Now that the Crystal has lowered itself to speak to my lowly self, it gave us our instructions: we were the Warriors of Light, meant to keep the balance and save the world from evil. To help us out, the Wind Crystal blessed us with our first Job Classes, which have typically come from the Crystals ever since. So let’s talk about the Job System mechanics.
In FFIII, a character’s stats are tied directly to the job: every job has 99 levels worth of pre-set stats that cannot be shifted. If I made party with two fighters and they were both level 20, both of them would share most of their stats. HP is the only stat that isn’t pre-set, and instead increases based on the characters’ Stamina stat at the time they level up. This means if you spend too much time as a mage, you’re going to be weaker over-all, so it pays to mix the party up every time you shift around.
Jobs also have job levels in the remake that aren’t to be confused with your character level, but probably will be. These job levels impact a number of other critical factors such as hit rate and spell strength. To get job level XP, you simply have to perform any action in battle, any at all. You gain one point per action. This unfairly favours classes with higher agility, a problem that came up a few times in the Marathon run. Classes do gain Job XP at different rates (past Job Level 14), but this only seems to punish slow classes further!
Another change in the remake is designed to discourage you from changing jobs willy-nilly, even though every other Job System I’ve seen at the time of writing has no problem with letting you do that. When you change a job in the remake, you have to spend a number of battles just “getting used to” the job based on how different the job is from your previous: shifting from mage to fighter, for example. In the original game, you had to pay for job shifts with “capacity points” earned at the end of each fight (note the “28C” in the screenshot above). I’m not sure which I’d prefer without having a chance to give the Famicom version a trial run. One other trouble with changing classes (I’m not clear on whether this is new to the remake or not) is that you will lose your spell casts when you change jobs, unless you change to a compatible job.
The Crystal also gave us our first set of job classes: the starting classes from FFI (in the original game, the Thief is not present in this set). I assigned them quite arbitrarily: Luneth became a Fighter because I’m used to party leader being a Fighter, Arc became Black Mage because he happened to have the only black magic attack spell at the time, Refia became a Thief because she had the knives, and Ingus became a Red Mage because while I refuse to operate without White Magic, the usage-based Black Magic spells in this game are actually very powerful, and I liked the idea of having more on hand.
We headed back to the castle, where Sara took us to a spring under the castle to “purify” the ring of the Djinn. We got a close up of the water, she tossed it in, “plunk,” and then………………………………
And that was it. Sara turned about and said they were done and everyone should be fine! This will surely stand as one of my ranking best laugh-out-loud moments in this Marathon: the utter lack of reaction to throwing the ring in the water. Nothing glowed, or sparked, and that would have all been fine if it hadn’t been for the hilarious dramatic pause that led to even more nothing. It was a very realistic reaction, but that was obviously not what they were going for. (EDIT: In the Famicom version, it does, in fact, flash when the ring enters the water!)
Upstairs, the King was fine, and told Ingus he must go with the other Light Warriors to save the world. Also, we got a canoe, which I guess was to help us get the airship back, since we had left it on the opposite shore, and the canoe hasn’t been needed since (Ed. while you could certainly use it to wander about, it’s only needed in a single quest around early-midgame, and then never again!). Sara seemed quite upset Ingus was leaving. She asked him not to visit so she could pout, so I came anyways, and they said some heartfelt goodbyes.
Since I was still trapped in this valley thanks to that boulder, I headed back to Refia’s town to talk to Cid in hopes he had dynamite or something on-hand. He wasn’t my first choice. My first choice was to go home, but no one in our hometown cared to talk to Luneth or Arc. Unfortunately, Refia’s father showed up to take her back, and no one really protested except for her (you can tell these character plotlines were new additions). I guess we did just meet.
We returned to talking to Cid about the boulder, and he went to ask the blacksmith to give him a mythril ram on his airship (holy crap), the blacksmith asked his daughter to install it and Refia just… chose to never come back. That was her plan. It wasn’t a bad plan, but it didn’t take my dickish behaviour into account. C’mon Refia, if I forced Ingus and Sara to chat, and the game rewarded me with a bonus scene, you’re not getting out of this. So I went back at once, and the blacksmith acted like she had never left. These new additions are so sloppy.
During the scene where Refia installs the ram, the four Warriors of Light realized that each of them were orphans, ala the original cast. This surely can’t be important at all! Also, the exchange was a little oddly phrased: Luneth and Arc are foster brothers, but they never use the word “we” and almost acted like the fact that they were orphans was news to one another. Hey, it bugged me. After that discussion, I sent the party back to the mine where the skeletons killed me in the previous playthrough, and used advice from town to find an unimpressive stash of treasure. Cid was in our party for this segment, but never used his attacks (though we saw one of them during Kyle and my catch-up period… he’s not very impressive).
