Final Fantasy III (NES)

85
Critic Score
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
User Score
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Kane Locke (6)
Written on  :  Sep 29, 2003
Platform  :  NES

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Summary

The ultimate 8-bit roleplaying experience.

The Good

Final Fantasy III represents a milestone in the FF series. It created the much-vaunted Job System seen in FFV, FF Tactics and FF Tactics Advance (and upcoming in FFX-2). It introduces the beloved high-flying Dragoon (a fan-favorite that returns in the persons of Kain and Freya), the mysterious Summoner (who later becomes so important as to be a main focus of both FFIX and FFX!), the item-plundering Thief (improved from its misnamed FFI predecessor) and the ominous Dark Swords of the Magic Knight (seen again in the heroic Cecil). It is the return, following Final Fantasy II's markedly different character development system and story, to what FF fans of today recognize as many of the game's central character and story concepts (classes/jobs, the Crystals, and so on). It even includes a prototype of the legendary FFVII Materia system -- spells that can be equipped and removed at will. Much of FFIII's plot and feel is reused in FFV -- careful players can note a myriad similarities.

But on top of all this, FFIII adds things all its own. The final refinement of 8-bit level graphics for the series, FFIII looks, for all the world, like it could have been FFV if only it had been possible to push just a little more. Character customization is one of the biggest draws, but the game features an engaging storyline -- complete with an almost unheard-of inversion of the roles of Light and Dark as Good and Evil in the ancient past! -- challenging gameplay and a vast world to explore.

FFIII manages to do something almost no other 8-bit RPGs do: give characters personalities. While the four central heroes, the youths from Ur, are very bland, the "NPC" characters with which they interact are vibrant and quirky. From spunky old Cid the Airship Engineer and amnesiac hero Desh to the endearing Water Maiden Elia, real-seeming people appear for the very first time.

FFIII's Job system is not as complex as the ones in FFV, FFT and FFTA, but that can be an asset. When a character changes to a Job, he is that Job, with all its abilities, immediately. Current jobs influence the development of character health (Hit Points), but spells per level (the last time you will see this in a Final Fantasy) are based entirely on the character's own level. (Incidentally, FFIII fixes one of the original FF's major flaws -- mages in FFIII can pack quite a wallop with their abundant MP-per-level, instead of hoarding their precious few spells for bosses like in FFI.)

Once beyond the initial stages of FFIII, the story becomes somewhat more non-linear. There is a recommended order to events in the wider world, but the player does have some choices. That wider world is truly vast, leaving a sense of epic proportion to the quest.

The Bad

A bit more differentiation to the four youths from Ur would have made FFIII completely perfect. As it stands, the player has four utterly blank slates, much like in FFV. Experienced FFIII players (or those with experience with FFV, FFT or FFTA) will know what to do with the Job system immediately, but those who have never touched the Job system before can be a bit baffled, especially by the concept of Capacity Points -- a pool of points which the player "spends" to change the Job of a character.

In certain places, Uematsu's score for FFIII becomes repetitive or just a bit on the cheesy side. Unlike the music for the original, some of FFIII's pieces feature "drums", which can sound a bit like record skips and hinder what could have otherwise been epic pieces, such as the final boss fight. Had Uematsu had more power to work with, the FFIII score probably would have been much more impressive.

Several of the Jobs are next to useless. Unable to combine some of their abilities with compensatory abilities from other Jobs, making effective and powerful combinations, each character is stuck with what his current Job provides (but since this was the very beginning, nobody had thought up such lovely "munchkinism" yet). For the final section of the game, the last two Jobs obtained, Ninja and Sage, become effectively mandatory -- but considering their abilities as masters of physical and magical arts respectively, it's questionable why anyone would want to use other Jobs to finish the game (except for the storied Onion Kid equipment, which is next to impossible to find without cheating).

The Bottom Line

Final Fantasy III pushes the 8-bit roleplaying envelope to its limit. Its sheer size, its traditional but entertaining story and its gameplay stretch across the chasm between NES and SNES to shake hands with FFIV, and especially with FFV. Four young boys from the village of Ur find themselves to be the storied Light Warriors, destined to fight the rising tide of Darkness to save the world. Through their journeys they meet remarkable individuals who aid them in their quest and give the world a unique character all its own. Eventually the player learns of a time when the roles of Light and Dark were reversed, and in the end, the four legendary Dark Warriors who once saved the world return for a brief time to aid their Light counterparts in the final titanic battle. The world is saved once more, and the player leaves with a feeling of satisfaction -- and the urge to do it again.