Review by Mykas0
"An almost perfect game, but it is too soon to call it a game of the year."
Being the only Final Fantasy game never officially released outside Japan, fans of the series would surely be looking forward to a western release of this title. Obviously based in the original Final Fantasy III (instead of the western Final Fantasy III, called Final Fantasy VI in Japan), Square-Enix not only delivered what they promised, but also managed to improve the weaker areas of the original game.
First of all, instead of starting your adventure with a full party of 4 elements, you'll start by playing with a single character. Later, up to 3 more people will join you, each character having their own personality, strengths and weaknesses. You will also acquire several job classes as you advance further in the adventure, a feature which enables to further customize your character and gain special abilities in many different areas. Apart from those 4 main characters, you'll sometimes get a fifth character to join your party for a bit, who may randomly appear during the battles and perform an attack. While you can't directly control those characters, at least seeing them in there is cool.
These job classes range in many different areas, all of which were already included in the original game. If you make your character a White Mage, he will be able to use powerful healing magic and nice cure spells, but if you go for classes such as Dragoon, you will be able to use a powerful attacking command. Each class also has specific stats bonus, which only become effective after you use them for a while. However, before this stat bonus is awarded, your stats will even suffer a slight (temporary) decrease, which is an interesting way that the designers found to stop the player from always changing the classes at his free will. There were even some classes that were tuned down, in order to turn the game into something more balanced and stopping you from always using the very same classes. Fair enough, the Sage is still as powerful as before, but the Ninja can't use all the weapons anymore, and some other classes were given other skills.
Another interesting change was in terms of the actual item system. While the game still features all the key items and events of its first version, there are now a lot less scenes where you need to select a particular item from the listing, unlike what happened before. Unfortunately, this also turns the game into a slightly easier experience.
Both the magic and battles seem to follow the scheme of those classic Final Fantasy titles released originally for the NES. Magic is split in 8 different power levels, and you can only use a certain level for a number of times determined by your current level (and character class). As for battles, since the game didn't feature the active battle system yet, you and your enemy will basically be taking turns to attack; a simple, yet effective, system to this game.
Overall, the game's essence is still the original one, with a lot more importance being given to the gameplay sequences than to the unimportant story sequences. Such detail turns this into a game where playing is more important than reading, a characteristic common to the other previously released NES of this series. While those events become more common and longer as the game reaches its apotheosis, they are still smaller than in later games of the series and, above everything else, try to seduce the player to continue playing and provide them with a reason to do so.
The boss battles were made slightly more difficult, with most enemies retaining their usual strategies but getting some more life points than they previously had. This may please the ones that had the opportunity to play the original version of this very same title, but fortunately the producers also added some more extra functions, the most important one coming in the form of DS wi-fi (as in "online") options.
By visiting most cities (or other special places), you may see a Moogle. When interacting with him, he allows you to connect to this game's online mode (yes, called Mognet, a term that some players may be familiarized with), where you can not only send short messages (like if it was an e-mail!) to other people who have this game, via friend codes, but also with characters from this very same game. By doing those type of exchanges, you will be able to unlock new quests, items, bosses and many other things, all of which become only available via this type of online trades.
As for the control system, the guys at Square-Enix were intelligent and actually gave you the choice to pick your very own way to do it, with the player being allowed to choose between the stylus for performing every possible action in the game or also being able to do it by simply using the normal controls.
However, not everything is perfect about this title. In case a player doesn't have the possibility to go online, the replay value of the title is hardly none, and even when he indeed has the opportunity to change messages with other players, those always require you to input a friend code, something that some players may have trouble in finding. Besides, the transitions screens (seen when you switch from one area to the other) display a small animation when used, which makes them seem bigger than they actually area. Also, when first entering certain areas, your characters may need massive level ups to have any chances against more powerful monsters, making you do the usual "level up for a few hours" cycle, something that may displease players less familiarized with the series. Finally, it's a pity that the upper screen is only used for seeing the map during field scenes (and is even off during the battles), or the game could have been a lot nicer.
The story, which turns out being mostly the same of the original game, contains some minor changes, to fit the current personality that each of the characters in your party has. Above everything, and as you figure out during the game, you'll fight the powerful Zande, who wants to take over the entire world. In order prevent him from doing so, you will be needing to gain powers from the elemental crystals. Across the adventure, there are some funny moments and some unpredictable events as well, all of which the player will probably enjoy.
When it comes to graphics, this is probably the best title in the DS so far. Its quality usually even seem better than the one Final Fantasy VII when it was first released for the original Playstation. Everything seems to be exactly where it should, with simply some small, almost unimportant, glitches seen only in the last dungeon. The characters now have a limited amount of expressions to choose from, during the cut scenes, which is an interesting detail, not seen very often in the Final Fantasy series.
Besides, unpredictability may cross your mind before you first start playing, since you will be able to see an awesome introduction video that has nothing to envy to the ones seen in more powerful consoles. While those type of videos are not very frequent during the game, with less than 5 crossing your path before its end, they add a notable quality to the game, as does the sound.
The sound quality in this game has nothing to envy to its older brothers in more powerful consoles. Each attack, each area found and even each transporter seems to feature their very own theme song. While voices aren't heard in the game, the beauty of the themes clearly removes the need of such function.
So, who should get this game? Basically everyone (hey, but be sure to wait for an English release, if you don't know Japanese), but people who never played RPG titles may want to try it first. Final Fantasy fans will probably love it
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/30/06, Updated 09/09/07
Game Release: Final Fantasy III (JP, 08/24/06)
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