We used the mythril ram to destroy the giant boulder blocking our way out, but also managed to destroy the airship in the process. After no doubt dragging Cid away from his baby in tears, we headed to his hometown just a little to the south, where he discovered his wife was sick. Bad week for the Cid family. As a subquest, we found an Elixir in town to heal her, and he gave us a stash of items and equipment in return (you can actually keep the Elixir if you’d rather, but I feel the equipment is a better option). With that sidequest wrapped up, we were… left with nothing to do, actually, for the first time in the entire game. FFIII doesn’t really carry that sense of “find your own path” from FFI, so the gap was surprising.
We finally found the tail of the plot when we talked to a girl lying in bed. The girl had fallen in love with an itinerant young man named Desch, who had ran out of town after talking about “finding himself” and stealing the town’s only Mini spell scroll. As far as anyone can tell, he went to the dragon mountain nearby. “The dragon mountain.”
On Dragon’s Peak, I accidentally headed toward the end point with barely any training, because the end point appeared to be a dead end and I didn’t think anything of it. Now it’s here that I’d like to lodge another complaint against the DS engine used by this game and FFIV: it is simultaneously terrible at displaying a 2D landscape (it looks awful) yet good enough at it in that it decimates the original 2D level design cues. For example, the platform here looks pointless in 3D. It’s a clear dead end you can see at once, but in 2D the fact that the platform is a dead end would not be immediately visible! If I hadn’t chosen to go up on top of the platform in a lark, I probably would have had to resort to a walkthrough, because it was obviously pointless. While we’re on the subject, the graphics of this game are such a smudgy blob on the DS. The iOS and PC ports look much nicer, even if the PC is infamous for its shitty in-battle frame rate.
So that all aside, at the top of the mountain I was attacked by a dragon. Surpriiiise. It carried us off to its nest, where we found Desch and a handful of baby dragons. Desch told us to run from the dragon when it returned and heck, why wait? It didn’t matter, because the dragon arrived at once, but what odd phrasing!
Thankfully the game revived Luneth after our flight, because the dragon dropped him and probably all his descendants in one absurd, over-the-top attack before we could get away. Of course it did, the guy just learned a few hours ago that he should fight evil in something other than his day clothes! Why was it “thankfully” that the game revived Luneth? Oh, have I not mentioned? Phoenix Downs, which were introduced in the original FFII, do exist in this game, but unlike every other game in the series were they appear, they are not available for sale. You have only a limited number of opportunities to raise anyone in the field until you get the Life spell later in the game. This is far more obnoxious than the limited Ethers that would show up in FFIV, let me tell you.
Having fled the dragon, we found it had carried us to the far side of a nearby mountain range, so getting back over the mountains was our chief concern. The only way through was to find the town of the Gnomes we had heard about earlier in the game, presumably by using Desch’s Mini spell. Desch joined us as well, using –ra level spells in battle, which are okay, and occasionally his sword, which is not.
I think the game’s intent with this “use Mini to enter the Gnomish village” scenario was to use it as Job system training. After using Ingus and a nearby spring to Mini my entire party, I think I was supposed to realize that the party can barely attack and so can only effectively cast magic in Mini’d state. I should then have swapped everyone to the three mage classes. I, figuring this section would be brief (oh, if only), refused, and it has come to haunt me, not necessarily in the upcoming section, but the one that follows (when I came back with Kyle, we made sure to switch the party appropriately, and this section is still murder).
We found the Gnome village to the self and helped out a sick healer with an Antidote. He showed us a tunnel that led under the mountain range, but this did not lead us back to where we left off. Instead, we continued to a cave inhabited with self-proclaimed “Vikings” who were apparently not at all troubled by us walking in gnome-sized. The Vikings told us that a sea monster had been destroying all their ships, with only one remaining. We were welcome to take the ship if we could help them! I ran into the monster for fun, and yes, it is exactly as strong as advertised.
(One irritant in the Viking hideout was the fact that their Spring of Life was hidden in a secret area! You can see it through the wall at one point and then deduce the entrance, but who hides a fundamental resource like that?)
Learning about the monster’s association with a nearby Nepto Temple, we travelled there to discover one of the temple’s idols’ ruby eyes had gone missing. Still Mini’d, we entered the idol’s sea-monster-edifice mouth to find another Mini-sized dungeon. This is the part that’s murder. Unfortunately, my gambit of closing my eyes and hoping the Mini segments will end has failed, and I can’t get through the caves without Refia or Luneth dying, and I refuse to cough up a Phoenix Down just because the game is being stubborn about this temporary handicap. Next session I’m either going to grind up a party of Mages or just press the crap through. Probably the former, but the fact that the latter is still occurring to me after so many failures should say just how annoying I find this segment.