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Thread: When the Balance is broken, an Onion Knight shall answer the call...

  1. #1
    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Moogle When the Balance is broken, an Onion Knight shall answer the call...



    If there was one entry in the series I feel is the most underrated, it's Final Fantasy III. It's not that the game is controversial like Final Fantasy II and VIII, nor does it get unwanted hate from the fandom like the newer entries, it has more to do with the fact that it's the "forgotten entry" outside of Japan. It's probably one of the most popular entries in Japan behind IV, VII, and X whereas it tends to rank in the bottom elsewhere and it's all because Square-Enix waited almost sixteen years after it's release to give it a worldwide release. By then, whatever impact it may have had in the early 90s was lost on the average player. How can modern fans appreciate the job class system when they've been exposed to the superior versions from FFV and the Tactics franchise? What impact is there from multiple maps and the first use of the submarine vehicle when Final Fantasy IV-VII have all used elements of both? How are players going to know that it was Final Fantasy III that finally came up with the idea of re-targeting enemies if your target is killed when so few played the original Final Fantasy I and the remakes of Final Fantasy I and II largely add that back in for the player's benefit?


    For Westerners, Final Fantasy III is an oddity. It doesn't have the distinction of being the first entry nor does it have the benefit of Final Fantasy II's legacy of a controversial leveling system and being the first story driven Final Fantasy. In truth, Final Fantasy III could best be described as FFI on steroids but in truth Final Fantasy III is a game that introduced another technical legacy of the FF franchise, which is how the third entry generally tries to be an amalgamation of it's predecessors. Yes it brings back a bigger and badder version of Final Fantasy I's job class system but took notes on how Final Fantasy II (and Dragon Quest III) gave the player the flexibility to change their mind and change what they want their characters to be. The plot is more about exploring the world and seeing the fantastic places and grand adventures your characters can get into, much like the original Final Fantasy but it also introduces a colorful cast of NPC characters who join the party and allow them to be a part of their personal stories much like the revolving fourth member mechanic from Final Fantasy II. The game was bigger than other RPGs on the market, it's job class system offered more variety and flexibility than Dragon Quests version did, and in terms of visual and audio, Final Fantasy III looks closer to Final Fantasy IV than its predecessors with detailed animated sprites and more complex musical arrangements. It is a wonder the Famicom could even handle the game and it certainly came close to doing so. The sheer volume of data this game possesses is partially the reason why porting it has been so difficult because even just updating to 16-bit graphics is enough to max out the cartridge whereas the first two entries were ported together on one cartridge way back in the NES/Famicom days.


    Final Fantasy III is technical achievement and it is lost on fans who have not had the chance to play through the original versions of the game. Even the DS version had to drastically cut corners and modernize the game to get it to reach a workable level for modern gamers. The game allowed up to eight enemies to be on the screen at once and being the last entry to take D&D rules of combat rules to heart, the original is easily the most difficult entry in the franchise's history. No save points in some of the longest dungeons in the series repertoire, damage algorithms that can easily allow the enemy to go fist and one-shot your best fighter, and classic FF standby's like Jump and Summon can and will fail you if the RNG decides it hates you enough. With that said, Final Fantasy III is the last entry to really hold true to what made the genre challenging. The game is completely about item-management and taking calculated risks. Do you run from this battle because you're too weak? Will you choose to use that precious Phoenix Down because it might just be enough to turn the battle back into your favor? Is this the best party build for this particular dungeon crawl? Final Fantasy III is all about making tactical choices and being patient Defeat may come often but the sheer satisfaction of taking down Garuda or conquering the Cave of Shadows makes the difficulty rewarding.


    You can't really cheat your way out of the game with particular party builds like it's predecessors. The original six job roles from the first game have largely been rebalanced to make them have better flexibility. Warriors/Knights now have a greater weakness to magic that even the best armor can't quite save them from. Mages have better MP growth to make them more useful in dungeon crawls, and thief actually does something besides waste a slot in your party until you can get his infinitely better class change. The new jobs offer more variety and the introduction of new skills make battles more interesting since you can finally move away from the basic fight/magic/item commands that defined the earlier installments and genre. Granted, these new classes have their own problems. Dragoons are powerful fighter and Jump is useful, but the class isn't the reliable death wielding titan of your team like Kain and all his future incarnations are. Geomancers have wonky mechanics that make them less than useful and will make you wishing you could use the Final fantasy V variation instead. Evoker's are a very useful if inconsistent class in the game, but their prestige class of summoner will be the only version to make it out of the game. Ninja's and Sage are also very overpowered but they certainly make the last stretch of the game's dungeon gauntlet less of a chore so they are a welcome addition despite being seriously powered down in the next installment. What's the most interesting about the job system of this game is how the jobs are utilized more for solving problems and progressing the game. You can be the most anti-mage player in the world but you'll never be able to beat this game because on three different occasions you need access to the Toad and Mini spells. Scholars make the battle with Hein significantly easier despite not being that great of a class, and Garuda is nigh unbeatable without a party of Dragoons unless you plan on power leveling with some Monks/Master Monks for a good twenty or so levels to survive his overpowered Thunder attack. The game forces you to break out of your comfort zone and really experiment with different job classes and while not all of them are up to par, it's still an enjoyable romp through the game to experiment and find the best builds with the most synergy.


