Before we finish off Final Fantasy III's endgame, here's a rare video: the original Japanese FFIII in its entirety.
Note that whoever did this somehow replaced Luneth's sprite with one of the Four Old Men sprites, and a couple battle sprites are scrambled. Nevertheless, it shows the NPC storylines are all here, except for the individual friendships with particular party members.
As with Final Fantasy I, it seems that original FFIII presented the party as a blank slate upon which we could project our own character development, dialog and proficiencies, while the world and NPCs were at least somewhat fleshed out. Again, this mimics old tabletop RPGs and D&D, in which the game master provided the story, world, and npcs, while the players were in charge of their characters' histories and development.
We've gotten so accustomed to games that create the player characters for us that we've quite forgotten the original strong distinction between PCs and NPCs.
*Deep breath* Okay, all sidequests and Endgame Prep accounted for. Time to return to the Ancient Maze...
Where for once we're not wading in lava, but given nice stone walkways to protect our toesies.
Because a sealed room full of 2100° F molten lava is totally not going to kill us from radiant heat or sulfuric acid fumes. (Then again, a surprising number of things don't kill Final Fantasy characters.)
Inside the Ancient Maze is the Crystal Tower.
I may have to revise my opinion after hearing this fan's arrangement:
Now I really think Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Nobuo Uematsu should team up for a Distant Worlds concert.
Inside, we climb a glassy staircase to reach the Eureka (but I just showered!) Gate:
I sure hope bumping off Doga and Unei was worth it for this danged key:
Refia: WHAT IS THIS STRANGE DEVILRY?!
Arc: Look! It's the only key in this entire world that doesn't disappear from your inventory when you use it!
Woo hoo! Time to loot the penultimate dungeon:
Eureka, the Forbidden Land!
Which has my favorite in-game music, making level grinding a joy.
Oh, look. A loot. Can I haz loot?
Just in case you thought the shapeshifting battle forms of half the minibosses in this game were bizarre...
...the best weapons in this game have shapeshifting battle forms, too!
Heck, even the Ribbon packs a pretty good punch.
So we meet several old friends...
...and fight them. (Masamune is female!)
Excalibur is a long way from the Lady of the Lake, and two games away from Gilgamesh the Mad Sword Collector:
(!) It's Ragnarok! (Gee, why so surprised, Refia? It is an almost-nearly-endgame weapon!)
The monsters here are ... odd.
(Scylla, I think, yet another import from Greek mythology. There's a heck of a lot of Gratuitous Greek in this game, making my heart go pit-a-pat.)
At the top of the Crystal Tower, we find a mysterious mirror surrounded by five dragon statues and too many #%@%!! random dragon battles.
There is only one power greater than the Four Warriors of Light in this game: the power of cute.
Our hapless heroes catch sight of their own chibi reflections, and are paralyzed:
Oh, it's wyrms doing it? Well, that's no good.
As Luneth struggles to break free, he hears
Shortly, Doga's ghost starts a marathon world tour, recruiting all the secondary characters:
Pretty spry for a dead guy. Then again, he is wearing red. So what exactly is Doga up to?
Repeat Sev's mantra yet again: "Oh. Okay."
For once, the Princess gets to play Lassie.
I want to know why Doga's magic wasn't enough to kick Xande in the tushie. He can teleport people across time and space and turn airships into submarines with a snap of the fingers, but he couldn't make Xande choke on a popsicle stick?
After the whole game of, "Oh, my aching back... I gotta stay here and look after Mrs. Cid! YOU go deal with the Gingerbread Man Miniboss / Death Hovercraft Tree / Tower of Babel /Demon in My Basement / World of Darkness," Cid finally gets off his duff.
There's an itsy bitsy problem in the Tower of Owen.
However, Desch suddenly emerges from the bowels of the machinery, to Doga's non-omniscient relief. "Desch, you're alive!"
Desch explains that he was just finishing up repairs on the reactor. "Another few minutes, and the floating continent would've been toast!" (Oh. Okay.)
Doga asks him to help out Refia & the chibi patrol.
In some dark alternate universe version of this game, I think Doga was really Xande in disguise. Think about it. First he tries to kill the Warriors of Light. When that fails, he creates a mirror to trap them, then kidnaps the five people left in the world who might have the power to stop him. And oh, by the way, he maneuvered the WoLs into bumping off Unei, about the only other person who might oppose him. As an evil overlord plan, it's brilliant!
Ahem. Er, anyway, our boy king is next on the Pure of Heart shopping list...
Our young ruler throws Arc/Alus shippers another bone...
The crazy old guys from Amur are also ready to step into the limelight.
Three stay behind. Who drew the short straw?
Our five npc friends plant themselves between the dragon statues and the mirror. Princess Sara takes charge:
Our heroes awaken groggily and get back to ass-kickage.
All righty, then. We've got two cool black capes and two impressively silly hats! We're ready to take on the Big Bad.
The other side of the mirror reminds us that for video game purposes, Darkness = Purple.
