Friday, December 21, 2012

Final Fantasy 3: The Last of the NES Era

After beating the Cloud of Darkness, we say a fond farewell to the NES era Final Fantasy games. Even though I was playing the remake, I still felt the danger of things going wrong in the battles enough, and there was a real hint of danger throughout the game play. Coming off of FF2, the body count among our heroes is much lower, and the tone is lighter. Most of the world is not destroyed, and our friends are reunited in the end. FF3 sets up a nice, hopeful spot between the depressing worlds of FF2 and FF4.

But, what FF3 really did is it is the point where you could say Final Fantasy grew the beard. The job class system, which would really come into its own in FF5, is birthed here and series staples start to lock into recognizable forms. Not only that, but we have side quests, namely gathering Odin, Leviathan and Bahamut, that really help set up the pre-end game content that we're going to see with the super bosses in FF4 and with the some of the pre-end game dungeons in FF6. Building your team and customizing them is now a series staple; in FF1 you just picked a party and that was that, and in FF2, the ease at which making everyone magic knights capable of high damage, durability and healing capability was too easily stumbled on to really have "customized" characters beyond the mid-point.

There's not much to say about FF3's story. Four orphans are told by a crystal that they should save the world: They do. The remake helps layer on a few character arcs to the story, but it is still a very light plot. FF3 is an excellent send off to the NES-era of RPGs. Like FF1 and FF2, it doesn't hold up well for modern gamers. The gauntlet that is the end game is brutal, especially as there are no save points from the time you enter the end game section. It's a level of brutal that none of the other Final Fantasy games that follow will emulate. FF3 is, in a way, more similar to FF5 than to FF4. In FF3, game play is king. In FF4, Squaresoft starts to drift to a more heavy story-focused game, which serves it well through the rest of the series. But, a bit of the nostalgia gamer in me misses the difficulty and challenge of the earlier games. Can anyone recall the level of frustration the first time one walked into Garuda unprepared, with nary a Dragoon in sight?

My end party, by the way, was Level 67, so well over-leveled to ensure I did not have to suffer the final tower climb more than once. We had a Dark Knight, Devout, Dragoon and Viking. My Viking had also mastered Knight by this point; the Devout was a master Red Mage and Bard; the Dark Knight a master Thief and Geomancer; the Dragoon a master Monk and Black Belt. If I ever decide I really hate myself, I'll go tackle the Iron Giant. For now, though, I'm going to put the game aside and move on with my handheld gaming life.



FF4 and the After Years are up next. Everyone told me that The After Years is just a retelling of the original game, but int he future, with more random encounters. I think the parallelism is meant to be meaningful. Watch the two trailers and decide for yourselves.

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