Final Fantasy III DS- Staff Review  

Finally, A DS RPG With Class.
by scanDallas Richardson

30-40 hours


Rating definitions 

   This would be a good time to point out that Final Fantasy III DS finally completes the Final Fantasy series here in the US, but since that's already been done to death, let's just get on with the review. Final Fantasy III was originally released in Japan back in 1990 for the Famicom, but, unfortunately, the game never saw a US release. Much later, while Square Enix was steadily throwing ports and remakes of older Final Fantasy titles at both US and Japanese gamers, the developers decided to remake the third title in the series to allow gamers all over the globe the ability to finally play every numbered Final Fantasy ever made. Square Enix took it a step further and completely reinvented the game's graphics and changed a bit of the gameplay to make Final Fantasy III DS much more playable for a modern audience. The result is a charming RPG that falls just short of excellence, due to some archaic gameplay elements.

    Like most of the early Final Fantasy titles, the story told in Final Fantasy III DS is fairly basic. The world is suddenly imperiled by an ancient darkness, but a prophecy foretells of Four Heroes of Light who shall unite to vanquish this terrible evil. Through a series of unfortunate events, four orphans, all of whom are named by the player, end up joining together and discover that they are the said heroes of legend. It is up to them to gather the four elemental crystals, a Final Fantasy staple, to destroy the evil once and for all. Sound familiar? It should to any RPG dilettante that knows how these things go. There isn't much in the way of plot twists nor character development. Also, character interactions are minimal, limited to a sentence of dialogue here and there. The story can't be criticized too much for its lack of depth, considering this is a remake of a game made over twenty five years ago. Still, it would have been great if Square Enix further advanced the plot a bit for the re-release. As it is, just don't expect anything near the level of depth of something like Final Fantasy XII. The story doesn't carry much weight; story events are mainly just an excuse to go from point A to point B. It's ultimately the gameplay that's the main draw in Final Fantasy III DS.

    The battle system in this Final Fantasy title revolves around varying character classes. Though the class system is not as deep as that of Final Fantasy V, it's still good fun. Each character has a set of traits that affect battle performance and character development. For instance, a White Mage can use healing spells in and out of battle, but he or she won't be able to equip good armor. What's more, every class will gain levels based on the number of actions taken with that class, making that class more effective with its abilities, such as increasing the number of attacks or spell potency. Each class has different strengths and weaknesses, making it important to have a balanced party of complementary classes. The fun part of this system comes from mixing and matching different types of classes for various results. Unfortunately, some classes suffer in this newer version of the game, since the developers changed different traits. Examples include the Bard, who can no longer hide for a turn and avoid damage, and the Sage, who now acts much slower in battle and can no longer use high level summons. These changes were implemented to balance out the classes, but players will just have to stick to the better classes in order to survive battles with some of the merciless bosses. In fact, at times, the use of a specific class is required to advance, due to its specific ability. Such design decisions stifle character customization, but players will most likely realize how effective certain classes are and skip over the more superfluous ones on their own.

Let's Fight! "Yeah yeah. Gotta save the world. So predictable. Let's just get it over with."

   Making good class choices and obtaining high levels are essential survival tactics against the game's difficult enemies. At certain points, players must level grind to get past some of the punishing bosses. The battles in Final Fantasy III DS are all turn-based and random, though the game lacks the more modern Active Time Battle system, or ATB, of latter Final Fantasy titles. The player chooses actions for all four party members before the turn ensues, and each character and enemy acts in an order determined by their respective speed. The game's high difficulty mostly comes from one factor; the fact that there is not a single save point in the entire game. The player can only save on the World Map. This makes dungeon exploring a bit irritating, especially for the longer ones. If, at any point, the party is wiped out, then the player will just have to go through the dungeon all over again, opening the same chests and fighting the same enemies. Considering that Final Fantasy III DS is also a portable game, it just makes sense that the game would have some a "save anywhere" feature. Instead, the game only lets the player temporarily save with the "quicksave" function, which is immediately deleted once the player resumes the game. As a consequence, the best solution to this issue is, like any RPG, to gain a good number of levels before continuing on the adventure.

