As with Super Mario Bros. 3, what more can you say about Final Fantasy III that has not yet been said? Released back in 1994 as Final Fantasy III on the Super Nintendo, unbeknown to those outside of Japan, this was actually the sixth title bearing the Final Fantasy name, but the third released in North America at the time. During its release, role playing games were still not widely accepted, and although Final Fantasy VII helped bring RPG’s to a mainstream audience, it was Final Fantasy III on the Super Nintendo that I felt help bring storytelling as a whole, and the RPG genre into a whole new world.
Even though Terra is considered the main character, there’s a plethora of playable characters you will encounter throughout the game, that would fit the bill quite well themselves. Not only that, each character seems to have more life to them than characters in these big budget blockbuster RPG’s of late. I genuinely am intrigued by Shadow’s character, and how he’s so much more than meets the eye. Why did Sabin run off to live his brother Edgar in charge of Figaro? Every major character felt fully fleshed out, with the most intriguing back-stories accompanying each of them.
Graphics wise, Final Fantasy III had some beautifully detailed characters, as well as some breathtaking scenery to accompany them. Even to this day, FFIII holds its own and still holds an amazing amount of detail for a 16 bit title. Spell effects are considerably more detailed than previous installments, as well as most any 16 bit RPG in general. It’s still a marvel to watch your character cast Ultima, complete with the chills that go up and down your spine as the sound effect plays for it (we’re talking the unmolested Super Nintendo version, not the hack job PSX and GBA ports).
Speaking of Ultima’s sound effects, one cannot commend FFIII’s excellence without singing high praise to the audio production. The sound effects are crisp and clear, with most of them having their own defining chimes and not repeating over and over. With probably the second greatest soundtrack ever in a video game, FFIII featured some of the most cherished songs to have ever come from a video game. The chills I still get when I hear the opera scene unfold before me still creep up on me to this very day. The World of Ruin’s theme is absolutely hypnotic, and fills you with a sense of unease and wonder. That epic boss battle theme (click the video up top to hear this amazingly composed 16 bit battle theme) that’s one of the single greatest songs ever in a video game. The overall soundtrack is only surpassed by the game featured for Day #100.
When it comes down to it, FFIII is just an addiction you cannot quell whatsoever. The active time battles (ATB) keep you on your toes constantly, forcing you to manage your battles with more precision than previous RPG’s of its era. You have to stay on the offensive, while making sure the constant onslaught of attacks from the opposition do not take down your party. Equipping espers enable you to learn certain magic attacks as well as certain perks, like 10% more to your current HP pool, Magic Power +1, and so on. The typical RPG grind was legitimately fun, thanks to the inclusion of character specific skills that really add to the experience. Short on gold? Head on over to the Veldt and grind some gold, and bring Gau along with you to learn the attacks of the enemies you encounter there. Are you in an area surrounded by snow? Maybe you should bring Mog along with you and learn a new dance. Each character have either their own complexities with learning skills, or have rather plain skills that help you in other ways (such as Locke’s Steal ability, which can be turned into an attack and steal ability called Mug with the right item). FFIII is overflowing with options, choices and different ways to stave off monotony, something modern RPG’s have not been faithful in combating.
For me, the Final Fantasy series ended with III/VI. Other than Final Fantasy IX, I really did not appreciate the approach or the look that the series took. Final Fantasy III was one of the first RPG’s to truly capture your imagination, and transport you to a world so intriguing and so engrossing, that you never wanted to leave. Square managed to do something that has rarely been done since this game — provide a legitimate emotional attachment to the story and the characters involved. After literally playing through the game 18+ times over the last 15+ years, from the immaculate Super Nintendo version, to the aggravating load issues with the PSX version, right on to the butchered audio version of the Game Boy Advance port, I still find myself wanting to re-enter the world of Final Fantasy III all the time. The story is beautifully woven, you connect to every single one for your characters, the soundtrack is breathtaking, and the gameplay as close to perfection as a video game can come to.
If you’re one of the many Final Fantasy fans that began your RPG life, or your Final Fantasy career with the vastly overrated (but still a model video game in its own right) Final Fantasy VII, and never played Final Fantasy III, do yourself a favor and do so. There’s a reason why this game is widely considered to be the RPG watermark to so many gamers out there.