The levelling system is also quite different from the previous two games, thanks to the job system. Attributes are static for each job class and the values are dependent on the character's level. This means that when a character changes a job, they are immediately useful in their new profession. None of this having a level 10 mage-turned-fighter keeping their low strength but still having their, now useless, high intellect. In addition to the normal XP-based levels, there is a separate Skill level which is tied directly to the current job a character is doing. Job skill raises seemingly at random but it might be influenced by how often a character does an action associated with their job (e.g. fighters doing melee attacks, mages casting spells). I think skill affects the stats derived from the main attributes (so stuff like attack strength, hit %, defense, etc.) but I'll have to keep a closer eye on it to know for sure.
And now, the one element that causes Shen to spring the most boners of all... DUAL WIELDING FOR EVERYONE! You think that shit is just for rangers or fighter-types? FFIII says "HELL NAW!" and lets everyone play. You can even dual wield two shields if you are so inclined (actually not a bad idea for mages in the back row). Final Fantasy II incorporated global dual wielding as well, except that it didn't work. And yes, each weapon is animated during combat.
K, there is entirely too much text and not enough pics going on up in this piece so let's switch gears and talk about some of the splendid visual touches that FFIII has. You know how a lot of older games tend to screw up the spatial relationship of objects when in an isometric or overhead view? For example, having a large tree that looks like a character sprite should be able to go behind it, only to come to a dead halt when the character runs into the "top" of the tree. Not so in Final Fantasy III.
|500 gil to those who can spot the Shen.|
The game is also loaded with lots of little extras that serve no purpose other than the temporary amusement of the player. Previous FFs had a few of these as well, such as a NPC in a town doing a little dance when talked to. At a time when developers had to pay more attention to the overall byte size of game, I appreciate the mindset that said that these little extras just had to be part of the game.
|I could shoot this cannon all day.|
The biggest visual drawback so far (and it's a big one) is that when the party wins a battle, their victory dance consists of just two fist pumps while in a regular standing position. Compare this to the high energy of the second Final Fantasy, where the party did a celebratory dance and then excitedly raced across the screen, eager for their next encounter. Perhaps the more subdued victory action found here exists to show that the characters have matured since their FFII days. The showy exuberance of their youth has faded into a somewhat more solemn appreciation of yet another triumphant battle. Course, since the world of FFIII has nothing to do with FFII, this theory is totally bogus unless I want to get all metaphysical and talk about spiritual descendants transposing across parallel universes. And since I have yet to pick up the adventure from whence I last posted, I think I'll just shut my pie hole and continue on.
After leaving Canaan, the party decides to scale the nearby mountain, attempting to reach the summit. Before getting there, however, they are all snatched up by the dragon Bahamut and taken to his nest. In FFI, Bahamut was the one who granted the characters the ability to upgrade their respective classes after doing a fetch quest for him. In FFIII, Bahamut seems to have lost his high dragon intelligence and now functions more like a bird. After being dropped off in the nest, the party finds another person hiding named Desh, the love interest of a NPC in Canaan. He's lost quite a bit of his memory but is eager to join the group anyway. During the discussion, Bahamut returns and is quite pissed off that his babies haven't devoured us yet. Desh makes the quite rational suggestion that everyone gets the fuck outta dodge.
|Would it help to confuse it if we run away more?|
After that close encounter with certain death and somehow surviving the leap off the summit, the party finds themselves on the other side of the mountain range with just a forest nearby. The group soon meets a tiny new friend who informs them of a hidden village just to the south of their current location.
|Uh... you're called little people, you stupid midget.|
In order to enter the town of little people, the party must first become one with the little people. Luckily when Desh joined the group, he also gave Shen the Mini magic spell which shrinks everyone down into their fun-sized versions. The town of Tozas is at hand!
|Adorableness meter reaching critical mass.|
A hidden road from Tozas leads to a new area but it must be traversed while miniaturized, meaning physical attacks do almost no damage (magic still works as normal). The hidden path is short and straightforward, so Shen and the others just flee from each encounter. Once on the other side, the party returns to their normal size and find a Viking base. The Vikings are in a jam since the sea monster that they worship, Nepto, has been destroying all their ships recently for unknown reasons. The party heads to Nepto's nearby shrine and takes a look at the statue carved in its honour. On closer inspection, it seems that the statue is missing the jewel normally in its left eye socket, leaving a gaping hole instead. Once again, the party decides to Mini-Me themselves and enter the orifice.
Inside, the dungeon is longer than the road from Tozas and the party has less success attempting to flee every encounter.
|Although, how can you not love|
those miniature 8-bit corpses?
After three failed attempts, clearly some new strategy needs to be applied. T-Bone and Yauch switch from their respective fighter and monk jobs into black mages so that everyone is capable of casting magic. With magic operating at full capacity, battles are winnable and soon the party has recovered the ruby which fits in Nepto's statue. Nepto's voice reaches the characters as he explains that the gem holds his mind and without it being in place, he reverted to an animal-like state. With Nepto appeased, the Vikings give their ship to the group who are now free to sail the high seas and access the rest of the continent. I rather liked the forcing of job changes in this area and I hope the game puts me into more situations where I have to evaluate the best mix of jobs for the... er... job. For now though, the party heads to the nearby town of Tokkle, only to find it has been ravaged by soldiers from Argass Castle. Shen will not stand for this kind of injustice — NO SIR! — and so the party races to the castle, hooting and hollering whilst banging their weapons together, whipping themselves into a frenzy... only to find a completely abandoned castle.
|Dest, invoke the squatter's rights spell.|
Leaving the mystery of Argass Castle behind and still hankering for a bit of a row, the gang heads west, only to bumble into a forest clearing with a trio of Chocobos! Instead of riding them around like normal, though, Shen decides to defuse the raging testosterone of the group by decreeing not just any party, but a Chocobo conga line party!
|♪ La Cho-co-bo—cha! La Cho-co-bo—cha! ♫|
Ummm... yeah... we could be here awhile.