It took a long time for me to convince myself, post-stomping, that going back to finish Final Fantasy III was a good idea. It was disheartening, to say the least, and I don’t think it was because I failed, but rather because I felt like I should have been able to succeed. There didn’t seem to be much of an indication that I was going to be in over my head until it was far too late for me to turn back, and because it is impossible to escape from that final stretch of six fights once you have begun, knowing what you’ll face at the very end basically has to be seen to be believed. It’s a sequence that is designed for you to fail it at least once, and I really don’t like that.
I did, however, eventually complete the game. I may have contemplated simply *saying* that I finished it and moving on from there, but in the end, I thought it would bother me to have cheated on my own project, so I didn’t do it. Had I failed in the final sequence again, I might have felt differently, but I went in a bit better prepared this time.
The first time I attempted the final boss gauntlet, my party was around level 50. They had all settled reasonably well into their jobs by that point, particularly the Ninja and the Dragoon, who remained the heavy hitters up until close to the end (my former Black Mage still didn’t know quite what she wanted to be when she grew up, but had gone through enough as a Sage that I felt reasonably confident about her abilities).
When I was unceremoniously swatted down by a bastard of a dragon on my first run, I decided that it was probably time to level-grind. So, I swapped my Sage’s job to Summoner (so that I could rely more on her doing damage when needed and less on the admittedly awesome support spells that a Sage’s summons can sometimes produce) and headed back through the outer ring of the Ancient’s Maze to the surrounding forests.
And then I ran in circles. For hours. MANY hours. My strategy for about a week was to turn on Netflix, queue up some Battlestar Galactica, and auto-pilot myself through as many battles as I could handle, glancing down at my DS only when it was strictly required. It doesn’t speak particularly highly of your game’s design if looking at the game itself becomes actively distasteful and requires a distraction to force yourself through, but that’s what I did. When we were around level 56, it was time to try again.
For the first part of the run, things went about the same as they had before. I didn’t have any trouble with any of the early boss fights, and I began to hope that my preparations had been sufficient, and that I would be able to breeze through without the disheartening defeated sting (that likely would have taken me weeks again to recover from).
The last three fights of the game are where things really get nasty. The four before the final boss are all fairly rough, and you can actually take them on in any order; it makes sense to tackle the slightly easier ones first, though, so that you can reap the benefits of the added experience before going up against the tougher ones. I managed to take down the dragon that had ended my previous attempt, and then headed to the penultimate boss: Cerberus.
Particularly at this point in the game, it is fairly standard procedure for a boss to have two attacks per round rather than one. Cerberus gets three (for obvious reasons), and is therefore more difficult to defend against. However, I once again squeaked by, though not without a significant effort and a bit of luck. By this time, I was starting to sweat a bit. If I had this kind of difficulty with a boss that had three attacks per round, would I be able to hold out against one that had four?
There was no real option (aside from giving up completely, I suppose) other than to trudge forward towards the Cloud of Darkness, which is what I did. By the time I got to the final encounter, my party had gained another couple of levels from the previous string of fights, so I felt as good as I was going to about jumping right in.
As I mentioned, the final boss gets four attacks per round, which is tricky to deal with, particularly if luck simply doesn’t want to favor you. For the first portion of the battle, however, it actually didn’t go too badly. My healer was keeping pace, and the damage-dealers were able to keep up the pressure needed to bring the boss down at a decent rate.
Then my Ninja died. This wasn’t SO bad, except that in order to get any downed character back up with a chance of survival, you need to cast a spell that resurrects him or her with full hit points. That means sacrificing your healer’s turn, and therefore putting the rest of your party in danger. If only one character dies, this is usually still manageable. When the Dragoon went down too, I started to think it was probably the end.
At this point, my Summoner was making it rain Phoenix Down while my Devout attempted to catch the newly-arisen party members with a healing spell before they could be killed again. It wasn’t working out too well, and no one was able to do any damage because all of their efforts were being expended trying to maintain…well, being alive.
I gave up, essentially. I decided that no one was going to live through this, and in a fit of desperation, I had my Summoner cast her most powerful spell—Bahamut—as a last middle finger aimed at the boss I didn’t think I could kill. As it turns out, I did better than I thought in the beginning of the fight, because that last-ditch summon was enough to kill it. The moral of this story? Sometimes you just have to say “fuck it” and call down a great big dragon.
So, yes, I did finish FFIII, in somewhat dramatic fashion. I haven’t started IV yet, but that’s the next step. Things may get slightly more interesting from here on, as these are the games people have actually played, so stay tuned and see if I can keep this up.
WEEKS #18-20 PROGRESS: Final Fantasy III completed (final time: 27 hours 22 minutes, plus a goddamn lot of backtracking and re-doing)