Review by Psycho Penguin
"The main reason I bought a DS, and it did not disappoint!"
I am a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series, as you may have noticed over the years due to my various Final Fantasy reviews and walkthroughs. Growing up, I always wanted to play the original Final Fantasy 3, but back then there was no translations or emulation available, so it was always one of those mysterious games I knew very little about, yet yearned to play regardless. I had heard the sequel to Final Fantasy was awful (and it turned out to be the truth), but Square really fixed things up for the third outing.
And boy, did they ever. I finally got to play a translated version of the Famicom game about five years ago, and was blown away by how complex it was for a NES game. Not only did it have a pretty solid storyline with characters you cared about (besides the characters you were using, which I'll expand upon in a bit), but the gameplay was simply out of this world. Items you can use in battle to cast spells, epic boss battles, special dungeons which required more than just going from point A to point B, and most importantly, the job system which revolutionized the way role playing games became.
Unbelievably, to me anyways, Square kept remaking the first two Final Fantasies, first on Wonderswan, then on Playstation, and finally on Game Boy Advance. That's all fine and dandy, since the games showed some improvements over their NES counterparts, but I kept wondering one thing. Where the hell was a remake of the only Final Fantasy never to come out in America? Fortunately, my question was answered when a port of the game was announced for none other than Nintendo's newest portable sensation, the Nintendo DS.
I mentioned a little bit ago about the characters being ones you cared about, except the playable characters. That was on the NES one, where you start off with four generic onion knights, and they get no character development at all throughout the entire game. Square changed this for the DS version, as you only start off with two of the four now, and meet up with the other two soon enough. They actually have some depth and background to them now, and you can actually see them mature as the game progresses. I liked this a lot, and shows that Square really went out of their way to make this a good remake.
Unfortunately, the storyline is basically what you would expect. Find the crystals, defeat the evil bad guy, save the world. Blah blah blah, it's been done a thousand times over and there's no differences here. You can even look forward to some of the most ridiculous fetch quests ever! I mean, I know this game came out a long time ago originally, but the crystal storyline was already outdated then!
The graphics in this game are really good, although not as good as they could have been on a console. The characters look kind of funny when you look at them up close, as you can pretty much point out the pixels at some point. The backgrounds are well done, though, and very varied. They especially get good towards the end of the game. The Crystal Tower is especially well designed, as the flashing crystals and mirror-like background makes it a feast for the eyes. It's too bad Square only utilized the bottom screen for battles, though.
I really loved the music of the Famicom version, and it's mostly even better for this remake. The battle theme is memorable, but the boss theme is the one you will be humming for a while after hearing it. It's really well done, and puts most other boss themes to shame. Most of the towns have different songs, although there are some repeating songs here and there. The classic chocobo theme is here in all its glory, and the world map song is pretty swell, as well. Finally, I liked the airship theme a tad, but it's not my favorite. It certainly sounds like an airship theme, though.
Using the DS stylus is apparently possible, although I never actually tried it so I can't comment too much. I really hate that thing. However, I read the instruction manual, and it says you can do cool stuff like draw a box around the enemies you want to target for a magic spell. That sounds like a good way to use the stylus. However, there is no problem with just using the basic control method either. Like I said, I spent the entire game using the control pad and four buttons, and I had no problems with the controls whatsoever.
Final Fantasy 3 really fixed all the problems that its predecessor brought about. For one, the return of experience points is a lovely thing. No more needing to hit yourself to get more max HP. I love leveling up, so having the random battles actually mean something again was definitely a good decision from Square. The battles themselves play a lot like the typical Final Fantasies. They are turn based. Your four characters select an action, then the battles progress depending on the character and enemy speeds.
The game itself seems a lot larger, too. There's a lot more stuff to do than normal. You get a chance to bring along a non playable character several times throughout the game, and they usually give you a valuable thing to help you continue your quest. Like I mentioned earlier, there's a ton of fetch quests, but at least most of them happen to be fun.
Most of them.. because some of the dungeons in the game are the most annoying things in the world. There's a few dungeons where you have to be mini in, so if you haven't been using mages at all, they'll be weak and you'll have to spend time leveling them up, or suffering through a long annoying dungeon, running away from enemies and hoping it works, then somehow hoping to survive a boss and get out of the dungeon as well. I'm more of a physical attacker than magic fan, so these 'mini' dungeons always pissed me off.
Fortunately, there's one awesome element about Final Fantasy 3 that makes it one of my favorite games in the series. This game introduced the totally addictive job system, where you can change a character's job and turn them into a completely different job altogether. Unfortunately, you can't master a job and gain its abilities for other jobs like in later iterations of the system, but what is here is super fun. Your characters gain job points for each action they perform during battle, and after a certain amount of job points, you level up the character. The higher job class they have, the stronger they are, and the better their special abilities work.
This makes this one of the more replayable games in the series. Not only is it on a portable console, which makes it more replayable to begin with for me, but the job system kept me hooked for a long time. Those who are obsessive with gaining everything and wanting to level everyone's job classes up to 99 will spend a LONG time on this game, and those who just want a decent variety of job classes can still expect to spend a fair amount of time on this one. I know that there were times I could simply not put the game down until I gained one more job level.. then one more.. ok, one more! I promise this time! I got like that a lot, which shows how effective this game is of hooking me.
It's also not the easiest game in the world, either. Those expecting a cakewalk like some of the later games in the series, where you can overpower yourself way too easily if you wanted, are in for a rude awakening here. There are some really powerhouse bosses (Garuda!) that will beat the crap out of you if you are not fully prepared. Then, there's the 'mini' dungeons I mentioned earlier. Also, you don't get many phoenix downs, and you can only save in the overworld. So, you have to go through entire dungeons and hope you can beat the boss without dying. Otherwise, it's right back to the last save spot, and you may have wasted a lot of time. This gets especially frustrating at the end, where you have multiple dungeons and tons of bosses, including the final boss.. with no save point. Ouch.
Of course, there are ways to overpower yourself to a certain extent, like finding certain awesome job classes and leveling them up pretty high (just wait til you see what some attackers can do at level 99), or performing side quests to get awesome weapons, but it's not as easy to pull off as usual. This game will make you earn the "the end' screen, and I really appreciated that. I have not had such goosebumps before a final boss in a while, just because I had not saved in 2 ½ hours or so, even though I knew I had overleveled and would probably win. I won easily, of course, but the sense of fear was there which rarely exists for me in RPGs any more.
As you can see, I have mostly good things to say about this wonderful RPG for the DS. It's portable, it's addictive, it has great graphics and music, and the job system is really awesome. You will spend many hours staring at the DS screens, having fun leveling up job classes and performing random quests to help various people throughout the world. If you are a fan of the series, or a fan of role playing games in general, you owe it to yourself to try this one out. It really is an amazing accomplishment, and one of my favorite games I've played in quite a while.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/19/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy III (US, 11/14/06)
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