The Quirks of Final Fantasy III

Shields vs. Dual-Wielding

Common wisdom is that if one weapon is good, two weapons are better. This is not necessarily the case in FF3, as shields are in fact quite powerful. The problem, I think, is that defense is not as obvious as offense. If you use two weapons, you deal double the damage, an immediately apparent effect. Here I will points in favor of both strategies, as well as some brief points about two-handed weapons (bows and harps). Note that, for jobs that don't have access to shields or two-handed weapons, there is no disadvantage in wielding two weapons. For instance, while it's unlikely to you much good, you may as well give your mages a pair of staves or rods.

Advantages to Using a Shield

  • Shields are available to Onion Knights, Warriors, Red Mages, Knights, Thieves, Vikings, Dragoons, Mystic Knights, and Ninjas.
  • The number of physical attacks you can avoid is more than doubled by using a shield, allowing you to stand up to a lot of physical punishment. On average, you will block Defense Multiplier × Evasion attacks per round.
  • Shields have the highest Evasion of any type of armor, which synergizes well with an increased Defense Multiplier.
  • Shields have high Defense, reducing physical damage by more than either helms or gloves, but not body armor. This also reduces physical damage taken.
  • Shields have the highest Magic Defense of any type of armor, granting direct reduction in damage from magic attacks.
  • Shields tend to grant more status immunities than other types of armor until you start finding Genji or Crystal armor.
  • Several late-game shields, including the Aegis Shield, Genji Shield, and Crystal Shield, grant bonuses to Agility and other base stats.

Advantages to Using Two Weapons

  • Monks, Scholars, and Black Belts are front-line jobs that use one-handed weapons and cannot use shields. Note that primarily magic-using jobs can't use shields either, but generally do not generate offense by attacking.
  • You get to attack twice as often, dealing as much as double the damage (assuming you have duplicates of your best available weapon).
  • In the early game, a low Evasion makes the extra Defense Multiplier granted by using a shield unlikely to help you avoid a significant number of attacks.
  • Enemies do not get chances to avoid more attacks if you are using two-weapons, which means you will usually be dealing more than double the number of hits. For instance, if you have an Attack Multiplier of 4 and 99% Accuracy, and an enemy evades two attacks in a round, you will deal 6 hits using two weapons but only 2 hits using a weapon and a shield.
  • Spells and abilities that buff Attack Modifier or Attack Power, such as Haste, Bahamut's Aura, or the Bard's Cheer command, enhance both weapons, effectively doubling their benefit.

Advantages to Using a Two-Handed Weapon

  • If you're a Ranger or Bard, all of your weapons are two-handed. Several early jobs also have the option of using early-game bows. Ninjas can use all weapons, including bows and harps.
  • All two-handed weapons are long range, meaning they can be used from the back row without a loss of Accuracy. Because Accuracy is normally halved from the back row, the number of hits tends to be the same when comparing a single long-range weapon or two normal weapons when used from the back row.
  • Placing a character in the back row means that all physical attacks against that character have their accuracy halved, helping reduce physical damage taken.

Things You May Not Know

There are a few interesting things you can do in FF3 that are not inherently obvious. Of course, they may be in the instruction manual for all I know, but I've never read it.

