Written by Bad Demoman 23rd November 2016

In the original Final Fantasy, you were able to choose from six different classes. Although it’s different from how we might expect it now, this was the roots of the Job system that’s since been reused and expanded upon in many a Final Fantasy game. I tend to gravitate towards these games - the variety of strategies and playstyles can really help to alleviate the fatigue that can come from RPGs. It’s a system that’s seen a few different iterations, so let’s look at the first two examples, Final Fantasy 3 and Final Fantasy 5, and see how they differ.

Out of all the FF games we didn’t get over here in the west, Final Fantasy 3 is probably the one that's the biggest shame. Sure, we got it over here eventually, but I’ll say why that's problematic in a bit. For the time, FF3 was pretty damn innovative. Most gamers would be used to having a single character, who occupies a single role, throughout the entire game. Final Fantasy 3 flipped that entirely on its head. Each character would start out as an Onion Knight, a fairly generic Job with few abilities that would be replaced by Freelancer in later games. As you progress through the game, you’d gain access to more Jobs for your characters. Starting with the pretty standard Black/White Mage, Warrior etc. your options get more interesting with specialized roles like Ninjas and Dark Knights. Final Fantasy 3 introduced many things that are now iconic to Final Fantasy, including the Dragoon’s Jump command. Things like this are what makes FF3 particularly interesting - each Job genuinely feels unique! For example, the only real differences between the Warrior and the Monk in Final Fantasy 1 are the differences in stats and what weapons they use, but in Final Fantasy 3, they both have unique commands that can only be performed by themselves.

Of Course, the first foray into a new system always entails some issues. Some areas and bosses feel like they have set intended strategies that require certain Jobs. The most obvious example of this is a part where you must shrink your characters to access a new town. Physical damage is useless while mini, so you’re forced to switch some characters to Black Mage for dealing magic damage. Although early in the game, and therefore not particularly challenging, this section really annoyed me thanks to the usage of the old school Dungeons and Dragons magic system, with a set amount of spell uses available per day. The result of this is that grinding is almost essential in FF3. It’s one of the tougher games in the series, and sometimes you’ll feel like you simply don’t have the proper team composition to beat a particularly tricky enemy. To use the previous example again - if you suddenly need more Black Mages in your team, your characters might not be proficient enough. They’ll be under-levelled and weak, and you might have to do some grinding to be able to progress. This also links into why I find the remake problematic, and why I wish we’d had FF3 in its original form. The remake adds character to the previously blank heroes, but doesn’t change the systems all that much. At the time it was innovative, but it’s dated now. We’ve had better - for example, Final Fantasy 5.

Final Fantasy 5 seems to be one of the most overlooked games in the series, and that’s a damn shame. It’s understandable, given that it never saw a proper release in the West until the PSX version came along, and it’s never received a substantial remake (That mobile/steam port doesn’t count, as it’s absolutely hideous!). Final Fantasy 5 took the Job System and improved upon it massively. Jobs felt more diverse as each had more than one skill associated with it. As you levelled each Job up, more intricacy and depth was added to each. Jobs that seem useless at first, like the Archer, had potential to break the game. Of Course, the real depth and enjoyment of the system is in the synergies. With the ability to combine different aspects of Jobs, it was possible to almost craft a Job of your own. While certain combos are well known for their power, and some can make the game incredibly easy, there's very few combos that are completely unusable. Nothing emphasises this more than the Four Job Fiesta, one of my favourite yearly gaming events second only to Games Done Quick! A yearly event that benefits the Child’s Play charity, it involves being given a completely random set of 4 jobs, which are the only ones you’re allowed to use throughout the game. It’s an interesting look at how the Job System works. It forces you to think outside the standard overpowered selection - sometimes you’ll be given a combo where you’ve got to make the best of the worst and struggle through, but the game rarely becomes impossible. It’s an interesting challenge for those who’ve played through the game before, and you might even discover a new favourite combo. This level of depth makes Final Fantasy 5 one of the most replayable in the entire series for me, and it’s where the Job System really took off.

The Job Systems seen plenty of use past these two. It’s become a staple of the Tactics series, and for me it’s one of the main draws of it. Final Fantasy 11 and 14 are practically a given, due to their status as MMOs, and Final Fantasy X-2 introduced Dresspheres to allow changing Jobs mid battle, a concept that would be revisited (and dumbed down considerably) in Final Fantasy 13. There’s one other game that’s made particularly notable use of the Job System in recent years. While debatable in its status as a Final Fantasy game, there’s no doubt it takes ques straight from the FF norms. So next week, I’ll be taking a look at Bravely Default and the Job System.

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Bad Demoman

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