One of the most painfully obvious yet still confusingly buried facts in videogaming revolves around the Final Fantasy Legend series for the original Game Boy. It hurts my fingers to introduce the review this way, but the thing is, the Final Fantasy Legend series, ow, is just SquareSoft SaGa series, ow, localized to capitalize on an RPG series that had yet to become popular. Because of this, the Game Boy SaGa series has not been well received in the US. Videogamers, ig’nern’t as a fly doodling in a rich man’s soup, went in expecting an epic unlike any other, with TRAVEL! CHANGE! EXCITEMENT!
HA HA ha. They thought they were getting a 30-hour, orchestrated, Japanese Lord of the Rings, and instead they got surreal, 12-hour, 8-bit distractions, and sweet mama crucify, were they pissed. Whole Japanese precincts went up in flames over the Final Fantasy Legend riots of 1993 (mostly because some jackass forgot to lock the gate at the US/Japanese border), and the French responded by temporarily requiring people to pay royalties for every French kiss performed.
Then Jane Fonda got involved, and the whole thing went straight to hell.
Well, it’s been 14 years, and all the veterans of that war are dead, so we’re free to look back and really see if Final Fantasy Legend III was so bad that we had to dig up Jane Fonda.
If you’ve played Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, you already have an idea of how this game is going to play—it has a lot of the same basic design elements and ideas. Final Fantasy Legend III is the least surreal of the trilogy and the closest to a conventional Final Fantasy. It has a unique plot where you have to go all Chrono Trigger to stop the world from flooding by using a time-traveling ship called the TALON. Your major quest is to go back and forth through time, kicking ass and finding pieces to rebuild the TALON so you…can…I kinda forget what the point of it is, but you do go to some crazy places, and even though the overworlds are pretty small, you get a whole lot of them.
You go to PRESENT, PAST, FUTURE, UNDERWATER, FLOATLAND, PURELAND, and UNDERGROUND PURELAND, and a bunch of towns and dungeons in between. You have four main characters—two humans (better at weapons), and two mutants (better at magic)—and a changing roster for the fifth character slot. The fifth characters you get almost always pull their weight in battle, which is awesome. Customizing your characters is a lot easier and more manageable this time around; all you have to do is eat the meat of a monster or install the parts of a robot to become something different. Becoming a beast or monster (ones you get to fight in the game) gives you new skills, while becoming a cyborg or robot lets you screw around with your attributes some.
For an early ’90s Game Boy RPG, FFLIII is surprisingly creative and has some cool stuff in it. The music is worth putting headphones on for, building up your TALON can be fun and very necessary, and there are even a few sidequests to undertake; but creativity alone is what this game has. Actually PLAYING the game feels dull and empty, thanks to a lifeless battle system and very little charisma. Leveling up doesn’t make you feel a lot stronger unless, I guess, you level up quite a bit. You get a lot of weapons in this game, but it’s really hard to tell if they are indeed stronger than what you have now. You barely even have to give weapons to your mutant characters. Basically, you get in a lot of fights and use the same pattern over and over and over again to win so you can marginally power up. It’s fun for an hour, but it gets old really fast.
And then there’s the boss battles. Oh god, it’s Final Fantasy Mystic Quest and the Taiwanese hostage situation all over again. The boss battles are, thankfully, pretty challenging, but again you end up using the same command pattern over and over again. You just keep plugging away until someone drops, and usually it’s you.
You get two really useful things to help you win. One is an AUTO option that lets you put characters on an automated function that uses the same A.I. as the computer, meaning your characters KNOW what the enemies are going to do and are ALWAYS prepared with an ELIXIR or CURE potion to almost instantly recover someone. Less useful (but needed all the same) is the RESTART option that comes up if you die. You restart the battle just as you came in, but the enemy uses the exact same pattern it used before, so unless you’re pretty shrewd, you’re just going to get your ass handed to you again.
If it weren’t for the stale dishwater battles and a confusing equipment system, this game would’ve made for a great 12-hour distraction. Instead, it’s a title that’s almost appealing but isn’t. It was worth digging up Jane Fonda for all right, mostly just to see her legs get blown off by a distraught “Hip” Tanaka.