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Final Fantasy III (SNES) artwork

Final Fantasy III (SNES) review

" Each passing year, dozens of new role-playing games are released. They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from old classics like Squaresoft‘s Final Fantasy to more profound and modern ones such as Namco’s Tales of Symphonia. If one were to compare the two, they would find a multitude of differences and improvements that only evolution and time could create. The former title lacks much dialogue, has sketchy animation and fails to motivate the player. The second, however, has..."

Each passing year, dozens of new role-playing games are released. They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from old classics like Squaresoft‘s Final Fantasy to more profound and modern ones such as Namco’s Tales of Symphonia. If one were to compare the two, they would find a multitude of differences and improvements that only evolution and time could create. The former title lacks much dialogue, has sketchy animation and fails to motivate the player. The second, however, has a robust plotline, bright visuals, and compelling gameplay. Games like Tales of Symphonia would not be what they are today if Final Fantasy III didn’t jump out in 1994 and show the average household RPG who’s boss. With a gripping plot, memorable characters, gorgeous visuals, deep gameplay, and the best video game soundtrack to date at it‘s side, Final Fantasy III influenced role-playing games in the same way The Beatles influenced rock music.

From the very moment the three Imperial soldiers in Magitek armor advance through the barren snowfield, it becomes quite clear that this game is going to be dazzling. After the beautiful theme music plays and the opening credits scroll by, the soldiers storm into the normally peaceful mining town of Narshe, obliterating all that stands in their way. They have but one goal: to find a frozen being of pure energy and return it to their king for the benefit of the Empire. The townsfolk valiantly struggle to repel the soldiers, but to no avail. They are pushed back and mercilessly crushed layer by layer, and the malevolent soldiers emerge victorious - but not for long. As they approach the mystical being they sought, it begins to glow and two of the soldiers vaporize into thin air. The remaining one, a young girl who seems unsuited to do such dastardly deeds, is merely knocked unconscious.

She wakes up in a bed the next morning, thanks to a kind hearted elderly man. He tells her how she was controlled by the Empire by means of a cruel device called a 'slave crown'. She soon regains her memory and tells the man her name is Terra. Due to her outrageous actions while under Imperial control, the townspeople aren't very welcoming towards her; so the elder assigns a thief (cough, treasure hunter) named Locke to sneak her out of town. She seems lost and confused, and thus becomes very dependent on Locke, who seems to have a call for helping the helpless. And thus the stage is set for the marvelous adventure to come.

The linear first half of the game - “The World of Balance” - focuses on gathering your characters and progressing the plot into Final Fantasy trademark epic proportions. Pretty soon Terra and Locke will be accompanied by quite the motley crew. Among them are Edgar, the energetic young king and womanizer of South Figaro; Sabin, his stalwart and good hearted younger brother, and Celes, a renegade Imperial mage with a dark secret. They are but a few of the many that will join your party in their quest for supreme righteousness. All of them are useful in battle and have fascinating backstories that give them proper motivation to join the group (I'm looking at you, Cait Sith).

As the game leads you from locale to locale, you meet even more characters still and engage in many different events and diversions. One of the more standout characters you will meet is Kefka, an insane clown maniac bent on destroying everything other than himself, and consequently one of the generals of the Empire. He takes everything into his own hands and shows a true bloodust for corruption and killing - remorse and empathy do not exist in his brain. Not to mention he is the bearer of a laugh that is infamous in the world of video games to this very day. His polar opposite is the General Leo, an honorable and virtuous man who seems out of place in an evil entity such as the Empire. The two of them and others help the plot germinate into something spectacular, even by today’s standards.

There’s more. Terra has inner conflicts with herself causing her to leave the party for a period of time, giving way to the fact that she is not the only protagonist. All of the characters have just as legitimate reasons to join you in your quest. Everyone has their own subplots and moments to shine, creating an eloquent and well thought-out plot that fits all the pieces together. Even so, the storyline and characters aren't the only exceptional aspect of FFIII. All of the other key elements shine just as brightly. FFIII was the first major RPG with 16-bit graphics. Now, once you complete the first half of the game, things turn in a different direction. This is where we enter “The World Of Ruin”, which spoon-feeds everything that had seemed to be missing in the first half of the quest.

Letting go of the narrow storyline path that one was concealed in, they are now opened up to a world of expansive dungeons, sidequests aplenty, challenging battles, and non-linearity. If one would like to go ahead and tackle the final boss head on, only his low levels and cheap equipment are stopping him. However, you won't get far until you recollect the party - who have been scattered across the world - first. Or perhaps you should equip an Esper and learn that one spell you need using the innovative magic system. Different Espers bear different spells that you can learn after equipping them and earning magic points by fighting enemies. This allows for maximum customization with characters and spells, yet some characters are more fit for the role of mages than others.

What may be the best aspect of FFIII lies in the music and composition. This game is the only title where the music really seems to stand out and enhance the game in ways that have never been done before, with it's powerful emotion and tone. Ranging from the somewhat twisted and ethereal “Floating Continent” to the slow and superb “Ephitaph”, your ears will be taken on a thrill ride from start to finish. The sentimental feel of the music along with the mood of the game conveyed through excellent storytelling has made me want to weep at times - tears of joy, tears of despair, tears of feelings I didn't know I had before I played. No amount of adjectives and gushing can begin to convey what this game needs to convey for itself. It's amazing on so many levels, it really changed the feel of RPG gaming into something that goes beyond the conflicts of good and evil, something sentimental.

And that is why I think of this game as the bridge.

Rating: 10/10

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Community review by meeptroid (July 23, 2005)

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