Review: Final Fantasy III (DS)

Final Fantasy III
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Matrix Software, Square-Enix
Genre: RPG
Release Date: 11/14/2006

Final Fantasy and Inside Pulse games really arenâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t known for a wonderful long term relationship. Instead, like a good chunk of a rapidly maturing generation of gamers, we are looking back and realizing that the well known RPG mega-series certainly has had itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s fair share of overrated games, and may in fact have only recently begun to turn itself around in the right direction with the release of Final Fantasy XII, which even got a pretty nice review from our own Alexander Lucard. However, the Final Fantasy series in recent years has seen its past thrown onto Nintendoâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s handheld systems time after time. Up until now, all those re-releases have been simple ports of the original with extra goodies added into each of them to entice the hardcore gamers from that time period to take a stroll down memory lane. Now we have before us, for the first time in the United States, the release of the only game in the series to never hit our shoes: Final Fantasy III on the Nintendo DS. And the interesting news is that it is not a direct port, but instead it is a fully redone version of the original game that sees an update that brings it on par with the latter Final Fantasy games on the PSX system. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s no mystery that Square-Enix is a firm supporter of the DS, and that could not be any more apparent then with this release. The question we have before us, is whether or nor Final Fantasy III holds up in todayâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s gaming world with its unique blend of an old school RPG style of game play and itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s new PSX-era graphics and other various updates.

1. Story

You will play, at the beginning of the game, our main hero Luneth. Let me preface this by saying that despite its new â┚¬Å”modernâ┚¬Â look, Final Fantasy III was made in a different era, where not every gamer had come to expect a storyline that offered new twists and turns at every corner. The era that Final Fantasy IIIis from offered, more often then not, very basic storylines that revolved more around the basic functions of the game then on a larger story trying to be told. With that said, Square-Enix, despite tinkering with the storyline and characters somewhat, largely reminds faithful to their original product. A seasoned Final Fantasy player will know this storyline quite well. You will lead a party of four characters, who will join up with you early on in the gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s plot line, and being dubbed the Warriors of Light or Light Warriors (Nuklearpower fans know what Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m talking about), youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re mission is basically to make sure the world stays normal and that all things remain in a delicate balance. The storyline is simplistic, and perhaps I sound a bit harsh in my description of it, but I honestly did enjoy its simplicity. Part of me realizes that as a gamer from the original generation that would have seen this game if it had been released I definitely have a soft spot for this kind of storyline. But itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s more then that. The fact that it is such a simple story is what attracts me to it. Sometimes I think developers and writers have forgotten that the best stories are sometimes the stories most easily told. I enjoyed this storyline a lot more then in previous Final Fantasy games that I have played that were supposedly more sophisticated in their writing. What it all comes down to is this: Donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t expect the richest storyline ever told here, in fact donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t even expect a moderately surprisingly storyline. You are going to get a classic good vs. evil plot that has been rehashed many a time in the RPG genre. Its fun for what it is, which is a throwback for a lot of us who for better (or worse) was first indoctrinated into the RPG world by a Final Fantasy game.

Story Score: 6/10

2. Graphics

Lucard said it best recently when he made the comment that the one thing Square-Enix does right is the visual presentation of their games, and Final Fantasy III really is the best looking game I have seen on the DS to date which is high praise considering some of the impressive competition is has on the DS. Everything has now been rendered into three dimensional graphics and it really does improve the overall experience of Final Fantasy III. Normally Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m not an easily impressed person in terms of graphics, valuing game play first, but in this rare (and I do mean rare) case I feel that the graphics for this game easily enhance the in-game mechanics, and often help draw the gamers attention away from drawbacks in the actual game play that would be much more apparent and frustrating in the 8 bit days. I was really quite stunned at the effectiveness of Square-Enix to use this gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s graphics as more then a vehicle to show off how pretty they can make a game. Instead they has used them as a way to truly add to the overall experience, making them more then just the fluff content some people of come to expect from the Final Fantasy series. Technically speaking, everything is stunning. The characters, enemies, maps, towns, items, and other misc. content all look absolutely amazing. What really fascinated me was also the attention to detail Square-Enix put into the graphics. Final Fantasy III was the first game to introduce the job system to the Final Fantasy universe. Later on weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll talk about that a bit more, but in terms of graphics is a as a nice touch to have a certain level of different artwork done for each character for each unique job. Not much else has to be said, the graphics truly speak for themselves here. Stunning on all levels.

