Review by WishingTikal

"The game's only flaw is a flaw in the genre itself"

Final Fantasy III, originally released in 1990 on the NES, is a cursed FF game that went through a lot of mishap. Not only did it never get released outside of Japan in the first place, but it was also abandoned during the time Square was remaking the primary FF games for WonderSwan Color. Thus, a GBA version never saw the light either. FF3's fate isn't due to the game not being good, as in fact, it's actually considered to be the best out of the three NES FF games. FF3 simply came out at a bad time when the SNES was on its way, and was too difficult to code for other systems. A 2D remake was therefore never made. Square never forgot FF3 though, and decided a 3D remake of the game was the way to go for this day and age. Although the PS2 was considered, the DS was definitely the system of choice for this 3D remake. And this is how Final Fantasy III finally was not the lost NES classic anymore.

What must be kept in mind however is that the DS incarnation of FF3 is still an old NES game at heart. It has a new coat of paint, but you can tell it's dated. Being a fan of old-school RPGs, this is not a problem to me, and FF3 still stands the test of time, but people who have never played a traditional RPG and are expecting something new will have a hard time enjoying the experience. RPGs of the time were hard and time-consuming, following a set formula, and FF3 is no exception. It might have updated graphics, but it's still the same game from more than a decade ago.

Even for the time, Final Fantasy III's storyline has always been very basic, not straying one bit from the usual heroic fantasy. You play as four orphans on a quest to restore elemental crystals and bring balance back to the world. A few NPCs here and there add elements to the storyline, and the main characters were given personalities in additional cutscenes that weren't present in the NES version, but simplicity drives the plot. I am one to think good RPGs don't need to rely on story, so FF3's shallow plot isn't an issue, since exploration of unknown lands and discovery of new items is what truly motivates the adventure.

Aside from the revamped graphics, the game itself remained unchanged. The quest is still about searching the vast overworld for your next destination, on foot at first, then aboard the airship. Scattered around the world map, you'll find plenty of caves and temples to investigate, artifacts to retrieve, and monsters to fight. Exploring the overworld in FF3 unfolds in an interesting way as airship upgrades allow you to go underwater and even fly above mountains that were previously blocking your way, letting you discover new areas. With its two world maps to explore and hidden areas, FF3 clearly was the biggest Final Fantasy on NES.

Since Final Fantasy III places so much emphasis on exploration, it obviously doesn't stop there. Villages and castles are filled with secret passageways and hidden items to find, so you really need to look everywhere. The game also holds tons of dungeons, but it's too bad almost all of them are similar looking caves that only consist in a few small and linear paths with treasure chests scattered in corners, sometimes at the end of hidden pathways. FF3, just like the previous FF games, appears very open-ended, but in reality it's a pretty straightforward game despite the vast land. The difficulty is more so finding where to head next, since the game most of the time leaves you on your own.

Final Fantasy III is known for introducing the job system to the series, which is definitely its best feature. As you collect the crystals, jobs will become available to your characters. You can switch from a job to another any time you want, with a temporary penalty to avoid overuse of the function. There are 22 jobs in total, including Dragoon, Viking, Sage, Thief, Ninja, Summoner, Scholar, and many others, each having their own weapons and specialities, either in brute force or black/white magic. The job system is better than ever in the DS version thanks to very distinctive character designs and costumes depending on the job you choose. It adds a customization aspect to the game and allows for more variety.

The battle system is the generic turn-based one; you can either attack, defend, use magic and summons, or any particular skill your characters get based on their job. NPCs will also sometimes join you in battle. Nothing else was added for the DS game, although the leveling-up curve was toned down. You'll still need to occasionally train your characters as some of the bosses are ridiculously hard, but as long as you don't run from all the fights, your characters should always be at a fair level to go through the adventure without too much grinding. The random encounter rate is also pretty low, so enemies won't stop you at every step. It's still a pretty hard game however, but a lot easier than it was on NES. Enemies finally drop enough money for you to buy all the equipment you need.

The controls work very well on DS, you can either play it with the buttons or with only the stylus. Aside from displaying the world map, the top screen does nothing else while the action takes place on the touchscreen, leaving the top screen completely blank while you explore dungeons and even during battles. I'm sure an use of some sort could have been found for this screen. The DS version also features Mognet, which allows you to send mail to friends through WiFi.

All in all, Final Fantasy III is a worthy remake. The only flaw with the game is a flaw in the genre itself. Final Fantasy III is from another generation of games and the RPG genre has evolved a lot ever since. 3D graphics only changes the game's presentation, but not the way it plays. It still has the gameplay mechanisms of a NES game, and it feels like playing an old game, but at the same time it feels like a renewed experience thanks to the fresh look. Of course, compared to what the RPG genre offers nowadays, FF3 isn't all that good. In the end, all you find yourself doing is walking around and fighting enemies, but for what the genre was at the time, it's a great RPG.

It's hard to believe at first glance that Final Fantasy III was once a NES game. The game looks fabulous, with impressive 3D character models, spells, summons, and very detailed environments that manage to keep the charm of the original. You'll sometimes see columns of light breaking through the ceiling in the dungeons and clouds moving in the background as you battle enemies. The only downside, and that's very unfortunate because otherwise the game would look stunning, is the world map which doesn't look too far from the one in Golden Sun on GBA. The somewhat 2D houses found in the villages also look a bit strange compared to the 3D setting, but despite these faults, FF3 still is one of the best looking DS games currently. It's also one of the best sounding one, with still the same epic score, greatly improved on the DS to create very beautiful musical pieces.

It's to note also that although the game doesn't feature any in-game FMVS, the introduction sequence is absolutely breathtaking and could easily rival with any FMVs from the PS2 Final Fantasy games. It's astonishing what the DS can pull off.

For anyone who enjoys old-school RPGs, Final Fantasy III is definitely the best RPG on DS so far. While the game looks new, it still has the same epic atmosphere and offers a lengthy quest of over 40 hours. Obviously, some people will hate the game for being too traditional, but fans should know what to expect. If you didn't like Dawn of Souls on GBA, then it's unlikely you'll have fun playing through FF3, but anyone who likes the first Final Fantasy games will be in heaven with this 3D remake of a classic.

Breakdown

Presentation Impressive visual remake while staying true to the original. DS potential not really used as far as gameplay goes. Simplistic plot and storyline do the job. 7/10

Gameplay Very traditional and old-school RPG adventure; love it or hate it. A lot of exploration and challenging battles. Too many similar dungeons. Interesting job system. 8/10

Graphics Stunning introduction video. Quality in-game graphics with a lot of effects and details, but the world map and village buildings are not on par. 8/10

Music Beautiful and epic music makes the adventure even better. 9/10

Replay Value Lengthy quest of around 40 hours. Not really any side quests, but a few optional dungeons. 7/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/21/07, Updated 03/21/08

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


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