A good night’s sleep is an adult’s greatest fantasy


Final Fantasy III (1990)

Like a lot of people out there, I’m a fool to myself almost every night. No, for once I’m not talking about self-debasement – I’m talking about sleep, and that’s deprivation, not depravation. And I know you’ll sympathise with me; will have experienced that terrible moment in life, when you finally decide to try for some sleep, you set your phone alarm and it tell you, “Alarm set for 2 hours and 32 minutes from now”.

Were humans ever meant to live like this? It’s the smartphones I blame. Who would have thought that a brightly lit machine, which provides near-infinite amounts of information, social media, entertainment and more dubious things besides, could keep people up way past their bedtime?

Here’s the one that freaks my nut, though – have you ever been sat there at about 11PM, or earlier if you’ve got a childish bedtime, and you’re trying to watch TV or a film or play a game. But then your eyes get heavier than lorries and suddenly you’re far too tired to persevere?

So you’ll decide to turn in, but by the time you’ve switched off the lights, turned off your PS5 and told all your booty callers to try again tomorrow, you can’t sleep for love nor money. You’re just left lying there in bed, completely silent, in the darkness, and now you’re not tired anymore.

The scientific explanation for this, so far as I can make out, is that when you’re playing a game or watching a movie, only a small part of your brain is actually needed to focus on what’s going on – the rest of your grey mush just yawns and goes asleep. But the minute that cerebral stimulation is over, suddenly the entire brain is back awake, taken out of standby mode and into low power mode, wondering what’s going on ‘ere. Or something like that.

Sleep is for the weak though, I’ve always said it. It’s the cousin of death, and I’ll be careful never to choose death. Sleep is far too unproductive. Once, I even took a Valium at one of those wretched times when you really need to sleep, with no messing about. I had a flight the next morning, and I would have been killed to death if I’d missed it.

Now, the pills you get in UK or Ireland are about ten times weaker than the ones you get in, say, Spain, and consequently a zillion times less potent than the stuff you get in the USA. Horse tranquilisers are given out like Tic Tacs over there, and there are all kinds of advertisements on the TV all day long, telling you to get these badboys down your throat, even if the potential side effects include death.

Well, I can tell you that these much vaunted Vallies did absolutely nothing for me, although when my nanny gave some to her dog to calm the beast down, the old mutt went crazy. Poor thing probably still hasn’t slept to this day, with his eyes out on stalks.

When most of your brain threatens to drift off into a stupor, I imagine a handy way to get around this unfortunate phenomenon is to play a complex game on your NES. After all, the graphics are nice and simple, nothing too hyperactive to keep you awake, but if there’s menus and buttons, you’ll be out like a light.

You can play such a game in fits and spurts too, meaning you can quit for the night and have done with it. This allows you to drift off to sleep before your tiredness evaporates, in a similar fashion to how a middle-of-the-night piddle can wipe away your fatigue.

Isn’t that the worst? My top tip here is to keep one eye closed as you lurch into the bathroom, to hold on to some remaining tiredness. The stray bits of wee you’ll put on the floor are a worthwhile trade-off.

I profess that Final Fantasy III is the game you want to put you asleep with no hassle. Although you’ll have a bit of a job to do playing the NES version, since this was Famicom only. You could try the localised DS version, though I fear it might send you into a rage instead. And nobody wants to go to bed fuming.

Making its Western debut way after even the second and fifth Final Fantasy games, this one is likely the most obscure of the entire series, which meant that a fully realised, 3D DS remake would be just the ticket to introduce us to the third game. Unfortunately, while the graphics, characterisation and music were all brought into the modern age, if that still applies to the year 2006, the same can’t be said about the remade gameplay.

To start with, the battles in Final Fantasy III DS are sloooooooowww, especially when you’ve beaten all the enemies and the camera gingerly pans in on your party. The game elects to take 5-10 seconds of your life here, just to tell you that you got 6 experience points. Even FF2 had the good grace to have your guys immediately leg it offscreen after a battle, ready to go rip out some other goblin’s throat.

I’m thinking this must be the hardest of the Final Fantasy games as well, in a series which never tends to be very forgiving anyway, and certainly not in the old days. You’d think the bright and colourful remake on the friendly and bright DS console would give you some leeway, but by all accounts it’s been made even harder than the Famicom original.

I freely admit I never got anywhere near the final dungeon in either version. But I’m told that it’s a two hour slog against bosses and monsters that are almost legendarily unfair, and you can forget about any save points or healing stations within the labyrinthine dungeon.

Two hours? That’s a film or a football match that is, or an extra-long meeting in work. Do you really think I can spare that? I’d much rather spend that time in the pub. Or better still, I could spend that two hour stint catching up on sleep.

To be honest with you, when it comes to choosing a version of FF3, I wouldn’t bother with any of them. Neither Famicom or DS, nor Steam nor mobile at that. I will say that the Famicom version of the game, which you can probably scuttle for yourself using some sort of fan-translation patching doo-hickery, actually looks quite pretty. And it’s not very often you’ll say that about a NES game.

It doesn’t look too far off what would later be known as Final Fantasy IV for the SNES, put it that way. So if you’re looking to get into the series from the start, don’t be put off too much by the possibility that FF3 NES might be far too stone age to be fun – this is where the series starts to become accessible, a lot moreso than the first two games.

Don’t believe me? Well, it’s true that some of the mechanics in this game are more mind-bending than the cryptic crossword. But the Famicom version of this game was the one that finally fixed that godawful “Ineffective” mechanic that struck whenever you ordered a character to target an enemy that had since been killed. Now that’s what you call a quality of life improvement.

Fabulous soundtrack too, you might not ever get there – I know I won’t – but have a listen to the original Famicom version of the final boss theme if you get the chance, for a good old plucking of the Nintendo’s strings.

In all, this game didn’t make the Final Fantasy series go stratospheric, in the same way that Dragon Quest III did for its franchise – and, although the Job System in this game was a significant moment in the series, the Enix and Chunsoft boys got there first. This game emulates what Dragon Quest did.

Even more importantly than all that though, Final Fantasy III was where those furry little Moogles were introduced. And I think you’ll therefore agree with me when I say that the series hasn’t looked back. They even showed up in Secret of Mana, so you knew they had style.

The failure to release Final Fantasy III outside of Japan represented another missed opportunity for US gamers (might as well not mention us Yurpeens) to turn them onto early RPG gaming, especially considering the length of this adventure.

I can sympathise there though, because the game came out in Japan in 1990, same year as the Super Nintendo. Consequently, I imagine it was a difficult decision to make on whether or not to start a lengthy localisation job for a potentially declining market. Do you stick, or do you twist? It brings us back to that depressing ultimatum, doesn’t it – do you go for that two hours of sleep, or do you take the gamble and stay up all night…?

29 January 2021

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