Monday, 1 April 2013

Final Fantasy III (NES)

Final Fantasy 3 title screen famicom
I took a look at Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy II on the NES recently, so Final Fantasy III seemed like the logical next step, but I've stumbled across slight snag in my scheme: It turns out that Square never actually released the game in English. At all. The game wasn't ported across to the WonderSwan like the last two due to it being huge, so there was no PlayStation Origins release and no Dawn of Souls style port for the GBA.

Okay sure it got a full 3D remake for the DS in 2006, but that's not really the same thing. I want to see what the original game was like in all its low-tech pixelly glory and rule #3 in the column on the right says I can't play a fan translation. But I'm too stubborn to just skip the game entirely and move onto FF4, so I'm gonna do this the hard way: with a chart of Japanese letters and Google Translate.

I bet I don't even make it past the first quest.

Final Fantasy II started me off with a team of actual characters, with portraits, identities and unique sprites, but it seems this has slipped back to FF1's system of giving me four generic blank-slate heroes to name. I can't choose their class so it looks like I'm stuck with a team of multi-coloured knight babies.

These guys were given individual looks and personalities later in the DS remake, so this guy's officially called Luneth now, but I'm giving him my own name because I feel like it.

Man, that's a lot of text. Okay, I'll see what this translator does with it.
"I'm all right. Gonna come to a place like it.
What are you talking about. It's good for you began to.
Nephew. I am looking for the exit there was a time to have a quarrel!"
Oh good, I was worried that it'd come out as complete gibberish. And it did.

I guess this kid fell into a cave while playing knights with his friends and now I have to find him a way back out. Right after I finish this battle I've been dragged into.

Wow, catchy battle music. Which is good because I'm going to be hearing a lot of it.

This still has the same basic turn based battle system from the first two games, with the same giant-sized frozen sprites for the enemies, but it's slightly flashier looking with bouncing numbers to show damage.

Also unlike the last two games, my heroes will finally aim at a different enemy if their target dies during the round before they get a chance to hit him. It really speeds things up.

These message boxes are actually making more sense now that I know there's four people talking to each other.
"Oh?"
"How do I····?"
"Around here something that I'll rock."
"Speaking of which, I · · · ·"
Well, a bit more sense.

Wow, a dead end already? One of the kids mentioned something about a rock earlier so I'm assuming I have to press it to open the wall. It's funny how this is almost like almost like a puzzle aimed at non-Japanese speakers, as anyone who knows the language would solve it instantly. Seems like a bit of a waste of time actually.

I kinda hope that chest over there has a potion in it, as I'm kind of surrounded by infinite monsters right now and I only have limited health. The earlier Final Fantasy games always started off at a town where I had access to inns and shops to recover and restock, but in here all I have are these chests.

"Izumi's····"
"It is a strange color."
"Let's try a little drink."
"Preface····"
No, don't drink the strange cave water you idiots! What are you doing?
"4 people drank spring water····"
3 people died. Actually no it turned out they were lucky and it was magic healing water that restored their health. So now I can actually hang around down here for a bit and level my characters up before facing the inevitable boss fight at the end. It's lucky I took a right turn at that last junction really.


BUT THEN, A FEW HALLWAYS LATER.


Oh shit, it's Land Turtle! Do not underestimate the Land Turtle, his cousin really fucked my team up in Final Fantasy II inside a cave not unlike this one.

My only options right now for each character are to attack, defend, run away, or use an item, basically all I can do is hold the button down to select attack each turn, then wait to see if I win.

Hey I won the fight and found a giant talking crystal! What I played of FF2 was surprisingly crystal free but it seems they're back with a vengeance in this one. I wonder how much it's worth...
"Crystal began to shine."
"You guys have been chosen
····"

"Hey Crystal talked about why."
Wow, we're the chosen ones! Out of all the people that have fallen into this cave today, we're the crystal's favourites. Sadly I couldn't decipher anything more than that so I stepped onto the teleporter and escaped the cave.

Fresh air! Also there's a town just ahead, with an inn and some shops hopefully. I've got cash I want to be spending.

