game reviews and playing tips: Nintendo DS games
Final Fantasy III
Review posted February 2007 by Corbie Dillard
Release Date: October, 2006
ESRB Rating: "E10+" for Everyone over age 10
Final Fantasy III was originally released on the Japanese Famicom system back in 1986 and never saw a release outside of Japan. So while it might technically be an older game, it’s going to be a completely new RPG experience for most gamers outside of Japan. As if that weren’t enough, Square-Enix has completely updated the game with a fresh set of 3-D visuals and a remixed musical score to go along with it. Square-Enix chose to leave the standard turn-based battle system pretty much unchanged instead of making use of the Active Time Battle system used in later Final Fantasy releases. So what do you get when you take a two-decade old RPG and slap a fresh coat of paint on it? One of the best portable RPGs ever released, that’s what.
After a thunderous earthquake swallows the sacred crystals of light into the ground, the land is slowly consumed by darkness. In order to restore the peaceful balance of their world the four warriors of light must embark on an epic quest to locate the crystals and restore their light. Along the way they’ll meet up with many interesting people that will aide them on their quest by guiding them and providing invaluable information regarding the many secrets of the crystals and their power. But before the light can be restored, the four warriors will have to locate the cause of all of this destruction and put a stop to it once and for all if they’re to have any chance of restoring peace and prosperity to their land. It’s an epic tale of good vs. evil that unfolds across many continents in several different worlds.
There will inevitably be some Final Fantasy fans that will be disappointed in the decision Square-Enix made to not use the Active Time Battle system that’s become so popular in the later Final Fantasy releases. But there’s still something to be said about the good old turn-based battle system. There’s just something so strategic about the way you have to plan out your attack strategy so carefully turn by turn. It’s also nice to not have to make your decisions while being pummeled by your enemies. Square-Enix decided to leave the classic turn-based system intact on Final Fantasy III and in the end it seems for the better. Not only does it keep the original gameplay more intact, but it also gives the old-school RPG crowd something to sink their teeth into. After all, not everyone fell in love with the Active Time Battle system so it’s nice that Square-Enix is mixing it up a bit. Enemy encounters are random and they do tend to come at you pretty fast if you’re in hostile territory. As you go into battle you have a set list of commands. While the commands will vary depending on which job class your characters are currently set to, you generally have a few options to choose from. You can attack, guard, use an item, use magic, or use a special skill that your job class affords you. Once you’ve selected your battle commands, the battle begins. If your enemy and your characters are still standing at the end of a round you are once again asked to select commands and this continues until either your enemy or your party of characters are defeated. If you’ve played any of the classic 8 or 16-bit era RPGs you should have a good idea of what to expect here.
One thing that Final Fantasy III made a unique use of is the job class. The many different job classes give you very specialized attacks, therefore changing jobs becomes a very integral part of the game. As you progress further into the game you’ll come to rely more and more on the higher job classes that will give your characters deadlier attacks. The more you do battle and level your characters up, the more job classes become available to you. So while the freelancer job class that you begin the game with will work just fine for the first hours of the game, as you get further into the game and into more deadly areas, you’ll have to upgrade your character’s job class in order to survive against the more deadly enemies and bosses in the game. In fact, expect to change job classes many times along the way.
Final Fantasy III allows you to use the touch screen for movement and selecting items onscreen but it’s not the most comfortable way to play the game. Using the d-pad is really best for moving your characters around and it’s just easier to use the buttons to select the menus and commands. It was noble of Square-Enix to at least include the option for touch screen control but it feels like more of an afterthought than anything to seriously consider making use of. Navigating the battle menus is quick and painless and allows you to keep your focus on the battle instead of trying to memorize a bunch of button commands and having the ability to run also keeps the pace of the game moving along. The Chocobos and Airships in the game also keep the game moving along as once you get access to these it allows you to avoid many of the random enemy encounters that you’ll normally be trounced with while traveling out in the open. All in all Square-Enix did a fantastic job in keeping with the feel of the original game while making some helpful tweaks here and there to make the game a much smoother playing experience this time around.
