The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy III, part 5
My return to the Dwarven Caves saw me welcomed as a hero, which was sure nice, as was the fact that the dwarves opened up their treasure stores for me. Being a heroic sort, I naturally took this as the perfect opportunity to rob the short, hairy men of literally every valuable they had on hand. They wanted me to do it, I was just helping them along! Look, don’t judge me, I’ve got two more crystals to find, this is a difficult job.
The end of our Light Warrior Victory Tour (with special guest Rob the Dwarves) hit something of a down note, though, with some dying guy showing up and informing me that Tokkul was in trouble. Tokkul, that rings a bell… oh, right, that town full of sad people from way back when that I briefly pilfered. And it’s apparently being burned to the ground. Well, it would take a truly heartless individual to just keep plowing ahead and ignore that sort of news.
…no, turns out I’m not quite that heartless. Fine, let’s go save the stupid town.
The trip back to Tokkul was made a bit more difficult by the fact that the entire party was still in the job adjustment period, but I couldn’t help but notice that books do insane amounts of damage for a class just hitting enemies with them from the back row. Job adjustments were finished, and the party heroically rushed to Tokkul, only to be promptly knocked out and captured with a speed usually reserved for female non-player characters toward the end of a game. So now we’re in prison.
Fortunately for my longstanding loathing of being locked up, the people in charge of this prison were not wise enough to disarm my group first. Also fortunately, there are lots of hidden passages through the prison cells. A bit of chatter about how Hein has corrupted the Elder Tree and used to be the advisor of King Argus, and we’re ready to go again. Cast Mini, jump through a hidden hole, then get back to normal size and start exploring the heck out of this tree-castle-thing.
This dungeon starts out a little harder, because while the team isn’t in the middle of job adjustment any longer, they don’t have their job levels back. That isn’t a death sentence, but it does mean that you start off hitting a lot more weakly than you did in previous dungeons. It’s also a dungeon wherein you have no real way to get out once you’re in, so the usual tactic of scouting through and then dropping out for a quick recharge isn’t possible. Enemies like Lamias and Dullahans hit really hard, to boot, which can easily put your party on the back foot and force you into using more of your resources to stay afloat.
Hein himself, in the original game, was one of the many gimmick bosses that was meant to show off all of the new bosses. Essentially, his whole gimmick is that he shifts his weaknesses on a regular basis, forcing you to try and chew through his large amount of HP with inferior physical attacks forever… or forcing you to have a Scholar on your group to peek at his changing weaknesses. Since the remake makes Scholar much more useful as a class option, it’s mostly a game of waiting until you can capitalize on his weakness and then hurling attack items at him for insane amounts of damage. Once I could exploit his changed weakness to Lightning, the battle was over in literally one round. Which is a shame; dude’s a skeleton in a dapper outfit, you can’t tell me you don’t want to know more about him. He’s fantastic for a minor villain.
Oddly, Final Fantasy III has a lot of those – guys who show up, look weird, work as antagonists, and then just get fought and killed in short order. The games have always had traces of that, but thus far I’ve already gone through three, and we’re barely halfway through the game. It seems like a prototype for the weird antagonistic chains you’d see in later installments of the franchise.
Killing Hein frees the Living Woods from the curse he placed, which gets you a hearty thanks and a command to never come back. This is also a running theme of the game, winding up solving problems and such without any preamble. This is the first you’ve even heard of the woods, and now you can’t come back. However, it also includes another mention of how you need to get down to the surface world beneath the floating continent you’re currently on, something that’s been a consistent theme through the early part of the game here.
How will we do that? With an airship, doy. Remember how Cid mentioned he needed the help of the King of Argus to make another one, way back in part II? Well, you’ve got a king who owes you a favor.
A jaunt to Castle Argus nets you the Wheel of Time, which starts a long and densely written quest that will ultimately involve the game being finished by another person. Or it’s a gimmick that you can bring back to Cid to get your hands on the airship, draw your own conclusions. Rather than building a new ship from scratch, though, Cid decides to be super lazy and just turn your existing boat into an airship. Which is convenient, sure, but it’s not really what we wanted, since the dang thing still can only land in the water…
Oh, well. We’ll take it, I guess.
The storysplosion starts here, too; essentially, the main characters and Cid aren’t actually from the floating continent, but from the surface world. Your ship can finally brave the edge of the floating continent, and after some cutscenes you find yourself in the overworld… the real one.
I’m not going to lie; this moment is a big part of why I loved and still love the heck out of Final Fantasy III. The sheer scale of it, the fact that you spend a good chunk of the game never having actually seen the world that you’re trying to save, is absolutely nifty, especially for a game originally released on the NES. The size of it is baffling, too, throwing you for a loop compared to everything you’d known up until now. With the huge waters and the mists obscuring everything, it really feels like an alien landscape in the remake; even in the original, it felt like the game had become sort of nesting doll, that if you kept going the world would keep expanding ever downward.
Once you’ve spent a little time wandering the trackless wastes of the flooded world below, you’ll find a ruined ship with a couple of treasures and a couple inhabitants, one of whom, Aria, requires an Antidote to get her moving again. Apparently, it’s even worse than it seems; time isn’t even moving for most of the world below. So it’s off to the only other place in the world, the Water Temple, where you can hopefully restore the water crystal and maybe unearth some of the world again. Aria joins your party to help, which I was thankful to see, since she was pretty awesome in Mass Effect 3.
A quick stop to retrieve a shard of the Water Crystal is followed by a walk into the Cave of Tides, which is fairly linear and packed with plenty of monsters. Having some Lightning Arrows is definitely an advantage in here, since a lot of the enemies herein are weak to that element (no huge surprise there). Honestly, unlike most of the dungeons it winds up just being kind of boring; it’s also hot on the heels of a whole lot of dungeon crawling, so it lacks much to differentiate it. On the plus side, by this point your “new” classes have obtained a few levels and are no longer struggling to catch up to where you were before, so the enemies aren’t pounding you as badly. Shame they’re about to be replaced again.
By the time I reached the Water Crystal I was more than ready to be done with this place for good. Aria begins to pray to the crystal once we arrive, but since it couldn’t be that easy, we have to face off against Kraken first, with Aria shielding us from the creature’s first attack. Again, Scholars kind of win this battle; since the remake gives Scholars double the potency of items and I’ve had some Lightning-element attack items stockpiled, Kraken’s nearly dead within seconds. Adding in some extra damage from appropriate arrows, and it’s curtains for squiddy.
Our victory doesn’t save Aria, sadly, who passes away as the Water Crystal returns to full power. It does also unlock new classes, however – Viking, Dragoon, Dark Knight, Evoker, and Bard. Meanwhile, an earthquake knocks everyone around a bit before I have a chance to examine those jobs. We wake up to find the world resurrected, no one remembering anything that happened from before, and… crap, my ship is chained up in the harbor, huh?
Somehow I think the Earth Crystal is going to be a bit harder to reach.