I’ll be blunt.
Final Fantasy III (yes, we call it Final Fantasy VI now, I know) is the greatest video game to come out of the fourth generation of console games. It pushed the Super Nintendo as far as it could go with gameplay, graphics, story, and audio. There was never, ever a game like Final Fantasy III at that point. It was goddamn revolutionary.
There were bigger games (Tales of Phantasia, Star Ocean). There were probably prettier games (Donkey Kong Country). But none of them did what Final Fantasy III accomplished.
Gameplay: 10 out of 10
This game had it all. I mean that.
In combat, each character had their own special ability that let them be unique. King Edgar could use tools including chainsaws, bio-weaponry, sound waves, drills, and so much more. Sabin could do moves like in most fighting games. Celes could absorb nearly all magic, protecting the group. Gau could learn enemy special attacks and use them. Terra could transform into a being of pure magic. Locke can steal. Cyan has sword magic, able to do multiple attacks, heal, or a bunch of other abilities depending on how you charge it. Strago has blue magic. Relm can draw a picture of the enemy and have it attack on her behalf. Shadow can throw weapons and has a dog, Interceptor, that will block some attacks against Shadow (and occasionally Relm). Setzer has a slot game he plays to randomize what he can do.
The characters had certain weapons and armors they could equip. There was a special type of equipment called relics that allowed characters special bonuses. Each character could equip two of them, so they could do things like use two weapons, counterattack, protection against stat ailments, cast spells cheaply, regen, and so much more! It allowed for a great deal of character customization so each character will play exactly how you want them to play.
That’s just part of all the awesome things within the battle. There were battles where you stopped advancing enemies. Other battles where you had to chase down the central antagonist. Oh! Fighting down a waterfall. Wow.
What was probably far more impressive was the non-battle gameplay. Locke needed to steal enemy outfits to successfully sneak around an enemy-controlled city. Celes needed to perform an opera, singing and dancing! The party gets to have dinner with the leader of the Gestahlian Empire. There’s so much more than this. The developers of this game gave so many different things to do in this game that felt fresh and different.
The gameplay found in Final Fantasy III may be commonplace these days, as so many video games has a ton of sidequests and minigames that don’t play like the rest of the game. But for the Super Nintendo? This type of game was revolutionary, pushing the limits of what is possible on that system.
Story: 10 out of 10
There’s almost no way to summarize this story. Every single character, all fourteen of them, had their own storyline. These storylines intersected in fun and unexpected ways. There’s no way any sort of summary would do it justice. And that’s really saying a lot, because there’s no way to truly appreciate the story other than playing the game for yourself. So rather than trying to summarize, I’ll focus on the most popular and memorable portion of the story.
Kefka was the antagonist of this game. He was evil in ways that has never been seen in video games up to that point. He poisoned everyone at Doma Castle because he was bored by the ongoing siege. You see, the Gestahlian Empire was trying to take over the world, setting their sights on the Kingdom of Doma. They sent their best general, Leo, to lead the fight. Kefka got bored, figuring it would be faster to just poison everyone. So the moment Leo was called back to talk with the Emperor, Kefka did it. Everyone in the castle died in excruciating pain.
It’s hard to say what the worst thing that he did. He murdered General Leo after breaking his spirit. He slaughtered the Espers. He betrayed his Emperor, killing him for fun just before he cause a catastrophe which killed roughly 75% of the world. While the world was ending, he crushed helpless people between tectonic plates, repeatedly smashing the continents together to kill them. This act was so horrible, it broke all the heroes. Celes attempted suicide. Terra gave up. Edgar went underground. Locke stopped trying to save the world, going back to something a bit more self-interested. Sabin was still trying to make a difference, but on a far smaller scale. Strago gave up and joined the Cult of Kefka. Cyan stopped fighting, rather sending flowers to a woman so she doesn’t think her husband died. And even after he did that, he continued tormenting the survivors, slowly killing them one at a time with his god-like power.
Graphics and Sound: 10 out of 10
The developers of Final Fantasy III included Mode 7 graphics in the opening, which was a way to give the illusion of 3D movement. We saw three mechs marching toward a town. As the mechs got closer, we saw the town rise up over the horizon. It was breathtaking. And unexpected since no other Final Fantasy game attempted anything like that before. The game switched between Mode 7, when the heroes were in the airship, to the traditional top-down view seamlessly
That’s not all. This game was not limited to 16-bit graphics. The developers included high-resolution pictures to serve as the background in several scenes, giving a greater sense of realism than anyone would have expected.
And the sound. Dear god. It was awesome. Kefka’s laugh nearly always proceeded him when he entered. After awhile, it sent chills down my spine. Hell, I can still hear that bastard laughing to this day. It was that memorable.
As for the rest of the soundtracks made by Nobuo Uematsu? Well, when I asked people what made Final Fantasy III so memorable, most of them responded that it was the music. And considering how good everything else was with this game, that’s very high praise.
The music for this game more than lives up to the hype. I would argue there’s no better soundtrack for a Super Nintendo game.
Replayability: 10 out of 10
I don’t understand how you are reading this and not playing, or replaying, Final Fantasy III. There are so many reasons to play, or replay, this game. Perhaps it is to enjoy the complexities of the story. Maybe it is to experience playing through the opera scene over and over again. Or heck, maybe you’ll replay it to make sure you final all the secrets in this game. And believe me, there are a lot of them.
Final Score: 40 out of 40
IGN ranked this game as the greatest RPG of all time back in 2012. In the 200th issue of Game Informer, this game was the only Final Fantasy to make their top 10 greatest games of all time list. This game is Nobuo Uematsu’s favorite Final Fantasy There’s a good reason for that. Final Fantasy III demonstrates everything that the Super Nintendo was capable of. It pushed the system about as far as it could go without lagging, filling it with some of the most compelling moments I’ve ever seen on the system.
But what do you think? Is this the greatest Final Fantasy of all time? Is this the greatest RPG of all time?