Final Fantasy III DS Review - 31/08/2007

Final Fantasy III is possibly the least known title in Square-Enix’s epic franchise. This is not because the game was not well received, it’s because it wasn’t released outside Japan. This fact alone shows that to any fan of the series, FF3 is an immediate purchase. But the real question is: should other people get involved in this retold classic?

The game follows a group of orphans, who are blessed by a crystal, and become the warriors of light. This sends them on a journey to save the world, and not much else. The story is quite weak compared to games being made now, but it’s serviceable and it gives a point to the journey that you're on. Your party of four meets many colourful characters, some of which end up giving their life to let your continue. This is dealt with in an unemotional way, but not much could be expected from the DS on this front. The text throughout the game is updated a lot, with characters that talk in a tone you’d imagine they would. This makes the story more interesting, and makes for characters that you remember. Without this, the game may have been a story that could be easily forgotten. It isn’t a strong point of the game, but it by no means dampens the experience.

The game is presented in a slick way, with menus that are easy to navigate and get around. This makes the game instantly playable, and gives it an on the move aesthetic, which is lacking in some of the other remakes of FF games. The graphics are amazing for the DS too; the game is so huge that it is astonishing how much detail there is. The game is on par with the best on the system in this aspect, mainly due to its sprite-inspired 3D look. The whole game is 3D, which considering that the original was on the NES is a huge accomplishment. The characters are not realistic looking, but reflect their sprite heritage. This adds to the game’s tone, and fits perfectly on the DS.

The battle animations have also had an overhaul, and they look great, especially the iconic Espers that feature higher resolution animations when they strike your foes. The game also features a full FMV cutscene before the game loads up. If only that was what DS games looked like. But by far the best aspect of the entire game is the music. The sound that the game produces is phenomenal, with some moments sounding like an orchestra is playing them. The game also includes all of the themes from the original, but new, adapted versions of them. This loses its effect on the player, due to not being able to play this NES version, but some themes still feel instantly recognisable. For a DS game, the score is unparalleled.

When playing the game, you feel at home. The gameplay is simple, and easy to get a grasp on. A great feature, and one that other DS games should learn from, is that the game can be controlled with the buttons, or the touchscreen. If you want to, you can play the entire game solely with the touchscreen. In battle, you select attacks with the stylus and then touch whatever you want to cast it on. You can also drag a box across multiple targets to cast magic on all of them. This feels just right. The touchscreen definitely heightens the game, and will help it appeal to a wider audience. The game doesn’t try anything too clever with this mode, and it just replaces pressing the buttons. But be warned, you will find yourself going back to the buttons if you are stuck in a host of battles.

Apart from this, the only extra feature that the game adds to the series is the job system. FFIII was the first game in the franchise to feature jobs. These allowed your characters to become more efficient in certain areas of fighting. For example, your party needs a constant healer throughout the game. This can be achieved by changing the job of one of your characters to a white mage. The tasks get no trickier than this, and you will probably find yourself picking 4 jobs and sticking with them for a long time. It is not as developed as the system in V or X-2, but it is a welcome addition, and opens up some character development that was not possible in the first two games. The gameplay in III is simple and suits the platform it is on.

Despite all of this, there is one factor that lowers the game's appeal considerably. The game is still the game it was 17 years ago, and so can be very hard. There are no phoenix downs for sale at any point in the game, which makes the first half of it a nightmare if you run out. There are also still no save points in the game, you can only save on the world map. This is remedied slightly with the addition of a quick save feature, but you cannot go back to this save once you have loaded it. This makes the game harder than it should be, especially for the DS market. Veteran players of Final Fantasy will know strategies to help them, but even with experience the game is still tough. You need to get used to the fact that you will die over and over, so you have to be prepared to level up and complete a whole dungeon again. Playing through it, you do get better at the game. But as you do, it gets much more brutal. This may only be one annoyance, but it affects the whole game. This makes the game inaccessible to new players, and so alienates any new fans it could otherwise make.

Final Fantasy III is such an achievement, that fans should be able to look past the difficulty. The graphics are brilliant and the sound is phenomenal. But anyone new to the franchise needs to watch out, this RPG is as old school as it gets.

- Sam Atkins



Square Enix
Square Enix/Matrix