The World of Darkness.
I have to say, for the first time in this game I was genuinely impressed. The World of Darkness was absolutely flooded with Darkness, a spectacular visual showing you what would happen if the heroes failed. It’s not just dark, it’s covered in a soup of black-purple fog, a fantastic visual. However, it’s not actually from the original: in the original, the world simply flooded with water. This is one change I absolutely prefer in the new version, though it’s not perfect, as I’ll discuss as we go along.
Spotting only a few landmasses, I ignored the most prominent one and went to the one furthest away, as you do. To my surprise, it turns out that that was what I was supposed to do. On the small “island,” actually a mountain top, I found a wrecked ship, still housing an old man and a young priestess named Aria. We learned from the man that the flood of Darkness was actually overwhelming the normal flow of time (probably explaining the Wheel of Time), and that Aria was suffering under it. This is another advantage the darkness flood has over the water flood: it just doesn’t make sense that the water flood froze the world in time.
I healed Aria with an Elixir (this turned out to be a waste, a Potion would have sufficed, but too late for that), and she told us that the only hope for the world was to restore the Water Crystal. Here, you can see the primary advantage of the original story: a water flood happening because the Water Crystal failed only makes sense! The darkness flood because of light is… well it’s not unacceptable but it’s not nearly as graceful. Aria also explained that the Water Crystal had not “sunk beneath the waves” as the Spirit of the Nepto Temple told me (even in the original game’s water flood), but was in a cave on a nearby landmass. We went with Aria to the temple on that landmass to pick up a shard of the Water Crystal, in hopes that it would restore the main body ala FFI. This in hand, we headed into the Cave of Tides.
I’m just going to cut through the rest, to suppress my desire to scream. The dungeon took forever to explore, because I accidentally had to backtrack across large rooms not once, not twice, but three times. As a result, I was probably much higher a level than I should have been. And what happened? I was wiped out. At the Crystal, we were attacked by another agent of Xande: another incarnation of Kraken. This creature killed Aria pre-battle, then preceded to wipe me out with Blizzara, doing 300+ damage above everyone’s hit points. This sort of uneven difficulty really got to me, and in researching more effective techniques, I learned the ugly truth: this game is absurdly luck-based. Even fans I’ve talked to won’t defend it in full, seeming to be fans of the FFIV DS game even when they’re hanging out in an FFIII forum.
I’ve was given two branches of advice from the good people on the internet: equip the party in Flame Mail (since it does work) and/or abuse Scholars again to hit Kraken with Lightning weapons. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I start fighting enemies without elemental themes, and apparently there’s a Thunder boss upcoming, against which there’s nothing you can do but pray. People are talking about some bosses being impossibly hard, one-shotting gods, and others say the same bosses are unbelievable pushovers. There’s only one way you could get such inconsistent feedback from experienced fans: total randomization.
Dammit, Square Enix. This isn’t fun. This is a lottery. For goodness’ sake, I will buy a rebalanced re-release of FFIII for full damn price. The ideas in the game are not bad, but the difficulty is not fair and more importantly, not worth the trouble. And I really, truly must emphasize that while the original FFIII was also hard, it was for different, and from what I can tell, fair reasons. This is not fair. I should never have won to Medusa out after just one level’s upgrade, and I now realize that my gameplay skill had nothing to do with that. It was all luck. So was Gutsco, and so was the Giant Rat, wasn’t it? There is no longer any pride in the progress I’ve made in this game. It’s just a coin flip. The upcoming bosses are going to be all luck too: everyone I’ve spoken too agrees that I should be able to win the Kraken fight at this level if not earlier, but also agree that it’s just that inconsistent. Horseshit. If it weren’t for the Marathon, I would have abandoned this garbage. Indeed, at the time, I did exactly that.
After giving up on this wretched game for months, news of the upcoming iOS release freed me from having to play any more of the DS game on my lonesome. Now I could drag Kyle down with me! It took a few sessions of play to catch up to my position in the solo Marathon, but we caught up… even though it took a while, because we were so bored of the game that we kept taking breaks to play No More Heroes. Not an encouraging start. Kyle and I hardly have identical tastes in games, but it seems there are enough similarities to matter when it came to FFIII…
Our party layout was a little different than the one in the solo Marathon, but we were of approximate level. I don’t recall the exact party layout, as we changed it after getting the Water Crystal. I believe it had Luneth as a Geomancer, Ingus as a Knight, and Arc and Refia were definitely Black and White Mages, respectively, as they stayed there for more or less the entire game.
During our catch-up, we also did the side quest for the Onion Knight job, as that’s not at all complicated in the iOS version (while the DS version involved network play which is now impossible since Nintendo’s Wi-Fi servers were closed), thus fulfilling our only Secondary Objective to get every character/job in this game. What’s so special about the shitty Onion Knight class compared to our existing, shitty Freelancer class? Well, the Freelancer class has less magic, not that the Onion Knight’s magic is worth applauding. No, the real power is the old, secret advantages of the Onion Knights: namely that the Onion Knights of the original FFIII became surpremely powerful if you were willing to grind past level 90, and that they could use some of the best equipment in the game, the Onion Equipment. Kyle and I had no intention of doing either, but the quest to earn the job was so easy on iOS that it would have been a shame to miss out.
