Review by Darksun45230

"A Boy Falls Into a Hole..."

I gaze at the cloudy sky. It looks about dawn. A flock of birds fly towards a tower with twin peaks. A great light casts their shadows. The scene transitions to a group of four riding yellow-birds like horses. The grass beneath their feet is of the healthiest green. The faces of the riders come into view, bright and excited. Three of the four are men of with contrasting appearances. And the other is a woman wearing an animated smile. Through the billowing clouds emerges the mast of a great airship, swimming through an ocean of white. The riders stop near to cliff, to watch as the ships departs.

One of my favorite openings in all of Final Fantasy is this. One where you are shown the conflict, comradery, and courage. Where you drink the joys of the world as well as it's sadness. This was the world of adventure you stepped into. Does the boasting cinematic graphics live up to the product? Ultimately, you are the game's judge and jury. Listen to my arguments and decide for yourself.

Summary
Story: Final Fantasy Junior. All the intrigue and drama you can muster in a hand-held. Yet it's simple enough for a child to understand. The game delivers a solid story, with a round set of characters.

Gameplay: Worthy of argument. The adapted gameplay from it's original NES counterpart may dissatisfy players coming from the later titles. Armed with a medieval Job system and a rather tedious growth system may turn many away. It's a mixed bag.

Graphics & Sound: It's what you'd expect. A powerful score that enhances the mood of the game. Extracted and refurnished from it's ancient counterpart. The transition of which into the modern era is flawlessly executed.

Overall: Something all fans of the series must play, tailored especially to those who starting the series. It's an adventure worthy of your time.

Story
A boy falls into a hole. Our protagonist Luneth encounters a hoard of monsters attempting to escape the cavern. Eventually entering a chamber housing a luminous crystal. It asks him to produce others, and sends him away to find them. And so you journey to find these people, given the vaguest details however, you aren't sure where to begin. Events unfold however, that bring you together with three others. Arc, the protagonist's shy yet motivated friend, quickly joins the party. Learning of the plight of a nearby village they set out to undo the curse. Along the way meeting with Refia, a runaway from the cursed town, and Ingus, a loyal soldier of King Sasune. Together the four expel the curse and are once again thrust into the crystals presence. From there, the story expands to epic proportions.

Generally, I like the build-up. The handling of something that appears trivial but then builds up to something more. From there you campaign across the world to visit the other crystals. In the hopes that their power will help you combat the coming darkness. You are however met with great strife as the powers of evil are numerous in number and strength. All of which evolves into a fantasy-like struggle between light and dark. Combating despair, and inevitable destruction. Lives are sacrificed, but their memories empower you towards your goal.

Gamers who are used to a more complex storyline may be turned away. The presentation is basic and plain. It could even be argued that it's flat even unremarkable. However you must understand that this game was meant for children. And those who are seeking a twisted series of events must look elsewhere. They aren't here. Overall, the storyline is a steely clash between hope and despair. Choreographed in such a simple way that even a child can understand.

Gameplay
The re-visited turn-based battle scenario combined with an archaic Job system. Sometime after the game's beginning you are given the ability to switch Jobs. If you are unfamiliar with this concept allow me to explain. They are a set of specific characteristics, abilities, and stats wound together with a costume. Choosing a Job not only changes the way you fight, but how you fight in general. There are only several paths open to you, especially at the game's beginning. Specifically narrowed to Magic or Melee combat.

Magic has two subcategories, offensive and defensive. Offensive magic is the magical attacks with elements attached. These include spells like Fire, Thunder, and Blizzard. Defensive spells contain articles like Cure, Protect, Shell, and the removal or the inducing of status ailments. To a strategist you'll find the only difference between offensive spells is the difference in damage. Of course, the same can be said about any Final Fantasy.

One of the most noticeable changes is the lack of MP or Magic Points. Instead we receive a stock of points that builds overtime. Learning spells is quite easily done as all you need to do is purchase them and equip them to a character. The drawback here is that we are limited to three spells per Magic Level. All spells in-game have a level attached to them. They span from one to eight, eight being the strongest and one being the weakest. There are naturally more stocked points on the lower tier of spells then the stronger, though it's not always the case. Along with statistical characteristics, these are what really differ the Jobs from one another.

Sadly, the storyline limits the Jobs you have. Unlike the days of Final Fantasy Tactics, where all you needed was to obtain a level it. You're Job has a separate level of it's own, the level determines your overall effectiveness in battle. Let's say you have two characters that are both Warriors. The first Warrior has a Job Level of one, the other is ten. The Warrior with the lower Job Level will dish less damage than one with a higher level. Your Job Level is dependent on how many turns you spend battling with that Job. Which means you have to lock yourself in with a single job in order to become stronger. This encourages you to branch out as little as possible, and is considered by many to be a flaw.

