Final Fantasy III
"Two-Player Mode and Final Fantasy III"
“2 players and RPG’s cannot coexist…”
It might sound elitist to say, but I think many will agree with me: “Old school” games have a completely different feel from “New school.” I can think of quite a few games right off the top of my head from my childhood - older two player games that, with a friend, I would not object to just sitting down and playing for hours: Contra, Double Dragon 2, Life Force, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, Super Mario World, Street Fighter 2, Gauntlet, and even Ms. Pac-Man was pretty rad when played with two players! Nowadays, even with platformers, it feels like only the first playthrough is worth anything; while that first playthrough is really good, it’s always tough to bring yourself to play it again. Social gaming was the cornerstone of every single good friendship I made when I was younger, and still plays a huge role in my friendships today.
In the RPG department, there are many games which introduce replay value, with the new and the old; from Chrono Trigger, which offered multiple endings and several small differences in the storyline based on small decisions made, to Vagrant Story, which offers a plethora of new dungeons upon completion, as well as several weapons and strategies to be used to force your way through the game. That is part of what makes RPGs great. The social aspect of RPGs, however, left a lot to be desired back in the day. What RPGs were there that could be played by two people? Furthermore, were they any good? Well, when I was at the lowly age of nine, only 3 RPGs existed that worked around the problem of fighting with your brother for the TV: Final Fantasy 2, which implemented it poorly (Both controllers could control any character! That caused a bit of trouble), Secret of Mana, which was about as intense as talking to your grandpa about fake teeth when played with two players (Let’s not even talk about what it’s like to play with three people), and last, but definitely not least, was Final Fantasy 3.
Do you remember your first experience with the game? It was probably a very pleasant, strong experience, especially if you played it at about the time it was released. If you don’t believe me, look to the testimonials of my fellow staffers as they talk about their hair-raising, pants-pooping reactions to all the different masterfully crafted parts of the game. The part of the game that made me poop my pants the most was when my brother discovered that characters could be assigned to the second controller. You see, Final Fantasy 2’s god-awful 2 player system caused us a lot of fights. Two controllers controlled every character, and we would both naturally try and react when we heard that sound that told us “Go! It’s Cecil’s turn! Fight! White Magic! Item! COVER!!” Soon, both controllers attempted to shape Cecil’s fate in an epic struggle for dominance that caused mom to come in and threaten to turn the game off. As for Secret of Mana, well, we never played it. We didn’t know it was an RPG, and we never found it for rent. I later found out that it was a game that ne’er was meant for more than one player.
Personally, I can never remember having so much fun playing a two player game. I remember going every bit of the way with my brother...running from the enemies on the imperial continent because we didn’t learn our magic spells, beating MagiMaster only to wiped out by Ultima, taking tons of time to strategize for beating all the 8 Dragons, trying to beat Poltergeist with level 25 average characters (Did anyone else just stick their worst characters in one group for the final dungeon? We sure as hell did!), and of course, staying up incredibly late to finally beat that final boss. All these memories are memories I hold dear to this day, as sappy as it sounds.
Fast forward to the present day. Now, a fair amount of RPGs implement two player capabilities. In fact, there’s an entire genre of RPGs - Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs, they’re called - that are geared towards playing games while interacting with others in a pseudo-social environment. Even the recent Final Fantasy installment was a MMORPG, which proves the success of the genre. Final Fantasy 11 has been so successful that Square-Enix has begun developing more MMORPGs, and has even mentioned an interest in developing games for the new Xbox console, which has the best online user base of the three recent consoles on the market. I personally think MMORPGs are boring, but many people love them, and there’s a reason for that - people love social gaming.
Thankfully, my experience with 2 player RPGs has been fairly plentiful. One of my best friends forced me to play the Tales of Destiny games with him on the PSX, and boy were they fun, if only because they were 2 players! Nothing beats making fun of a ridiculous game, and coming up with on the fly strategies with a trusted partner. That kind of stuff is great fun for me. This same friend also organized small Phantasy Star Online parties, where the two of us and two of our friends would get together and just play for hours on weekends. I remember playing for twelve hours the night he got it - twelve hours! I haven’t done that since I was a socially inept recluse. Best of all, last year, I made a new friend, Adam. He has gone off to University, but comes back down for Holidays. Final Fantasy 3 was the starting point for our now incredibly close friendship. I remember how we used to ditch our classes - sometimes all day long - just to get some McDonald’s breakfast and play Final Fantasy 3 for hours (Do as I say, not as I do kids! Don’t ditch school!). When he comes down for the Holidays, we chip away at what little is left of our playthrough, and it’s always a blast.
There’s no doubt in my mind - this game deserves a ton of recognition. I trust that my comrades at RPGClassics have discussed this thoroughly in their essays. For me, though, one particular feature of this game sticks out in my mind. For me, a big part of my life has been social gaming. I would probably be close to none of my best friends if it weren’t for social gaming. For me, it’s really inspiring to see that I can still spark an hour-long conversation with someone about a video game. For me, it’s a great feeling to know that even now that I’ve grown up, started college, have a life, have a girlfriend, have my aspirations, concerns, family ties, and so on, I can still sit down and enjoy a great game with some friends. And for the particular genre of games that I love to do this with - RPGs - it all started with a game called Final Fantasy 3.
What’s up, kids?