This overworld music really doesn't seem very Final Fantasy to me somehow. It's kind of miserable actually, though not as depressing as the FF2's tune to be fair.

At last I've arrived at the town of Uru, which doesn't look identical to a Final Fantasy I town surprisingly. Nice to see some new roof tiles this time.

I'm going to resist visiting all the marked buildings for now and go investigate the building with a wizard outside it first. I get the feeling that if any plot is going to happen here, that's where it'll be.

Apparently this is the Topapa elder who raised the four orphans, who I guess must be us. I can't say I understood anything else he said to me, but it sound like he was talking about us being chosen.

Anyway I found some more free healing water in here so it was a good result in the end. Looks like I won't be visiting the inn much in this town.

I went shopping for new weapons and look, they've FINALLY added a way to buy items in bulk! Plus the heroes jump up and down if they're able to equip an item, and everything has little icons so that even an idiot like me can tell what I'm buying! There's still no way to check an item's stats or see if it's better than what I already have, but this is still a big improvement over the shops in the earlier games.

Also identical items stack in the inventory, unlike in Final Fantasy 2, so I can carry a ridiculous number of potions again.

Hey there's a path leading up around the back of the town. I'll just check what's over here, then get back out to the overworld so I can save.

Oh shit! You can't put random encounters in a friendly town, that's... cheating. They look a little more dangerous than you average gang of forest imps as well, so I'm actually worried I won't survive this.

I guess now I know I'll need to save more often in the future.

Well my team gained a few fresh bruises and got their little dungarees cut up a bit, but we survived the werewolf path and reached a lonely wizard's house at the edge of town.

I'm not exactly sure what he said when I talked to him, but he seemed to be talking about a secret passage I could open up by activating the candle in the corner. I'm not sure why he'd tell me how to break into his secret vault, but it must mean he wants me to strip the place bare. You know, because we're the chosen ones.

While I was in the menu looking through all my new treasure, I noticed this menu option on the right labelled 'job' which I hadn't tried yet. It apparently lets me switch my characters between different classes to my heart's content! Well, until my 40C runs out anyway, whatever that is. Change points maybe?

I decided to go with a fighter, black mage, a monk, and a red mage in the end, and look who's making a return appearance! I mean apart from black mage.

Yep it's the old red haired fighter sprite, shown here in his FF1, FF2 and FF3 varieties. They've really gotten a lot of mileage out of this art, he's like the official protagonist sprite of the NES FF games. To be fair they really did try to redraw him a bit this time, but I guess there's not much you can do with four colours and a tiny grid of pixels.

Right, time to return to the overworld in search of adventure... just as soon as I've hit the shops again to buy some equipment that my new character classes can actually carry.


BUT THEN, A FEW STEPS OUTSIDE THE TOWN.


What the fuck? The Light Warriors in Final Fantasy 1 had to deal with a few imps outside of town, the rebels in FF2 faced a couple of wasps, but my poor chosen 4 have to fight a berserker horde! We're only level 6 wimps right now.

Oh I should probably mention that levels are back, after sitting the last game out. I actually liked how FF2 let me develop my characters my own way instead of locking me down to a predetermined upgrade path with stat bonuses applied automatically after reaching the required amount of experience, but I would have liked it more if it wasn't kinda broken. At least in this I don't have to deliberately get my team hurt to increase my health. So yeah, this is definitely a step up.

Alright I've found a new location called Kazusu (I think) just south of Uru, and according to the guy by the bonfire it's a literal ghost town. I couldn't understand much of what he said, but it seems that the town's been cursed and there's something going on with ghosts in the inn. 

Oh no, all the NPCs in the inn have been turned into 2D outlines! It's not even supposed to be a ghostly aura, as they look like stick figures from the side. They seem harmless enough though and after talking to a few of them I discovered that this was caused by cursed gin. Or maybe a Djinn's curse, I dunno, katakana can be ambiguous.

Either way I finally have a quest!

I went exploring the town for any sign of this evil genie, but all I found was this secret path through the trees leading to secret treasure lying in the grass. Either I did a terrible job of finding things in the first two games, or the designers went secret passage crazy this time around, because I'm stumbling across this kind of stuff surprisingly often.

