Other Characters

MIDGETS

Here's something the series hasn't seen before: a town of wee people. (The American DS version calls them "gnomes.") They're too small to be terribly important, but they are a friendly bunch.


GURGANS

The Gurgans are a blind race with the ability to prophesize the future. Think of them as Final Fantasy III's take on the Circle of Sages.


MOOGLES

YEEHEEE! Moogles! Moogles make their first appearance in Final Fantasy III as servants working in Dorga's mansion. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think they start saying "kupo" until later.


SUMMONS

Final Fantasy III is also the first game in the series with a Summoner class -- and you know what that means. Ifrit, Shiva, Ramuh, Titan, and Odin all debut here, and series veterans Leviathan and Bahamut join the fray as well.


THE DARK WARRIORS

The descendents of the Ancients speak of a disaster that occurred 1,000 years ago when the power of Light went amok and threatened to annihilate Creation. All would have been lost had the Dark Warriors not emerged to stop the Flood of Light and save the day. Even though the Dark Warriors and the Light Warriors should technically be opposing forces, they must band together to save both worlds -- Light and Dark -- from the Void.

Jobs
Okay. There are twenty-two character classes in Final Fantasy III, and I'm already low on stamina from talking about all the characters. Let's just cover the important ones here.


BEST JOB:
Ninja/Sage

The Ninja can use every piece of equipment and can throw Shurikens. Sages can use every kind of spell and get more charges than any other Mage class. It's probably impossible to beat Final Fantasy III at a reasonable level without a party comprised entirely of Ninjas and Sages.


WORST JOB:
Bard

I cannot think of any reason to use a Bard. Ever.


COOLEST JOB:
Onion Knight

Sure, they're virtually obsolete from the moment you see the title screen, but they're quite the little troopers. ("Free Lancers" my perineum.) They have the potential to become near-invincible killing machines, provided you can get your hands on a set of the ultra-rare Onion equipment.



LAMEST JOB:
Scholar

Scholars have two abilities. One lets them see an enemy's HP. The other lets them see an enemy's weak point. One is never useful, and the other is useful exactly once in the game. Scholars become obsolete the moment one of your characters becomes capable of casting the Libra spell (which isn't all that useful either).


BEST-DRESSED JOB:
Shaman

Light Warriors don't come much cuter. If I had kids, I would dress them like this.





WORST-DRESSED JOB:
Thief/Summoner

One looks like a twenty-eight year old pedophile trying to squeeze into the Peter Pan costume he wore trick-or-treating when he was twelve. The other looks like he's being devoured alive by a giant green tube sock. Ick.



MOST SURPRISINGLY DECENT JOB:
Caller

Think of him as a Summoner trainee. He can cast Summon magic, but isn't capable of using it to mow down whole screens of enemies yet. Each of his spells has a White and Black effect which is selected randomly when it is cast. White effects usually give your party a small boost or inflict status ailments on enemies, while Black effects usually inflict elemental damage on a single enemy. It's a lot more useful than it sounds, and really comes in handy in the Cave of Shadows.


MOST SURPRISINGLY CRUDDY JOB:
Black Mage/Warlock

I hate to admit it, but Black Magic kinda sucks in Final Fantasy III. Physical attacks and Summons completely eclipse it, which makes Jobs relying on Black Magic a lot less worthwhile than heavy physical Jobs or ones that use Summon magic.



Trudging Forward

Final Fantasy III is HARD. If not the most difficult game in the series, it is certainly the hardest of the 8-bit entries. A major factor of this is the fact that when any one of your party members attempts to run from a battle, everybody's physical defense immediately drops to zero. Virtually all escape attempts turn your party into sitting ducks. Two party members will usually get killed before they can take their turns, and then the other two's Run commands will fail. Now half your party is dead...and did I mention that stores don't sell Phoenix Down in Final Fantasy III?

Even apart from this, Final Fantasy III throws quite a few massive hurdles in your direction. A lot of them simply wouldn't fly they appeared in a game today. They're just too brutal. Too unforgiving. Stuff that went out with the 8-bit era and games like Battletoads.

Since I'm getting fond of including numbered lists in these entries, I might as well continue with the trend. Here are the five most difficult challenges posed by Final Fantasy III:


5.) MAZE OF THE ANCIENTS/SLYX TOWER/EUREKA

This isn't really that difficult -- just irritating. All of the best equipment and Jobs are found in Forbidden Land Eureka, whose entrance is in the Slyx Tower. In order to reach the Slyx Tower, you have to park your airship outside the Maze of the Ancients, venture inside, and navigate your way through. Then you can enter the Tower and warp to Eureka. Eureka is a fairly big place, and the Exit spell doesn't work there. Once you hit the end, you have to trudge all the way back to the entrance. This puts your party back at the base of the Sylx Tower. If you decide that you're too low on resources to make the climb at this point, you have to walk outside, find your way back through the Maze of the Ancients, then come back later and do it all over again. For a game that punishes fleeing from battles as severely as Final Fantasy III, this is really rather sadistic.

