Given my thoughts on Final Fantasy 2, you’re probably wondering where things went from there. Well, thankfully I can say the last of the Famicom Final Fantasy titles brought the series back into greatness, and would lay the foundation for my favorite FF a couple games down the line. So let’s talk about the Final Fantasy that introduced the Job System and redefined how making a party in an RPG worked.
GENRE: Job System JRPG Pioneer
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While I don’t know what the overall reception of Final Fantasy 2 was in Japan other than selling well and getting favorable reviews in magazines, I can only assume there was enough criticism of its gameplay systems to ensure we got what we did with Final Fantasy 3, which is a much, MUCH better game. While not my favorite Final Fantasy title, FF3 is very much a good entry and laid some important foundations for 5 down the line, which well, I’ll be gushing over that one. I LOVE 5. But for now, let’s talk about 3 and how it basically put the series back on the right track.
One thing to note is that the story is a bit more akin to FF1, where the story is less about your party, and more about the people they meet, though FF3 does try to at least make those characters you meet way more interesting this time around by giving them backstories and personalities.
Like FF1, you create your party, though you don’t choose their classes this time around, only their names. The four orphans you control all start as the same class/job, the Onion Knight, which…Isn’t very good. Thankfully after an intro dungeon, you get introduced to what makes FF3 so great: the job system. Rather than choosing a class that determines a character’s role and progression for the entire game, you unlock Jobs for every Crystal you reach. Jobs allow you to freely change what role a character in your party plays at any time out of battle. Think you’re gonna need some heavy hitters? Make everyone a Fighter or a Monk! Need elemental damage? How about some mages? And this is where FF3’s fun begins: Figuring out the best job setup for any situation. Needless to say, you rarely want EVERYONE to be the same job, so the best setups typically involve finding what jobs work best together.
We’re thankfully back to what worked in the original game: Proper level ups via gaining experience. Though you also gain job levels which improve the overall capability of a job the longer you spend fighting with it, so there is some encouragement to find a setup that works and not be changing jobs every single fight.
What Final Fantasy 3 really improves on though is the size of the world and things to see and do in it. While you won’t find a mountain of sidequests, there are several optional and hidden areas to explore this time around along with all the places you go at the main story, so there actually is some reward for going off the beaten path this time around. The added exploration is a welcome addition to Final Fantasy’s gameplay, and something that gets improved upon in future games, so there was a lot FF3 did right after FF2’s blunders.
We’re back to a core gameplay loop that works: Heading to a new region, getting levels and money so you can gear up, and conquering whatever challenge awaits you. That said, the loop is made much more enticing because any time a Crystal is involved, you know you’re getting new jobs to play with, and that’s part of FF3’s hook: Learning what new possibilities you’ll have with your new jobs.
And admittedly, on the original Famicom version? This had problems. FF3’s jobs suffered from a lot of them being single dungeon specialists or gimmicky, and then you’d never touch them again. Rather than do a 1:1 remake of what didn’t work in this, the Pixel Remaster has rebalanced and reworked jobs to give them more use outside of the gimmicky setups they used to be. Jobs you may have only used for one dungeon can actually have some staying power in the Pixel Remaster, which is something I welcome. Jobs I never touched in the Famicom version now have a lot of use, and the two big endgame jobs aren’t necessarily the only things you can use now, a lot of jobs retain their usage even at endgame.
That’s not to say FF3 is flawless though. Its endgame is unfortunately one of the more frustrating elements of the game that you do need a certain level of patience for, and one area I do have to fault the game. The endgame consists of 3 back to back dungeons, with no reliable way to restore lost MP for a good chunk of them aside from any Elixirs you might be carrying. Y’know how people talk about hoarding Elixirs and saving them for an emergency? FF3 is the reason people started doing that, I’m pretty sure. It is something I bring up if only because it is a rather brutal stretch, and it’s something you absolutely want to be ready for. Also, the third of the dungeons that make up this back to back rush cannot be left once you enter it, so I’d be hesitant to save in there and just rely on auto saves instead.
I’ll admit my review on this one was a bit short, but don’t let that fool you. Final Fantasy III is definitely a worthwhile entry on the list of FF games to play, and while not the best one by any means, it’s a good one, and a VERY refreshing experience if you’re fresh off of the disaster that was FF2. Now, next week? That’s when we get to the good stuff. Final Fantasy IV completely redefined what Final Fantasy was, and Final Fantasy V is my favorite of all time, so we’ve got those to look forward to.