Review by Onderhond

"A remake benchmark"

Once upon a time, I was a regular Final Fantasy addict. When emulation reigned high and I was fresh out of consoles, I hacked away at the three installments on the SNES and was immediately hooked. I never really liked the newer games, so I just left it at that. But when a remake of the original FFIII was announced on the DS, there was only one thing I could do. Buy the sucker.

The original FFIII stems from the NES days and was never released in the West. The FFIII America received on the SNES was actually FFVI in Japan. FFIII belongs to the "jobs" series and was deemed too difficult for us. Luckily times have changed and us silly Westerners now have the means to tackle the once final Japanese-only Final Fantasy. So much for the history lesson.

I was a little weary at first as the remake was going to be made in shiny 3D, something I always thought detracted from the appeal of the original. Luckily SquareEnix did a lovely job at translating the FF world to 3D on the DS, so much that I was actually stunned by the amount of detail they could cram in that little cartridge. Two huge worlds, many locations, 20 odd jobs to master, each of them having their own little costume design (and even slightly tweaked for each character), plenty of bad guys and all of that without any notable slowdown or glitches. Times have changed indeed.

While it was only to be expected that the DS remake would improve on the graphics, I did a quick look-back at the SNES releases and was quite stunned at how much nicer things looked on the DS. While of course the graphics are low-res and the 3D graphics can get be a little edgy (some blurring would've helped I guess), it's a little miracle how they succeeded in upgrading the visuals.

What really surprised me though was the way they revamped the audio. This is probably the first game on the DS where I preferred to leave the audio on instead of muting it. The typical FF tracks are still there (battle and victory music for example) and the score really adds to the overall experience of the game. It's good to see Square still hasn't lost it touch.

The game itself is also surprisingly mature (gameplay-wise) considering it's age. The job system is already pretty elaborate and the impact on the game is as huge as ever. So big in fact that you have to be careful what you choose to do. It's nice building a team with physical strength only, but some parts of the game require you to have serious magic power. So unless you build a well-developed overall team, some bits will be extremely difficult to complete.

Another hurdle in the game is switching jobs. You'll be wanting to do that whenever you find an update for your class, but that means starting all over again (as you can level each job). This leaves you weak and powerless, especially since changing jobs is penalized. Something I think they should've left out, as it does hold you back from trying out news jobs. This only happens about two or three times during the course of the game, but it was enough to have me put the game aside for a while.

Apart from that, the game isn't too difficult until the final dungeon. I spent two and a half hours battling away and barely made it against the final boss. With some luck I might add, and I have no idea whether I'd have found the strength to try it again should I have failed. It wouldn't have hurt to have a save point a little closer to the final boss, but in the end that's just another typical FF characteristic.

Apart from the main quest there are plenty of other things to do. Sadly some of them involve the wireless function which is of little use to me. I don't like being able to access some parts of the game because of that, and this type of extras seem to be pretty popular lately. But even then, there are plenty of optional places to visit and heaps of secret gear to find (though some a bit useless, as I didn't have a summoner in my team to use the summons I found).

All things considered, it's pretty amazing how they updated a 15 year old game. The DS version is no mere remake but a full-fledged update which brings a completely new feel to the game. With that in mind I made sure I got a hold of the FFIV remake before I finished this one. FFIII DS is a benchmark for all remakes out there, it improves the game on all fronts and even for those who were lucky enough to finish the original game on emulation, there's plenty of new experiences to gather from the remake.

If you like your jrpgs there's no better place to start on the DS than with this game. It's a rather heavy kettle of stats and quite free-form when it comes to team building, but a very rewarding experience with plenty of appeal. A shiny 4.5*/5.0*. That said, I'm playing through the remake of part IV now, which is a whole new benchmark in itself.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/11/08

Game Release: Final Fantasy III (EU, 05/04/07)

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