Final Fantasy Legend III

An Entity is flooding the past, present, and future, and four children, each with special powers, are humanity’s only hope, traveling through time and space to discover whence this Entity came and why it’s destroying the world. Square’s SaGa 3: Champions of Time and Space was the last of their experimental series to appear on the Gameboy, localized to North American shores as Final Fantasy Legend III in 1993 since Final Fantasy was pretty much the only RPG series non-Japanese gamers then were remotely familiar with. The third installment is perhaps one of the most playable SaGa games to date, but that’s not really saying much.

Unlike the previous two Gameboy installments, where players could choose a variety of character classes and monsters to compose their party, SaGa 3 instead features a fixed party of two humans and two mutants (at least when the game starts), with fifth party members occasionally coming and going during their adventure. As with before, moreover, combat is randomly-encountered and turn-based, with each character being able to attack normally, use Talents (free skills) if available, use MP-consuming spells, or use items. Outside combat, players can buy equipment for each character alongside magic spells everyone can learn.

Unlike other SaGa games, the third installment features a system like most RPGs where characters level up to increase stats after gaining enough experience after battle, alongside money. Like the previous two chapters, however, enemies occasionally drop meat (or robot parts) that any character not incapacitated can consume, occasionally transforming into a different class such as a beast, a robot, or a monster. Characters are by default human or mutant, with humans having no Talents, mutants having better magical capability, beasts and robots having better stats and being able to use normal human equipment, and monsters having some useful Talents, but being unable to attack normally or use human equipment.

The effects of monster meat and robot parts, however, tend to be random, with players unable to see the effects of their consumption (sometimes turning characters back into humans or mutants, as well). There are also some other irritating elements, such as the inconsistent encounter rate, which can be as high as an encounter per step, alongside the sluggishness of most battles, given the narration of every player and monster action. Despite this, SaGa 3 is perhaps one of the easiest games in the franchise, with most non-default classes tending to provide characters a decent supply of MP, and thus plenty of healing for those long dungeon treks and battles. Overall, the third installment’s battle system has some nice ideas, albeit haphazard execution.

Interaction is also a mixed bag, albeit to a greater extent. Most redeeming in this area, however, is the ability to save the game anywhere, always a welcome addition to any RPG, and luckily, there aren’t any points of no return in the game where this feature could be a double-edged sword. The other parts of the interface, however, leave plenty of room for improvement, such as a lack of item and spell descriptions, inability to see how equipment affects characters’ stats before purchasing it, and even some deception as to the true power of certain equipment, such as the most powerful weapons in the game. Add to this a frequent lack of direction on how to advance the main storyline, and the developers should’ve certainly given interaction a once-over.

The third installment inherits plenty of features from its predecessors to make it feel like a logical continuation of the SaGa series such as the different character classes like humans, mutants, monsters, and so forth, although it does introduce plenty of new features to help it feel fresh in its own right, such as fixing the player’s characters, allowing customization through the monster meat and robot parts acquired after battle, and so forth.

Given the technical restrictions of the Gameboy, the plot is paper-thin, though it does have some decent ideas such as time travel. Regardless, character and conflict development are shallow at best, and the lack of direction on how to advance the story doesn’t help, either. All in all, story isn’t much of a reason to play the game, the same going for its predecessors and successors.

The music has some decent, albeit somewhat repetitive, tracks, which luckily don’t detract from the game, with the sound effects being acceptable, as well. The visuals more or less look the same as they did in the previous installments, with simplistic scenery and sprites, and even more simplistic battle visuals, although the player’s party this time is visible attacking the enemies, which still remain inanimate. Overall, the third installment looks and sounds okay.

Finally, the third SaGa game is fairly short like its predecessors, taking less than twenty hours to finish, with little to boost playing time. In the end, Final Fantasy Legend III is perhaps the strongest of the Gameboy SaGa games, ultimately being more playable than its predecessors and even many of its successors on future consoles. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good game, as it does certainly leave plenty of room for improvement in and out of battle, and remains today as another flawed addition to Square’s experimental franchise.

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