Story & World
It's no secret that I'm a huge Final Fantasy fan and a big part of that is due to this category. I find the FF worlds to be chock full of character and whimsical quirkiness. There are so many silly little interactions that never fail to bring a smile to my face. For example, after completing the quest for the two horns that the dwarves wanted, one dwarf excitedly opens up the vault to allow the party access to its treasures. But he doesn't just walk over and open it; oh no, he turns around and friggin' moonwalks down the hallway. Cue peals of laughter from Shen. All it took was a simple reversing of the direction the sprite would normally face to make it stand out. I'm also a fan of RPGs where the protagonists are generally mutes as it allows me to easily project whatever personalities I want while playing.
Just like in FFII, NPCs will join the party but this time they don't help in combat or anything. They just kinda hang around until the next portion of the story is complete and then they're gone. The party can talk to them at any time and they usually just give a reminder as to what the party is suppose to be doing. It would have been nice if they did something to affect combat, even if it was just a weak attack or spell every so often. The Invincible at least had the courtesy to launch a cannon attack on enemies before every fight.
Locations and quests are varied enough that it never gets dull or repetitive; I always had a strong drive to find the next town just so that I could meet its inhabitants. The story progression was mostly linear but there was a healthy sprinkling of side quests to do once the different airships are obtained (though they are all just either hidden towns or dungeon crawls for loot). 18/20
From the standard static classes of FFI to the classless system of FFII, each Final Fantasy so far has made huge changes to the way characters are developed. With its job-based system, FFIII sets the standard for the majority of Final Fantasy games to follow and is my favourite of the original trilogy. I was impressed by the sheer number of jobs available, although some of the jobs have little to no staying power and are only useful for variety's sake. As cool as the ninja and sage classes are, I think it would have been better to leave them out and instead make the endgame monsters give more experience so that the "lesser" jobs would just end up with more levels. Sure, I could have just chosen not to use those classes and grind out those levels myself, but could you resist not choosing to be the ninja? Yeah, that's what I thought.
As is par for the course, the variety of equipment and items is outstanding. Lots of weapons and armour have a secondary ability, some of which have to be activated while others happen randomly during a regular attack. It is extremely unfortunate that most weapon and armour types are tied exclusively to one particular job; a little overlap would have been most welcome. 16/20
Combat & Monsters
In addition to carrying over all the concepts from the previous game with a few tweaks here and there, FFIII adds another layer to tactical combat by allowing enemies to sometimes attack from the rear, causing front and back row characters to essentially switch positions. Most character jobs also have special abilities that can be utilized in combat, such as the effective Escape of the thief or the pointless Peep of the scholar. With the power to change jobs on demand (outside combat), party configuration is far more fluid and dynamic than the static setup of FFI and the grindfest that FFII requires. The mad stacks of monsters carry on the FF tradition with a healthy variety of special attacks and resistances. 17/20
Graphics & Sound
It wouldn't be a Final Fantasy if it didn't have that Final Fantasy look, feel, and sound to it. The NES trilogy had the same key developers for each game so it's no surprise that the excellence of the first two games is equally represented here. I normally give a link to one of the many fantastic tracks, so here's one for the final battle. 18/20
Gils won't stay in the party's coffer for very long due to all the jobs available and their respective equipment sets. The bank really starts to deplete if an all-melee party is made and has to depend on expensive healing potions to keep them going. Even into the late game, when money usually becomes irrelevant, there's always the uber-expensive shurikens to purchase (and then forget to use).
Replayability is the highest in any game covered thus far; the combinations are near infinite since the party can be changed at any time. There are so many different challenges one could attempt with the job system that it just boggles the mind. One could attempt to keep all the characters as Onion Knights throughout, or do something a little less obvious and make a group based on the "hidden face" look of the character sprites (black mage, viking, geomancer, warlock, and magic knight).
As with the previous FFs, the overall pacing the game is spot on. There are a few places where things could slow down, but that's only if the player refuses to change the jobs around. There's no area that cannot be overcome just by doing a little planning and prepping beforehand. 18/20
Final Ranking: 87/100