Graphics Score: 10/10

3. Sound

The sounds of Final Fantasy III are pretty solid across the board, but do not stand out as much as they probably could have. Most tracks have been remixed since the original release of Final Fantasy III and they do a good job of not bogging you down with repetitive tunes that make a game based on repetition seem even more repetitive. Still, nothing truly stands out as a piece of music that defines this game or as a piece that you will remember long after completing the storyline. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s nice, but entirely forgettable. While personally I have never been terribly impressed with the musical scores of Final Fantasy games, the community of loyalists that Final Fantasy enjoys certainly may have been expecting more from this game in terms of sound, which was originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu, who is pretty well known to fans of the series. Perhaps the word mediocre can be applied here, with but a positive tone to it. The good news is that Final Fantasy III doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t suffer from a downright awful soundtrack that will have you reaching as quickly as possible for that volume trigger or your Ipod. However, I truly doubt you will remember the music for this game a month after you have finished played it.

Sound Score: 6/10

4. Controls/Gameplay

Control wise, Final Fantasy III offers the traditional way of controls, and also a touch screen based way of controlling the game. Personally I preferred the touch screen method. It was very easy to use and it streamlined a lot of tasks throughout game play. However, both style of controls work well, and should be very familiar to fans and RPG gamers alike. Menus are used heavily as is the traditional usage of weapons, armor, items, and magic. However the crux of the game play lies in the job system seen in Final Fantasy III. While in todayâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s market a job class system in an RPG certainly isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t anything new, when Final Fantasy III was new it was a pretty unknown, if not revolutionary, system of gaming. Final Fantasy III sports over 20 different job classes, ranging from one my of my personal favorites from Final Fantasy Tactics (the Geomancer) to the hidden Onion Knight job class. In order to gain levels and also advance your skills in your job levels you really have to go old school. Random battles are the norm here as you will need to fight more then a few to level yourself up to compensate for what will prove to be a very challenging game, especially for the unseasoned RPGer. While random encounters were the norm back then, many fans tend to shy from them because of the length of time needed to complete them. However, even though Final Fantasy III requires this method for leveling up, the battles do move quickly and make it a bearable experience to get through. The battles themselves are turn-based and make no use of the active time system, which most Final Fantasy fans should be more familiar with.

One thing I did find a bit odd was the lack of use for both screens. Most of the time the upper screen is not used at all, and when it is it really is only used for maps and other assorted inventory like screens. It makes me wonder how Square Enix could have made a better use for one of the Nintendo DSâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s core features, but ultimately it is only a mild disappointment to a very solid control and game play scheme that Final Fantasy III enjoys.

Controls/Gameplay Score: 7/10

5. Replayability

Like any Final Fantasy game there are many things to do besides the main quest, but in Final Fantasy III once you complete the main adventure going back to complete more of the game just didnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t appeal to me, and that sums up much of how I feel about this game. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s very good, and itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s definitely a worthwhile pickup. However; despite the presence of sidequests and Mognet, which is a wifi capable message trading system in between you and your friends (which also is a way to unlock other sidequests), I just didnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t see a point to replaying Final Fantasy III again. Mognet is a somewhat interesting feature that allows you to send letters to other wifi enabled buddies, but it really doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t add a tremendous amount to the game, and certainly doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t increase the replayability factor. Still even with a low replayability factor you should still get a solid thirty hours out of Final Fantasy III which is fairly deep for a handheld RPG, and it should keep you busy for a good chunk of time with your DS.

