Remember how, some time ago, I mentioned that at some point I would probably suffer a catastrophic loss in battle that would cause me to say a lot of bad words and would require a Herculean effort to recover from? Yeah, that happened this week. Specifically, it happened three days ago when I sat down to attempt the final dungeon in Final Fantasy III.
Up until I marched into that fatal labyrinth, I actually thought I was doing pretty well. Wait; let me back up, because that’s not entirely true. I didn’t KNOW if I was doing well or not, but I suspected that I was.
In most Final Fantasy games (particularly in the later ones, but as evidenced in FFIII, it may be found in these early titles as well), there comes a point in the story where it just makes sense—mechanically if not narratively—to stop what you’re doing and go off to knock out some side quests. This usually happens after you obtain some means of moving more or less freely around the world map (chocobos and/or airships are usually involved), and it usually comes late enough in the course of the story that if you haven’t run into the need for level-grinding yet, you will soon enough.
Compared to some games, there’s not an excessive number of side quests in FFIII, but there are at least a few, and the rewards are significant enough that they’re worth doing. So of course, I set off in my newly acquired airship and sought them out.
Somewhat to my own surprise, I seemed to be doing pretty well in my missions. Opportunities to save your game are few and far between here (a point which will become VERY IMPORTANT in a bit), particularly if you are actually in a dungeon, and you aren’t even offered the option for quicksaves, as in Final Fantasy II, so attacking a boss at the end of a long dungeon trek can often be a bit of a gamble.
I was actually expecting to get well and truly stomped at least a couple of times, so I played conservatively, teleporting out to save after I gained a few levels or scored some precious loot so that I wouldn’t lose everything if I died in a climactic battle. I mean, you EXPECT to get incinerated at least once or twice if you challenge Bahamut in his own lair, right? Well, I did, anyway. But the stomping never actually came. Sure, I ended a few fights with a party member or two face-down in the dirt, but I always pulled through.
Once I’d done all there was to do, I set off for the final section of the game, not without some trepidation. Here’s where things became truly nerve-wracking, as there is quite a bit of content to get through before you even face the final boss. Essentially, you’re facing a dungeon within a dungeon; there is an outer ring called the Ancient’s Maze, after which you are afforded a brief opportunity to save (although not heal) before plunging into the final stretch, where you must plow through not only a full dungeon, but face SIX bosses as well as numerous tough regular enemies, all without any opportunity to save your progress.
When going through the dungeon that serves as a lead-up to the final boss rush, you can still teleport out before you reach a point of no return (it’s when you transition from the Crystal Tower to the World of Darkness), and I did, so that on subsequent attempts I will be able to take the most efficient path through the dungeon proper without having to diverge for chests and loot. However, it’s still a hell of a walk back, even without any distractions.
And did I mention that there are SIX BOSS FIGHTS to deal with? My party wiped on the fifth. I was….displeased.
I’m not entirely sure whether I simply ran into some bad luck, or whether I genuinely wasn’t ready for the final section of the game. Up until the point I lost everything, I was doing reasonably well; the four other bosses leading up to that point went fairly smoothly (at least, I didn’t feel like I was unduly struggling), and even the one that I lost wasn’t THAT terrible, it was simply tougher than the others. It concerns me a bit that there was still another boss, the final one, after that point as well, so I didn’t even make it as far as I could.
In the end, I lost about three hours’ worth of progress to that damned final dungeon, and I haven’t been back yet, because I’m not sure about the best way to proceed. I think what I’ll do is to switch one of my character’s jobs (she’s a Sage right now, and I think she will better serve the party as a Summoner), backtrack through the outer ring, and—sigh—do some more running around in circles before I trudge back to my uncertain doom.
Hopefully I’ll be able to say, by this time next week, that I have bested Final Fantasy III for good, but I’m just not sure. It’s been a frustrating time.
WEEKS #16-17 PROGRESS: 23 hours 7 minutes into Final Fantasy III (Yes, that is without the time I spent in the final dungeon. Grrrr.)