How To Cheat The Greatest RPG Ever Made

by Joe Juba on Nov 25, 2009 at 09:06 AM

Our list of the Top 200 games is full of compromises. There are some games that I personally think are glaring omissions (Myst), and others that shouldn't be on the list at all (Batman: Arkham Asylum), but there is one big victory on that list for me that makes all the imperfections worthwhile: Final Fantasy III at #8 as the greatest RPG of all time.

I normally try to refer to the game by its proper name in the series progression (Final Fantasy VI), but it was the SNES version of the game specifically that made our list, and I only knew it as Final Fantasy III when I became totally obsessed with it. This was the first game where I maxed out the in-game timer at 99:59, and then when my cousin accidentally deleted my save, I played all the way up again. During the unhealthy amount of time I spent with the game, I found a lot  of tricks, and I thought I'd take this opportunity to reminisce. Some of them make the game a little easier, some break it completely, and others are just kind of cool without serving any special purpose.


Vanish is a pretty decent support spell on its own, rendering the target immune to physical attacks. Given the spell's function, it's clear that the dev team only intended players to use the spell on their party. But the best trick in the whole game involves turning this supposedly helpful spell on your foes, where it becomes a kiss of death for practically every enemy, including bosses. When you cast Vanish on a monster, it disappears from view and suddenly becomes susceptible to instant death effects to which it was previously immune. This means that any enemy "vulnerable" to Vanish can be killed with the casting of two spells, like Vanish followed by Death, or Vanish followed by X-Zone. This trick becomes even more useful once you get the Gem Box from the top of the Fantatics' Tower; the relic lets characters cast two spells in a single turn, meaning the monsters can't do anything between being vanished and dying. This works on some of the hardest enemies you'll encounter, including Atma Weapon, the Brachosaur, and all Eight Dragons in the World of Ruin.

The Lete River Trick

Fairly early in the game, you hop on a raft and float down the Lete River, fighting enemies and choosing your path when the river forks. This is a great opportunity to power level early in the game. At one point during the journey, you select your direction and it just takes you in a loop, bringing you back to the split again after a few encounters. When it gives you the chance to choose which way you go, the default position of the cursor results in you taking the loop again, resulting in more fights. So, if you have a turbo controller (or, as I learned, set the leg of a chair down on the confirm button), you can just constantly travel this loop, fighting enemies and gaining XP in an endless cycle. Normally, you would have to worry about your HP eventually depleting, but that's the beauty of this section: You have a party member named Bannon who has a heal command that – with no MP cost – restores plenty of hit points to your whole party. Just go into the menu screen and select "memory" as the command input option (that way the cursor always starts on whatever you did last action), have Sabin and Terra fight, Edgar Autocrossbow,  and Bannon heal, and leave the SNES on overnight. You'll wake up to super-leveled characters that will have you breezing through the first half of the game.

Level Hax

The second half of the game consists mainly of tracking down your party members after the end of the world in order to storm Kefka's Tower. In order to keep things balanced, your party members aren't at the same level as when you left them. Instead, their levels are adjusted to be more in the ballpark of your current party. However, it can still be a pain to level up the characters to the point that they are ready for the final dungeon (which requires 3 teams of up to 4 members each). Here's what I did to get around the problem when my cousin erased my first 99:59 save and I had to start all over. In the World of Ruin, only get Celes, Edgar, Sabin, and Setzer. Be sure to collect the Experience Egg from the tomb of Setzer's dead girlfriend, and also make the rounds to get any free-floating Espers that don't involve also gaining party members (like Palidor, Tritoch, and Terrato). Then, take your party into the dinosaur forest and start killing Tyrannosaurs. They're tough foes, but they give lots of experience; at early levels, you'll have to use the Vanish trick, but the first 10 levels or so are the hardest. It will take many hours, but by passing around the Experience Egg, you can get these four characters up to level 99 by pure grinding. You'll probably have some shiny new Economizers to boot, too (see the Brachosaur entry below). Then, go around and gather up the 10 other characters and you'll find they are all also level 99 (except Gau, for some reason). Of course, this method doesn't allow you maximize your characters' stats by using the Espers' level-up bonuses, but you'll still have an airship full of level 99 characters.

Oh Crap, A Brachosaur!

In the dinosaur forest, you'll sometimes encounter a Brachosaur instead of a Tyrannosaur. If you want to fight this enemy legitimately (i.e. not by using the Vanish trick), you're in for the toughest non-boss of the game.  It frequently uses a ridiculous status attack called Disaster on the entire party, casts Meteor, and does a ton of damage with its regular attacks. So, why would you want to fight this thing? It has a chance to drop the best relic in the game: the Economizer.  The Economizer reduces the cost of every MP-expending action – including summoning Espers and Strago's Lore – down to one. If you get a spellcaster equipped with the Gem Box  in addition to the Economizer, you have a dual-casting freight-train of magical destruction. Unfortunately, encountering Brachosaurs are rare, and the chance that they will drop an Economizer is slim. But, like I said, I spent a lot of time with this game when I was younger. Every character in my party was equipped with an Economizer.

Get Ready For Some Needles

We know him as Cactuar these days, but Cactrot is a great way to learn magic quickly. You'll find him in the World of Ruin in the desert south of Maranda. He's super-easy to defeat as long as you use attacks that ignore his high evasion and defense (I recommend Edgar's Drill), and gives a massive 10 AP toward your progress in learning spells from your Espers. He doesn't give you any XP, unfortunately, and encounters with him aren't exactly frequent. If you fight one of the giant sand worms in the desert instead of Cactrot, you should probably cast Death to end the fight early since they are pretty rough enemies (it usually works even without the Vanish trick).

Suplex a Train!

Okay, this isn't really a trick or a cheat. But watching Sabin suplex the Ghost Train (summarized in this ytmnd) is one of my favorite moments in gaming history.

Reviving General Leo

Okay, the process is a little bit complicated, but here's how you bring General Leo back from the dead: First, go to his tomb in Thamasa. Then get a good look and wise up, because it's as close as you're ever going to get to seeing him again. Sorry, but no matter what you've read, there is no way to bring him back short of hacking. However, if you fight the enemy called Retainer (they're just random encounters in Kefka's Tower), you can then try to encounter them on Veldt and have Gau learn their skill. If Gau selects Retainer for his Rage, he'll use General Leo's hallmark Shock ability.

A couple of these tricks were modified or removed in the GBA re-release of Final Fantasy VI. The Vanish trick doesn't work at all, and since the GBA doesn't have a turbo button, the Lete River trick isn't automated (requiring you to just mash the A button for hours). I should also note that I didn't uncover all of these through my own ingenuity; even though I was playing FF III before the advent of online gaming FAQs, I did have a strategy guide. Today, it is in very poor condition due to excessive use:

If you could judge the quality of a game by the torn pages, beat-up cover, and unglued binding of a strategy guide, there's no doubt in my mind that Final Fantasy III has earned its place as the greatest RPG ever made.

(A big thanks to the contributers at the Final Fantasy Wiki, where I yoinked most of these images from)