Review by brutusmuktuk
"Revolutionary gameplay does not necessarily make a quality game"
Most Americans never had a chance to play the true third installment in the Final Fantasy series when it originally came out in 1990. That's because it only saw release in Japan. Truly, it is a revolutionary game in the series, but revolutionary is not synonymous with good. The problem with Final Fantasy 3's new release on the DS, sixteen years later, is that American gamers have played the much-improved Final Fantasy games that follow this, including Final Fantasy 5 and the Final Fantasy Tactics series, all of which use and improve upon this game's revolutionary job class system. This game offers nothing in terms of nostalgia and little in terms of quality. Arguably, this is the worst game of the series.
+ Plenty of classes to choose from
+ Old school-style RPG elements are fun
- A tad difficult for a traditional RPG
- Lack of save points within dungeons
- Requires level grinding, lots of it
- The adjustment period when switching classes
? You can't purchase Phoenix Downs? What?
It took this series a while to finally receive a decently developed storyline, but it didn't start with this game. While the storyline here is an improvement over the previous two games, that's not saying much since the stories of those games were virtually non-existent. And today we've been spoiled by the cinematics of the Playstation 1 and 2 Final Fantasy games. Though I imagine even for the time its story was lackluster. Admittedly, it's asking a bit much to expect Square Enix to write a completely new story and create completely new scenes. In this case, it would be a waste of time anyway.
At first, FF3 is an old-school style RPG that is less confusing and more engaging than your usual old-school RPG. You never find yourself lost. Dungeons and towns are easy to navigate. Battles have a higher level of strategy (however slight) than most RPGs of its time. The inclusion of job classes is refreshing, no matter how flawed. Perhaps it's now common knowledge that FF3 began the job class system. It's not a very good system, but, judging from FF5 and FF Tactics, Square learned a lot from it. True, gamers have a newer, better job class system to compare this game's to, and the job system should be judged separate, however, Square has decided to bring and update an old game to the present times, and with that, they should have fixed their flaws.
There are more than twenty classes to choose from. You begin as a freelancer and soon gain your first group of six classes. The job class system doesn't rear its ugly head until you receive the later classes. So at first, all is fine. You pick a class for each character, fight with it, and grow levels. Each class can equip certain weapons or armors and has at least one ability that makes it unique. Some of these abilities are essentially useless (the monk's counterattack, for example, is a wasted action if enemies don't attack him).
You might notice that jobs level up seemingly arbitrarily. One look through a gamefaqs guide, however, will tell you that a character levels up his job class by performing actions. This is okay, but in some random battles it takes only three people to defeat a group of enemies, which means only three characters gain experience towards their job class. And usually it's the same three characters battle after battle, meaning one character, whose sin is only being the last to attack, falls behind.
Another thing you might notice later, when you earn more job classes, is that spending time leveling up job levels earns your character nothing to take over with him when he switches to a new class. He doesn't earn abilities, have any synergies, nothingexcept his health points. Those who have played FF5 will be especially disappointed. You could mix and match abilities from different classes, thus leveling up a job meant something. Now, not only do you not gain abilities, but after switching to a new class, your character becomes weaker for a good chunk of time. For starters, it takes a few battles for a character to adjust to his new class. Also, the character's stats (strength, dexterity, etc.) are again level one stats. This means he will be doing less damage as a level one Dragoon than he was as a level thirty Warrior, at least until he reaches level ten or fifteen. This makes no sense, since you'd figure he would be at least as strong as the level thirty Warrior, not less strong.
Essentially, the above-mentioned adjustment period discourages the experimentation of switching between classes. You will most likely go straight to the class you want to use when you get it without much switching in between. But there's no need to switch. It does you no good. Sometimes, though, the game requires you to unlock doors, which, unless you have the rarely-found or -sold magic key, you must switch a character to a thief and then switch back to your old class. The more you switch back and forth between job classes the longer the adjustment period becomes, for some reason. This eliminates at least that possible strategic tool.
The game's booklet informs us that, yes, there are some changes between the NES and DS versions of the game. Minor changes include less, but slightly more powerful monsters to fight at one time, the use of the stylus for moving and choosing battle commands. The monster change is probably good. I can see a problem with monster swarms. The stylus addition is a neutral change. You probably won't use it, as it's optional, because it slows the game down. That leaves the bad change, or, I should say, the terrible, terrible change. Monsters can now attack somebody immediately revived by a Phoenix Down or revive spell. Since characters usually return to life with low health points, that means they will die again if attacked.
Of course, you're thinking, other Final Fantasy games do this as well, and it's nothing more than a nuisance. In this game it's much more than a nuisance, I assure you. If Square Enix was willing to make changes that allow enemies to attack a character immediately after revival, they should have given the gamer easier access to revival items and spells. The booklet even warns you that Phoenix Downs cannot be purchased. You can only find them in treasure chests or, very rarely, killing enemies. You will always have a low stock of this essential Final Fantasy item, and you will most likely restart from the last save point rather than use a Phoenix Down to revive a character for fear of not having enough Phoenix Downs when you really need them. To make things worse, you only receive the level 5 Revive spell much, much later in the game, and it is barely more effective than a Phoenix Down. Even so, MP in this game depletes quickly(per each spell level you can cast spells only a specific number of times), meaning you still have a very limited number of revivals.
More changes for the better would have been much appreciated. The save system is another example. You can only save on the over world: no save points within dungeons or towns. While most dungeons are on the short side, usually twenty to thirty minutes, many of the later dungeons are longer and much more difficult. Save points would have reduced a lot of frustration. In order to succeed, you need to level grind, which is a very tedious exercise. In newer Final Fantasy games, level grinding is a requirement for beating the very difficult optional Weapon bosses, but not for actually beating the game. Leveling up as you progress through the story and quests usually earns you enough experience. Not so for this game. For this reason, and other reasons you will learn from reading other reviews and FAQs, I didn't finish the game. I made it more than halfway, but quit when I couldn't make it past a dungeon because regular enemies were wiping dungeon floors with my characters. The worst part is that RPGs of this sort take no hand-eye coordination skill, so high difficulty can easily ruin the experience.
Now, I did play FF3 for a decent amount of time before quitting, the amount of time that it wasn't unfair. Many people will most likely quit before then end of the game, except for the most stubborn and die-hard (and there are always those gamers). Frankly, there are many games out there more worth your time. Go play one of those.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 07/03/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy III (US, 11/14/06)
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