Often considered by fans to be the best in the series, is the only one as of now I've finished. I did play a bit of the DS version of IV but stopped because it was so hard and unforgiving.
The Japanese style RPG genre. Many attribute the popularity of the genre outside of Japan to this game as the game that took it out of the niche and in to the mainstream, and I can see why. This game must have for it's time easily have been the best and certainly the highest budget title, the music and many of the sequences are legendary and still holds up today. The intro scene is freaking brilliant, I also really like the train sequence and not to mention the final battle. My favorite of them all has to be the opera scene, that was just beautiful and made Celes my favorite character in the game. As for the gameplay and battle system, it has it's ideas, but I feel it hasn't aged all that well. The enemies vs your playable characters feels very imbalanced, and very RNG based where you can often get really screwed over by either getting a back attack from them making you deal only half damage or them inflicting status based moves which are hard to prepare for. The random battle encounter rate is also extreme and there is absolutely no way to reduce it, no items, no relics. Status ailments like Petrify, Imp, Zombie and to a lesser extent Dark are just really annoying and can often be impossible to deal with properly. The game must also have the worst escape from battle sequence system I've ever encountered. Your team has to waste not just one turn but 2 often 3 in order to escape from battle meaning you are 100% vulnerable and open to attack while running away from battle. Not only that, but when you escape (and this is the worst part) your entire party doesn't escape at once. 1 or 2 of them can escape first or second round while 1 or 2 often have to wait for the next turn meaning they can be on their own vs 3-4 enemies for an entire turn open to attack. I can't believe systems like this used to be acceptable. The attack menus are also clunky with lots of empty space meaning you have to scroll your way down a lot to select your preferred attack and to my knowledge there was no way to arrange any of that to your liking. I also don't like how you are unable to see the enemies health bar, this doesn't bottler me too much for regular enemies, but for boss battles that last 10+ minutes, this is just awful. All in all you can often lose 30+ minutes of progress because you were unable to properly prepare for your next obstacle. One thing I really like about the battles and characters is the Esper mechanic. All your characters are able to after a while learn all types of attacks, spells and status ailments. This was such a relief and really helped improve on my experience.
I wasn't the biggest fan of the visuals either. Most areas look way too dark and muddy. This applies even before
World of Ruin
Story & characters: I really like some of the characters like the already mentioned Celes, Locke and Terra. The rest of the cast felt kind of one note which made most of their story moments fail to make an emotional connection on me, but they're harmless and fun for the most part (fuck Gau, though). But one mechanic I did not like was the moments you had to split your crew in to different teams for a dungeon. I honestly just wanted to use my main team and having to defeat difficult bosses at the end of the game with weaker teams was a huge chore. So was having to balance out the teams. The villain Kefka is considered by many to be one of if not the greatest villains in gaming history. I thought he was good, but not on that level. Maybe that's because I'm not a big fan of the untouchable maniac villain trope (don't like Joker from Batman much nor the movie No Country For Old Men for this reason). I prefer it when villains have to strive more for their schemes. But like mentioned before, the final battle against him was so freaking good which singlehandedly made me like him. The story was also enjoyable. At least up until halfway through the game when
The world has been destroyed. After Celes has recruited again the first 4 or so characters, the story seems to stop until you enter Kefka's hideout. The remainder of the game is just recruiting all your missing ones listening their sob stories and along the way level yourself up to be strong enough to face him. And after you have defeated him, nothing really happens. You escape in the nick of time, it seems like Terra is about to sacrifice herself for the rest of you to escape, but no. She survives, and is now seemingly just a regular human being with no magic capabilities because all the espers have been destroyed. None of your characters died. Nothing really happens afterwards, Celes & Locke's romance for example ended before the WoR and is never brought up again even at the end when they had the opportunity do do so
At times you may think I was slaughtering the game, but no. Is the game in my opinion overrated? Yes, but I still had an alright time with it and I really respect what it did for the genre and how it paved the way for one of my all time favorites in Chrono Trigger which came out not long afterwards. All in all i'd say it was still worth my time, even if it is pretty archaic by today's standards.