There’s a bit of a jump between the Final Fantasy games that audiences in the United States experienced as opposed to the ones that the public saw in Japan. Both countries universally saw the original Final Fantasy, which as the legend goes single-handedly helped struggling game developer Squaresoft to stay afloat for a few more years. This is a game that I have played, albeit for only like twenty minutes tops. From there, Squaresoft picked and chose which games the US would see. Our FFII was actually Japan’s FFIV, and our FFIII was essentially FFVI overseas. Why this happened this way? I dunno. What do I look like, Wikipedia?
The number scheme has long since been corrected, with fours and sixes placed with their appropriate games here in the US. The now Square-Enix (I’ve never even seen an Enix much less a square one) likes to dig deep every so many years and bring back the glory days of RPG defining goodness. When they released Japan’s FFIII for the DS a few years back, I picked it up because, hell, it’s a classic. You’ve got to play classics. That’s what makes them great, is the fact that you play them.
Lets just say some games have aged more gracefully than others.
There’s a simple but important thing to remember about ancient RPGs. Plot, in those days, was a very new term. Before the dawn of the RPG genre, plots were simply things scrawled into the handy instruction manual just in order to establish a lame pretense for whatever you’re supposed to be doing. A story that persists and is updated over the course of the game? That was neigh unheard of back in those days.
So, maybe when I say FFIII has a plot, you may get the wrong idea. I’m not saying it was deeply thought out, or even entirely engaging. Sure, one exists, and is physically in place, but whether or not you’ll remember what that is once you’ve finished playing remains to be seen.
FFIII is a tale about four orphans with a mysteeeerious paaaaaast. You’re first thrown into the shoes of a white haired kid named Luneth (whom I named Stinkyfarts because I am apparently still seven years old) who falls into a massive hole while exploring a mysterious cavern (that’s what she said).
See, there was an… earthquake? You can’t have those. No. Those are bad. And they’re pretty much an RPG staple for waking up all sorts of slumbering assholes and demons who just can’t wait to begin their generic and baseless evil plot to either enslave the world or destroy it. This is the springboard into a much larger adventure for Stinkyfarts I mean Luneth, and his friends Arc, Reifa and Ingus, though by “larger adventure” I mean they go to different towns and solve side quests in the name of good and happiness.
This Final Fantasy features the job system for your character development, though you can tell Squaresoft hadn’t gotten the formula quite right at this stage of the game. Throughout the game, Stinkyfarts and his pals will visit four crystals, because for some reason Squaresoft effin’ LOVES crystals more than a junkie loves meth, which will impart ANCIENT WISDOM upon them. This wisdom manifests in the ability to change your class into a variety of interesting choices, from warrior and mages to friggin’ dragoons and even vikings. Which is infinitely awesome. What are vikings even doing in this game? Who knows.
The problem here is that in order to be effective in a specific class, you have to level it up, from one to 99. Until you’ve squared away at least 30 levels, enemies will utterly decimate you. But aside from kicking ass in that ONE specific class, you’ll have no other level-up benefit. So you can’t later switch to a knight and make use of all that sweet magic mastery you just spent hours upon hours building up. And as far as I can tell, class leveling uses a system that doesn’t involve the standard character leveling XP, so you can’t just run to the last dungeon and beef up your party.
Still, this would be fine. You can choose one class and stick with that. But then, at various points in the game, you’re required to be something else, for whatever half baked reason. Whether you’re forced to shrink your party down to tiny sizes to enter a mouse hole, rendering all of your melee fighters useless, or fighting a boss that is weak against the lamest character class ever (I’m looking at you, scholars!), it seems like FFIII wants nothing more than for you to spend hours upon useless hours pumping time into character development you’ll never use.
Still, if you’re jonsing for an old time RPG from the days before good RPGS, you could probably pick up FFIII on the cheap. Just beware that if you play too many RPGs, you too will suffer from King Burnout. Which is what happens when you realize after playing three or four games that your characters are bending over backwards for a supposed “king” who is actually just a dude who lives in a castle in the middle of nowhere with five NPCs. Like, does every jerk who builds a castle automatically earn kingly status? What’s the deal with that?
FFIII is, strictly speaking, a classic. It is a stopping point in the road to the Mass Effects, the Final Fantasy XIIIs, and the… other RPG games of this generation that were so good I can’t remember them at all. It’s good to play games like this just so you can see where things began and how they got to where they are now. But, it’s also a good example of a game that hasn’t aged gracefully over the years. FFIII is kinda like an elder that deserves your respect for its contributions in a time long past.
Anyway, I’d better go level up Stinkyfarts so he can use the Fang of Wind in the last dungeon.