Before I go further, just a few more words about my last post.
Final Fantasy is easily one of the most difficult RPGs you will ever play. Most modern RPGs utilize a ‘magic point’ (MP) system that allows your casters to cast spells with wreckless abandon and, when you get close to running out you can use some type of recovery ability or potion to restore your MP. Final Fantasy had no such thing. Your casters were limited to ‘spells per day’, possibly emulating the old Dungeons & Dragons system. The only way to replenish your spells was to get to a town and sleep at an inn or to use a tent or cabin item on the world map. If you were down in a dungeon you were hosed. It was many, many years later that I would beat the original Final Fantasy in its original form. The PlayStation Portable remake of the game included an MP system that replaced the ‘per day’ system to make it easier for those who purchased it, but I wanted to finish it using the original mode.
I would learn, years later, that Final Fantasy 2 in the United States was actually Final Fantasy 4, and had a ton of changes made to it. Some for reasons of localization and some seemingly without meaning. Years later I would use the internet and my SNES Game Genie I was able to unlock massive amounts of items, weapons and secrets that had been previously hidden.
This post is going to be somewhat long and contain many links to media. I would highly recommend watching or listening to all of it, as it is a treat to the senses.
Final Fantasy 6. I don’t even know if I have proper words to describe the incredible scope of this game, or how it affects me even to this day. In the United States it was sold as Final Fantasy 3, and what a doozy it was. It was 1994 and I was 19 years old.
Having played Final Fantasy 2 over and over I had been keeping up with Final Fantasy 3 through a couple of the gaming magazines I was subscribed to. Back in the day you couldn’t order games online, as most stores didn’t have an online sales presence. You could, however, look in the back of such gaming magazines and order games from companies over the phone. It was from one of these companies that I had pre-ordered Final Fantasy 3, and I eagerly awaited its arrival.
Finally it came, and I remember the night well. As my family headed out to go watch the newest Disney movie, The Lion King, I pulled my SNES out of my room and rigged it up to the big TV in the living room. Now when I say big, I mean B. I. G. You could put together five or six of todays TVs and it would equal the size of this TV. As I opened the game box out fell the instruction manual and some other various pieces of paper, one for the game soundtrack, by mail. Three CDs and $60. It would be the first game soundtrack I would ever order, and I still have it tucked away safe.
I popped the game into my SNES, pushed the sliding power switch on and:
Is that not the most epic intro ever? I mean, it may not match up to modern pre-rendered fare, but it sure sets the mood.
Final Fantasy 3 focuses on a young girl named Terra who is under the control the The Empire. In a steampunk world fueled by technology, she is capable of using magic. The Empire is looking for a resistance group called The Returners, and they have sent Terra, under the control of a slave crown, to destroy the town of Narshe to draw them out. Escaping the crowns control, she joins the resistance in an attempt to overthrow the Empire and the Emperor, Ghestal. Along the way she will meet with thirteen other individuals who will go from fighting The Empire for the freedom of the people, to fighting a psychotic madman with his sights set on becoming a god for the fate of the entire world.
A more finely crafted story you will never see in any game. Each character has a different personality, and it shows, even on such an old system. Now, remember, this is an old 16 bit system, nothing even remotely close to the powerhouse systems that are around today, yet there was more emotion within the pixels of each character than anything that comes out of the PS4 or Xbox One. Nearly each of the fourteen characters is given a backstory that unfolds as the game progresses. The brothers, Sabin and Edgar, heirs to the throne of Figaro struggle as brothers do. The mysterious ninja, Shadow and his trusty dog, Interceptor hide a past that only comes to light in dreams. Cyan, retainer to the king of Doma seeks vengeance for his family. By the time the game ends you will have feelings for every player. Which brings us to the next great thing about this game….
The greatest villains are the ones you love to hate. A good villain can make or break a story, and I can think of no greater villain than Kefka Palazzo. Right hand man to The Empires Emperor Gheshtal, his want for power leads to his loss of sanity. He is a weird, cruel little man with little care for the lives of others. Though this clip is from another game ( Dissidia: Final Fantasy ), it does a great job of capturing the overall feeling of Kefka’s personality throughout the original game:
Terra’s observation about a ‘broken heart’ couldn’t be more wrong. Kefka is just psychotic, and that makes him great. For a more in-depth discussion about Kefka visit this link.