Although there really isn’t a multiplayer function in Final Fantasy III, Square-Enix included an interesting little twist on email with their “Mognet” function. In each village you’ll encounter a Moogle. You can then speak to the Moogle and send messages to anyone around the world using the Wi-Fi on the DS. Think of it as a Moogle Post Office. While it’s fun to play around with for a few minutes, it just felt like a last minute add-on for the most part and didn’t really add anything to the game itself other than a cute novelty.
Let it be known right off that Final Fantasy III is the best-looking Nintendo DS title to date, bar none. Square-Enix have taken an outstanding game and completely updated it visually from the ground up with very nice and detailed 3-D graphics. The textures in the game are fantastic and a real testament to just how capable a 3-D system the DS really is. The 3-D makeover really adds a much more realistic touch to the characters and enemies in the game which convey the many emotions in the game more accurately. You won’t be truly blown away until the first time you see one of your characters unleash an attack while in close-up view. It may not seem like much at first but as the attacks become a little flashier visually, so do the close-ups. Even the cinemas, yes cinemas, in the game have a very clean and crisp look to them. There are times when you’ll swear you’re playing a console RPG instead of a portable version. Square-Enix did a fantastic job of giving this classic RPG a much-needed facelift and the end result is one of the best looking portable RPGs we’ve seen so far.
Not to be outdone by the visuals, the music in Final Fantasy III has also been given an overhaul and the results are pretty impressive. Many of the tunes in the game will immediately sound familiar to any long-time Final Fantasy fan but they do have a much more modern ring to them now that closely resembles the more recent Final Fantasy releases. While this might seem like a small and insignificant touch, it does meld well with the updated visuals of the game quite nicely. As with most Final Fantasy games some of the musical tracks are outstanding and some are a little mediocre. The good news is that there are quite a few more outstanding tracks than mediocre ones in this game so expect to keep the volume up during this adventure. Not the greatest RPG soundtrack ever but definitely one of the better ones out there.
It’s easy to wonder why Square-Enix insists on continuing to rehash their older Final Fantasy games instead of creating original Final Fantasy titles for the portable systems, but when the end results are this outstanding it’s hard to complain. They basically took one of the best games of the series and updated it in a way that greatly exceeded anything anyone could have expected from the Nintendo DS system. The bottom line is Final Fantasy III is not only one of the best RPGs released for a portable system in years, it’s also one of the best RPGs released for any system in years. Final Fantasy III proves once again that there’s simply no stopping a classic.
Playing Hints and Tips
- Level up your characters. Then go level them up some more. Then go level them up some more. See a pattern here.
- Changing job classes becomes very important as you begin to get into the meat of the quest so always check the JOB menu to see when new classes become available.
- Always make sure you keep plenty of restorative items on hand as once you get deep into the dungeons there’s no stopping to run back to the store.
- If you find yourself getting stuck on one area of the game or one particular boss it might be a good idea to level up some more. Generally speaking, if you’re characters are getting killed quickly in battle then they’re probably not at the level they need to be.
- Don’t forget to outfit your characters with the best armor and weapons money can buy. There’s no substitute for strong equipment when you run into one of the game’s fierce bosses.
- Save and save often. Need we say more?
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Square-Enix has done an outstanding job of using 3-D imagery to bring the world of Final Fantasy III alive. Everything about the visuals is crisp, smooth, and vibrant and really looks fantastic on the DS screens. It might have been nice to have seen both screens used more, but all in all it’s hard to complain when the game looks this amazing.
All the familiar Final Fantasy tracks are here and this time they sound more like they’re coming from a console. The remixes of the classic tunes are spot-on and really add yet another updated feature to an already classic game. The after battle music is still to this day a staple of the Final Fantasy games and it sounds great coming through the stereo speakers of the DS.
You’ll get your 30 hours of fun out of this title and then some. There’s not really a dull moment and the constantly changing scenery and enemies keep things interesting. There’s a lot of side-quests, if you manage to get your fill of the main quest, and the quest is fun every step of the way. If you enjoy a good RPG, this is a game to put on your wish list.
The main quest is so long and challenging that it’s hard to see players coming back to this one soon after they’ve beaten the game. That being said, the actual games is just so well done that it’s hard to imagine that players won’t keep coming back to it for years to come. One of the best RPGs released in years and a testament to just how well crafted the Final Fantasy games were, even 20 years ago.