In between the uplifting, satisfying wins and the demoralizing losses that come with the Starcraft 2 multiplayer experience, I travel through the open landscapes of Final Fantasy III on my Super Nintendo. Even with the firm belief that no Japanese role playing game can persuade me to think that the genre is actually worth spending time with, I still remain curious. I have yet to see – despite multiple attempts with different games from different eras – why the Japanese RPG was ever relevant, or even somewhat still desirable in this generation.
I firmly believe that experimenting with a variety of games within the genre that I’ll be able to understand the draw that has lured in so many people. So why did I spend ridiculous amounts of money on a 20 year old game for a genre that has consistently disappointed me? It was probably the reputation of Squaresoft’s third game in the Final Fantasy franchise (really the sixth game if you want to be technical) being arguably the best Final Fantasy ever made. This ambiguous reputation revealed to me a sliver of hope that Final Fantasy III will be the game to spark a revelation, thus ultimately change my perspective about the genre. At around 13 or so hours into this highly regarded JRPG, my experience has been the most enjoyable and least painful of comparative ventures, but I have yet to see the brilliance that makes thisthe best Final Fantasy.
I know what most JRPGs consist of. Most will feature some sort of turn based battle system, where creating a party of characters is controlled by the player. I’ve never been a fan of turn based battle systems as they usually tend to bore me if they are without some sort of engaging twist. Games like Final Fantasy III, XIII or even The Last Remnant, feature a mechanic that requires your constant attention. What I can appreciate about both Final Fantasy III and XIII is its mostly successful goal of always giving the player more than they can handle. Both games focus around a meter associated with character action. When that meter fills, you can attack or perform any actions. This keeps the pace quick as I am always – aside from brief encounters with weak monsters – planning my next move, thinking ahead while simultaneously choosing the right actions address needs at that time.
The battle system is most important. The characters you choose, the items you purchase and the choices you make, ultimately revolve around the battle system and your desire to be successful with it. This is where you will spend a lot of game time; this is the primary means of interaction within the world. While I don’t think the battle system is terrible in Final Fantasy III, I have yet to become really excited or enthusiastic about it. Even though the game is decades old, I wanted it to impress me – show me why this game is unmatched. Nothing particularly stands out as old or poor game design; I am actually pleased with how almost nonexistent my frustration is. As odd as that may sound, there always seems to be some sort of questionable design decision that spoils and already flakey experience for me.
Nonetheless, I continue to play through Final Fantasy III every day. Some stretches of play feel forced and not out of pure desire, which indicates that I have not yet been pulled in as much as I had initially hoped. The story and its characters are still is the awkward introduction stage, and I was also just granted the ability to form a party based on the characters I have collected. I think I have reached the turning point in the game where it begins to open up and grant freedom to the player. Having been guided down linear paths in a few separate scenarios was interesting since I expected an open world with side quests and unlimited exploration. Being guided in a retro game is certainly an unfamiliar feeling; however I very much appreciate it. I would like to assume that the game is still holding something back, though now is as good a time as any to prove my assumption right.