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Wolf Kanno's Crazy Ramblings and Incoherent Statements

My Top 100's Lost but Not Forgotten: Final Fantasy III

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Blah blah blah Top 100 blah blah blah too many good games to list. Blah blah blah, games that weren't good enough for my list but still excellent nonetheless.

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Of the Classic series within Final Fantasy, FFIII was the last one for me to play, partly cause I didn't emulate very often and partly because I had hoped SE would come to their senses and re-release this title. Finally, they decided to remake the game for the DS and I was pretty excited. At the time of the game's release, I had caught a serious case of the flu and was badly bed-ridden in-between my violent bouts of disgorging bodily fluids from whatever orifice my disease ridden body felt like was a good place at the time. So you can kind of see how the small comfort this game brought me at that awful time was a blessing. I ended up liking the title for the most part, even if the Wi-Fi Moogle mail gimmick ended up screwing me out of all of the game's extra content.
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So flash forward a few years ago, I finally have a better gaming PC and I picked up a bunch of classic Japanese only games of yesteryear to screw around with. My desire to play the early MegaTen titles ended up causing me to pick up an NES/Famicom emulator and I figured it would be nice to pick up the original versions of a few FF and DQ titles while I was at it. I jumped into an FF mood at this time due to playing through FFIII again on the DS and felt it would be interesting to do a comparison by playing the original. What transpired was actually a watershed moment that not only led me to appreciate the classic as is, but kind of see where I hold a lot of problems with not just modern RPGs but SE's bad habits of changes they incorporate into their remakes/ports in order to appease modern tastes.
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So let's just start out by saying that I'm not a huge fan of the DS version. Most fans agree that trying to ham-fist more nuanced characters into an old school RPG with an excuse plot didn't do it any favors, but the other annoyances for me was curbing the games difficulty by largely lobotomizing the item management aspect of the gameplay and raising the damage algorithms of the classes and giving them consistency transformed a game that once had exhilarating battles into the typical trash mob random encounter nonsense we get in more modern games. Re-balancing the classes so players would have more control over them had the bad side effect of making players more complacent with their party configuration whereas the original would force you to experiment more often since classes would eventually become obsolete. Handing over the nerfed Ninja and Sage classes created an underwhelming experience for the player whereas the more broken 8-bit variations were a great boon you had to earn by traversing the incredibly challenging Eureka.
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The technical changes also hurt the game, the music feels more drown out with the new arrangements compared to the pulse pounding 8-bit beats, the 3D models forced the devs limit the amount of enemies on the screen to about four maximum whereas the original could have you deal with up to eight at a time. This alone caused a great deal of the above changes to be made because overwhelming odds was a part of the game's challenge. In the end, the DS version feels like a watered down experience that made several concessions to appeal to the modern RPG fans tastes instead of sticking to its guns as the niche old school experience that it really was. This is made even more baffling when you consider SE never made such changes to FFI or II who both retained their core principles for the most part and simply added easy modes for their games. In the end, we wound up with a game that doesn't really appeal to anyone. The game is still too archaic and "gamey" for modern fans who are use to story and character driven epics, and old school gamer fans have to deal with gameplay that no longer offers any real challenge.
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Playing the original opened my eyes to this travesty, and while the above paragraphs may seem like I'm seriously hating on the DS version, my real intent is to say that you should not mistake the DS version as the "definitive FFIII experience". In stead I implore FF fans to check out the original and judge it by itself. Granted, a lot of players are probably going to prefer the DS version over the original, and there is nothing wrong with that choice, but for me, so much of the game's mechanics and design are dependent on the older mechanics of the original.
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Normal battles are much more exciting and challenging. Part of this is because the Famicom version retains an old school D&d dice aspect to calculating hits and damages. What this means is that nobody can be consistent, and even your badass knight will whiff an attack and do no damage, dragoon jumps with miss, and often the best strategy for dealing with the larger enemy mobs is to lobotomize them with *gasp* status magic in order to give you a few rounds of breathing room.
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While several classes lack the thrills of their later versions, the game still makes it more worth your while to experiment. Warriors will quickly run out of decent equipment to compensate for the more powerful monsters encountered. While mages can stay relevant until midway through the game, it sometimes becomes more advantageous to switch them out for Rangers and Mystic Knights who can both heal and stand their ground as melee fighters. Melee classes are extremely weak to magic in this version so don't expect Knights and Monks to dominate like FFI's versions.
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While FFIII is not going to stand so well next to more later entries, in comparison to what came before, the game offers more improvements. The Fat Chocobo is introduced so players now have some leeway with inventory space which was a huge boon compared to it's predecessors which both had incredibly bad inventory systems. The dungeons are a huge step up from FFII's grind fests dungeons, the larger repertoire of jobs and the ability to switch them on the fly also granted a nice balance between FFI's more static and old school class system, and FFII's more jarring development mechanics. Smaller but incredibly useful changes include the ability for characters to re-target an enemy if their original target get's killed, so no more "Miss, there is no target there" messages like many 8-Bit RPGs of the time.
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While it lacks the stronger narrative of FFII, it makes up for it by having a more interesting world filled with more exciting NPCs and smaller story moments structures which were "borrowed" from Dragon Quest. I also just happen to really like the music of this entry better than most of the NES entries, with the exception of some of the battle themes of which I will say FFII's are better.
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For me, the challenge and eventual victory over this classic is one of my Final Fantasy high points, something I can't say I felt about the remake or even some modern entries. The only thing that makes me sad is the revelation that this entry would have likely been in my Top 100 had I played it closer to it's actual release as opposed to nearly twenty years later. Because of that, it's hard to rank this title above the nostalgia some of the other entries can give me. I remember beating it and thinking to myself, "wow, FFIV is less impressive to me now" but I can't bring myself to love this game more than a game that was a pivotal part of my boyhood days. That is the sad truth of the matter, Square waited too long and so FFIII will likely forever remain in the shadows of the franchise.

Comments

  1. Fynn's Avatar
    Yeah, I have a weird relationship with III
  2. Rez09's Avatar
    In a way, Wolf, I secretly hate you, because you somehow managed to say just about everything I have to say about this title, so all I have left is . . .

    I absolutely adore this game. Perhaps as much as the original actually, which is fairly impressive considering FF1 was my first RPG and basically defined the genre for me. There was a sense of awe FF3 instilled in me that no title I've played in the decade plus since has managed to match; the sheer amount of content the developers managed to include in this title, on the Famicom, is staggering -- hidden bosses and classes, three(ish) world maps, unique airships, bosses with unique strategies. Simply finding new things provided an unparalleled drive for me to complete the game.

    It was also one of the two entries in the series that effectively solidified my tastes in the genre, standing opposite FFX and changing my opinion that story and characters are the most important elements -- the true gold standards -- of every RPG. Instead, the enjoyment I got from exploring FF3's world and discovering things for myself made me realize my tastes in the genre stand fairly opposite most other people and my favorite RPGs aren't the ones with the best stories or characters, but rather the ones where interesting customization options and my own personal curiosity are my primary driving factors.

  3. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
    Well thank you, I wasn't really sure what to say about this game outside of the article I wrote a few years back, so I figured I would simply lay down my issues with the remake and why the original version made me fall in love with the entry. It's easily my favoirte of the NES/Famicom entries.