Phil Larsen
23 Apr, 2007

Final Fantasy III Review

DS Review | I once was lost, but now am found.
While most Final Fantasy games have had some sort of Australian showing, in some obscure capacity, no game has had such little time in the limelight as Final Fantasy III. This is the actual third Final Fantasy game made, not to be confused with the SNES Final Fantasy III (later reissued as Final Fantasy VI when Square got around to releasing all the earlier titles outside Japan). Well, it’s not the actual third game, rather a complete remake, created from the ground up for the Nintendo DS. Confused? Yeah. Just forget the logistical nightmare that is the Final Fantasy series, and settle comfortably with the fact that Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo DS kicks ass.

Before the days of cinematic epics and concept-melting worlds, Final Fantasy stuck pretty true to castles, knights and dungeons. The same story has been told in the same roundabout way a few times – you control four Warriors of the Light, and must seek out various Crystals to achieve power and stop the dastardly demon behind the destruction of the world. In FFIII your party features Luneth, Arc, Refia and Ingus, four chosen ones who survived an Armageddon (of sorts) way back when, and reunited on the Floating Continent to discover their collective power and set about abolishing evil and darkness from the surface world. The story is pretty decent, and the personality depth of the main characters has been expanded since the original. Nothing will impress you beyond what has been seen before, but it’s a good linear tale with plenty of surprises and drama.

They work hard for the money. So hard for the money.

Both continents are very large, and require various modes of transportation to explore fully. Boats, airships and Chocobos are available to find – but nothing beats good old-fashioned legwork. Speaking of which, the entire game can be controlled with either the stylus or the D-pad. The stylus isn’t as annoying as some might imagine; in fact it gives a fresh approach to constant up-and-down menu scrolling and allows for fully 3D movement, breaking the barriers of the eight-direction D-pad control. While exploring the many towns and dungeons, the camera can actually be zoomed in to reveal secret shimmering treasure spots invisible during normal screenplay. This system is a bit of a failure, as the camera relies on holding down the L button or on-screen icon, and frequently pops back to full height if something gets in the way. In order to use it properly, you are forced to zoom in, run around a small area looking for treasure, then zoom in once more after you walk to close to a building and the camera fails. It’s a shame, too – the hidden treasure is often very valuable, and players will become too frustrated to bother searching as meticulously as required, thus missing out on the goodies.

Of course, it’s not a traditional RPG without battling and levelling up, and FFIII uses the tried-and-true random encounter system. Combat is turn-based, and fits this description in the most archaic sense of the word. Even some self-proclaimed veterans of the Final Fantasy series may be taken aback, having never seen such a system in an RPG before. Your four characters enter the battle, and commands must be selected for each person before proceeding. No Active Time Gauge is present; everything is taken in slow and steady turns. Often you’ll encounter an unknown enemy, and there isn’t any indication of what attacks it uses or how it fights, and yet you still must input four commands before discovering any detailed enemy information. It’s a bit of trial-and-error to begin with, but eventually each turn becomes a strategic mind-meld while trying to anticipate the enemy movements.

A team effort as always.

The biggest feature of FFIII, and the element upon which most gameplay time will be spent, is the Job system. A Job is an overall class description, granting your designated player special abilities within battle. It’s important to build a balanced party to effectively make a stand against the varied enemies and deadly bosses throughout the game. Upon completing certain areas during the story, several extra Jobs will become available – the total eventually rising to 23. Jobs can be changed at any time, although you will be required to battle through a transitional phase before being able to start fully developing your Job for that character. In addition to regular levels gained from defeating enemies, which increase base stats, your Job level will also increase by using battle commands. Job experience and levels are obtained completely independently to normal experience, and the Job level will determine that character’s effectiveness using the unique skills inherent to that Job. For example, a high level Geomancer will be able to deal out extremely powerful terrain-based attacks with a Job-specific ability. You’re spoilt for choice with the number of Jobs, and mixing up your party many times during the game is all part of the fun.

This is no church picnic, freeloading Final Fantasy. For those cruising through all the latest RPGs, Final Fantasy III may come as a slightly rude awakening. The old school games were hard, if only because the main focus of the quest was random battles - thus more time was required to spend levelling up. Nowadays all manner of side quests and extra activities are commonplace in RPGs, and while FFIII boasts its own fair share of extra content, neglecting battles will cause extreme annihilation without any notice. Save points are nonexistent; the only time available to record data is while traversing the overworld map. So, for example, there’s a long dungeon with a rare treasure at the end, guarded by unlimited, hard-hitting monsters. You’ll need to delve in to the labyrinthine level, battle your way through, defeat the boss (who may be harder than anticipated), and battle your way out again – all without saving once. Those unchallenged by modern games will certainly meet their match. Anyone else looking to conquer just one difficult, old school RPG, raise their completed cartridge to the sky and cry “Me too!” will find that FFIII delivers everything they need for a perfectly satisfying and epic challenge. Wowsers.

