Review by mikaa

Reviewed: 11/16/06 | Updated: 11/20/07

Final Fantasy III - Special Edition

WARNING - this is NOT the Final Fantasy III that most take it for. It still amazes me to this day that, while the hardcore gamer knows that the Super Nintendo (SNES) release titled Final Fantasy III was actually Final Fantasy VI, the casual gamer does not realize this fact. Countless times I have run across a customer that heard me mention FFIII coming up on the DS, and I had to explain that they had not played this game before on their SNES, and hoped that they would still hold interest.

If they choose to ignore this, it would be a shame.

Final Fantasy III, originally exclusive to the Japanese market (first released on the Japanese Famicom (aka the NES counterpart), as well as at least one other verison for the Bandai Wonderswan Color), is ironically the only true Final Fantasy game to never see release in the US (up till Nov. 14/15 of 2006). Introducing many concepts that modern Final Fantasy gamers take for granted, FFIII introduced several key concepts, chief among them the Job system. Remember, back in the day, the Job system was quite the innovation, no other game at the time had done such a feat.

In hindsight, the reasons for most of the pre-VII Final Fantasy games are pretty well known: Role Playing Games (RPGs) were still not fully welcomed by the average gamer, and companies were unwilling to invest in a possible game that would not sell. True, Final Fantasy I and IV (the latter known on the SNES as FFII), Dragon Warrior/Quest III, and Phantasy Star I and II had their fan bases, but compared to the number of those following Sonic, Mario, football, and other games, there was really no chance for many early games to come over.

But then came the last days of the SNES, were well-known games like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, Secret of Mana, and Secret of Evermore saw releases, just as the rise of RPGs was coming. Then came the PSX classic, Final Fantasy VII, and RPGs were forever locked in the minds of gamers. True, some would argue that FFVII was not such a great game, but there is no denying that the game would convert countless throngs to the genre.

Fast forward to 2005. Throughout the year, during the rise of the DS, we learn of Square Enix's plans to release scores of new RPGs for the dual screened system. One notable release caught the eyes of RPG-starved gamers everywhere: Final Fantasy III. Immediately, gamers began to wonder at this announcement - would it be a strait port, or would it be enhanced, like the WonderSwan games? Or would there be a twist?

Eventually, SquareEnix showed their hand - FFIII DS would be completely overhauled in the graphics department, and there was no denying the beauty that was wraught from their efforts. Though not as gorgeous as, say, FFXII or Advent Children (hardware limitations, after all), on a cart-based system that was supposed to be limited in 3D abilities, it looks stellar. All characters and foes are rendered with 3D polygons, and most backgrounds and structures are also rendered in ways that show off their "3D" view; note that many areas, notably battles, at certain angles show their 2D design.

But as gorgeous as it is, graphics still make a great game do not. So! Game play? Well, it's a remake of a late-80's RPG. Which means... it is old. Combat is largely the same as the original, with maybe a few tweaks here or there. Most notably the graphics have changed, with a zoom feature in city, dungeon, and overworld maps. Aside from admiring the graphics, this trick allows you to note hidden triggers or treasure. While somewhat cool that you have to "look close" to see these, it would have been better to see these "sparkles" from afar.

Oh, and did I mention the game is based on an NES/Famicom game? Which means what, class? That's right - steep leveling up curve. While not as brutal as, say, Phantasy Star (where you really needed to level up five or seven levels to really go far without issues), it certainly is not as easy as FFVIII or VII. I followed the story and plot to the places it demaned, and had to retreat on numerous occasions due to not being nearly ready enough. Most newer gamers will have a hard time with this, while older gamers will find this challenging and enjoyable.

Story wise, the game was weak in the original, but the addition of a plot in this release, well... It's not like post-IV, so don't expect tormented heroes and anti-heroes with dark pasts. It's more of a plot than FFI, though it runs neck and nexk with FFII, which is both good and bad - enough background to care, but nothing on the side to add depth to the world.

Audio is a mix of brand new remixes and classical themes; the latter is not suprising, as most of the earlier FF games shared their musical scores in one way or another. Still, I would be suprised to find something of One Wing Angel quality here, though the audio and effects are quite pleasing.

Controls are standard RPG fare, but with an added option - you can use the touch screen to control the game if you are so inclined. While not a bad idea, I haven't really found myself willing to use it over the classic interface. At least it is just an option, and not the only way to play.

Finally, replay value. There is WFC support in the form of a glorified e-mail/chat system (which supposedly allows you to access side quests in some cases), but no multiplayer co-op (in a FF game?!) or head-to-head, and there is no arena-like battle mode. In an age where games like Golden Sun and Tales of Symphonia (head-to-head for the former, and battle arenas for both), this is a notable lacking.

Still, FFIII is a nice trip back in time, new graphics aside. If you found the GBA remakes of FFI+II, IV, V, and VI to be fun, this release will please your thirst for RPGing. If you want more modern fare on the DS, wait a year or so for the FFXII DS prequel.

Final Score - 8 of 10

* Best Features: Graphics, FMV, Music, Controls, Old School, Job system, E-mail option

* Worst Features: WFC E-mails require Friend Codes, Old School can equal frustration for younger gamers, Learning Curve

* If You Liked: Final Fantasy I and II, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI (all GBA), Phantasy Star Collection (GBA), Final Fantasy IX (PSX), Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

* Guilty Pleasure: Comparing this release to the Famicom original, just to see how faithful the room layouts and map textures are...

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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

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