Review by media_girl18
"Pretty but Far From Perfect"
Good old Final Fantasy. It is impossible to be a fan of RPGs and not have heard of the series. No other series inspires such fervent devotion, joyful delight, worship of androgynous heroes (is it a man? a woman? an it? Oh no, just Tidus) or cos-players in painful quasi-bondage costumes. Final Fantasy is synonymous with high quality, rampant popularity, and.... long production times. To ease the impatience of fans waiting for the next true Final Fantasy title, Square-Enix has taken to releasing a slew of sequels and remakes.
The problem with releasing so many sequels and remakes is that they frequently seem to just be made for the cash. I mean, really, I liked Final Fantasy 1 and 2 plenty- the first two times they were released. Now, it is beginning to get a little ridiculous. Skimping on the presentation is not Square-Enix's style, so of course all the remakes and sequels look gorgeous. Gorgeous is as gorgeous does, though, and the real question is if Square-Enix's abundant remakes and sequels play half as well as they look. In the case of FF:Dirge of Cerberus, the answer was a resounding no, but what about with Final Fantasy 3?
First thing, let me say I am a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series. I have now played every entry except the very first one, in some form or other (some, in the case of FF6 and FF1 and 2, in more than one form). Yet, though I am loyal to the series, I do not let my loyalty keep me from looking at the games critically. If I sometimes come across as harsh, it is because the series delivers such consistent high quality content, it raises the bar not only for other RPGS, but also for new entries in the series itself.
That Final Fantasy 3 is a remake of the original game for NES, most fans already know. The plot isn't challenging to guess at, either. It tells the story of four light warriors, who set off to save the world. Along the way they learn that in order to save the world, they must harness the magic power of crystals.
Of course, several sages get involved, and there's the obligatory Cid. Hmmm, let's see: Crystals, check. Saving the world, check. Oh, and warriors on a quest and a damsel in distress? Double check. Ground-breaking, the story certainly isn't, even though Square-Enix has revamped it.
I am grateful that the story was updated, knowing that it was probably even less detailed before, but yet, in this age of modern RPGS, it is sorely lacking. Practically bare-bones as it is, the original plot must have been positively skeletal. Yet, even if the original plot was nothing, that does not give Square-Enix the excuse to be lazy, and lazy is exactly what the plot of Final Fantasy 3 is.
The characterization, like the plot, is also shallow. Sorry, Square-Enix, but I'm not going to leap for joy just because you threw in a few names. Adding names does not equal character-depth. Creating slightly different character portraits does not foster individuality. And last of all, constructing shallow personality traits and backgrounds doesn't lead to memorable characters.
Once the initial character introduction is covered, the characters never get any further development by way of cut-scenes or meaningful dialog. Instead, there are little snippets of conversation throughout the game that only make the player wish for more development.
The characters never seem three-dimensional or realistic the way they do in other Final Fantasies. The inability for the gamer to relate to them causes the plot to only seem that much blander. Even the villain is about as evil and threatening as chocolate chip cookies and milk. It doesn't help that he isn't really introduced until towards the end of the game, either.
Other than different hair colors and a few basic personality traits, the characters are all exchangeable. They resemble nothing so much as Barbies with slightly different wigs. I think my mom's reaction upon seeing the main character in battle, "Oh, what a nice looking girl," sums it all up quite nicely.
Oh well, at least the plot doesn't have a killer tree, ala FF5. Still, it's a shock for fans who have come to expect an involving storyline, soaring operatic music, and unique characters- those qualities that inspire them to play Final Fantasy.
Luckily, the other core component of any Final Fantasy game, the game-play, is as strong in FF3 as the storyline and characters are weak.
Whether this strong game-play is enough to keep you involved when the story and characters are non-existent depends on why you play RPGS.
Those who skip through cut-scenes but enjoy battling will be more than entertained. Those who view leveling up and battles as tedious side-quests, however, should look elsewhere.
RPGS (and Final Fantasy) have come a long way since the days of NES. As such, it's hard to appreciate FF3 on its own merits. For instance, there is the plot I previously mentioned, which, when compared with RPGS of the NES era, would probably look positively profound. Favorably comparing with NES games, though, doesn't mean a thing if the game can't also compete with the games of today. Otherwise, buying a new version of the game is pointless. You can just play the original.
Thankfully, Square-Enix's other updated touches-new graphics, improved tunes, and added replay-ability- save the game from being a simple nostalgic trip. Clear-cut and crisp, the graphics look as good as early ps1 games (and on par, if not better, than FF7), except for the character models, which are neither detailed nor unique. The cut-scenes, though, are a marvel. The things the DS engine is capable of... It's too bad the cut-scenes are so infrequent, as they help bolster the game's weak plot.
The music isn't nearly as outstanding as the graphics or cut-scenes. In fact, it's downright disappointing, coming from a Final Fantasy game. Though it's nothing horrible or ear-splitting, I can't recall a single stand-out tune. You could play the game on mute and never miss a thing.
Replay-ability, on the other hand, with wi-fi connectivity, a new job class, and extra letter side quests, adds to the game's depth. While these new touches are more than welcome, they feel like last minute add-ons, rather than full-fledged content. More could have been done-the side quests don't add a ton of hours (maybe ten at most) to the game.
Once you beat the game, there is little reason to start a new file and play again.
Unlike the graphics, music, and replay-ability, nothing is new about the battle system . It's standard turn-based FF combat, and to be honest, it's kind of slow. I found myself missing the innovative new tweaks-the active battle system of FF12, even the faster-paced battles of FF10-that Square-Enix has been adding to their combat systems of late.
The lack of creativity is only heightened by the innovative DS pad. The stylus can be used in battle if the player wants, but when it accomplishes nothing new or unique, why even bother?
The DS controls could have contributed greatly to the battle system and made battles even more intense, but they were left alone. Square-Enix is hardly the first to forget about the stylus' and touch screen's potential, but still, there was a huge opportunity wasted here.
The customization system, on the other hand, helps to alleviate the lack of innovation. It hasn't been updated much, either, but it is easily the strongest part of the game. From summoners to geomancers and dark knights, there are a multitude of jobs to choose from, and so many levels (99) to gain in each job.
Even better, these jobs grant their users unique skills and magic. It's nothing new to fans of Final Fantasy Five, yet it is such a genius system, it doesn't matter that its tricks are old-hat. The player will spend the majority of their time mastering each job, guaranteed. To master a job can easily take the course of the whole game.
Overall, the customization system is well-designed, a challenge for the completion-ist and yet also easily accessible to the casual gamer. It's also an obsessive compulsive's wet dream.
It's a good thing the customization system is so solid, as there isn't a whole lot to the game besides it. Final Fantasy 3 is basically composed of two things: battling and customizing. The rest is just filler and frills.
Overall: 7.7, which rounds up to an...8
Updates and all, FF3 is exactly what it says it is: a remake. For those who want fun, episodic game-play, you can't find better. Game-play is where FF3 shines. Those who require an epic story, memorable and unique characters, and awe-inspiring music, however, will be disappointed. Both story and characters are practically non-existent.
In the end, how much you enjoy FF3 depends on your level of devotion to the series.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 08/03/07
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