Of all the video games I've ever played, by far, one of my favorites has always been Final Fantasy 3, the English translation of Japan's Final Fantasy 6. One of Square's greatest masterpieces, it features an impressive story, a well defined ensemble cast of characters, and some of the best music that I've seen in a video game. I have seen very few people who have played this game and have been disappointed. Those that haven't played it do not know what they are missing.
Our story begins with a mysterious girl wearing a slave crown and two soldiers from the Empire, all of who are in Magitek armor. They are on their way to assault the city of Narshe. They are there to investigate a frozen Esper, a member of a magical race said to have gone extinct about 1000 years ago. After breaking through the guards and a short walk though the Narshe mines, they reach the frozen esper. Upon encountering it, the mysterious girl somehow communicates with it. The Esper kills the soldiers and knocks out the girl while he communicates with her.
The girl awakens in a house with an old man in it. He removes the slave crown from her; however, all she seems to remember is that her name is Terra. The city guards, who are still after the girl, come knocking at the man's door and tries to let Terra escape via a back exit into the mines. Inside the mines, the girl ends up falling though a cracked floor and is knocked out. Enter Locke, a thief, ahem, I mean treasure hunter, who is a friend of the old man. The man asks Locke to follow Terra and help her escape town. Locke goes though the mines to find the unconscious Terra and a group of guards on their way to capture her. Luckily for Locke and Terra, the Moogles who live in the mines come to the rescue and help Locke fends off the attackers. Averting that disaster, Locke and Terra leave the mines and head south.
Final Fantasy 3 features the largest playable cast in Final Fantasy history as of the date of the writing of this review. But, what's more, it is the best handled of this size cast, as many as 14 characters, of any game I've seen. Almost all of the major characters have very well done back-stories. Though there appears to be one or two who can be considered the "main character," the game is not limited to revolving around one particular character. However, the most forefront characters for most of the game, in my opinion, are Locke, Terra, Celes, Edgar, and Sabin.
The story is a unique combination of linier, non-linier, and completely optional type stories. There are actually two "acts" to the game, the second of which is, for the most part, completely optional. There are also parts when the story splits into different lines, which, although are not played at the same time, take place at the same time. It should also be mentioned that this is the first Final Fantasy game that didn't center on the traditional four elemental crystals, breaking with a long-standing tradition. I guess they figured that they had milked that particular plot element as much as they could.
The battle system is the "Esper System" in which you equip various espers to learn magic spells. You gain Ability Points by fighting enemies, and when you get enough, you learn the spells possessed by the Esper. There are also a few rare items that can be equipped and will allow you to learn spells, but they are very few in number.
In addition to the magic, each character has their own specific skills that they have or learn. Locke, for instance, can steal from an enemy, and with the correct item equipped, mug them. Mog can learn dances from battling in different terrains, which then automatically use attack, and defense abilities associated with that terrain. Celes can use her Runic Sword technique and absorb most types of magic spells cast on the group by the enemy. And Strago and Gau can both use forms of "Blue Magic"; Strago learning from an enemy using it on him, and Gau from joining up with a pack of monsters and then returning to the group.
The control is of the classic Final Fantasy style. A new feature of Final Fantasy 3's control system is the ability to control your airship from a rear view. Unlike the past where you could merely control a sprite and move it around the map, using a button for take-offs and landings, you can now raise and descend in altitude and fly it as you might in a Super Nintendo flight simulator. However, the map will still remain, although now with a curved horizon, pretty much 2D. The first 3D maps won't be added to Final Fantasy until the series' first installment on the Playstation, Final Fantasy 7.
By today's standards, the graphics of this classic are obsolete. However, at the time of its release on the Super Nintendo, it can be looked upon as some of the greatest graphics "Mode 7" ever produced. It even attempts to make, albeit primitive looking, something that could be considered a FMV in today's Playstation RPGs. The sprites have a nice range of what they can look like and do. Also, the world map itself looks quite great. Although still in 2D, it does use some elements, which begin to make it look 3D.
In this reviewer's humble opinion, Final Fantasy contains the greatest music of the entire Final Fantasy series to date. Nobuo Uematsu, the composer for all the Final Fantasy games as of the date of this review being written, truly made some beautiful compositions for this game. There are many memorable tunes that still impress me, even though they were done with Super Nintendo's sound system.
The sound in the game is also good. No less than I would expect from Square. However, the music is quite remarkable. As a matter of fact, the only game I can think of whose music I've enjoyed as much as Final Fantasy 3's would be Chrono Trigger, which coincidentally is also, at least partially, by Nobuo Uematsu.
Overall, Final Fantasy 3 is a great experience. I'm not sure that Square has hit that level of excellence in a video game released in the United States too many times before or since.
But, even I can find some things I don't like about this game. Most of them center around the translation. For instance, after seeing some of the character names in the original Japanese forms as compared to their English translated forms, I do not understand why they decided to change them. In the end, those are very small details that didn't effect the enjoyment of the rest of the game that much.
As I said, I have heard very few who played and were disappointed or unhappy with this game. And those who haven't played it are truly missing out on a terrific gaming experience. I'd recommend this game to anyone who likes RPGs of almost any sort. I give it an overall score of 92%.