Review: The Franchise is Now Complete
For years the only way gamers outside of Japan could play Final Fantasy III was by downloading an illegal fan-translated version from the web. While great for pirates, this left the law-abiding folk stuck with an RPG series that churned on despite a big, fat gap in-between the numbers II and IV. No more, thanks to a lengthy, deafening fanboy outcry from Western gamers. Final Fantasy III for the DS is easily the most ambitious Final Fantasy remake the series has ever seen, complete with a full 3D makeover, remixed audio and other neat surprises.
Upon witnessing the beautiful introductory cut scene for the game, you may forget that you're only playing on a DS. Remember the first TV commercial that aired for Final Fantasy III? The PS2-quality FMV sequence of the game's four heroes riding through a grassy landscape on the back of chocobos with the majestic orchestral soundtrack playing in the background? That's the game's actual opening cinematic. While the rest of Final Fantasy III doesn't look anywhere near as nice as that opening cinema, the fact that Square-Enix managed to inject graphics reminiscent of those on a last-gen console onto the little DS is impressive, to say the least.
Just like the other early odd-numbered Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy III focuses much more on gameplay than story. There's nary a plot to speak of, with your party little more than a quartet of meat puppets (save for an occasional AI-controlled fifth party member) whose ?quest? is to dungeon crawl while stopping at a village every now and then for clues and new equipment purchases. Battles are turn-based, however the Active Time Battle system is not present, which combined with the insane strength of your enemies, adds a degree of randomness to the already challenging enemy encounters.
Like many other titles in the franchise, FFIII contains a job system meant to add spice to battles. At the game's outset, all four of your characters hold the Freelancer job and can pretty much use any equipment along with level-one magic. In order to build your characters' stats, however, you'll need to periodically change professions and learn new abilities. Changing classes, however, comes at the cost of a temporary decrease of a character's stats for a set number of battles depending on the difference in level between the character's old job and the new one.
Just as it was in Final Fantasy V, your party can obtain new job classes by encountering Crystals throughout the game. Each job comes with its own abilities, strengths, weaknesses and set of usable equipment. There are traditional classes (Knight, Thief, Monk, Black Mage, White Mage), some particularly cool classes (Dark Knight, Dragoon, Ninja) and some pretty much useless classes (Bard, Scholar). As was alluded to earlier, your party members' job levels rise much like their experience level, and as they do, so does their proficiency in that job
Final Fantasy III is unquestionably the best-looking RPG on the DS, with graphics somewhere between Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X in quality. While the game may share Crystal Chronicles' super-deformed style, the characters aren't cutesy to the point of being a distraction. You'll also marvel at the dazzling spell effects, particularly that of the summons. It's all in all refreshing to see a game that takes full advantage of the DS's power seeing as how lots of titles for the 64-bit portable can easily be mistaken for Game Boy Advance games.
Unfortunately, Final Fantasy III's audio is a mixed bag at best. The sounds of battle are just as crisp as the game's graphics, however the same can't be said about the music. Other than the orchestrated intro theme and a few scattered catchy tunes, the BGM tends to get under your skin after hearing it loop for the hundredth time while navigating a long, frustrating dungeon. Square-Enix, I know you wanted to preserve as much of FFIII's core as possible out of fear of a purists' backlash, but would it have killed you to add a couple extra verses to the final, painfully-long save-point-less dungeon?
FFIII's job system is definitely its saving grace, as the game would be a sure-fire bore without it. It's a little ridiculous the way the game punishes you for switching jobs, though, considering the inability to combine jobs forces you to switch so often. It's just one of a few aspects of Final Fantasy III that may seem unfair to some gamers, along with the lack of save points in dungeons, the inability to purchase Phoenix Downs and the fact that ordinary enemies can zap half of a character's HP in single hit. Nonetheless, it's a must-buy for all RPG fans.