Throughout the years the Final Fantasy franchise has grown to such immense levels of popularity that it is not only on its sixteenth numbered entry but has seen numerous spin-offs, popular MMOs, and more released ever since it began back in 1987. Although nearly every game in the series has seen a Western release, albeit with some delays and a few number variations, many novelizations of the series have not been released in the West including the 25th anniversary trio of novels, Final Fantasy I * II * III: Memory of Heroes. Now eight years after the release of the novel in Japan, Yen Press has brought it to the West for Final Fantasy fans to dive into, but have these old-school RPGs translated well into novel form?
In a few ways Final Fantasy I * II * III: Memory of Heroes is a bit different from the average light novel since it has to split the story between the first three games in the series while also trying to make an effort to show that they still tie together slightly due to the fact that any time darkness begins to take over the world, light will rise up to battle against it and this tale persists through all three stories. What is interesting, and also goes to show how the games continued to grow narratively as the series was developed, is the length of each story as the first is only a paltry forty pages, the second reaching sixty, and finally the third making nearly ninety pages in length. As a result, the story quality also varies partially due to this length since these are almost entirely straight adaptations of the video game stories with side-quests, a few towns, and most minor encounters trimmed from the usual runtime but some side-characters given extra attention to try and smooth the story along a bit better.
Final Fantasy I is a bit interesting in this regard as it also happens to be the first time that the heroes of light are actually given canonical names with the warrior being named Setro, the thief being called Zauver, Flora as the White Mage, and finally Teol as the Black Mage. As a result these characters actually develop some personality of their own, even if it is played straight for their job class, as they continue their journey to save the world. That being said, of the three stories this first one also features the most abrupt conclusion that those unfamiliar with the original game may be a bit confused by.
Final Fantasy II and III are better in this regard and give readers some more details about the world and interactions between the characters, mimicking the advancements made in storytelling between the original video game releases. It is worth noting though that since these are stories taken directly from games created in ’87, ’88, and ’90 there are no real threats that truly can be seen as the greatest threat for the heroes of each story. The same plot twists remain as interesting as they were back in the day but readers should go into Final Fantasy I * II * III: Memory of Heroes expecting fairly clear-cut stories of light vs darkness. This simpler approach is nice enough in its own way and holds true to the original games, though those expecting maybe a bit more will be disappointed that there wasn’t an attempt to bring more life to these straightforward stories.
This novel features a few little bonuses alongside the story and, in a rather odd choice, all of it is presented immediately at the start of the book. Here readers will find summaries and artwork taken from remastered cutscenes of each of the main characters in the three Final Fantasy games as well as a rough world map showing off various key locations that players would have traveled to and where the characters are going. These are nice bonuses, especially since it quickly helps readers assign names to the previously nameless Final Fantasy 1 heroes, but it feels like these pages would have been better spaced between each story in an effort to spread things out a bit more.
Final Fantasy I * II * III: Memory of Heroes tells a trio of tales that may not be the most deep fantasy tales these days, but stay true to form with the original three games that began a franchise that is still running to this day. The heroes of light battling against the forces of darkness remains a great tale and this novel brings three of these types of stories into one book with plenty of variation between each story to make them unique, albeit a bit too simple most of the time, making this something of a solid read for Final Fantasy fans who don’t want to play a remake of these old RPGs or a way for younger fans to get a taste of how these tales used to be.