   In this game, exploration is a thing in itself. Since the game lacks true story direction, players will just have to explore the world to figure out where they should go next. Players may chat with townsfolk for clues, but these hints are fairly simple and fail to pinpoint the party's next destination. This sort of tedious exploration is reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda title back on the NES. Another gameplay quirk is the issue with most of the side-quests. It's unfortunate that players will have to work to unlock side-quests. Players must use the pointless Mognet function to send messages to friends locally or through Wi-Fi. Like all Nintendo Wi-Fi games, players are first required to get friend codes from other DS owners and give them their own fried code in order to send messages. And what's more, they will then need to send a specific number of messages to certain NPCs in order to unlock the side-quests. Sadly, there is no other way to unlock these quests. Forcing players to use an otherwise worthless function to get the game's best weapons and unlock the secret character class is rather cheap of the developers. But then again, Nintendo did something similar with Pokemon series, requiring that players trade with others or purchase both versions of each game in order to collect all the little creatures. Players will just have to work around these gameplay quirks in order to get the best of the game.

   Players surely won't mind fighting enemies over and over and exploring every part of the world, since everything looks so great. Final Fantasy III DS is easily one of the best looking games on Nintendo's esteemed system, skillfully demonstrating what the portable is graphically capable of. Leave it to Square Enix to push a system's graphics to its limits. The game's sole CG sequence, reserved for the opening segment of the game, is actually up to modern Final Fantasy standards. The game's art style comes to life with the sheer amount of detail that animates every object in the game. The characters, from the hundreds of enemy types to the basic of NPCs, look crisp and the various backgrounds and environments look smooth. For instance, when battling on the World Map, clouds move smoothly across the sky in real-time. These details come together to present an attractive little world filled with visual personality. Final Fantasy III DS is an example that the Nintendo DS is very capable of executing high quality 3D titles.

   Nonetheless, there are a few problems that somewhat correlate with the game's graphics, though they, in no way, detract from the overall graphical quality. The first issue is the glaring fact that the DS's top screen is utterly underutilized. Square Enix initially expressed excitement for developing the remake on the DS, so it makes absolutely no sense why they didn't use the system's titular feature. The top screen is only used to display the World Map when outside of town, to show the party while shopping, and to display a very few key messages during story sequences. The top screen could have been used for a great number of things, such as displaying dungeon maps, battle information, etc. Also, the developers boasted that the entire game can be played using the stylus. While true, it's rather useless, considering how imprecise controlling the characters can be and how difficult it is to select actions during battle. It's a true shame Square Enix didn't take advantage of the system's capabilities. Just imagine how much top screen and stylus features might have enriched gameplay. As it stands, the only real benefit Final Fantasy III DS gets from being developed for the handheld is the increased graphical quality.
Battle "Okay guys. You heal, you use magic, you attack, and I'll just stand here. GO!"

   As expected, the sound design is great, considering Nobuo Uematsu was behind the music of both the original and the remake. The sound effects are basic, from standard sword slashes to swirling magic spells. Nothing special in that area. But the music, like most of Uematsu's work, is certainly memorable, featuring great battle themes and World Map tunes, as well as different themes that drive the most of emotion of the otherwise uninspiring story. The opening theme "Memory of the Wind" is especially nice.

   Now DS owners have yet another great RPG on their hands. Final Fantasy III DS sports fantastic visuals, great music, and a good challenge, for gamers willing to contend with an overall uninteresting story and the lack of save points. But those two complaints won't keep RPGamers from enjoying this thirty-hour quest. Players beware, though; this game features some truly archaic gameplay elements that might annoy gamers used to modern RPG features. If players can get past that then what they'll find is a decent quest that should keep them busy leveling up for a good while. Hopefully, Square Enix will upgrade the quality of the inevitable Final Fantasy VII remake to the same extent as they have done here.

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