Review by Gilgamesh1317

"We missed out on this one first time around."

Final Fantasy III DS is a remake of the original Final Fantasy III, an NES game that was not released outside Japan. It is the only remake of Final Fantasy III so far, which is surprising given how Square Enix remakes everything they have ever made. From here on out, this game will be referred to as FFIII or FFIIIDS.

I absolutely love Final Fantasy. It's right up there with Shin Megami Tensei as one of my favourite videogame franchises. It's been with me since I was a child (Final Fantasy IV was my first Final Fantasy game), and most of the games have provided me with months, MONTHS, of entertainment at a time. Nowadays I play a lot more RPGs, but few can beat the epics provided by the Final Fantasy series. Every time a major Final Fantasy title is announced, I am beside myself with joy. That said I was really excited for Final Fantasy III DS. A Final Fantasy title that hadn't been released outside Japan was getting a 3D remake for an awesome handheld. What isn't awesome in that situation?

Well, the 3D remake of the game, of course. Don't get me wrong; FFIIIDS is a good game. I had a lot of fun with it, and the people who made it certainly didn't skimp on the graphics and soundtrack. But despite all this, I had one major gripe with the game: it is, quite simply, unfair at times. I appreciate difficulty in games; I tend to ignore games that are too easy because I want a challenge, and I want something that will hold me for a long time. Games aren't cheap, you know, so they better last or be cheap. But Final Fantasy III passes the line between "hard" and "unfair" with nary a backwards glance on more than a few occasions.

First things first, the graphics. I can't deny it; the graphics are wonderful for the DS. The 3D is pretty damn good considering it isn't a particularly powerful handheld (when compared to its main competitor, the PSP). The game had a lot of love in the graphical department, and what's even better is that the game is more or less completely faithful to the original in terms of layout and maps. Everything is exactly where it should be, and several areas have had extra touches added to them. The characters models are all pretty good, and the different jobs all look distinct. Matrix Software did an excellent job here. The spells and summons all look pretty wonderful too, especially the later spells like Meteor and Holy.

The soundtrack is wonderful. Admittedly, Final Fantasy III has one of the weaker Final Fantasy soundtracks, but it's got some great stuff here. The boss theme is menacing, there's something mysterious about more than a few tracks in the game for the more mystical areas, and it even has some great remixes of classic tracks from Final Fantasy games of old. It isn't as great as, say, Final Fantasy IX, nor is it as large, but FFIIIDS' soundtrack is certainly still good.

And now we come to the gameplay. Final Fantasy III DS is a remake of an NES game. That means the gameplay is going to be completely oldschool. And it most certainly is. Is this a problem? Not really, no. The only real problem with oldschool gameplay like the stuff displayed in FFIIIDS is that you'll be running into monsters every few steps. This'll most certainly get annoying later on the game where the monsters just will not die, whether you're properly levelled and equipped or not. I can't fault the game for being this way, though, as the developers clearly wanted to deliver the original experience to us Western gamers, who had never gotten this game before. I commend them for doing that, but it seems that as well as doing this, they upped the difficulty considerably. I'll get to this in a moment, but first the actual gameplay.

The gameplay is as oldschool as it gets. You walk through dungeons, being called to a battle screen every few steps as you run into a random encounter with an assortment of monsters for you slice up or destroy with magic. During each battle, your party lines up on side of the field, the enemies of the other, and then you select your party's attacks and spells, watch them be carried out (with some impressive spell animations. Just had to mention those again) and then set out the next load of commands to deal with whatever the enemy did, or just all-out attack them again. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the combat, and I actually enjoyed it, in fact. My only real problem, as stated, is that the random encounters will come at you fast and thick. You will have slaughtered hundreds upon thousands of beasts by the time you're done; it's surprising that you won't have made a few of them extinct if you're particularly into level-grinding (as I am). The hordes of random encounters makes level-grinding actually fairly easy, and trust me when I say that you will need to do this heavily at least once in the game.

Final Fantasy III DS' other main problem is that, in upping the difficulty, Matrix Software has made a few parts of the game considerably cheap. The one place that comes to mind is a particularly aggravating boss that appears after the halfway point. It can attack you twice and has an attack that will destroy your party in at least two hits. Yes, it will use this move on you twice. A lot. Another particularly aggravating bit of this fight is that the best strategy for it (one hinted at in the game) is to use a certain class that you will have obtained and most likely glossed over up until now. This class' equipment is expensive, and while you can find one good set in a nearby tower, you'll have to buy all the rest for the other party members. You must just be saying "Just don't make all your party members that class, then". Fair enough. But if I don't, they won't be able to use the class' special attack which lets them dodge all damage for one turn then land a good hit on one foe. This attack is (in the game itself, no less) said to be the boss' weakness, so you want to abuse that as much as possible. Any party member that isn't this particular class or isn't overlevelled is very likely to get wiped out in the first round. You'll have to get lucky or start level-grinding.

This is the one area of the game that I've heard consistent complaints about, so I know it's not just me. Granted, on extra playthroughs you'll know it's coming and will have prepared yourself accordingly well in advance, but on the first time through, that boss will wreck your sh*t time and time again. Depending on the player, later areas may give you some major grief, but that depends on how you play, really.

One new annoying feature of Final Fantasy III is the Mognet. Mognet was a mail system introduced in later games, usually the source of many a sidequest and usually the reason some people bought strategy guides or spent ages trawling through guides on the internet, because it's random at times and all the Moogles look the same. In FFIIIDS, Mognet is basically one big sidequest, and it is only through it that you can unlock the best class in the game and get some other cool stuff. However, none of this is hinted at anywhere and Mognet relies on you having a friend with the game to send letters to in order to unlock several of the goodies it's hiding from you. It's annoying, quite simply, and could've been better implemented or even removed. The game wouldn't suffer without it, and they could find another, better sidequest to tack its rewards onto.

All in all, Final Fantasy III DS is a good game. It has its issues, but I'd easily recommend it. But, if you aren't an RPG nutcase, you'd do well to start elsewhere, as the difficulty and oldschool gameplay could very easily put you off.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 10/21/09

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

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