I'd totally turn to the Dark Side for the power to make everything purple.
Oops, here's our Big Bad. He looks like a cicada wearing Ronald Reagan's hairline. I am deeply disturbed.
However, Xande's laugh is disappointingly normal, compared to some of the other villain laughs in this game.
As with so many mega-villains, Xande hasn't fully considered the ramifications of destroying the world and living forever in a big pile of rubble / void / lack of minions and worshipers / lack of toilet paper.
I'm embarrassed to say that this boss fight was over so fast that I forgot to screencap it.
Yeah, yeah, Xande, I'm shakin' in my boots. There's a mirror behind me, you're glue, your taunt bounces off us and sticks to you.
(Ingus is disgusted by the lack of grandiloquent taunts in this showdown.)
Once the battle's over, Cloud, the real villain in this game, schlorps up Xande's body and takes over the Villainous Taunts job.
The game designers have blown their darkness budget on black, purple, and blue, and have to depict Cloud of Darkness as glowing white.
Whatever it is, Cloud of Darkness attacks us. You know what that means:
More inexplicable transformations into bizarre battle forms!
I don't know whether our foe's Particle Beam is a wave or a particle, but I do know that it hurts.
Do you know, the last save point was 9 floors down and about 2 hours ago?
Sara realizes just how much of the game we need to replay.
Alus is all puppy-eyes. Aww.
Well, hm. There's no game over screen yet. Where's Miracle Max when you need him?
Humperdink! Humperdink! I'm not a witch, I'm your— Ah, there we are. Unei, Doga, nice to see ya! I guess that means we're dead, huh?
Phew. Desch thought he was gonna have to do the job himself.
Alus breathes a BIG SIGH.
Okay, well, that's all right then. ASS KICKAGE, TAKE TWO:
...and don't forget your d10s!
Ooops. I stand corrected. Real Evil has blue glass floors so you slide off and go "wheeeeee!" into the void. Do not traverse this area in socks.
It's populated by clones of various bosses we've encountered before. Here's Xande's clone, fwiw.
And I'm including this screencap for the sole reason that I feel like doing a gallery of Bahamuts at some point. This is FFIII's Bahamur summons:
In the World of Darkness, we get surprisingly upbeat music.
We find four crystals — of darkness, maybe, mirror images of those in our home world?
As in FFI, each crystal is guarded by a boss. Here's our old friend, Ahriman, making his debut appearance as guardian of the Earth Crystal:
Mythology trivia note: Ahriman comes from Persian / Zoroastrian religion.
After defeating each of the four crystal-bosses, a Warrior of the Dark shows up and promises aid.
We get some extended Backstory Bits from these guys, although it doesn't really help...
So I guess Desch's comment about the Tower of Owen attaching the Floating Continent to the sun meant something, although I think the astrophysics in this game would make Stephen Hawking's head explode.
Xande doesn't understand the hazard of setting yourself up as the Big Bad...
... the Big Bad Behind the Big Bad.
Corollary: For every Sin, there's a giant tick.
At last, we find the terminus of this cracktastic endgame dungeon (they'll only get weirder as the franchise progresses).
ProTip: How to tell when you're about to reach the Really Ultimate Boss in Final Fantasy:
- The floor becomes floaty platforms suspended on nothing, or
- The floor disappears entirely.
Once again, this is what we call "dark" for certain definitions of "darkness":
I really want to know what the Japanese says for "Darkness." I have the suspicion that it's more of a concept of entropy/void/nothingness, where even black and white don't really enter into it. Our Warriors of Darkness counterparts told us that when the worlds of Dark and Light come together, they mutually annihilate one another, leaving Void. I think that's what we're seeing here.
Chatty void, that is...
Luneth just wants to get onto the endgame battle, already!
Cloud of Darkness gloats that Light alone cannot destroy it. However...
Here's the cavalry!
One by one, our allies charge into the Void and vanish in a flash.
One more reaction shot for the road...
Cloud is not amused.
"We will devour your power of Light and return this world to the Void!"
All right, time to rumble. Here we go again...
Groove to the Final Fantasy III Final Battle Boss Theme:
While you're listening to that, I will note that Arc the Dashing Bard utterly saved our asses.
During the World of Darkness Dungeon, we picked up a Ribbon from each of four treasure chests. However, Luneth's HP was lagging behind everyone else's. So I was leaving his Genji Helmet on until the last minute, since it gives a bonus HP increase on levelup.
Unfortunately, I forgot to replace it with Ribbon before the final battle. So this happened.
Cloud's nasty tentacle friends have a Toad attack and Bad Breath, and one of them does a Particle Beam on the whole party every turn. Basically, anyone without a Ribbon is screwed, because you can't un-toad and resurrect them fast enough to keep them from being killed on the next turn.
Which meant we were screwed, since I'd been counting on Luneth to toss Shurikens that do major damage.
So how did Arc save the day?
- Apollo Harp: reduces all damage to party members by 30% for two turns. (And turns them green.)
