developed by Matrix Software, Square-Enix/published by Square-Enix
1 Player/(3 save slots)Flash ROM/Nintendo DS/2006.11.14
Final Fantasy 3 was the last of the untranslated chapters in the series to be localized for the western market. Originally released for the Famicom in 1990, it would take 16 years before Western gamers would get a chance to take up the quest. A remake of Final Fantasy 3 for the Wonderswan Color was announced but later canceled (only a handful of screenshots mark its existence). Square-Enix finally announced Final Fantasy 3 would be ported to the Nintendo DS, but was it worth the wait?
Final Fantasy 3′s main claim to fame was its Job System, which allowed players to customize their party members with up to 23 different classes. A natural progression from the original’s 6 classes with a hint of Dragon Quest 3′s innovations, Final Fantasy 3 redefined all future entries in the series with jobs such as Summoners and Dragoons.
Many of the jobs obtained early in the game become redundant as you gain slightly more advanced versions later. White Mages are out-classed by Devouts, Black Mages by Magus’, Red Mages by Sages, Monks by Blackbelts, and Evokers by Summoners. Additionally, changing a character’s class forces a predefined period of a few battles where the character settles into their new job, during which AP rewards in battle aren’t collected. And unlike Final Fantasy 5, players are unable to mix and match skills from different jobs. These are the major issues with the system but they don’t really interfere with the enjoyment of the game.
Story & Characters
It was never the intention of the developers to change the original game’s systems to include the innovations of Final Fantasy 5 – in fact, they aimed to recreate the Famicom edition as faithfully as possible while breathing new life into the characters and world. One of the key differences between the original and the remake are the 4 heroes; nameless Onion Knights have been replaced by unique individuals, each with their own back story. Not only does this inject some character into the game, but battles are colorful even if all 4 characters share the same job class, since each character’s style shines despite their uniform. And seeing your SD characters dress up in ridiculously cute outfits simply never gets old.
As expected, Final Fantasy 3′s world is dotted by castles and towns plagued by problems only the Warriors of Light can solve. You’ll travel between settings fairly typical of medieval fantasy RPGs, where you’ll meet characters who will tag along for a short time, randomly helping out in battles until their story thread is resolved. None of these castle towns are remarkable, but they get the job done.
The side-quests propel the story forward at a good clip and the side-kicks are fun if not always useful. The world is large enough that you’ll eventually explore it using a variety of vehicles including series’ staples the Chocobo and multiple airships (including an amphibious submersible).
DS-specific innovations are virtually non-existent. The top screen displays nothing most of the time, and you can go through the entire game without even so much as accidentally invoking touch screen controls. Wi-fi enables you to trade letters with other players with whom you’ve exchanged friend codes, which amounts to an annoying chore that will eventually give you access to the game’s hidden job class. The real use of the DS comes in the form of its enhanced graphics and sound.
The remake’s most noticeable improvement lies unquestionably in its aesthetics. Besides the beautiful albeit heavily compressed intro movie, the graphics take advantage of the DS’s 3D capabilities to create a much more dynamic world, and the remixed music sounds excellent (and is one of the best features). While the general viewpoint remains similar to the three-quarter view from the original (players don’t have much camera control beyond a zoom function), the many story sequences and battles play out via multiple views and close-ups. And while most of the backgrounds are fairly simple in their construction, players will visit some truly remarkable settings throughout their adventure and encounter impressive looking monsters (some managing to outdo their PS1 cousins!).
While the new graphics can be fantastic, they’re not without some problems of their own. The main issue becomes apparent in battles, where the enemy party is rarely made up of more than 2 or 3 enemies at a time due to the DS’s limited processing power. In the original, players were assaulted by double or triple the enemies. Unfortunately this limitation makes the game much easier and players will rarely find themselves in peril unless they accidentally wander into a high-level dungeon or cave too early in the game.
That said, its unfortunate the original game wasn’t included somewhere in the remake, if only as an unlockable. In the end, graphics aren’t everything – and an option to try the more challenging original would have been an excellent addition.
At the end of the day, the issue of challenge rests largely on the individual playing the game. Many have suggested the game is too hard due to a lack of save points in dungeons, particularly the final area, and the perplexing rarity of phoenix downs. Perhaps Final Fantasy 3′s traditional approach, where a little level building between areas is recommended, is a hard pill to swallow for players weened on modern game mechanics. If you’ve been a fan of the series from the start, Final Fantasy 3 will no doubt be an entertaining return to the series’ roots and RPGs of old, bringing with it excellent production values rarely seen on the DS.
Quick Run Down
- Excellent production values
- Music sounds fantastic
- Old-school design brings back fond memories
- Good challenge
- Job System isn’t as open as FF5
- Some level grinding is required
- Lack of saves mid-dungeon can be annoying
- Not as challenging as the original
One Sentence Review: FF3 remains one of the most enjoyable RPGs on the DS, and is an excellent remake.
One Word Review: Satisfying.
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