Most gamers know that the Super Nintendo wasn’t lacking in the RPG department. It was home to many great RPGs including the innovative time travel adventure Chrono Trigger and the quirky, unconventional Earthbound. Final Fantasy III is without a doubt among the best of the best even today. It didn’t do much with regards to evolving the genre, but it executed everything with nothing but excellence and set the standard for many RPGs to follow.
Final Fantasy III has a deep and engaging story that follows several characters on their journey to take down the Gestahlian Empire. It doesn’t really point out a particular main character, some may argue that it’s Terra because of her significance to the plot, but I think that’s what makes this journey feel so epic. Every character has a rich background with each owning a motive to fight the opposition. Each character comes from a different walk of life and brings a lot of variety to the story. From the magical and mysterious Terra to the brothers of royalty, Edgar and Sabin who live completely separate lives, and of course Shadow, the ominous assassin who comes and goes like the wind.
Throughout your journey the story will unfold with twists and secrets waiting around every corner. You will learn about the purpose of Espers and watch as Kefka, mad with power, spirals out of control. Kefka Palazzo plays a supporting role to Emperor Gestahl in the beginning, but is following through with a plan to overthrow him and become the God of Magic. Kefka is not only a great Final Fantasy villain, but quite possibly the best villain of all time. He is a maniacal nihilist who is determined to achieve ultimate power. His rise to power is a gradual one, but he eventually becomes the most feared person in existence.
Final Fantasy III is a standard RPG in terms of gameplay; gain experience and levels, buy and find new items and equipment, travel to towns and dungeons while enduring random encounters with enemies. However, there are a few unique elements I’d like to talk about. First thing I’d like to mention, and a fun fact for those who aren’t aware, Final Fantasy III can actually be adjusted to support two players! In the menu you are able to assign characters to each player. Of course this is after you activate the multiple controller option. This configuration only plays out in battle, but it adds a neat co-operative spin on the game. It is both fun and necessary to work as a team.
Now let’s get to the good stuff. Each character holds a special ability in battle, such as Sabin’s Blitz or Edgar’s Tools. Whatever the special ability may be, it is usually character specific and has been chosen to match their characteristics. These techniques are very powerful and useful throughout your battles. Chances are you will be using Sabin’s Bum Rush more than once.
Another other unique aspect of the gameplay is found in the Esper system. Espers can be equipped to your party and will teach magic to your characters. Espers also serve as summons in the game, but that isn’t all they offer. Espers, when equipped on a character, will boost certain stats when you level up. Some will raise your vigor (strength) and some will raise your magic attack, while other Espers will increase the amount of HP gained during a level-up. You will find yourself grinding a lot to adjust your stats and learn magic. Grinding will help you get out of some tough spots, but if you grind too much the game will become really easy. For reference, at level 70 you are overpowered for the final stretch of the game and Kefka will be too easy. Overall, the gameplay is well balanced and a gradual difficulty curve shouldn’t discourage newcomers to the genre.
Graphics wise, Final Fantasy III is gorgeous. It holds some of the best sprite art on the SNES in my opinion. While a certain Mode 7 section looks dull (mine cart ride), everything else is nicely detailed and unique which is always a plus. It is especially fun to fly around the world map in an airship which is nicely done with Mode 7. Final Fantasy III also excels in the soundtrack department. It has some of the most recognizable themes in the series, and they are definitely some of the best 16-bit chiptunes around. Kefka himself even sports a very chilling signature laugh which adds another layer to his character.
4.5/5 D-Pads: Final Fantasy III is pretty much one of the best RPGs in existence. It lacks a little in the gameplay department, but it is easy to see past because the Esper system offers a unique spin on the RPG genre. Final Fantasy III combats its weakness by adding a truly epic story and very well crafted characters, not to mention gorgeous sprites and a classic video game soundtrack. There are secret characters and items to find which adds to the replay value of the game. It will take roughly 20-30 hours your first time, but I can see that dropping a bit during a second run. While there is a ton more to talk about, I feel I have covered the most important parts for a review and will leave the surprises and intricacies for you to discover. Overall, Final Fantasy III is a fantastic experience and RPG enthusiasts absolutely need to play this game.