4.) MINI DUNGEONS

At several points in the game, you're required to cast Mini on all of your party members in order to enter a dungeon, and must remain shrunk until you get out of the dungeon. When your characters are mini'd, their physical attack and defense both drop to zero. The only thing you can do is switch as many characters as you can to magic-using classes, move everybody to the back row, and hope you don't run out of magic charges before coming out the other end.

3.) GARUDA

One of the most legendary boss battles of the Final Fantasy series. Garuda is tricky. First, it's possible that the fight will catch you completely off guard. Ordinarily, you'd expect to deal with a boss like this after fighting your way through a dungeon first. In this case, you're just walking into a castle to have a friendly little chat with your new pal's father -- and then BOOM! THUNDERING DEATH FROM ABOVE!

Hopefully you'd been making sure to talk with townspeople, because otherwise, you probably missed a clue to Garuda's weakness. The one attack he has is Thunder, and your White Magic users just aren't capable of keeping up with that kind of damage at this point. The only way to beat Garuda is to turn all your party members (or as many as possible) into Dragoons and keep making them Jump.





2.) CAVE OF SHADOWS

I'm sure this dungeon has given old school Final Fantasy fans many nightmares. Most of the monsters here have a particularly diabolical property: striking one with any melee attack (aside from blows with a Dark Knight's sword) that doesn't kill it will cause it to split off into two units with HP equal to the original's. These guys also hit harder than anything you've faced so far, and they usually come at you in swarms.

Moreover, the Cave of Shadows is deep. I'm almost positive that it's the longest dungeon in the game, but I guess it's possible that it just seems that way. It's full of false-wall mazes, too, and they get longer and more complicated each time you go down a floor. The boss waiting for you at the bottom is relatively wimpy, but by the time you face your party will probably be exhausted and running low on resources. I heard Square Enix toned down the Cave of Shadows somewhat in the DS remake. I can't really say I blame them.




1.) THE DARK WORLD

Here is how the final set of dungeons in Final Fantasy III work: first, you climb the Slyx Tower and fight a fairly difficult boss at the top. Then, after some cutscenes, you find yourself in the Dark World. You have to navigate your way through, fight four (well, three) of the most sinister bosses in any JRPG, and then fight the boss of the game.

While considering this, you must keep in mind that Save Points still didn't exist yet. If you die at any stage of the process, it's back to the last place where you can save: standing at the entrance to the Slyx Tower on the World Map. Climbing the tower takes a good twenty to thirty minutes. So let's say you get to the top for the first time and get killed by the boss. You load your game, start over, climb back up, and defeat the boss. Then you get to the Dark World, beat Cerberus, but get killed by Echidna. So you start over -- climb the tower, beat the boss, beat Cerberus, and beat Echidna, but then are caught unawares and killed by the Two-Headed Dragon. So you start over. You climb the tower, beat the boss, beat Cerberus, and then lose to Echidna because of a fluke. So you start over. Climb the tower, beat the boss, beat Echidna, beat the 2-Headed Dragon, and then get killed by Ahriman. So you start over. You climb the tower, beat the boss, beat Cerberus, beat Echidna, beat the 2-Headed Dragon, and then get killed by Ahriman again. But this time you have a plan -- you climb the tower, beat the boss, beat Cerberus, beat Echidna, beat the 2-Headed Dragon, beat Ahriman, and are then completely obliterated by the final boss. So you try again. Climb the tower, beat the boss, beat Cerberus, beat Echidna, beat the 2-Headed Dragon, beat Ahriman, and are then killed by the final boss even quicker than the first time. Meanwhile, as all this is happening, minutes and hours of your all-too finite existence as a sentient lifeform on planet Earth are steadily and irrevocably being whittled away. Outside, flowers are blooming. A sunset is casting the clouds and sky from crimson to dull orange to speckled violet. Shooting stars are blinking across the twilight. That old playground you visited every day as a child is about to be bulldozed. Old friends you haven't spoken to in years suddenly remember you and wonder where you are in the world now. Somewhere, a person you've never met and who could possibly be waiting for you has lately began talking to someone else a lot like you. And here you are, twelve hours and fifteen tries into defeating the Cloud of Darkness, totally certain that this time you'll get it for sure.

...Yeah. The last dungeon in Final Fantasy III is fucking tough.


