Thursday, June 07, 2018

Each Holding An ORB: Final Fantasy 3

INTRODUCTION: A group of four kids (Jesus, this again?) - or for the 3DS remake, one kid - has a nasty shock when they fall into a cave near their hometown, fight a giant turtle and find a massive, talking crystal that gives them the strength to go adventuring and asks them to restore balance to the world.

For the crystals, you see, are dying (Jesus, this again?) - and with them the world.  And these four children are destined to become the Warriors of Light (Jesus, this again?), and save the world from excessive darkness.

The story is actually a lot more complicated than that once it gets going - the synopsis really doesn't do it justice.  So, erm...  Let's get right to it!

RELEASE: 27 April 1990, Nintendo Famicom (JPN); 14 November 2006, Nintendo DS (USA, remake); 4 May 2007, Nintendo DS (EU, remake)

MY FIRST PLAY: 2004, NES emulator on my ancient PC (again).  A walkthrough was kept close to hand as due to character limits, the English translation turned into absolute gibberish halfway through!

Courtesy Square Enix, via Final Fantasy Wikia.

REAL WORLD: Expanding on what they'd delivered previously was a real challenge for Square.  The Super Famicom had been released, but they were still pushing the boundaries of what they could achieve on the Famicom; and so we get this.  A game that is said to fill every last bit of the cartridge.  It is the literal maximum the Famicom can cope with.

And a game, perhaps predictably, that at the time absolutely could not be translated into English - and certainly not literally, as the character count would have burst the cartridge.  An adapted translation was also canned early due to lack of manpower, and its comparatively late re-release makes this one of the least-played FF games in the west.

THE GAME: A partial return to FF1's simpler, EXP-based approach to levelling up, with the addition of Jobs.  This means that rather than fixing a character's role at the start of the game, a character can change specialisations repeatedly.

There are more different roles to choose as well; all six of the originals are back, with advanced versions thereof, and more specific variants like dragon and dark knights, vikings and scholars, and also summoners, making their debut - mage-type characters who summon huge godlike creatures into battle.

Given that the game's engine deals more with what jobs your characters are rather than who they are, it makes sense that the four player characters are anonymous in the original game, a la the first game.  They are described only as "Onion Kids", but the 3DS remake (somewhat pointlessly) gives them names and backstories: Luneth falls into the cave and fights the turtle, his best friend Arc joins to support him, Refia is the daughter of a local blacksmith and Ingus is a knight of Sasune, sworn to protect Princess Sara.

And another landmark debut, you say?  Kupo!  Yes, it's the Moogles, strange anthropomorphic cat things with tiny bat wings and pompoms on their heads.  Usually comic relief, no less than eleven of them were playable characters in FF6, and they have also technically appeared at Wrestlemania courtesy of The New Day.

Oh, and there's also Fat Chocobo!  Because body shaming gigantic birds is apparently a thing.  Fat Chocobo is a MacGuffin to get around the party's limited inventory space.  Extra items can be stored inside Fat Chocobo...  Yes, he eats the items and regurgitates them at a later date.  Don't blame me if your Elixir tastes of bird spit and stomach acid.

Courtesy Square Enix, via YouTube.
IT'S A KIND OF MAGIC: MP system, with around half the jobs in the game having some level of magical ability.  Spells are usually bought, though some are found - and Mini and Toad are storyline elements, as they allow entry to certain locations.

MUSIC: Uematsu's really getting to grips with the Famicom here, especially on "Elia, The Maiden Of Water" (although I don't think this is the Famicom version - sorry!):


Ooh, difficult.  There's no out-and-out space tech like Final Fantasy, but there is an ancient, technologically-advanced civilisation vaguely involved, and not for the first or last time.  That puts it a whisker in front of FF2 in this respect.

MEGABOSSES: There are none, to my knowledge, in the original.  You could argue that technically any of the bosses guarding the equipment in the Forbidden Land of Eureka are megabosses as they are optional, but they're only on par with, or slightly less tough than, the bosses on the run-up to the final boss, so I don't count them.  The 3DS remake whacked an Iron Giant in to fill this particular gap, so all is right with the world.

REMAKES: Well it probably won't surprise you to know that there is a 3DS remake, since I've mentioned it about twelve times already.  Released in 2006, it had a massive graphical revamp, with 3D, perhaps predictably, being the main upgrade.  This was most Western players' first exposure to the game... Legally, at least.

WORST BIT: Fighting Garuda in Saronia, and having to change your whole party to dragoons to have any effect.  That, or the caves full of enemies that divide if attacked with any weapon but a Dark Knight's blade.  Or when everyone's shrunk down and you're reliant on magicians.  Or the undersea bits when (particularly in the 3D remake) one needs at least two vikings in the party to make progress...

The list, unfortunately, goes on, and for a game offering so much choice in how it's played and what classes are used, any of these kinds of bottleneck really jar.  I can see how it's trying to push players out of their comfort ones, but it does somewhat blunt the freedom with which it seems intended to be played.

BEST BIT: The sheer epic scale, which is almost unthinkable for the NES.  Between choice of jobs, number of locations (and trust me, when you think you've seen it all, you haven't - there's a point where your horizon expands near-infinitely), and the number of sub-stores that the player will find themselves involved in, you will be fully entertained all the way through - aside from the type of moments described above, of course.

This is a fantastic technical achievement and a damn good game - though, and this might just be me being difficult, I did feel like the 3DS remake lacked the charm of the Famicom version, which stands as Square's magnum opus on the much-loved system.

Join us next time for spoony bards, pink puffs and a cathartic story of redemption...  What do you mean, put the serious ones first and follow them up with the jokes?  It's my fucking blog.  Just fuck off.  Go on: FUCK OFF!!!  (And please tune in next week, friend.)

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