As I stated earlier, the Final Fantasy 3 soundtrack would be the very first game soundtrack I would ever purchase. As with the game I had to order it over the phone and received it weeks later via mail. I remember the disappointment of finding the post that held one of the discs of the three disc set broken, meaning the disc didn’t stick to the case and was sliding around inside the whole time. Fortunately it wasn’t scratched.
The music of Final Fantasy 3 is awesome to behold. Though generated by the SNES sound system, these were not the beeps and boops of Super Mario Bros – oh no, my friends, these were symphonic masterpieces! From the ‘Opening Theme’ to the ‘Ending Theme’, sixty-one tracks in all! YES! 6 – 1, 61 tracks! Each character has their own theme music that suits their personalities perfectly! Some of the more notable tracks:
- Opening Theme: the rising organ leading into the light plucking of strings gives the track a very mysterious sound.
- Locke’s Theme: this track has the word ‘hero’ written all over it! Loud, resounding and brave, a track that shows our thief is more than meets the eye!
- Kefka’s Theme: This track is absolutely wacky. It’s an odd track that mixes the comical with the powerful, a perfect foreshadowing of what is to come from our odd little friend.
I could literally go on and on about every track in the game, but I will end by concentrating on two specific tracks that, to do them full justice, will require me to turn to Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds, the travelling show of fully orchestrated Final Fantasy theme music.
- Arria de Mezzo Carattere: also known as ‘Maria and Draco’ or ‘The Opera Scene’. Yes, Final Fantasy 3 had a whole opera scene in it that is, in my mind, one of the most memorable scenes in any game EVER! It included this song, ALONG WITH THE SINGING in the game (though the voices were not distinct, but Square did the best to put them in there that they could). I remember being blown away while watching this scene play out. Its a perfect mix of drama, suspense and comedy! As awesome as this track is, nothing, and I mean NOTHING compares with actually playing this scene out in-game. The song tells the story of two opposing armies headed by the heroes Draco and Ralse, both in love with the same woman, Maria, who is being forced to marry Ralse against her will. During a ball the Western forces, headed by Draco, launch a surprise attack! Unfortunately during the scene in which Draco and Ralse duel some of our protagonists are involved in battling a giant, lecherous octopus named Ultros above the stage. Midway through the fight they fall out of the rafters and onto the stage, continuing their battle, much to the enjoyment of the audience! It’s incredibly well done and exceedingly funny! The Distant Worlds track does not contain the musical shift from the opera to the octopus battle, but you can listen to the track ‘Grande Finale?’ here. Notice, at the beginning of the track, the murmuring of the crowd, who has just been treated to a bunch of guys and a giant purple octopus falling from the ceiling down onto the stage. Classy.
- Dancing Mad: an absolutely amazing song. Clocking in at well over ten minutes, Dancing Mad is a musical tour de’ force that is not just heard, but felt. Even in its in-game form, synthesized through the SNES sound hardware it is powerful, but to capture its true beauty you need to listen to the Distant Worlds, fully orchestrated version. DO NOT play this song on your tiny, tinny computer speakers. Do yourself a favor and either put on some good headphones or run this through your stereo system. Series composer Nobuo Uematsu is reported to have said he intended to create five minute long song for this final battle tune, but just kept on going and going! The final battle against Kefka, who has succeeded in becoming a god (!!) is a four part battle up a tower of twisted bodies until, at last, you face the fiend himself! Midway through the song the theme changes to a more rock-inspired theme, which signals Kefkas descent from his throne on high to battle the insolent party of heroes who has long been a thorn in his side. Even after this shift in theme the song retains some of the odd, quirky elements you would expect to hear where Kefka is concerned. Absolutely breathtaking in every sense of the word!
Everything about this game comes together to form an incredible experience. Aside from the 30-40 hour main quest there are tons of little things to do and gems to find. I had easily put in 80 hours of gameplay when I started going down the rabbit-holes of additional content such as:
- Transforming the Cursed Shield into the Aegis shield
- Farming Imp gear for all my party members
- Battling for equipment in the Coliseum
- Searching for the last parts of certain characters back stories
- Trying to see all the desperation attacks for all characters
- Adding secret characters to the party
If anyone ever asked me what one, single Final Fantasy game to play to get the best experience of the series, Final Fantasy 3 (6) would definitely be the one I would choose. To this day I still love this game more than any other game I have ever played.
Up next, Square leaves Nintendo, rumors of a 3d Final Fantasy and we get introduced to the Sony PlayStation.