Review by striker64

"Final Fantasy III finally arives on US shores, but was it worth the wait?"

For the first time, Final Fantasy III has been released in the United States. Is it worth the wait, or is all the anticipation for naught?

You control the four Warriors of Light, chosen to banish the darkness and return balance to the world. You start as Luneth, and quickly pick up the rest of your characters. Throughout the game, you will be traveling the world, retrieving the Light Crystals to make this possible. This is pretty much the entire story. It is acceptable considering the time the game came from, that is, when stories were much simpler, but today it feels bland and shallow. Square-Enix did manage to flesh out the characters a little more than they were previously, but you won't find anything earth-shattering, as there is little character development, and little variation in the story other than “save the world.” It is very cut-and-dry, but again, still somewhat acceptable considering the original release of this title. Call it thumbs-in-the-middle here.

The graphics for Final Fantasy III have been completely redone from their NES days to match the look of more modern games, and they hold up well. The graphics offer a very good three-dimensional feel. Bright colors highlight the game, and the four main characters look adorable. Interestingly enough, each character has slight variations between the same job – that is, if all four characters are the Red Mage job, you will notice ever so slight differences between the artwork for the character sprites to reflect the different characters. This is true for every job and is a nice touch on the graphical variety. If there is one thing that the Final Fantasy series does well consistently, it is graphics.

Aside from an awesome boss theme, there is little to be excited about. Every battle has the same music, and it is not particularly memorable. Every boss also uses the same boss theme (even though it is nifty). There is variation in the music between the overworld and different dungeons, but again, there is nothing particularly exciting. Voice acting is also absent from the game. Also, weapons of the same type use the same sound bit. For example, the sound the weakest sword makes when slashing the enemy is identical to the sound the strongest sword makes when slashing the enemy. This is an inherent problem in most games though so it is difficult to fault Final Fantasy III here. Still, the sound overall is a mixed bag.

Control and Gameplay
You have the option of either playing the game using the traditional button controls, or using stylus controls. The stylus controls feel like an add-in simply because this is a DS game – they are awkward and in general the game is better suited with the traditional controls.

Final Fantasy III introduced everyone to the job system. All characters begin the game as the Freelancer job. The Freelancer is not really a job per se, but more of a placeholder until you receive the first set of jobs later on. At that point, you can choose any number of jobs, such as a Warrior, Monk, Black Mage, or White Mage, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, certain jobs can make the game easier or harder depending on the situation and your success will depend on your ability to use the correct job to cater to the situation at hand. When you switch jobs, your character will have to go through a job adjustment period, whereby all stats are lowered until the required number of battles takes place. The game will tell you how many battles you need to fight until you are out of this transition phase. While the idea makes sense in theory (a character needs time to learn his or her new job), this feels like another way to grind. Every time you change jobs, you will have to grind through this adjustment period until you can continue with the game.

In addition to your normal character level, you also have your job level. You receive experience for your character level as normal and level up that way. Your job level is determined by the actions you take in battle – after a set number of actions, your job level will level up. Your character level dictates only your hit points – the job level dictates all other stats, such as Strength, Vitality, and Intellect. Again, each job has strengths and weaknesses in each stat. Each job also has a unique function – Black, White, and Red Mages can use Magic, Knights can Defend, Thieves can Steal, Dragoons can Jump, and so on.

The job level is an interesting idea but reveals another slight issue with the system. When you change jobs, you will be going from a higher-level job to a lower level one. This means that you will have to spend more time grinding, not only to get out of the job adjustment period, but also to make your new job comparable in ability to the one beforehand. In addition, as you earn new jobs throughout the game, old jobs quickly become obsolete. As the instruction manual reveals each job and the function, none of this is a spoiler. Consider the following examples. The Monk is a hard-hitting fighter function with relatively low defense but high attack, to the point where the attack will eventually be higher without any weapons equipped at all. Later on you will unlock the Black Belt job, which is exactly the same job as the Monk but with higher stats. There is no reason to continue to use the Monk when a similarly leveled Black Belt is much stronger. The Black Mage is your standard elemental magic nuker, using a wide array of magic. The Magus, unlocked later, serves exactly the same function, but better. The Black Mage cannot use the highest-level magic, making it obsolete, as the Magus can. There are other instances of this as well, such as the White Mage and Devout, and to an extent, the Thief and Ninja. In addition, some jobs, even those that are not an upgrade to others, just plain outclass other jobs. Consider the Red Mage. The Red Mage can use black and white magic, and can use swords to deal fighter damage just as efficiently as the Warrior can. At the beginning of the game, then, there is no reason to even use the Black Mage or Warrior, as they are both outclassed by the Red Mage (although it is still a good idea to have one dedicated healer, so the White Mage is not totally useless). As with many other jobs, the Red Mage eventually can be replaced by more efficient jobs down the line. However, this is not to say that all jobs become obsolete. You will note that many jobs are unique and have potential to be used throughout the entire game, such as the Bard, Dragoon, Knight, Viking, and others.

