Review by robbiedbee

"Not bad, but not great, and not quite worth full price"

Many moon ago, a company called Squaresoft gave the world the Final Fantasy series. In doing so, the stat-based RPG genre was born. As we all know, the series went on into many, many sequels, spin-offs and even movies. For the NES, we saw Final Fantasy I, II and III released (Japan only). The third of this trio, for some reason, never saw English speaking shores (unless you got the *ahem* ROM). 2006 saw the remake of this wonderful game, finally in English, but does it really justify full-price for a DS game? My answer is - maybe.

The visuals are obviously stunning. This is one of the few games to test the little DS' hardware capabilities. Those who have seen the screenshots of the original NES game will see the vast improvement. The original had big block colours with no textures, characters were little 2d sprites and the effects of spells were not all that impressive. Now, characters are fully rendered in 3d, enemies look nice and distinctive, towns are textured and quite natural looking and it all looks great together

In spite of all this though, I would say that graphics knock you out as they do with other modern games. Sure, it is on the DS but still, you may be expecting a bit more from it. The human characters are very 'chibi'. As far as I know, this means small characters with big heads and cute childlike features. If this is the case, then the characters are indeed, 'chibi'. If you're not up for staring at 30+ hours of it, then you've been warned.

Yes, I did indeed say '30+ hours' or gameplay, but with a Final Fantasy game, surely you expect nothing less? Truth be told, these 30 plus hours of gameplay are in fact very standard and generic of an early-90s RPG. You get asked to find something, you get it, you take it back, a bit of the plot unfolds. It's all not very subtle at all. I suppose though, it is just being faithful to the original, so it's not fair to compare it to modern RPGs. But then, surely, Squaresoft (or rather, Square-Enix) do us a disservice by asking us to pay full price for a game that is only graphically superior to the original? I'm more inclined to say 'yes' than 'no'.

Still faithful to the original is the battle system. It's strictly turn-based (though not in the Final Fantasy X sense). Your four characters choose how they are going to attack, then they do it. It's all very standard really. You can either attack with your weapon, defend, use magic, or use an item. As you fight more battles, you get experience points, and as your experience increases, you can deal more damage, take more damage, cast spells with more potency and cast more and more spells each time you 'level up'.

Final Fantasy III was the first in the series to feature a 'job system'. Each character has a set 'job' that they can freely go between to help their skills in battle. There are plenty to choose from, and all help in their own ways. Warriors are good at fighting, taking hits, and doing damage with a sword. Thieves are good with short swords, and can steal from the enemy and open locked doors. White mages use restorative magic to aid the party. Black mages use attacking spells like fire and lightning. There are lots of different jobs to choose from, but still, only some of them are really useful. After maybe 10 hours of gameplay, you only stick to the strong ones. Within the normally levelling system, you have job levels. A level 20 character can be a white mage, when they start, they will be level 1 in their class. You can increase the job level by performing duties specific to that job, so when a thief uses steal a few times, their job level will increase. The higher the job level, the more damage (or rather, the more effective) they will be at performing job related skills.

This game isn't one with a particularly slow opening, middle or end. It doesn't really have any high or low points. Without giving too much away, the story isn't all that deep. You are the warriors or light, you must purge darkness from the world. Along the way, you help a few people by performing menial fetch and carry tasks. The dialogue isn't overly deep, and your four characters don't really have personalities, and in the end, you're pretty much plodding along with four faceless characters. Apparently, dialogue has actually been added to this DS remake, but I can't say it's all that much better than an average 1990 RPG. As I said above, it's all very good, looking at the games that were released at the time of the original. But as I also said above, you're deciding whether or not to pay full price for it.

With all this in mind, you'd expect the game to not be all that difficult. Well, to be honest, it is. You'll find yourself doing a little bit of levelling to keep up with the pace of some of the enemies you'll encounter. Also, there seems to be a shortage of phoenix downs in this game - you can't buy them anywhere. First time players, especially those new to the series will have a bit if difficulty getting through it.

The music is very typical of an early RPG. Very cheesy and cool, in two words. Battle music and celebratory jingles may grow tiresome sometimes, but all in all, some of the pieces in the game can be very atmospheric.

My final word is this; proceed with caution. You can pick up Playstation all 3 ports of Final Fantasy IV, V and VI for the price of this DS game, and I'd say all 3 are better than this too. Try borrow it before you buy it, or read lots of reviews before you make up your mind. You could even wait 12 months for it to come down to a realistic price before you pick it up, and occupy yourself with Final Fantasy IV, V and VI in the meantime.

Either way, I'd be careful before you buy it. Nothing really stands out about this game, but then again, nothing really lets it down either. It's a slightly above average, very middle-of-the-road game, and all in all, not a bad effort.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/06/07

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