    For many modern players, it's the narrative and story that makes the game and this is where a conflict of interest comes into play. While Final Fantasy II focused on a more character driven narrative, Final fantasy III chooses to emulate the original game and more importantly, it emulates Dragon Quest's style of storytelling, which largely involves being given an overall objective and then traveling the world to have smaller adventures that thread the larger narrative together even though they may be unrelated. In Final Fantasy II, the player plays as Firion, trying to help the rebels overthrow the evil Palamecian Empire and the adventures he has with his friends are always focused towards that goal. In Final Fantasy III, the player is the player avatar of the Onion Knights who are tasked with saving the Crystals from being overwhelmed by darkness but getting to the bottom of all this involves helping a princess save her kingdom from an evil djinn, stopping the dwarves prized possession from falling into the hands of a demon, rescuing your airship from a greedy knight, and meeting a whole cast of interesting NPCs and helping them with their issues. In terms of narrative, Final Fantasy II gives a more focused task which makes for a more tight story, whereas Final Fantasy III is far more episodic. The return to generic playable characters may seem like a step back from it's predecessor but technically it isn't and in fact Final Fantasy III does a better job with characters than Final Fantasy II did. This is because beyond a bit of backstory and a few key scenes, there really isn't much to Firion, Guy and Maria. Hilda probably has more characterization than the three of them do and most of the really good character moments in the game come from the temporary characters like Josef, Ricard, and most importantly Minwu. In truth, you could switch out the three main party members and mostly get the same story for what little characterization they receive in the plot proper. Final Fantasy III recognizes this and that's why the bulk of the characterization goes into the side characters the player helps in the game. Princess Sara, Desch, Aria, and Doga and Unei are the real personal heart of Final Fantasy III's story as you help them and solve their problems. Aria especially holds up the mantle from Final fantasy II of having a sad demise and a haunting theme, something that will be revisited four installments later.


    Another contrast from the earlier installments is the fact Final Fantasy III may actually be the most lighthearted entry in the main series. In Final Fantasy I, there is a sense the Light Warriors have arrive almost too late as you visit the lost ruins of civilizations ruined by the Fiends and Chaos, only to discover the Light Warriors themselves are partially responsible for all the evil that befell the world. Final Fantasy II itself is one long struggle against the Emperor as he constantly wrestles victory out of the jaws of defeat and Firion watches one comrade lose his life after another in the long war. In Final Fantasy III, the Light Warriors are mostly on a winning streak of writing wrongs and defeating Xande's forces. While they do have some heartache along the way, it's never dwelled on for long and the game is filled with fun and happy moments to offset any somber moments. The game was meant to be played as a swashbuckling adventure, not a somber story of overcoming adversity and this may offset players of the more modern entries who haven't played something like Dragon Quest before.


    What Final Fantasy III's story does do better than Final Fantasy II, is that it has stronger themes to it. The background of the story is about restoring the balance of the crystals, the villain Xande is a much more fleshed out antagonist than his forebearers due to having a more sympathetic story about fearing his new found mortality. The final stretch of the game involves the party battling an eldritch being of unfathomable power despite already losing once to the beast and the hope needed to make the impossible possible. If you don't believe me when I say these themes are intentional than I would say you've never seen this game's ending as the closing narration pretty much point blank explains to you the themes of the game. Whiel Final Fantasy III may not have the space or technical muster to display these themes in a more artistic way as it's future installments will do, it doesn't change the fact that Final Fantasy III's themes will leave the player with something to think about after it's all said and done. In that way do I feel Final Fantasy III does stand as one of the better stories in the series.