  • When shopping, you can choose to buy 4 or 10 items at a time. You get a 10% discount when buying 4 of an item, and a 20% discount when buying 10. The slight variation in the game from these percentages is due to how they're actually calculated (as 26/256 and 51/256, respectively).
  • Physical attacks automatically re-target enemies if their original target is killed, but spells do not.
  • When casting spells that can target one or more targets, you can of course press left or right to target all enemies or allies. However, if you press up or down instead, you can target only a group of enemies of the same type.
  • You can switch from the front row to the back and vice-versa (useful when attacked from behind) by pressing right or left, as appropriate, at the battle menu. However, be aware that this switch persists after battle, so be sure to return to the menu to correct your party afterward.
  • Using the Defend action in combat doubles your Defense for that round, but does not affect your Magic Defense.
  • When using items in combat, the Magic Multiplier and Accuracy are preset and independent of the user's stats, but the user's Intelligence or Mind still grant a bonus to the item's Magic Power. Therefore it is best to use high-Intelligence characters for in-battle attack items, and high-Mind characters when using a Raven's Yawn.
  • If anyone in the party uses the Run or Flee command, the entire party is "Defenseless" for the round (even before that character's action). Their Defense and Evasion are both negated, causing them to take full damage from any physical attacks made against them. (Note that monsters get no penalties for attempting to run.)
  • The success rate of the Thief's Steal ability is based equally on his level and job level. Specifically, the success rate appears to be (Level + Job Level − 2) / 256. Thus at both Level and Job Level 99, Steal has around a 77% success rate.
  • The Monk and Black Belt share the same formula for calculating the power of their unarmed attacks. Unarmed attacks have a base power of 1.5× the character's level, rounded up (per hand).
  • The Dragoon's Jump command does not count as a physical attack (for the purposes of removing Confusion, for example).
  • When a monster divides, the created monster has the same HP as the original, after the attack that caused it to divide. However, these monsters give full experience and gil as if they had been in the battle from the start.
  • The CP cost to change to a job is reduced by the number of Job Levels gained in that job (e.g., if changing to a particular job has a base cost of 8 CP, and that job is Job Level 5, the change will cost 4 CP).
  • Several creatures, including the Helldiver, Stalagmite, and Myrmecoleon all inflict Petrification in an odd way: it is actually full Partial Petrification. This affects a number of armor pieces that protect against Petrification but not Partial Petrification.
  • Interestingly, though it protects from Petrification and the 1/3 and 2/3 (and full) versions of Partial Petrification, the Genji equipment does not protect against 1/2 Partial Petrification.
  • If a monster has both a resistance and a weakness to the same element, the weakness takes precedence. However, if a party character equips armor with conflicting resistance and weakness (e.g., Flame Mail and an Ice Helm), the weaknesses are removed and the character becomes resistant to both elements.
  • Bosses have no inherent status resistance, but being a boss seems to confer complete status immunity on a given monster.
  • If you target all enemies with a typical spell, but an enemy uses Divide or Summon before the spell is cast, it will not target the new enemies (unless they have replaced another enemy in the same spot on the screen). However, Summon spells choose their targets at casting, so they can hit newly created enemies.


Like any game, FF3 has its share of bugs, though apparently far fewer than its predecessors. Some are helpful, some should be avoided, and some are interesting but unlikely to be relevant. Here's a list of the significant ones I've found.

  • Several weapons, including the Fire Rod, Ice Rod, Light Rod, and Elder Staff grant boosts to your elemental magic when equipped. However, as far as I can determine, these boosts don't actually do anything. They have been left in the weapon data, but only on the view page, mostly as a curiosity.
  • If you equip a shield in your right hand and a weapon in your left hand, the weapon's elemental property (if any) will be ignored. This could, at least in theory, let you use a powerful weapon that an enemy is strong against without giving up any power.
  • The Erase spell doesn't actually function. It's supposed to negate Reflect, but it fails to do so. Ironically, most other black magic spells will negate Reflect, albeit only after reflecting a damage spell.
  • Reflect does not reflect spells when cast on your own allies, so unlike later games this isn't a valid workaround for enemies that cast Reflect.
  • If you cast Protect on an ally who is currently using the Defend command, that ally's Defense will be reset to its pre-Protect value at the end of the round. The bonus to Magic Defense will remain, however.
  • If a character changes his in-hand items during battle, the in-battle stat bonuses granted by spells like Protect and Haste will be negated.
  • Drain appears to have strange effects on the undead. It does not heal them, but it also does not damage them, and while the caster may be healed by the spell, the exact amount of healing is unpredictable.
  • The Lamia Harp appears to be intended to inflict Sleep, but it does not.