Alright then, it seems that the solution to this curse isn't in the village so I'm going to have to hit the road again. The first two FF games opened up pretty early, especially FF2 which gave me access to a half dozen towns almost immediately (then made me backtrack between them constantly), but this seems pretty focused so far.

There's a boulder blocking the exit to the south so I can't go that way, my heroes can't swim so there's no going north, so that just leaves the castle to the west. I think I'll just grind a level or two before paying them a visit though, just in case.


A FEW LEVELS LATER.


Oh, it's all ghosts in the castle too. For some reason I expected an ambush, but there's only one guard here still hanging on to his corporeal existence and he seems friendly enough.
"All the people ended up being ghostlike figures by the curse of gin.
I was saved because I was out on an errand····"
Wow, that actually seems to make sense. I'm definitely getting the impression that I should be finding and killing this Djinn bloke. I mean I would try talking it out with him instead like a reasonable person, with the intent of discovering what his grievance is and if there's anything I can do about that, but my options in a confrontation tend to lean towards the lethal.

"Innovation I fall asleep on the bed of the princess."
The fuck, man? You don't just invite yourself into the Princess's bedroom then have a nap on her bed, I don't care how clever you think you're being. I suppose raiding all her chests was kind of a dick move too but I'm an RPG hero, that's basically my job.

Well this castle doesn't seem like it's where I need to be right now either. A ghost told me I needed to find a mythril ring to trap the Djinn (or maybe he was telling me he had a ring, I honestly don't know) but I've searched every chest in every room in this place and there's no ring here. I guess I'll try the towns again.


BUT THEN, DURING THE JOURNEY BACK...



Uh, what the fuck? I was walking across the overworld, minding my own business, when I suddenly stumbled across this ladder in the middle of nowhere. Could this be where the fabled mythril ring is hidden? I'm just hoping it's not a sewer level.

A mysterious wheel in a hidden cave? What is this, Lost?

No, it's an AIRSHIP! I've found an airship! Fuck genies and ghost towns, I'm out of here. Time to sail the sky to distant lands.

Actually it seems there's a bit of an altitude limit on the thing (it can't cross mountains) so all I can do with my mighty vessel is cross this tiny three tile lake. I think the designer's trolling me, but whatever. I bet there's ADVENTURE in this cave!

Oh, if you're wondering why I'm a red mage now, I had to switch my classes around because I gave my first character a Cure spell early on in the game, assuming it wouldn't be a big deal as I could just buy more spells later if it turned out he couldn't use it. And then it turned out that the only spell the shops around here sell is Poisona (antidote), so I had to either make my lead character a white magic user, or else buy a sack full of potions.


A SHORT WALK LATER.


Oh good, it's Cure magic. Well I'm too stubborn to unequip my gear and switch classes again, so I'm staying as Team Red Mage. I'm sure party order makes no difference in this one anyway. Pretty sure.

Man, what the hell am I even fighting in this place? Sparkling swarms of dragon coins and eyeball storms?

It seems they've changed the magic system from MP back to a Final Fantasy I style spell level system, which surprises me because I assumed they'd stick with MP all the way through until FF8. Each spell is assigned to a level of magic according to how powerful it is, and right now I can cast about 8 spells from the first level and 3 spells from the second level. Well, 7 now, seeing as I just used Cure.

I miss having mana to be honest. Plus I miss earning more max MP by spamming high power fire magic in every battle. See, Final Fantasy II wasn't all bad!

Well the cave led to another dead end so I decided to return home to Uru and get drunk instead. Apparently Tchaikovsky's parallel universe twin existed in FF3's world, as this woman somehow magically plays that song from Swan Lake every time she dances.

You know, I've just remembered something: that rock in the cave at the very start. The one I had to use to open a secret wall. BACK TO THE DEAD END, Team Red Mage! We're gonna go pressing action on walls until something opens.

My plan worked! I used a certain skull and revealed a secret passage leading out of the dead end. I met up with Princess Sarah along the way and together we eventually discovered that bloody Djinn, looking all smug on his podium. Sucks to be him though as the Princess had the mythril ring all along and is going to use it to seal the Djinn away! Probably. I'm struggling to pick up what I can from the translator-mangled dialogue.

