Final Fantasy III (DS) review
"Back on the Super Nintendo a wonderful game was released entitled Final Fantasy III, eventually we all learned that this in fact was not the real Final Fantasy III. They had taken what in Japan was Final Fantasy VI and made it into Final Fantasy III for the North American market, completely skipping over the original 8 bit wonder. Finally, after a long wait of over ten years us English speaking folk get the chance to play Final Fantasy III, legally. It i..."
Back on the Super Nintendo a wonderful game was released entitled Final Fantasy III, eventually we all learned that this in fact was not the real Final Fantasy III. They had taken what in Japan was Final Fantasy VI and made it into Final Fantasy III for the North American market, completely skipping over the original 8 bit wonder. Finally, after a long wait of over ten years us English speaking folk get the chance to play Final Fantasy III, legally. It is a big bag of mixed tricks. New meets old and it does not mesh together to well.
First and foremost is the staple of RPGs, the storyline. Even after a nice long wait not much has changed from the original 8 bit version. You start your adventures as a teen male named Luneth who falls into a hole and encounters a massive crystal. He and three other people, Arc, Refia, and Ingus, are sent on a task to stop bad things from happening in the world and eventually vanquish the "darkness". While this is nothing new in the least it covers everything needed to make a passable story: A protagonist(s), a bad guy, and a motive.
The main problem with the story is the everlasting feel of not making progress. You seem to spend a lot of the game doing things that don't seem to make any sense to the main story line and to be honest they really don't. This feeling thankfully tends to go away near the end of the game but at the start it has a strong presence.
As for the characters, they are very, very stale. You have Luneth who is Mr. Goody-two-shoes. Next is Refia, she is your young rebelling teenage girl who does not want to follow in her father's footsteps as a blacksmith. Arc is your kind hearted male character that will befriend anyone. Ingus, he is your "Cloud" to compare him to other Final Fantasy characters, a very silent man who lives to get the job done. That is that, the characters have less depth to them than the slot you stick the actual cartridge in, but this is fitting given the nostalgia factor obviously present in the story.
While the plot is just a rehash with minor updates the developer's obvious focus was on the visuals. After being fed remake after remake of old Square titles from Final Fantasy I to Chrono Trigger one only expects this game to be a 2D port onto the DS with updated graphics. How stunned will you be to find it completely the opposite. The entire game is in 3D, every character, every monster, and every landscape. It is done very well given DS hardware. It is drawing very close to the Playstation Final Fantasy titles visually, most resembling the 8th installment only trading in the lifelike character designs for more cute doll like people.
But how are these graphics compared to other Nintendo DS titles? Well in all truth they are quite good, top of the line. Nothing seems really horrible to look at; in fact most of the game is very pleasant. Some of the dungeons especially near the end of the game are pure eye candy on the DS.
The cut scenes are something else worth mentioning. For not having a very well developed plot the game has a lot of well crafted cut scenes. The camera can stop at any fixed location and will slowly zoom in on the action taking place or facial expressions. The scenes actually add some sort of emotion to the lack luster story. Sadly, however, one thing really brings the wonderful visuals down. The developers were lazy when using 3D graphics. The game quite frankly plays like a 2D game, especially in dungeons. You don't ever see a dungeon with say a path going downward actually look as if it is moving down until near the end of your adventure. The rest of the buildings, maps, and dungeons are very 2D feeling which can bore you at times and become annoying when trying to pass behind certain objects.
In addition to the great graphics the game also sports a great sound track. Most of the musical pieces are new and all have been remade to sound like more than beeps and boops. One minor complaint in the game however, is the lack of variety. You go through the whole game hearing the same tracks for most situations as there is not much of a selection. The same tunes are used for battles, different dungeons, and certain events good or bad. It really brings the overall production value of the game down a bit as you may forget a certain track is even playing because your ears just forget it is playing since it feels so at home.
Even with the new graphics and music one thing remains entirely the same as the original release, the game plays exactly like it did almost 20 years ago. While this is not always a bad thing it was executed poorly with this title.
The turn-based random encounter battles have been revived for Final Fantasy III and play the same way as they originally did. You have your normal commands, attack, defend, run, etc. But there is also a command for each class of the game which is quite a bit with over 20 classes to play as. They range from Monk and Warriors to oddities such as the Geomancer and Scholar. Some are incredibly useful while others are lacking. The White Mage for example can be your primary healer, while the Scholar is close to useless. His ability allows him to study the enemy allowing you to see its health and weaknesses if any, other then that he can cast no magic and does not hit very hard. A command to change classes or substitute an ability from a class would have made classes such as the Scholar more useful, but this was not how it was in the game's original release.
This game reeks of something bad, that being a word - randomness. Battles are impossible to strategically plan due to it. One turn an enemy can attack first almost killing your team, you heal everyone back to full. Next turn comes around and you expect the same thing to happen, but wait... For some reason your healer who just went last the previous turn is going first in this turn. Player stats do not even feel as if they effect one single drop of combat. It is completely possible for one of your characters to critically strike for 5000 in one turn then normal hit for 9999 the next on the exact same enemy. Even enemies follow this method, if one enemy (bosses in particular) single targets one of your combatants with a magic spell or uses their strongest spell on everyone two times in a row, there is close to no way to recover and you could find yourself dead on the second turn of the fight. The game is far too unforgiving which leads us to save points.
While the random feel of battles can be dealt with somewhat there is one major thing that really sucks the fun out of this classic experience: save points. There are absolutely no save points in this game. Now this does not sound too weird seeing as Final Fantasy I for example was the same way. The only way to save the game was by sleeping at an inn or using a tent/house. Final Fantasy III is close to the same as you can only save on the world map however it forgot one of the key mechanics that made that save system work. Tents, there are no tents or houses in this game. If you want to restore hp and mp or revive a dead party member without wasting one of your few Phoenix Downs you will go to an over priced inn. It absolutely kills the gameplay and it shows often.
The best way to put this into scope for anyone who does not own the game is to picture this. You travel through a long dungeon and are almost out of mp for Cura (your hp restoring spell). Your about to fight the boss but with low mp you don't feel ready for the encounter. So you venture all the way outside the dungeon to save the game just in case of failure. You won't be getting the mp back anyway as saving will just assure you keep the treasure you looted in the dungeon making your next run in much faster. So now with low mp not ready to fight the boss you decide you want to go back to a town, which in most cases can be a long trek, the problem only repeats itself if you get into an unlucky fight as you travel back to your current goal. The only way to really counter this problem is to over-level your party by grinding on random enemies.
While all of this may sound as if Final Fantasy III is a cheap joke of a game that is broke and there is not a single reason to buy it - it really is not. The game is more or less a 3D port of the original 8 bit classic, it really had the older fans in mind when in production. Deal with the frustrations from gameplay such as the lack of the tent system. For the not so old gamer though, this title may not be for you. If your the type of gamer that hates being in one area to long, and dislikes grinding this is in no means a title for you. This is the best attempt at creating a old fashioned RPG in a long while and hits the mark accurately.
Community review by Zenax (October 26, 2007)
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