went up to it to see whether I could interact with it. I could. Luneth attempted to play a piece, ultimately failing miserably to the boos of the patrons at the tables. I can image XIII's Lightning, or even X-2's Yuna, playing something amazing with no context or previous acknowledgement of ability to the cheers and delight of the crowd.

Final Fantasy III is a great role playing game that fans of the genre should play. Despite featuring bland protagonists and a throwaway story, it's the gameplay that stands tall. There is a lot to discover all across the lands and you'll have a great time doing so.


In Short

  • + Engrossing dungeon crawling.
    + Familiarity of the Final Fantasy universe.
    + Many varied towns and places to explore.
    + Job system is a great way to manage abilities for battle.
    + Chocobos are forever fantastic.

  • - No save points in dungeons cause great frustration if you die


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