Review by Tenshi No Shi

"Finally the Final Fantasy that never was (in the US) is here!"

Easily one of my most anticipated Nintendo DS games for well over a year, Final Fantasy III would finally give North American gamers that final missing link in one of the most prolific franchises to ever grace multiple consoles. But rather than settling for a simple port with slight enhancements (like Final Fantasy I & II, Final Fantasy IV Advance, Final Fantasy V Advance and Final Fantasy VI Advance on the Gameboy Advance), Square Enix gave the game a total makeover for it's English debut. Was the wait worth it? Only one way to find out...

The plot concentrates on the destinies of four orphans to become Warriors of Light when the balance in the world tips too far in favor of darkness. Chosen by four crystals (a theme common to veteran Final Fantasy players) representing the base elements, you must travel the world, righting the wrongs that have befallen the people and the land until ultimately confronting the very evil that threatens to consume the planet. So it may not be all that original compared to the later entries in the Final Fantasy franchise, but the wonderful localization and humorous touches help set this apart from being just another generic RPG.

I think the thing that will catch most gamers' attention is just how good Final Fantasy III looks- Everything from the opening CG movie to the actual gameplay graphics showcase the very best that the DS has to offer. Naturally the 3D overhaul may surprise fans at first, but once you realize it's still the same old 2D gameplay, you appreciate what Square Enix pulled off here. But for all the wonderful animation and detailed textures that are the make-up of this game, I still have a minor gripe- Why is it that when programmers put 2D objects in a 3D world it always looks like crap? Yes, even Final Fantasy III has a few moments where the visual are less- than-spectacular, but overall it is without a doubt showpiece for Nintendo's portable.

Normally I'm not a big fan of a portable game's soundtrack (the Final Fantasy series notwithstanding, somehow the audio presentation found in most games released on Nintendo-breed handhelds generally leaves something to be desired), however Final Fantasy III managed to wow enough to actually get me to play the game with headphones on! *Gasp* Okay, so I guess if you don't know me well enough, you don't realize what a big deal that is, but I assure you that the soundtrack is every bit as worthy of the Final Fantasy name as the console versions that benefit from extra storage space. The audio effects are nearly as impressive, but do a passable, if not somewhat generic, job of pulling off your standard RPG bag-o-sounds.

Perhaps the best thing about Final Fantasy III is Square Enix doesn't force you to use the touchscreen or microphone! Now, you can use the touchscreen if you wish (somewhat successfully I might add), but the fact that you can play this game the traditional way rather than trying to incorporate features just because the hardware supports them is a trend I hope to see continue with future DS releases. For anyone who has played any Final Fantasy game in the main series, the menu-driven, walk across an overworld map and fight random monsters should be a comfortable familiarity that will help you quickly ease in to the game.

The precursor to Final Fantasy V's elaborate job system, Final Fantasy III let's you master any one of twenty-one total jobs, earning levels in the job independently from your characters' actual base level. The ability to switch jobs on the fly and switch out equipment (including spells!) at will makes preparing for any situation a breeze. Speaking of spells, another noticeable difference is the lack of MP. Instead, as your mage's job level increases, you are given more chances to cast spells from each level group (similar to the first Final Fantasy's spell groups). It's a good thing switching jobs is so easy- the game itself doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the dungeons. With no save points or rest areas to speak of, once you enter a dungeon the only way you're getting out is to beat it or teleport out. Difficult? Yes, but then again most recent Final Fantasy games have been too forgiving, so the challenge is welcome.

What's a Final Fantasy game without some extras? Final Fantasy III more than delivers with the secret goodies, with everything from the obligatory items stashed in vases to secrets rooms accessible by finding a hidden switch to trigger the opening to a concealed passage. But wait, there's more! I won't give the exact details (finding it is half the fun) but the MogNet has its uses and one of them is unlocking the final job Onion Swordsman. Long-time fans will appreciate the Onion reference and some may even know that this was the original starting job of the Famicom Final Fantasy III.

Without a doubt any fan of Final Fantasy will want to pick this up without delay- Final Fantasy III is not only the first great traditional RPG on the Nintendo DS, but also provides us the one game missing in many of our collections. Now if only Seiken Dentsu III could find its way to Western shores my Mana series collection would be complete as well...

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/07/09

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

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