Hello and welcome to the third, and late (guess who bought FFXI, which is on sale for $10, a few weeks ago?) edition of my largest project ever, to play through the entirety of the long and storied series of Final Fantasy. Today we look at Final Fantasy 3. But before we get into the meat of the article, we need to address a not so small problem of platform.
A Note On The Edition Used
To look at Final Fantasy 3, we first need to have ourselves a little Gaming History Lesson. For those who don't know, Final Fantasy 3 holds the interesting distinction of, for the longest time, being the only Final Fantasy title to not see a western release. The original version was limited to Japanese markets only. It wasn't until the release of the remake in 2006 on the Nintendo DS, that western non japanese speaking audiences could finally experience this particular Final Fantasy. What I am playing is the Steam version, which is basically a port of the DS version.
Now this sort of throws a wrench into the entire project. The point is to go through the series from start to finish to witness the evolution of the series. Unfortunately though certain liberties need to be taken, i simply don't have the means to play the original versions of all the titles. This instance however, and the same will be said for IV, are the most unique, in that they represent the most complete remakes in the series. So some important space needs to be dedicated to examining the differences of the two versions.
One of the largest difference from what research i could determine, mainly lies in the story of the game. The main party was given proper names, and more rounded to be better more distinct characters. Another major change lies in the way the combat system is handled. Due to the shift to a 3d engine, on a system that was the first truly 3d portable, the ability of the game to render large groups of enemies is limited. Therefore the system was modified so only 3 enemies at most could be present at a time (compared to the 9 that could appear in the original 2d title). In order to retain balance, the enemies were modified to have the same general power of the original groups. Unfortunately, as the perceptive/experienced among you can probably guess, it didn't really maintain balance, but shifts it against the player. Adding in to that is the fact that bosses are given the ability to take multiple turns (2-3) per round. For some enemies this really skews the power of the enemies. A good representation is the Garuda fight, which because of this boost, WILL kill you in two rounds. The only real option is to exploit spear/jump weaknesses (from the dragoon job) to frontload his entire hp in the space of those two (maybe 3) rounds.
So the main question when looking at these changes, is how does it affect the project and my perception of Final Fantasy 3 and the third entry in the series? To be fair, even with those two large changes, the overall core of the game seems relatively in tact. Most other changes seem to be minor character changes, and balancing of the various numbers between jobs (like MP). However small changes like that can have a dramatic affect on the overall feel of the game. one extra cast of a spell can mean the difference in a lot of situations and it's something that I truly have to keep in mind and in consideration on my evaluations going forward.
Even More Fleshed Out, The Story is Still Barebones
The story of Final Fantasy 3 is, to be honest, mostly a retread of the original Final Fantasy. You journey for 4 elemental objects (now crystals instead of orbs), assault big bads base, then go to another era/dimension for the final battle in a very long dungeon. While the main party is no longer a generic set of Onion Knights, now having names and personalities, the characterization is a bit thin. Probably the most interesting thematic portion of the entire experience was the Crystal Tower. As a player of Final Fantasy XIV, which currently uses the Crystal Tower and it's bosses as it's more casual, large group raiding content. It's always cool to see the origination of certain tropes of the series so it was quite enjoyable.
Introduction of the Job System
Final Fantasy 3 represents the first appearance of the Job system. The job system is a mechanic in which party members are allowed to dip in to a large pool of various classes and equip whichever you deem most useful. The system involves old standbys like the colored mages, as well as the first appearance of other jobs such as Dark Knight, Ninja, Summoner (also the first appearance of summoning magic) and oddball jobs like Scholar and Geomancer. The job system is now considered a famous hallmark mechanic of the series. To be honest, that strikes me as sort of odd considering the job system only appears in 3 of the tradition entries in the series (3, 5, and X-2). If like me, you had started in the Playstation era, to hear someone talk about their favorite jobs can seem odd. It is quite odd to look at the scholar in FFXIV and think "What the hell? that's a traditional job?", but it is. Speaking of the MMO titles, they use the job system extensively to great effect, but that's getting ahead of ourselves at the moment.