HADOUKEN MOTHERFUCKER! It may look kind of pathetic, but it seems to be getting the job done. It's a shame the mage carries a pathetic number of spells, but being able to dual wield daggers helps take some of the sting off it.

Anyway, I soon discovered that the Djinn had a critical weakness to me beating the shit out of him, and the battle was over before I could even run out of spells. The guy just did not know with whom he was fucking with; I've faced down roaming skeleton gangs, werewolf packs, and countless beserker hordes. And that was just on my walk down to the pub.

With the Djinn sealed away thanks to Princess Sarah, it's corporeal bodies all round! The King was very grateful to exist again, and gave me a gift of... actually I have no idea. I'm sure it was awesome though.

You know, I assumed this pretty much looked like Final Fantasy I quality art, with zero improvement in three years. So I thought I'd compare with a similar scene from the first game:

Final Fantasy I
Damn, it's funny how two tile tall walls and a nice carpet can make all the difference. Wait, wasn't the princess in this game called Sarah as well?

It's funny how the English release of FF1 hit shops three months after the Japanese release of FF3. That's basically why 2 and 3 were skipped in the US; by the time they came out it would've been deep within the SNES era and they'd have been hopelessly outdated. Of course that didn't stop Enix from bringing over NES game Dragon Quest IV in late 1992.

Well I ended the Djinn's curse, but I'm still stuck in this little corner of the world, blocked in by a boulder. Fortunately this town's a lot more useful now that there's people in it, so I've been able to stock up on new weapons, armour, eye drops (always handy), and reams of Japanese text.
"Although I think trying to break the Nerubu Oiwa of meat to Canaan····
You may somehow be made ​​of mithril to give players Airborne noon."
Not a damn clue what he's talking about, but I did notice that he's called 'Cid'. So that's two Cids I've found so far in the first three games. Screw this place though, I'm going off in my airship.

It... blew up. My airship blew up. MY DAMN AIRSHIP BLEW UP. But hey it took the boulder out with it so I'm free to go wandering south now. I'm blaming this guy in the red hat; he's been following me around since the last town and I have no idea who he is. Unless he's Cid... Anyway this seems to be a good place to quit so I'll turn it off now.


Final Fantasy III... actually surprised me. I was kind of expecting to hate it, but it won me over in the end. Like Zelda III and Mario 3 it takes a step backwards to be more like the first game after a slightly disappointing sequel, and it refines the elements that worked. But despite the generic multi-colour clone heroes the game seems to have more depth and story to it than FF2. To be fair though anything's going to seem more involved when you have to type out every line of dialogue into a translator one letter at a time, then try to decipher what it spits back out at you. But either way I spent way more time in this investigating things and exploring than I did backtracking across continents and grinding, and the game was better for it, so I'll give the game a thumbs up and then turn it off forever. Because I just don't have it in me to translate one more NPC message box.


Okay I'm finally done talking about Final Fantasy III now, so if you feel like leaving a comment about the game, my post, the site, or whatever, now's your chance.

6 comments:

  1. Totally agree with you, it's really nice to see the old game Final Fantasy III on NES !!! One of the best game I have ever played

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  2. No shiny gold star? I am disappointed. 8(

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    1. It seemed wrong somehow to give a gold star to a game I couldn't stand playing a minute longer, even if the only thing it did wrong was to not be in my language. One of the many problems with my dumb rating system is that it's entirely based on my feeling at the time and not on any objective measure of a game's worth. It's a gold star of the heart, not the mind, and my heart just wasn't in this anymore by the end.

      But yeah it seems like a decent game, at least so far.

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  3. I luv this game. Think I beat it 5 times or so.

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  4. Well the game can get pretty evil later on with hidden paths and multiplying enemies and all. I didn't like the game at first but giving it a second try I grew to like it more. Especially when you compare it to the previous 2!

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  5. You should try the 3D Remake. Yeah, it doesn't feel like it's the same game, but it's still nice

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