You are penalized for switching Jobs out-of-the-blue. Especially when going from a physical attacker oriented Job to a magical one. Your stats are lowered and your effort overall is decreased. This is done in order to stave off players from switching randomly. This is also due to the fact that abilities aren't detachable like the Job Systems in later titles.

One of those nit-picky things I can't help but point out, is that the abilities jobs receive are less then remarkable. Most of these classes evolve into a set of "advance" jobs are merely upgrades to their former. Balance-wise they've kept it moderate at the beginning, but flawed towards the end. Some Jobs are given bad stats or stock, which drives players to the better class. In retrospect, it was the only way so many could become distinct. By giving these classes limitations they alter the way they're used in battle. I ask you though, what's the point of giving us all these Jobs if we're just going to choose the better?

The layout of the world is to my own liking. On the top of your screen, you're presented with a beautifully detailed map. On the lower is located your character. Though the game uses the stylus, you're allowed to forgo it. We also receive a zoom function, but beyond zeroing in our character it doesn't have much use. Especially in dungeons as it crucial we're able to see ahead.

In dungeons we encounter enemies randomly at a rate of three at a time. The most amount of enemies you can encounter at a time are three. This is much less then veteran gamers are used to, but it's made for with enemies that attack multiple times.

Towards the end of the game, you'll notice a slight lapse in side-quests. There are some here and there, but I found them generally lacking that Final Fantasy touch. You have only one "ultra-powerful" side-boss and that is Iron Giant. The lack of in-depth side dungeons was obvious, especially considering that Iron Giant's consisted of a single concave room.

Overall the game-play is a smooth ride with a few blemishes here and there. Nothing to derail players from experiencing Final Fantasy. The perfect "starter" game for those interested in the series, and to those who've long since been riding.

Graphics & Sound
Ah, what beauty. I speak of course of the cinematic graphics at the game's start. They contrast of course with the squat, yet finely detailed characters. They make noticeable costume changes with Job switching, and every character has a different quirk to their own. I find it refreshing to a degree, as compared past titles you didn't have that ability.

Speaking from a generality, I find the layout fits under the "you've seen one, you've seen them all" rule. While every village, town, and dungeon you visit unique, the similarities come up as well. The same dirt path, the same stack of pots, that same tree in shape and size... and so on. They also come with their out-of-the-way niches though that usually leads to treasure. A characteristic that demands you focus on the map in order to unearth them. Of course there is the ever present partner the game's score.

Straight from the composer Nobuo Uematsu comes the soundtrack from the NES version. Re-mixed for the modern generation of hand-held. Along with it comes some of the best Boss Battle music of all time. The lively beat will pump your adrenaline like wildfire. The rest of the ensemble is a coaxing array of orchestrated songs. This reviewer has found the overhead map quite catchy, yet I don't think I'll add it to my play-list. You'll be enchanted by the melody of inside the mellow village of Ur. As well as cautious when listening to the ominous overtones of a dungeon.

Overall? Along with flowery graphics, and a smashing soundtrack, the graphics and sound are some of the best handheld-wise. If you're big on these, then look no further.

Wi-Fi
Well, you want the strongest equipment and best Job in the game? You'll need a Wi-Fi connection or a friend with another DS. You'll need to send a set amount of letters in order to unlock what you need. Is this supposed to make up for the lack of mini-games? Some would complain that Mognet is tedious, has no purpose other to use a feature that would otherwise go unused. I'm one of 'em.

The Good
+ Simplistic yet satisfying storyline.
+ Job System allows great deals customization.
+ Some of the best graphics on the DS to date.
+ Absorbing graphics and phenomenal soundtrack.
+ Incredible Replay-ability.
+ Single Class Challenge, woot!
+ Mognet is cool.

The Arguments
- Lacking depth, very few side-quests.
- Mognet can be tedious.
- The grind to Level 99 is steep.
- Some Jobs become useless.

While rusty with small flaws there are many parts that will shine as brilliant as the crystal itself. Supplied with an array of ways to play each time, the potential for replay is great. And when, long after you've put down the game, think of the boy who fell into the hole. The one who started a quest as epic as Final Fantasy.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/13/07, Updated 04/06/09

Game Release: Final Fantasy III (US, 11/14/06)


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