| |

Final Fantasy III Review

Disclosure: We may earn a commission from links on this page

Developer: Square-Enix Publisher: Square-Enix
Release Date: November 15, 2006 Also On: None

Final Fantasy is a series that’s almost as familiar to casual and hardcore gamers as Mario and Zelda, yet the franchise has been incomplete in America for 16 years. Well, that was the case until November 15th rolled around and Nintendo DS owners were treated to the first-ever American version of Final Fantasy III. Originally a 1990 NES game that has long since been a mystery to those who didn’t illegally download ROMs or import the game, Final Fantasy III is a great game that has aged quite well and makes a great appearance on the Nintendo DS.

The story is pretty bare for 2006 standards, but thinking of the classic style of the game, it is quite above other games of its time. The story revolves around Luneth, a boy from the dark world who forms a team with three other individuals destined to be the Warriors Of The Light. These Warriors are prophesied to save the world from darkness and protect the four precious, powerful crystals that maintain balance and peace. Luneth and Co. (Arc, Refia, and Ingus) set out to set everything in the world straight. Today we sit and think, “How generic.” Back then, though, it was as popular of an idea as playing a rhythm-based game with a guitar controller.

Let’s get one thing straight; this game’s dated in a lot of ways. If you’ve played the PlayStation or Game Boy Advance remakes of Final Fantasy I and II, you’ve got an idea about how the pacing, battle system, and overall flow of the classic RPG goes. It’s much different than SquareEnix’s other recent RPG of the same franchise, Final Fantasy XII; which feels completely different without considering its gameplay and battle system alterations. Final Fantasy III isn’t an easy game. It doesn’t really hold your hand at any point, and it’ll ruthlessly punish those unfortunate gamers who tread off of the suggested path. Still, it’s got that classic hook, a hook that’s almost impossible to describe but even harder to avoid once it’s snagged you.

Final Fantasy III keeps the four-person party standard of its two original predecessors and also has the traditional turn-based battle system. The result is a system that forces you to really think about your actions each turn because the enemy is going to attack no matter what their agility or speed parameters are. If Refia’s running low on HP and you suspect a possible group attack by a boss character, it would be wise to cast a healing spell and maybe even prepare a Phoenix Down. It would have been nice to see SquareEnix adapt the Active Time Battle system of Final Fantasy VI, VII, and so on, but what’s here works well anyway. The MP system is quite dated, and instead of having a set amount, each level of magic has its own number of points. Using a level one black magic spell like Fire will take one point away from your level one magic points, while a level three one like Fira takes away one level three magic point. No matter what spell you use, it takes away a single point. I don’t like this system much, because it doesn’t give much importance or power to each spell. For example, level three white magic spells Cura and Teleport are given the same point value, which doesn’t make sense when Cura will be used at least fifty times as often as Teleport throughout the game. This seems to be a good place to mention the menu system, which is also quite dated and sometimes not as easy to use as newer entries. Because of the dated MP system, there are numbers all over the place and it seems a little sloppy.

The new story here is the job system. Surely if you’ve been to a gaming Internet page or read a gaming magazine in the last few months, you’ve seen the Final Fantasy III ads that state that it offers 279,841 unique party combinations, with four characters and 23 different jobs. If you don’t believe it, grab your nearest graphing calculator and figure up the equation for factorials. From the beginning, every character possesses the neutral (and undeveloped) Freelancer job. As you find and interact with more of the powerful crystals throughout the storyline, you’ll unlock more jobs and develop your party even further. You can be a Warrior, Thief, Monk, Black, Red, or White Mage early in the game and eventually you’ll unlock jobs like Geomancer, Dark Knight, Dragoon, Summoner and Ninja. Once you choose a job, you can power it up by increasing its job level; a value unique to each job for each individual character. For example, it’s possible for Luneth to be a Level 15 Freelancer, Level 25 Warrior, and Level 30 Dark Knight before the end of the game. These levels, of course, are separate from the character’s base level, which, as always, increases with experience points earned in random battles and boosts your general stats.

More than anything, Final Fantasy III is a good way to introduce a foreign chapter of the series to long-term players and series veterans. I wasn’t surprised when, after a 30-minute trek through a cave, I was killed in two turns by a boss character and forced to tread that long path all over again. It’s unfortunate that so much backtracking is required, but even after dying a second time to the same boss using the same annoying attack, I picked the game back up. I trudged through it despite my bitterness and enjoyed every second of it. Classic RPGs like Final Fantasy III didn’t introduce save points or crystals that are found in later games; the only save point is the overworld map. Here, the game can be saved from any point. Another big challenge comes when status-changing magic wreaks havoc on your party. Unlike recent RPGs, where negative status is often eliminated after battle, almost every single status ailment in Final Fantasy III remains afterward. Poison, paralysis, confusion, frog–all of these familiar effects will be a lot more familiar by the time players see ending credits. Unseasoned RPG players will probably be quite frustrated, and know that every time you see an enemy use the attack “Bad Breath,” you’re in for quite a lot of trouble.

Final Fantasy III is one of the best-looking DS games to date. SquareEnix introduced a visual style that’s reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. As a result the game is very colorful and detailed. Spell effects are as impressive as one could expect from the DS and trump those of some console games. The boss and monster models are fun to look at and defeat. I would have liked to see some more animation during battle; rather than running up and attacking enemies, like in Final Fantasy X, characters stand in place and swing their weapons in classic RPG style. It would have been really nice to see SquareEnix go those extra two miles (they already went one by reworking the graphics) but what’s done here is great. The music seems to be standard RPG fare, and I’m not totally sure whether or not the tunes are high-quality rips from classic NES MIDI, but what’s here sounds pretty nice. At least there’s that unforgettable nine-note victory tune; that’ll always get a smile out of a Final Fantasy fan.

Final Fantasy III serves its purpose by introducing an unknown chapter to fans and doing so in a very respectable fashion. There are things that could have been better, sure. SquareEnix could have put a little more time in modernizing the battle system, animation, menus, and save system. That would have put two cherries on top of a sweet, tasty treat. Even with all of these little kinks, Final Fantasy III is great. It’s got that classic replay value. It’s got that punishing challenge that will appeal to fans of older games. It’s got production values that are topped only by SquareEnix’s other DS game, Mario Hoops 3-On-3. The end all to end all, it’s a well-done Final Fantasy game. It’s one of the best handheld RPGs in a long time, and needs to be in a DS owner’s collection.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8.5
Written by Cliff Review Guide