We killed Kraken, and could only presume that the Water Crystal gave us its blessing after Aria woke it, as the place pretty much collapsed after the battle. Aria could only be presumed dead, and hasn’t shown up to contradict that since. Unconscious, Luneth was visited by an old woman in his dreams, who told him to track down someone named “Doga.” But that would be some time off. Presumably, the game wanted to inform you about the main plot before the game itself forgot it.
Waking up, Luneth found the others and learned that they had been asleep for three days. The Dark Cloud had receded thanks to the light of the Water Crystal, but the world had woken from stasis unaware that anything had even happened, and considering the world had been the kind of world that got swallowed by a cloud of Darkness, this did not exactly return them to a pleasant state of affairs. Our most immediate problem was a man named Goldor. Our party and our airship having somehow landed in or by a town southwest of the previous dungeon, and Goldor had locked up our ship to prevent us from taking “his Crystal.” This is a bit ironic as the ship would have been of no use to us in capturing the Crystal whatsoever, since our ship has to land in water and Goldor’s manor was landlocked, but I digress.
We checked out the Water Crystal jobs and found several to our liking. Available were the following: first, Evokers, a class that could cast a new class of Summoning magic with variable (random) effect. Already unimpressive and unreliable, this class was more immediately hampered by our complete lack of access to Summoning spells. Out.
Next were Bards, which gained a different buff or debuff ability depending on their equipment, which we also never so much as touched. Out.
Third were the Dark Knights, who could use some powerful Dark Swords that were able to overcome the power of certain enemies called “Multipliers” or “Splitters,” but no such swords were immediately available. Luckily, there were also no spitters! Dark Knights also had access to the Darkness ability that was introduced in FFIV, called Souleater here, which would allow them to hurt all enemies in the group in exchange for HP. In the Famicom version, the Mystic Knights never had Souleater, and just got low-level White spells instead. The biggest problem with the Dark Knight at this point in the game was its lack of equipment, as it was unable to equip any armour better than the Flame Mail until Dark Mail shows up near the last fifth of the gam. They also get very few swords! Naturally we couldn’t take a Dark Knight, either, or at least not yet. Wait, didn’t I open up this section saying these classes were good?
Next came the Dragoon, now with their famous Jump ability. This ability allows them to jump high in the air and come back down soon after – a bit like Fly in Pokemon, but Final Fantasy did it first. Dragoons in FFIII also caused Wind damage with their Jumps, which is true in some games but not in others. We gave that class to Luneth.
Last of all, we come to the Viking, the games’ defensive powerhouse, which is blessed with a Provoke ability that not only attracts enemy attacks but lowers their defence in the process. Planning long-term, Kyle and I decided to make Ingus a Viking permanently, and set out career paths for the other three while we were at it. Details as they arise.
(In the original game, the Water Crystal’s jobs includes both the Geomancer and the Black Belt class that the remake attached to the Earth Crystal. The Black Belt is one of the best jobs in the game and it’s not surprising to me that it was put off to the final Crystal in the game, but I’m not sure why they switched the Geomancer to the Fire Crystal.)
The biggest downside to our decision to switch two party members’ classes was that the previous dungeon had not exactly showered us in cash, and we proved incapable of giving either a full set of equipment. We were forced to grind, and while doing so, we explored. We checked out the rumour and discovered that there was indeed an impenetrable swamp in front of Goldor’s manor. We also found that not even Chocobos, who could cross shallow water, were able to cross the swamp without an immediate game over (…whoops). Restarting back in town, we took off for the day, though Kyle grinded several times between plays and caught us up. The rest of this journal mostly covers two very productive sessions, not quite to the end of the game.
The people in the town, Amur, informed us that the best way over the swamp was some sort of hover shoes. Looking for the things, I found someone we must have missed the first time around, who was willing to unlock the sewers for us, because I, too, would keep my levitating footwear on the far side of a river of shit. In the process, we were overheard by a group of four old men who thought they were the Light Warriors, and tried to head us off. In the sewers, we saved these four from monsters, and they helped us in turn when the Witch that makes the “Levigrass Shoes” tried to kill us instead. Receiving the Shoes, Kyle and I immediately wondered how on earth the party planned to cross the swamp with only one pair. Later in our playthrough, his niece asked us why the party always merges into one person outside of cutscenes and fights (she’d appreciate Mario RPG, I think). It’s the only real explanation.
Inside the Manor, we found the place completely gilded. We had to waste nearly our entire supply of Magic Keys picking the locks, and sometime later in one of the playthroughs, Kyle had to go back to the flying continent to get a new set of twenty just to be sure. At the end, we ran into Goldor, who really wasn’t that much of a problem. I wish I could stop saying that – like I said in FFI, it’s not really until FFIV that the bosses really get interesting – but Goldor really did buckle like an origami crane. His Crystal, however, turned out to be a big golden fake, but at least he dropped the key that would free our ship.
Concerned the place might collapse if we just left, Kyle even stuck around to find some treasure we had missed – a huge pile of worthless Gold swords that were worth a lot of money at the sale table. This fear that a dungeon will collapse the moment we leave has happened a few times in the Marathon, and unless the game’s being really obvious, we’re never right. Ah well. Gold sword, anyone?