Battles are completely random and can occur at anytime while on the overworld or inside of a dungeon. Battles are turn-based, meaning each character and enemy takes his or her turn before anyone else gets to attack again. The order is supposed to be based on the Agility stat, but the order often ends up being completely random. Some moves have priority over others, such as Guard and the Knight's Defend, both of which happen before any other attacks. This is fine as it stays true to the original concept of the game. The problem with battles is that you will feel over-leveled in one area, easily one-shotting most enemies, then move on to another area and find that the new enemies deal up to four or five times as much damage as those in the previous areas. There is a noticeable jump in difficulty of the enemies from area to area and you will have to take care to grind enough in a new area lest you wish to be slaughtered by the next boss.

Customizing your party with the jobs you like is a great way to get in to the game, but repetition with the numerous random battles and job obsolescence sets in about halfway through the game. Still, many of the bosses are a pleasure to battle and the variety of jobs offered throughout offers a good deal of versatility and each job makes the game feel fresh as you get them.

Once you beat the game, you will not find much reason to return unless you really enjoyed playing through the game or want to try a different party combination. There are still a few things to do once the main story is completed, but these do not really last all that long. The battles and bosses throughout the game will not be any different, nor will your strategy to defeat them, unless again, you want to try different party combinations to make the game harder or easier. Kudos to Square-Enix for trying, but there just is not enough there to make it worthwhile for most.

As stated above, you will breeze through battles, and then suddenly hit an area where enemies are doing much more damage and you have to stop and grind. Some bosses will be extremely difficult to take down, whereas others will seem no more difficult than the enemies you will have encountered in that dungeon. There are no save points inside of dungeons, which would be a problem, but most dungeons are relatively short and the game does include a Quicksave function for use at anytime. To use it, select Quicksave, and the game will create a temporary save file and turn off. When you turn it back on, select “Continue” to pick up right where you left off. Portable RPGs really need this feature so it is nice to see it included here.

During the original release, the job system made this game much different from the rest. Even today, few games employ such a feature. However, the story of “[number] of seemingly ordinary people stop the darkness/evil from taking over the world” is overused. Again, call this thumbs in the middle for the balance between the job system and the cliched story.

The simple story is not enough to keep you coming back to play through the game. This will only be addictive to those who enjoy an old school, turn-based RPG. If you do not particularly care for a bland story and multiple battles with a good deal of customization for your individual characters, then you likely will not take to the game well.

If nothing else, this is a Final Fantasy title. It will sell well and appeal to the masses if only for that. Further, consider that this is the only Final Fantasy title to never reach US shores, and you can see people will flock to it. In addition, if nothing else, Final Fantasy IV has also already been released on the DS, so Final Fantasy III may sell if only to persuade Square-Enix into releasing Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI remakes as well.

In order to unlock completely everything in the game, you will have to register friends on Mognet, the game's built-in Wi-Fi communication. Overall, I am not a fan of this – what happens when a year or two down the line, someone picks the game up for the first time, or someone who already has the game starts a new file, and wants to get everything out of it, but cannot because few people are still playing? You need someone's Friend Code and you have to send letters (only one per hour, no less) to unlock everything.

On the other side, I absolutely loved the job system and the ability it gave me to customize my party the way I wanted. This was a refreshing change from most modern RPGs as it allows for a different play through almost every time I play through the game. In addition, this is the first time Final Fantasy III has been released in the United States, ensuring everyone can now experience all of the series' titles fully.

Story: 5/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 4/10
Control and Gameplay: 9/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal: 10/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
Overall: 65/100 = 6.5 = 7/10

Need an old school, story-diluted RPG to keep you busy? The customization with the jobs offers tons of versatility and an enjoyable gameplay experience, but those who like a little more action in their RPGs should likely look elsewhere.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/21/09

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

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