A fantasy land before time.
Recently, purveyors of bad math Square-Enix have been trying to make me crazy again. After releasing, in order, Final Fantasies X, XI, X the 2nd, a spin-off of VII, followed by IV, XII, and V, now we’ve got Final Fantasy III for the DS, not to be confused with that other Final Fantasy III for the SNES. I wish they’d just come up with another name already.
Anyway, this Final Fantasy III happens to be the last one to make it over the pond. It was originally a NES title released in 1990, and heralded as ‘legendary’ by Japanese fans. That was sixteen years ago, is it still so legendary now?
[image1]What we’ve got here is the quintessential Final Fantasy. Four warriors of light are chosen to correct the shifting balance of power in the world, lest it be covered in darkness forever. Remember, when this game was made, the previously described plot was new.
You plod about the world, getting in turn-based random battles, saving princesses and putting nasty monsters down. Although it’s a little strange, you can run the whole show pretty well using just the stylus. It’s nice for targeting enemies, and especially well used in navigating in the world. Just tap a spot on the screen and your little buddies run right for it. The game is sorely lacking gameplay variety, but the neat controls make things a little more interesting.
Regardless, Final Fantasy III’s big ticket is and was introducing the job system to the series. Jobs are classes (warrior, thief, black mage, etc) and the system allows you to constantly change your characters’ classes to suit your style or the task at hand. Eventually you’ll get about twenty classes, many of which are pretty darn cool, like the Evoker or Geomancer, and some less cool, like the damnable Bard.
Although cool, the job system isn’t all it could be, or all it turned into. Different jobs use different magic, weapons, and armor, plus they boost different attributes, but you won’t be able to tell which or what without endlessly running between menus and flexing your gray matter. Also, Final Fantasy V, recently released for GBA, flaunts a much bigger, better job system that allows you to mix abilities between classes for maximum potential. Why redo a sixteen year old game with brand new graphics, just to leave out much better twelve year old parts?
[image2]Final Fantasy III plays out exactly as its source material did. If you’ve never experienced an old-school RPG, know that they crush moderns standards of difficulty like a meteor thrown by a dragon in space. Money is tight, magic is conserved until needed, monsters are a pain and everywhere, and you can expect to have as much trouble coming out of a dungeon as going in. If you’ve never felt challenged by an RPG, save early and save often, as Final Fantasy III waits to welcome you to the game over screen.
And even that looks great. Everything’s rendered in cute 3-D fashion, mostly confined to a single screen (due to the processing power required, no doubt). It really does a lot for the aesthetic portion of a mostly archaic game, but not without its own shortcomings. All those little polygons take awhile to load, in and out of fights, through towns and buildings, and that time really stacks up. Expect a few high quality FMV sequences to pop up from time to time (this is a Square game, after all), but know that they just don’t run that well on our little two-screened buddy, so expect them to skip a bit.
Another muddled use of DS capabilities occurs when sending in-game mail using the Mog Net. I guess they’ve got an internet back there in the land o’ crystals as well. Mog Net lets you send mail to NPCs from the game and also to your friends with a copy. Doing so will unlock another dungeon, but I think most people will stick to emailing friends with a computer.
So congratulations to Square-Enix for finally bringing the last bits of the franchise over the pond. We’re glad they resurrected Final Fantasy III, but they also brought back all the problems RPG makers have spent years solving. It doesn’t do anything new for RPGs, but at least it serves to remind us how far they’ve come.