    Though the game may be lost to time fore most players, I do implore you all to someday sit down and really play through the original NES version of the first three entries to better understand how far Square came from a struggling company to become leaders in the industry. The NES/Famicom era is often regarded as a historical relic of the series with too many fans (myself once included) scoffing at the significance of the earliest entries and not being able to see where many of the great moments and gameplay advancements really took root in. They are the foundation for the series and really just a fun set of games I feel every fan owes themselves to play through them at least once.


  2. #2
    Ghost of Christmas' past theundeadhero's Avatar
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    Are you ready for a surprise? I don't like FFIII. I'm not just talking about the thing that shant be named that came out on the DS, I mean the actual NES release. It was really a bit of a surprise for me when I came to that decision on my last playthrough. I was flying in my airship during the sequence where you're in a narrow mountain path fighting off an attack, and suddenly I found myself thinking that the story in this game just isn't interesting. I really enjoy DW III and IV, so it isn't their influence that bothers me. It just fell flat. I also don't like being forced to play job classes I don't necessarily want to play at the time. I don't remember thinking the same on my first or second playthough, so it may have just been outside factors affecting my decision though. I'm at least going to give it a fourth just to see what happens. And because I lost the save file of my full onion gear knights.

    Bork Bork

  3. #3
    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    It's all groovy man, III is my favorite of the NES era. it's just got more to do and the gameplay just feels tighter. I don't mind having to use certain jobs because it forces me to make the most of the tools, otherwise I would have just ran Knight, Red Mage, Dragoon, and Magic Knight for the whole game. Finishing up the original Famicom version did make me dislike the DS version more, as I never realized how much of a lobotomized product it was from the original.

  4. #4
    Yes, I'm a FF III fan. Elpizo's Avatar
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    What Final Fantasy III's story does do better than Final Fantasy II, is that it has stronger themes to it. The background of the story is about restoring the balance of the crystals, the villain Xande is a much more fleshed out antagonist than his forebearers due to having a more sympathetic story about fearing his new found mortality. The final stretch of the game involves the party battling an eldritch being of unfathomable power despite already losing once to the beast and the hope needed to make the impossible possible. If you don't believe me when I say these themes are intentional than I would say you've never seen this game's ending as the closing narration pretty much point blank explains to you the themes of the game. Whiel Final Fantasy III may not have the space or technical muster to display these themes in a more artistic way as it's future installments will do, it doesn't change the fact that Final Fantasy III's themes will leave the player with something to think about after it's all said and done. In that way do I feel Final Fantasy III does stand as one of the better stories in the series.
    THANK YOU. Finally someone else but me to realise that FF II was not, in fact, the best FF story-wise on the NES and that III is not that game that "returns to gameplay over story like in FF I".

    III was hands down the best entry on the NES, period. It was the best in every category. Graphics-wise, sound-wise, music-wise, story-wise, gameplay-wise and technical-wise. Everything FF I and II did, and without taking away of the importance of those two games, III did better. III is life. III is god. All hail Final Fantasy III as your lord and savior!

    As far as remakes go, is it bad that I think that XIV was a better remake of III than the DS version? ^^"

  5. #5

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    Well geez! I somewhat don't want to play the NES version now if it makes me like the DS/PSP version less. That was my first and only experience of III and I love it!

    Great, detailed review! I love reading these!
    Last edited by Electroshock Therapy; 07-04-2015 at 05:30 PM.

  6. #6
    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    The DS version isn't terrible, but you really get a sense of how hampered the game is after playing through the original. The DS version could have four enemies on the screen at a time whereas the original could have up to eight and it made status magic invaluable to help slow them down enough to take them all down. The DS version also updated the damage algorithms but made it a little too one sides for the player. Going without a shield to dual-wield in the NES version is more of a calculated risk whereas it's the preferred strategy in the DS version.

    The story is unchanged but the gameplay does feel a bit dumbed down, which is the main problem imho.

  7. #7
    Famine Wolf Cid's Knight Sephex's Avatar
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    Again, just swinging by to say how wonderful this article was and how much I enjoyed it. Keep at it, man!

  8. #8
    Untalented Game Designer FFNut's Avatar
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    What a great article Wolf. It is one of the only games in the Series I've never had a chance to play, and you sold it to me that I need to play it! Great job!

  9. #9
    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Well thank you very much. Definitely check it out though because this game was a blast considering it's age. There is a real sense that the development team was beginning to hit their stride in making FFs.

  10. #10
    Resident Critic Ayen's Avatar
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    I still need to play this. I was going to do it after II before I decided to let people vote on which FF I should review next and FFV got the victory.

    I only have the original in case you're wondering. I don't care for the look of the DS version all that much.

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