The World of Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy III
After the "emotional" "Final Fantasy II", that tended towards expanding the story and revealing more psychological depth of the characters, "Final Fantasy III", released in 1990, appeared to be an entirely different game. The gameplay mechanics were drastically improved, while story and character development were more similar to the first game - which is to say, basically non-existent.
The story of "Final Fantasy III" is the most transparently classical of all, with the basic premise of four warriors guarding crystals and saving the world. Instead of personal motives of the heroes that appeared in "Final Fantasy II", this game introduces a fairy tale-like epic, almost devoid of any true conflicts. Four children, who live in the village of Uru, fall one day down a shaft. In an underground cave, they discover the shrine of the Wind Crystal. The Crystal speaks to them and says they are the chosen warriors who must fight to restore the balance in the world.
As in the first "Final Fantasy", the main characters of "Final Fantasy III" are nameless. In the beginning of the game, they are also class-less, all bearing the curious name "Onion Kid" (or "Onion Knight", according to a different translation). All four heroes look exactly the same, and can be distinguished only by different colors, or, more importantly, by the jobs they get later in the game.
The job system is what makes the gameplay of "Final Fantasy III" so interesting, and far superior to its two predecessors. Every character can get a "job", i.e., to be assigned a character class. During the course of the game, more and more classes become available, and the abundance of different variants and combinations makes the gameplay extremely refined. You can experiment as much as you like, turning your characters to mages, fighters, monks, and many other job classes. As the game progresses, you'll be obtain some very interesting and unusual jobs, including fancy ones such as conjurer, geomancer, viking, or warlock. Some classes are able to perform special moves in a battle: summoners can call monsters, ninjas can throw weapons at enemies, etc. The job system was amazingly rich and versatile for its time.
There are many non-playable characters in the game, including the ever-present Cid, but they lack the charm of support characters of "Final Fantasy II", let alone later Final Fantasies. "Final Fantasy III" introduces for the first time many typical features of the series, including the world map design with its mountains and plains, the layout of dungeons (with many hidden walls and secret passages), lots of typical weapons and character classes (such as summoner, ninja, etc.), the ability to control more than just one vehicle during the game, the introduction of four-digit hit points, etc. The annoying "hitting-the-air" feature is gone now, the characters switch to next monster automatically after having defeated the first one. Graphically and musically, the game is perhaps the highest achievement possible on NES. It seems Square really squeezed every ounce of power out of the console.
Hironobu Sakaguchi himself said once that the even-numbered Final Fantasies were always the daring, the experimental ones, especially from the point of view of their stories, while the odd-numbered were rather conservative and traditional in this aspect. Story-wise, "Final Fantasy III" is definitely a step backward compared to the previous Final Fantasy, returning to Chosen Warriors of Light who have to protect magic crystals, and impersonal and rather bland story development. Instead of giving its characters names and personality, "Final Fantasy III" gives them jobs. The job system is the strong point of "Final Fantasy III", making its gameplay way more refined than in both previous games. "Final Fantasy III" is also notable for introducing the class of summoner for the first time, starting the great Final Fantasy tradition of monster summoning. Like "Final Fantasy II", this game was released exclusively in Japan.
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