If in need of wisdom, consult a bearded old man.

FFIII delivers the graphical goods, with clean environments and a fully 3D world. Camera angles change for “cut scenes”, and the characters animate nicely. The ability to rotate the camera is absent, and because the DS can’t match the detail of other 3D hardware, one can’t help but feel that highly detailed pre-rendered backgrounds, such as those we have seen in FFVII – IX, would be the way to go. 3D issues aside, the main problem is that the design is a bit uninspired. For example, the menu uses the same font and layout as the really old school FF games. That’s OK, but the font really doesn’t suit the small screen and it all feels, just, old. Sure, this is an old-ish game, but there’s no harm is jazzing up the presentation to create a new style for the handheld FF games. All gameplay takes place on the bottom screen to utilise touch capabilities, and for the most part, the top screen is just blacked out. No in-battle cinematic, not even a visual logo as a header. A map is present during overworld play, but it’s hardly useful to any great extent. The only improvement is on a technical level, and while this is nothing but a positive factor, an equally impressive artistic revision would have been most welcome.

The DS is in a unique position. It gets to receive solid versions of various games from age’s past and present ideas, with these games not having to ostensibly live up to what may be a standard level of technical quality for the hardware. For example, Final Fantasy III is a game that deserves current day recognition, and Square can put together a decent build of an old concept without having to artificially ramp up graphical quality to a higher level which is standard (and therefore expected) on something like the PSP. Final Fantasy III succeeds both as a stunning remake, and a completely new RPG experience for English-speaking countries. It really is the biggest little adventure yet seen on the Nintendo DS.
The Score
Final Fantasy players who missed out on the original - which is a highly likely scenario - can't go wrong by nabbing this professionally updated piece of gaming nostalgia. It's a great game in its own right, and a solid addition to the DS library. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
wow great, this definitely makes me want to invest in a DS. that and phoenix wright
7 years ago
Hmm i really want a DS for when im out of the house - may even sell the Wii for one. i just dont have the cash atm with all the great 360 games coming out soon.

This game sounds really good, the graphics dont look anything fancy but i think it would be a great game to play when im on the train or something. FF series suck u in so much.

great review
7 years ago
Top Review.

This is the game that made me get a DS. (I imported the game). DS is for travel and work lunch so I only get in 2 hours a day, so still in early FFIII stages, but it is one hell of a game.

Compared to FFX (which I'm reliving on the PS2), this game is 10x harder. You need to build up the characters, and half the time you suspect your outclassed and will be obliterated and lose many hours of hard work at any given moment.

Its worth grabbing a DS for if your a FF junkie or fan.
7 years ago
By 'can't save' do you mean the healing save or save full stop. Or can you save mid way through a dungeon without healing?

Nice review, I'll have to get this now.
7 years ago
The Cro wrote
By 'can't save' do you mean the healing save or save full stop. Or can you save mid way through a dungeon without healing?

Nice review, I'll have to get this now.
You cant actualy save you progres inside a dungeon cause there arnt save point inside them, some dungoes have places/events that fully resotre you hp/mp.
7 years ago
But you can quick save mid way through to turn off the DS, and the continue the game next time you play. This is a good function as you can suffer a bit of time before you have an opportunity to save.

They really thought about the system they were designing for with this.
7 years ago
I think the graphics are amazing myself. Not sure why there is any negativity about them - for the DS it's gorgeous. Bright, well designed and everything. Personally the complete lack of anything close to a story hurts it the most. The game play is fun - very very retro - but the horribly dialogue is the worst part. I haven't beat it yet (had it for months) and that's probably the biggest reason why. Gotta love the semi-hard difficulty thought. If you power level it's no issue but compared to standard modern JRPG's it's much harder.
7 years ago
anyone know any differences between the PAL and NTSC version of this game? I imported this game awhile ago, so can i still add PAL gamers friend codes to get the sidequests and stuff?
7 years ago
The DS has enough enjoyable and meaty games that you can get enough gaming goodness without needing to own any other system. Wow. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

No NTSC and PAL on DS Jin66.
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