Review by DiscoStoo
"A Gaming Rarity: A Worthwhile Remake"
Seemingly obligatory note: since there seems to be a small amount of confusion about which game this actually is, let me clarify. This is Final Fantasy III, the original FFIII, which has NEVER BEEN OFFICIALLY RELEASED in the US. It's not the one you played on Super NES! That was Final Fantasy VI--it was renamed to III in America to avoid confusion. That trend stopped with the release of Final Fantasy VII, and of course this just caused more confusion. Just know, this isn't the game with Terra, Locke, Shadow, Kefka, Espers, Magicite, &c. It's completely different. But buy it anyway.
There is certainly no shortage of video game remakes out there, and most gamers would probably agree that the majority are fairly worthless. Occasionally, however, one emerges that is actually worth the time, effort, and money to play. Final Fantasy III is one of these rare few, and as unbelievable as it may sound, it actually improves on the original.
The release of FFIII in the United States answers a demand that American gamers have been making for nearly seventeen years. As of the re-releases of FFI and FFII on the Playstation and Game Boy Advance, Final Fantasy III was the only game in the series never to reach our shores. Square even stated that there never would be any American release, mostly just because they doubted that there was a market for it.
Contrary to how it seems, they didn't quite contradict themselves with this release, because it's anything but a traditional repackaging of decade-old material. This is a complete reprogramming, and it fully utilizes the 3D capabilities of the Nintendo DS. There are also several important changes to the gameplay mechanics, story, characters, and most other aspects of the game. This isn't a port or a crappy rehash. This is an amazing old-school Final Fantasy, completely overhauled for a more modern generation.
The obvious place to begin a review. This is the entire reason we play video games in the first place, right? Well rest assured, gameplay is the standout feature here. Everything from the original Famicom version remains more or less in tact, although certain aspects have been majorly tweaked. Classes have been balanced, stats have been adjusted, and items have been slightly altered, all in the name of creating a superior gaming experience. Out of the 23 classes in the game, none are undoubtedly the best (with the exception of certain hidden classes, of course). There are checks and balances in place that allow you complete freedom when creating your party. If you want a Dragoon, go ahead. If you like Knights, knock yourself out. No matter what you pick, you have about the same chance of success.
With that said, let's get to the nitty-gritty of the gameplay itself: the aforementioned job system. The job system in FFIII is a little different from what you're used to in games like Final Fantasy Tactics and FFV. It's a little more primitive actually, although certainly no less enjoyable. Absent is the ability to mix and match abilities and spells from different jobs, and to completely customize your character. You can pick any job you want, but once you do your skills, magic, and stats are all completely within the realm of that job. This seems like a step back (although keep in mind, this is FFIII, it came out 16 years ago), but in reality it makes the task of balancing your party a much more complex and thought-provoking one. Gone are the days of, well, I don't really need a healer, I'll just give my Monk some white magic. If you have a Monk you have a Monk, and Monks don't have magical abilities in FFIII. You have to be very careful when designing your team, or you're likely to get slaughtered.
Which brings us to another often-addressed aspect of this game: the difficulty level. This is an old-school Final Fantasy game. It's designed to be difficult. Square/Enix changed a few things to make it easier on today's gamer, but for the most part you're thrown into a world of powerful enemies, limited healing, and no save points. That's right, no save points. You can save on the overhead map screen, but that's it. Which is what most people have been complaining about since the game's release. To quote EGM, we like our dungeons with save points, thank you! Granted, it can be frustrating to be at the very end of a dungeon, fighting a boss, and to suddenly be wiped out. Everything since your last save will be gone, which means all progress in that particular dungeon will be gone. The thing is, I didn't find this to be a problem at all. It's easy enough to tell if you're strong enough to survive in a certain dungeon during the first random battle, and if you're getting killed it's a simple matter to leave and come back at a higher level. You also gain a teleport spell fairly early on that allows you to escape dungeons at any time, so there's very little excuse to get stuck and killed. And the dungeons themselves are never long enough to be irritating. As for bosses, well--they were all close calls, but none of them are impossible to defeat the first try. As I said before, the balance in this game is impeccable.
Story obviously plays a major role in RPGs, as it's the driving force behind every aspect of the gameplay. Unfortunately, the story here is fairly weak, and obviously a bit dated. It's not bad, by any means--there just isn't much of it there, even after the additions they made to the Famicom version. Your party consists of four characters with hardly any background, and they don't really develop much further throughout the course of the game. Like most RPGs of that era, the story serves as an excuse to get you from dungeon to dungeon, and little more. Normally this would bother me a great deal, but FFIII's gameplay is definitely strong enough to overshadow this lack of plot. You'll find yourself not caring a bit why you're in a particular dungeon or tower--you'll just be damn glad to be there.
There is really not a thing to complain about here. Brilliant 3D brought to you by Nintendo's wonderful little handheld. Looks at least as good as any Playstation RPG I ever played, and better than most. Best looking DS game I've seen, for sure. Play on a DS Lite, if possible--the colors are so vibrant it looks almost like an entirely different game.
Again, nothing to complain about. Awesome music thanks to my man Nobuo Uematsu, as in every Final Fantasy. It sounds even better through headphones, although the DS has a decent pair of speakers on it, I must say. I'd mention my favorite tunes, but I think there'd be some spoilers buried in my comments, so I'll just leave it at that.
There is actually a decent replay value here, which is usually surprising for an RPG. With a crapload of sidequests and secrets, not to mention the 200-something-thousand possible job combinations, there are plenty of things to do after completing the game. Just playing through with a new set of jobs would be enough of an excuse, honestly. It really is that fun.
You'll see I gave Final Fantasy III a nearly perfect score of 9/10. Why not a perfect 10? It was a tough call, I've gotta say. It really is an excellent game. I just feel like the story was damn lackluster, and there have been a few legitimate complaints about the difficulty level and lack of save points. I'm afraid I can't really argue with that. But as for the overall package value, let me just say this: if you own a DS, and you like RPGs at all, you definitely need to own this game. And if you like Final Fantasy games that goes double.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/08/07
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