Replayability Score: 4/10

6. Balance

This game is hard. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s not even remotely close to what this babied generation of gamers have been brought up on. I feel a bit like the old man on the porch yelling at kids (despite being only 23), but the fact is I was a part of the NES generation, and back then games were downright vicious in how hard they could be. When you would die over and over and then hurl the controller at the TV in frustration. Final Fantasy III, while not quite as hard as that, reminds me a lot of the challenging nature of most old-school games. Final Fantasy III is very deceptive though. It puts on a modern, dazzling face with its spiffy new graphics, and then it throws the casual gamer or RPG fan a big time curveball when you get smacked around by normal enemies if you get too arrogant or donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t stay routinely leveled up in both you job classes and actual levels. I really enjoyed a game like that that presented a challenge in terms of pre-planning for certain parts, but Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m afraid the casual gamer will not be as satisfied as I was. While I like to think gamers of todayâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s generation embrace a challenge, I think too many of them have been fooled into thinking that games more along the current Final Fantasy installments are difficult, when they are anything but. The balance of Final Fantasy III is skewed severely to the more challenging side of the coin, and while that is refreshing, it will remain to be seen if all gamers will embrace this.

Balance Score: 5/10

7. Originality

Unfortunately, nothing about Final Fantasy III screams originality. Despite the upgrade in graphics everything else about Final Fantasy III in todayâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s gaming world has been seen countless times, including the job system. For itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s time it was definitely more original then it is today; however, even then it was pretty par for the course alongside most other RPGâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s of itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s time. While it is undoubtedly a good game, it really does not shine in originality in the traditional sense. However it does make a nice use of the touch screen features of the DS, and also the Mognet, while not entirely alluring, is something relatively new to Final Fantasy games. I feel that most gamers who do buy this wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t be expecting a high originality factor, especially when they are really buying for a name brand value, and as long as you donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t expect a high concentration of original content you will not be terribly disappointed.

Originality Score: 4/10

8. Addictiveness

While you are playing the main game it will be tough to put it down. It is a tough game that will challenge you on many levels that you probably arenâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t used to. However once youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re done, youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re done. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a short term addiction that really doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t last after youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve proved you can take down the main challenges in Final Fantasy III. I also find that the time in which Final Fantasy III finds itself released at also will contribute to gamerâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s somewhat forgetting about it. On the DS alone weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve seen Pokemon Ranger, Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin and other titles already out or coming out, and of course the new Wii and PS3 launches have also happened as well. This will lead to a very short attention span of gamers and will definitely diminish the addictiveness of Final Fantasy III.

Addictiveness Score: 5/10

9. Appeal

Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a Final Fantasy game. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s going to appeal to a very wide core audience of gamers, and its name brand alone will drive its sales this holiday season. Many owners of the DS (much like the GBA) enjoy the bevy of RPGâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s developed for it, and Final Fantasy III, although perhaps not the best of the â┚¬â”žÂ¢06 class, will be this yearâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s swansong for the genre and will also pave the way for next years RPG titles. When you add then in with the fact that this is a new game for US gamers in the series with updated sound and graphics, you definitely have a game that will appeal to the masses. The only turnoff I see happening here is the challenge of the game may deter younger gamers and casual gamers. Notwithstanding, I still feel Final Fantasy III is going to draw a very nice crowd of buyers, and should be another nice hit for Nintendo and Square-Enix on the DS.

Appeal Score: 8/10

10. Miscellaneous

The overall package for Final Fantasy III is definitely a favorable one. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s an old school mix with a modern look to it, and with that formula it should appeal to a broader audience then the ports of the Final Fantasy games for the GBA do. The presentation is great, and the controls definitely help enhance the game instead of detracting from it. While it isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t the best RPG for the DS this year, it is a very good addition for anyoneâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s DS library. Hopefully this will set the stage for more original and remade RPGâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s to come out for the DS as the system reaches the beginning of itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s peak years on the market.

Miscellaneous Score: 8/10

Final Score:
Story: 6/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 6/10
Controls/Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 4/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 4/10
Addictiveness: 5/10
Appeal: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10

Total Score: 63/100 â┚¬” 6.5 (Above Average)

Short Attention Span Summary
I would recommend this to any RPGer who owns a DS. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a nice title to add to your library that has depth and a great presentation. While only an above average game, I feel it is a great step forward for what Square-Enix and Nintendo have planned for the DS in terms of their ventures together on the system. Definitely recommended to those holiday shoppers looking for a nice stocking stuffer for that hand held gamer you may be shopping for.