Final Fantasy 3: Return to Form

Sorry that the gap between these Final Fantasy retrospectives has been getting longer. It’s hard to blast through RPGs. Especially when you have an attention span as short as mine.

Final Fantasy 1 was a solid start to the series, if a bit rough around the edges. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy 2, while ambitious for its time, failed to follow up on the first game’s potential. After that, the future of the series became questionable.

At least, it probably was back in the 80s. Given that there are dozens of these games now, there really isn’t much to worry about. This series couldn’t fail if it tried.

Even if it does seem to be trying pretty hard to do just that sometimes.

The plot of Final Fantasy 3 is almost a carbon-copy of Final Fantasy 1. The four crystals representing the four elements are in danger, and it’s up to your party of customized adventurers to save them and thus protect the world. It isn’t exactly a complicated plot. What did you expect from an NES game?

My problem with it is that it does nothing to follow up on the elements set by Final Fantasy 2. Yes, that game’s plot was bad, but it was ambitious. It tried to be a story, and at least it had some personality. The plot in this game is incredibly bland and boring by comparison. You can hardly even tell which member of your party is talking in any given scene!

Thankfully, the gameplay is a huge step in the right direction.

At its core, FF3 is pretty much the same game as FF1, only with some major improvements. With your party of four adventurers, you must venture through a vast world filled with monsters in order to level up and get stronger. Go through all the dungeons and kill all the bosses, then credits role. All the most basic RPG stuff.

In the first game, you chose the classes for your four party members up front. Once you did, you were locked into them forever. This made it super easy to either make the game brutally hard or just to break it open like an egg. And you’d better hope you picked classes that are actually fun to use, because you are stuck with them unless you want to restart the game.

In 3, the class system is busted wide open. Not only are there more classes, allowing for greater customization, but you can freely swap between them at will with every single character. Don’t like the current class one character has? Just swap it out for something else! Current party not shaping up for the challenge? Try a different combination!

Because of this, progression is a bit different. Each character has their own character level, and each class has a separate level. It’s basically like the Dungeons and Dragons level system, only without restrictions. This way, you can’t just swap a party member to a new class and immediately have them become a titan of that class. You’ve got to level the class to match the power of the character.

While this is a wildly fun system that allows much more creativity in party setups, it does have its issues. For one, it can make for even more grinding if you need to level up alternate classes for a certain encounter. Two, the balance between classes is still an issue; why bother with having a Black or White Mage when you can just have two Red Mages, a stronger version of both of them?

It can also make managing your inventory a bit of a pain in the ass. You’ve got to manage many more items than in previous games, most of which won’t be used unless you need to do a sudden class swap. It isn’t game-breaking, but it is a bit annoying.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Final Fantasy 3. It’s definitely a step up from the first two games in terms of the gameplay, even if the story is a downgrade. It is a bit dated by modern standards, but it’s still a perfectly fun and playable game.

But now? Now we get into the good stuff!

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