- Lamia Harp: reduces all HP of the enemy by 20%, up to 9999.
Rinse, repeat. Refia tossed Elixirs, Ingus healed everybody every turn, and Arc just kept chipping away until his 9999HP of damage every turn had dwindled to 500 or so. At that point I knew the enemy couldn't have much left, so Refia finished it off.
TL;DR: BARD SAVED OUR TUSHIES. DO NOT MOCK THE BARD.
To quote Lulu, "Not...the most graceful win."
Then we get the obligatory Endgame Meta Epilogue Wrapup text scroll. It starts with Genesis, fer goodness' sake.
In the beginning, there was the Void... Then there was light, and darkness. And everything was born. The sky, the land, water, fire...and life. Time flows to bring them all back whence they came.
Most of this is just cheesy general Fantasy Genre Creationism, but if you consider that only about 1% of people in Japan are Christian — most are nondenominational, practicing some mixture of Buddhism and native Shinto traditions — this becomes a little more interesting, neatly folding in Christian genesis minus the Christian God and incorporating the five elements (Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Void) of eastern tradition, although the fifth element varies by tradition.
Hope is one of those modern fantasy elements that gets superimposed on top of the older mythological strata.
And here's the rest of the old Final Fantasy mythology, although it pretty well disappears after FFV:
Do not forget that what gives the four their power... is Hope. Hope inside each and every living being in the world—
Okay, okay, that's ENOUGH meta already. The epilogue continues on in this vein a bit longer, but now it's time to... party! And we have a lengthy endgame cutscene, although not a full-fledged FMV.
Our five friends seem none the worse for wear, waiting around in a Very Dangerous Place. (Then again, Desch and Sara could probably handle just about anything.)
Mutual back-patting on the edge of armageddon is traditional...
A very rare smile from Arc... awww.
Four of the five companions have encouraging words to say, but Sara — impressive that they pulled it off with graphics this basic — simply gives Ingus a Significant Look, to which he nods.
The Invincible taxi service returns everyone to their proper locations, since Doga and Unei gave up their spirits to resurrect our four
Luneth: "Thank you! You saved the world, you know?"
I still think there's some kind of game in the concept of four ordinary, age fifty-to-sixty characters who think they're traditional video game heroes out saving the world. Except it would probably wind up horribly ageist if written by typical video game designers, so nevermind.
We drop off King Alus in Saronia...
Remember the Final Fantasy mantra, kids: Empires bad, kings good.
The party leaves, but Arc hangs back to wave farewell to Alus, who waves back. (Yes, I cheated and spliced two screencaps together.)
If Arc doesn't wind up Alus'
Even our heroes get tired of the molasses pace of the Invincible and switch back to our flying sub for the final lap.
Fun shot of party and friends on deck:
Desch says to drop him off in Canaan, because he has to go see Salina. Refia appoints herself the Shipper on Deck in this game.
Back in Canaan, Cid and Mrs. Cid are reunited.
As far as I can tell from the NES video above, this bit of fluff was present in the original game. You can get away with a lot when the graphics are too simply to show what's really going on!
Refia heads back to Kazus and her father to become the next Master Blacksmith.
Princess Sara is less than thrilled when Ingus attempts to return her to Castle Sasune.
Sara made it quite clear in her Mognet letters that she was bored out of her skull being cooped up in the castle like a proper fantasy princess.
Sometimes I wish FFs took place in the same universe. It would be fun to bump into these two as npcs, still off adventuring and providing timely aid and advice to young heroes.
Possibly after I've changed Ingus out of his silly hat. (Or not.)
Back in Ur, we see something that occurs about as often as an annular eclipse: a character's Mom is there to greet him when he returns home. (And she even has a name, Nina.)
Of course, like Ma Dincht, Nina adopted the hero; living biological mothers in Final Fantasy are rarer than unicorns.
Arc, meanwhile, is far too modest...
Luneth's "Yeah, and you did great!" is sweet. But a total understatement in my playthrough, since Arc almost singlehandedly took down Cloud of Darkness, with Refia simply applying the coup de grace!
All the villagers gather around, including the bullies who thank Arc for saving the world.
A bright light is supposed to show everything's returned to normal.
Yay? And Stuff?
We end up with a symbolic five elements, and Sara standing in for Life.
End credits roll. And they are, of course, cute. First, there's a "Cast" list. I won't reprise them, but it goes through our usual four, the other five, Doga and Unei:
...all the minibosses, and then random silly animations of the main party members demonstrating different job classes. Here's just a few of many.
Luneth as a Freelancer (default outfit) wielding Excalibur.
Arc in his default outfit brandishing a book.
I don't know what Arc is doing here in the Onion Knight costume.
Ingus as a dashing Bard.
Refia as a Devout.
Etc, etc, etc.
Come on, Ingus! Wave for the camera!
Okay, maybe destiny doesn't suck, after all.
(It's Final Fantasy. They shoulda retained this bilingual pun.)
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