Final Fantasy at 25: Final Fantasy III’s highlights

The story of Final Fantasy III is intensely complex. Initially, there is the illusion that there is a main character in the form of Terra, a young lady “gifted” with extreme magical powers; however, the main party is split early in the game, leading to concentration on characters that were hitherto believed to be peripheral. From this moment on, Final Fantasy III takes on subject matter that many other videogames are afraid to breech. In my opinion, this is what makes this game so incredible. I have decided to go into detail on a few of my personal favorite moments in a game that is pretty much one big favorite moment. We’ll start with everyone’s favorite, the Opera House. (Yet again, there will be spoilers ahead, so be warned.)

The Opera House

There comes a point in the game when the party finds themselves at an opera house. The group has been led there while looking for Setzer, the owner of the world’s last airship. They hear a rumor that he has plans to kidnap Maria, the prima donna of the Opera House. As it turns out, Celes bears a startling resemblance to this Maria, which leads to a scheme that would make the Scooby-Doo gang envious; Celes will disguise herself as Maria, duping Setzer into kidnapping her instead.

The plan goes off without a hitch (Unless you count Ultros, which I don’t). Setzer kidnaps Celes, and the group gets to use the airship.

Now, while all this is interesting, ultimately, the most memorable moment is the opera itself, Maria and Draco. The song has haunted me for years; I find myself humming Celes’ midi-voice at random points in time. And no matter how long between plays, I can still remember all of Celes’ lines, from the lamentation of, “Must I forget you? Our solemn promise? Will autumn take the place of spring?” to the poignant, “Come what may, I won’t age a day, I’ll wait for you, always…” As much as I don’t want to admit it, I always get the tiniest bit choked up. It’s an extremely touching moment from composer Nobuo Uematsu, and masterfully engineered to give the maximum impact. In an artistic medium not generally known for genuine emotion, Final Fantasy III was willing to take it to the next level.

Kefka’s Transformation

As I’ve said before, I believe Kefka Palazzo to be the greatest villain ever to be found in a videogame. This can be attributed to the multiple levels of Kefka’s personality; the pre-world of ruin Kefka, and the post-world of ruin Kefka.

During the first half of the game, Kefka can best be described as a complete and utter psycho. He shares some similarities with the Joker of Batman fame; Kefka, like the Joker, seems to be laughing at a joke that only he understands. Murder and chaos seem to be a means to some end that we are never made privy to. Kefka slaughters an entire castle by putting poison in the water supply, cackling the entire time. He is Emperor Gestahl’s right-hand man, but even that isn’t enough for him; Kefka is going behind the Emperor’s back, gaining power from the Espers he destroys, with the aim of world domination. And when he drains the Warring Triad’s power, he achieves just that: Kefka becomes a god.

This is when the character gets really interesting. Whereas before, Kefka was just a psychotic baddie, now he is transformed into an existentialist with the mantle of godhood. When he gains ultimate power, he stops, takes a look around, and sees no reason for life whatsoever. Kefka realizes that meaning cannot logically be found in the world, so what’s the point of there being one at all? This quote from the man himself pretty much sums it up; “Why do people rebuild things they know are going to be destroyed? Why do people cling to life when they know they can’t live forever? Think how meaningless each of your lives is!”

The final battle with Kefka becomes, not so much a battle of good versus evil, but a battle of hope versus despair. Part of everyone’s daily life is the search for some sort of meaning to it all. Some find this an extremely hard thing to do, and that’s when despair can set in. Now imagine if you believed that nothing in this world had meaning, and you had the power of a god. Kefka was doing what he believed to be correct; if he, a god, can find no meaning in the world, what hope do his inferiors have for finding it? Luckily, for the Final Fantasy III world, he was stopped; but that doesn’t mean that these questions are answered. And I believe this to be one of the greatest achievements of FFIII; that it has the guts to tackle the greatest unanswered question of all-time: what is the meaning of life?

The Ghost Train

Without a doubt, my favorite section of the game is the Ghost Train. It has actually made me shed tears. I am not ashamed to admit it. It touches yet another aspect of life that we all have to deal with: death.

The story begins when the party is split up towards the beginning of the game. The martial-artist, Sabin, is borne away on a current, washing up near a cabin, where he meets up with the mysterious ninja, Shadow. They end up in an imperial camp, where Kefka is in the middle of a siege on Doma. As noted above, Kefka poisons Doma’s water supply, killing all but the lone swordsman, Cyan, including his wife and child. Sabin and Shadow decide to help Cyan attack the camp, only narrowly escaping to the Phantom Forest.

The three make their way through the forest, happening upon a train. After a moment’s hesitation, they jump on board. They quickly see that something is not quite right; they are surrounded by ghosts, who inform them that there is, indeed, “NO ESCAPE.” However, Sabin, Shadow, and Cyan make their way to the engine room. As they attempt to shut the train down, they figure out that the train is alive. They battle the train, emerging victorious. The Ghost Train agrees to let the trio off at the next stop, and this is when the best moment occurs.

As Sabin, Shadow, and Cyan exit the train, they notice a bunch of people climbing aboard the Ghost Train. They quickly come to the realization that these are spirits of the recently deceased who are on their way to their eternal resting place. But then Cyan sees something that makes his breath catch; the spirits of his wife and son, Elayne and Owain. He dashes to them, but he’s too late; the Ghost Train is departing. He runs alongside, screaming their names. They come out of the back of the car, giving Cyan one last glimpse of his loved ones. He reaches the end of the platform, just as their final words come floating back to Cyan; “My love…You made me so happy, don’t forget me,” and, “Dad! I’ll make sure Mom’s all right!” Cyan hangs his head as the train rolls away, one lone whistle sounds, and then, silence.

All of us have lost someone dear to us; it’s just a fact of life that we have to face sooner or later. Cyan has just lost his wife and his son. I would be devastated to lose my wife. I’m not a father, but I couldn’t imagine what it’s like for a parent to outlive their child. And can you imagine how much the sorrow would be amplified if you were given one last glimpse of your loved ones before they were gone forever? My reaction would be similar to Cyan’s; a mixture of desperation, anger, and sorrow. But to know what your loved ones would tell you if they knew they would never get another chance would be worth all of the pain. Cyan became one of my favorite characters in the game based solely on this scene. He faced the greatest pain I can imagine, and he overcame it, eventually helping to save the world.

Final Fantasy III has been lauded as one of the best games ever made. In my opinion, however, it is the best game ever made. The cast of characters are some of the best ever created. The graphics are outstanding. Yoshitaka Amano’s art is the best in the business. The story is epic and expertly crafted. But, best of all, it’s not afraid to deal with hard subjects. The scenarios I’ve pointed out are just a few examples; if I wanted to, I could go on for days: the Village of Espers, Celes’ Island, Locke’s story. This game never shied away from things that we are scared to bring up in polite conversation; death, the meaning of life, love, hopes, dreams. And, even more, it forces you to actually think about them in depth. And that is what makes Final Fantasy III the greatest game ever made.

Next week, we’ll get down to brass tacks with Final Fantasy VII, another amazing entry to the series. Thanks for reading, and Happy Anniversary, Final Fantasy.