In terms of 3, the number of jobs is nice and varied, but you can pretty much ignore most of them and be just fine. The only essential job is the White Mage (and later the Devout) for all your healing needs. Apparently in the older versions Ninja and Sage were considered overpowered but they were reduced in power (and seeing as my ninja kept eating dirt in the final fight, i can guess where they got nerfed). The only permanent effect of leveling with any particular job is that your HP gains upon level up is based on your current Vitality. Honestly it's a non issue. I had two of my party members stuck to mage classes the entire way through and they had plenty of HP (again it was the ninja who'd been leveled as dragoon a lot that got wrecked all the time).
MAGIC IS FINALLY USEFUL
Yes magic as an offensive tool is finally not complete shit. Not only is it not shit, early game a black mage is a powerful force of destruction. Black Mage loses it's luster as time goes on, but the easy availability of infinite use elemental spell rods means no matter what he's always got something in the chamber. End game summoners and Devouts bring the pain/healing that remains competitive all the way up to the end. Physical attackers do eventually outstrip magic attackers, but the difference is pretty small and i don't feel like my success ever depended on the extra oomph of having a third ninja/knight. The magic system returns to the casts per day system of FF1, but unlike 1, MP is plentiful and doesn't feel restrictive. I had 40 casts of cure by the time I unlocked Devout, the White mage upgrade that reduced that 40 to around 15, but greatly boosted the availability of higher level cures. it was a worthy trade off. Ample magic reserves and good scaling are key to a useful magic system and FF3 has both thankfully.
Mechanically This is the Most Solid Final Fantasy Title Yet
Final Fantasy 3, at least the remake version, is wonderfully free of the erratic and sometimes mystifying archaic mechanics of the past two titles. Enemies may hit very hard because of the changes to numbers, but their hits are consistent, as is the damage you deal. No odd ball one shots, just very consistent one shots. which is admirable...i think.
The vestigial DS WiFi Enabled Optional Content Didn't Really Work
I made a promise to myself that, when the games finally start including optional content and superbosses, that i would make it a point to do said content. Well as the first title I've played with extra content, i've already had to break this promise due to the system not really working. The extra content is dependent on a reworked version of a mailing system that originally present on the DS. I got most of it unlocked, but the final piece to unlock the ??? dungeon that contains the Iron Giant superboss, doesn't seem to want to unlock. So instead we move on to bigger and better things.
This Is Easily the Best Final Fantasy Yet
Overall I have no major gripes against Final Fantasy 3. Every system is as simple or complex as it needs to be, and everything works and gels together. Any complaints i have are petty at best. I think the only mechanical complaint i can level is that jobs have their own level from 1-99 and frankly it seems like adding an extra grind. I much prefer more condensed job leveling like more recent titles, but again, we'll talk about those as we approach said titles. To return to the issue which i opened with though, i do have to take into account this is a very modern remake to a relatively old game. How much of my lack of complaints is a result of the remake sanding off the rough edges and balance changes, and maybe would have been on my complaint list had i played the original. If there's one thing i'm really interested in hearing from YOU dear audience, is input from those who have played the original title so i can get a good idea of whether or not these concerns are valid. It's an important question that we shall continue to keep in mind for the next title, Final Fantasy IV, which is the 2nd title to encounter this unique issue. For better or worse however, Final Fantasy 3 to me is the title where the series begins to coalesce into the juggernaut series it has become. The mechanics are being refined, the series tropes, references, and standbys are being cemented into the series for future iterations to make use of. In the end to answer the question of "Should I play Final Fantasy 3" this one is an easy yes
Looking To the Future
With FF3 in the bag, we turn our eyes towards Final Fantasy IV. Not going to lie, i'm quite excited as is the one FF title i've never played. That being said with the holidays and massive sales on the way, i've not yet purchased it, figuring that soon i'll probably be able to grab it for a cheaper price. There's also the not so nice fact that JRPG fatigue, the bitch that it is, is hitting me pretty hard. To nail down the schedule a bit more, I'd say expect FFIV's article before the end of the year but otherwise i'll be taking a break for the holidays. Further down the line, once we break into FFV and beyond, i have the ability to play at work so those should progress a bit faster. Regardless as we move into the next block of Final Fantasy, I hope you've all enjoyed the journey so far and I thank you all for your amazing support. Feel free to sound off in the comments below your thoughts on Final Fantasy 3, as well as how you feel about the series so far. That's it for me folks, Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans, Happy Thursday to everyone else, and I'll see you all next time.