Book Review – “Final Fantasy I II III: Memory of Heroes”

My favourite video game franchise has had numerous novel adaptations in the Japanese language, including a single book with adaptations of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II, and Final Fantasy III released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the franchise in 2012. Eight years later, we finally get that collection in English.

General Information

Title: Final Fantasy I II III: Memory of Heroes

Author: Takashi Umemura, translated by Jennifer Ward

Original Publication Date: August 18, 2020 for this English edition

ISBN: 978-1-9753-8239-1

Cover Price: $14 US, $18.50 Can

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When the power of Darkness gains too much power, the world responds by choosing four warriors to become the Warriors of Light who must restore the balance.

Franchise History

There was a time when the numbering in this video game franchise seemed quite confusing. In Japan, the first three Final Fantasy games came out for the Famicom, games 4-6 came out for the Super Famicom, and there were no mobile Final Fantasy games. Due to issues in the legalities and negotiations between Squaresoft and Nintendo of America, games 1, 4, and 6 were released in North America as games 1, 2, and 3. Games 2, 3, and 5 were not released in the English language until they came out for PlayStation or Nintendo DS many years later, Adventure of Mana was released for the Game Boy as Final Fantasy Adventure, and the three mobile Seiken Densetsu games were released for Game Boy as Final Fantasy Legend 1-3. This collection reflects adaptation of the three Famicom games, only one of which got an English language release in the same decade in which it was originally published.

High Point

The adaptation of Final Fantasy II cements its place as one of the best stories of the series, hampered by an awkward character leveling process and frustratingly small inventory. In this era of remakes, that’s the game which could most benefit from the “keep the story but revamp the gameplay” treatment. Minwu has always been a standout character.

Low Point

The collection starts with its weakest chapter in the Final Fantasy I adaptation. That’s not a slight against the author of this book, who accurately reflected the narrative simplicity of the source material. This is, in fact, an improvement on the source material, as the four Warriors of Light have actual names and personalities! The personalities are stereotypical of their four classes (warrior/knight, theif/ninja, black mage/black wizard, and white mage/white wizard), but that’s still an upgrade over the non-existent personalities of the original game.

The Scores

The originality is always limited in adaptations, but credit is due for essentially creating the cast of characters in the original game’s adaptation. Otherwise, it adheres very closely to the source material. I give it 4 out of 6.

The imagery is sparse, as is the YA standard. If something is described, that definitely means the details included will be important. I give it 4 out of 6.

The stories are effective adaptations of the source material, with some signs of word count limits for the YA format. The adaptations eliminate the side quests, which leaves very little in the first chapter, leaves the second game nearly untouched, and really packs in the third story. (The page counts for the three stories are 46, 54, and 84 respectively, with the 84 page story being the most rushed with the most omissions due to the relative sizes of the original games.) If you start from page 1 and find yourself ready to give up before you are done, instead of putting the book down entirely, jump ahead to page 47 and start reading the adaptation of the second game. I’m giving it a 5 out of 6 overall, averaging and rounding 3, 6, and 5 ratings for the individual chapters.

The characterization is well done. We understand the personalities of the main cast and the secondary cast, which is a massive upgrade for the adaptation of FF1. I just wish those four Warriors of Light were more than stereotypes. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is strong, particularly for a reader with all the nostalgia. (I bought a Nintendo DS just to play Final Fantasy III, and I’ve owned multiple copies of all of these, including the current iOS editions of games 1-7, 9, and others.) Again, the FF2 adaptation is the most engaging, partly because it has a somewhat legendary body count for the genre. I give it 6 out of 6.

The editing is fairly tight. The thrust of it here will be deciding what to include and what to omit to hit the YA page count, which is probably why the adaptation of Final Fantasy III starts right after the game’s third boss battle instead of at the beginning of the game as the other two stories do. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s one decent story, one great story, and one good story. I sincerely hope this sees enough success to justify such adaptations of later games, because the SNES generation has some stories I’d love to read in this format. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Final Fantasy I II III: Memory of Heroes receives 34 out of 42.