OTHER VERSIONS

Final Fantasy III almost followed its 8-bit counterparts to the WonderSwan Color, but the project was aborted. Instead, it appeared on the Nintendo DS with an extensive 3D makeover. Unlike the WSC ports of the first two Final Fantasy titles, the DS update of Final Fantasy III isn't just a cosmetic upgrade. Much remains the same; the towns, maps, dungeons, weapons, spells, items, bestiary and list of Jobs are the same as before. But anyone who's played through the Famicom version of the game can tell you that the two are not the same.

First off, the characters are no longer four identical orphans hailing from Topappa. Final Fantasy III's Light Warriors are now individual characters with distinct appearances and personalities.

Luneth
Scrappy young hero. Virtue: Courage.

Arc
The hero's bookish and timid friend. Virtue: Kindess.

Refia
Spunky young lass. Virtue: Affection.

Ingus
Earnest and serious older boy. Virtue: Determination.

I said they were distinct -- not original or particularly deep. But it would be hypocritical to complain about this. There really wasn't anything stopping Square from giving Nomura the green light to go in and Roxasize the cast, so we should be grateful they opted to keep it simple.

All the Jobs from the first game are included, but several have undergone modifications. Onion Knights are no longer the default Job, having been replaced by Freelancers. (They're still around, but as a bonus class that can be acquired as a reward for completing one of the DS version's new sidequests.) Scholars can use low-level black magic. Vikings and Rangers have the new Provoke and Barrage commands. Dark Knights lose white magic and gain the more familiar special attack that costs them their own HP. Sages and Ninjas are no longer the "ultimate" classes. Overall, the Job tweaks make the system a little more balanced and encourage more variety -- especially towards the game's end.

All of the familiar enemies and bosses are back. The enemies behave the same as before, but the bosses are another matter. Most of them now have increased HP and can use multiple attacks per round. Nowhere is this change more noticable than in the final battle with the Cloud of Darkness. Instead of buffeting your party with repeated Flare Waves, she now gets four chances per round to throw out physical attacks and a variety of powerful spells.

The extremely high difficulty of the Famicom game is mostly intact. There still aren't any save points. You still can't buy Phoenix Down. The random encounter rate is just as high as it was seventeen years ago. However, a couple changes have been made to shift some of the odds in the good guys' favor. The ridiculous battle mechanic that makes your party's physical defense drop to zero during escape attemps is (thankfully) absent. On the subject of running, the battle menus have been altered so that the "Run" no longer takes up one of a character's command slots; another welcome change. During the sections of the game where the party as an ally following them around, the ally now will randomly jump out and give your guys a hand. And thanks to the dual screens, you now get a halfway decent world map. Having to repeatedly cast Blink to get your bearings got really old in the Famicom version.

So is it worth picking up? Depends. I'd recommend giving it a shot if you've never played 8-bit Final Fantasy III before. If you're a no-emulator purist, curious about old-school JRPGs, or pining for the days when games were tougher and less cuddly, Final Fantasy III might be for you. But if you have played the Famicom version, I'd only recommend the DS version if you happen to be a hardcore fan or haven't touched it in several years. My opinion? Final Fantasy III on the DS looks about as good as the PSX installments, but in spite of its best efforts, it still feels incredibly primitive. There's a massive disparity between appearance and gameplay -- after all, it's a console RPG from 1990 disguised to look like a 2007 handheld game -- and it can sometimes be really disruptive. A DS remake in full 3D was a clever way for Square Enix to reach out to a new audience and demonstrate the DS's graphical potential, but a 16-bit, 2D remake probably would have been more palatable. The Famicom version is still my preferred choice.

MP3s Download here (Includes FC and DS)

Battle
Battle 2
Eternal Wind
Boundless Ocean
This is the Final Battle

Final Fantasy III (DS)

Final Fantasy III (DS)

Final Fantasy III (DS)

Final Fantasy III (DS)

Final Fantasy III (DS)

Final Fantasy III (DS)

Final Fantasy III (DS)

Famicom

DS

VERDICT
It's certainly the biggest and most complex of Final Fantasy's 8-bit incarnations, but I'm not sure if it's the best. It completely trumps the other two on a number of levels, but there a few things that bog it down -- namely, the aforementioned part about its mercilessly killing you when you try escaping from even one of the thousands of random battles you stumble into. Then there's the unbalance of the early Job system, the lack of a world map, and some extremely annoying parts where you have to fight random battles while flying around in your airship. Still, Final Fantasy III has too much else going for it (like INVENTING THE JOB SYSTEM) for me to judge it too harshly. And I couldn't think of anywhere else to mention this, but the music that plays when you fly over the flooded surface world for the first time is somehow more haunting than any NES tune should really be.



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