Monday, August 27, 2007

Final Fantasy III review

Here we go with another review! If I don't rent Metroid Prime 3 tomorrow, there'll probably be a non-review article comin' up. Wanna help balance things out, you see!

Developers: Square-Enix, Matrix Software
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: November 24th, 2006 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10+
ESRB Notes: Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes

Originally released in Japan in 1990, Final Fantasy III never saw the light of day in North America for 16 years, when it was finally released for the Nintendo DS. Was it worth the wait? And how well did it age? Find out all this and more in my comprehensive review.

Being a role-playing game (RPG), almost 100% of the game's score depends solely on gameplay. Final Fantasy III is pretty much like any other Final Fantasy game, with battles, towns, airships and the like. That being said, if you like this formula, you'll be right at home with Final Fantasy III. If not, you may as well stop reading now.

Now, having been originally released over 16 years ago, the battle system is somewhat rudimentary compared to the extensive string of variables present in most RPGs of today. Even so, Final Fantasy III still delivers an interesting and surprisingly deep battling experience. The battles are very strictly turn-based, similar to fights in Pokemon Diamond or Dragon Quest VIII. You issue all of your commands at the beginning of the turn, and then watch your characters and their enemies duke it out in order of fastest to slowest. Simple, but deep as well. Say you have a character very weak and in need of healing. The logical course of action would be to get your fastest character to get in there and use a Potion or Cure before the enemy can finish them off. Battles in Final Fantasy III require much more strategy than some of the more modern RPGs. Everything is thought and plotted out all at once, requiring much forward thinking and planning. Once you issue your final command, the battle's on and you're helpless to assist any further until the next turn. Definitely not for those who love fast-paced action. Although, come to think of it, few RPGs are!

A typical battle in Final Fantasy III

An aspect of Final Fantasy III matched by very few games, even to this day, is it's vast selection of character jobs. Depending on a character's job, they may be able to do different things. A White Mage can heal allies, but is unable to inflict much damage on the enemies. Warriors are offensive and defensive powerhouses, but are often quite slow. Thieves are incredibly fast, and have the ability to steal items from enemies, but their attack and defense is often quite low. In total, there are 23 different jobs to choose from. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each job will help you build the strongest and most well-balanced team possible.

(From left to right): Black Mage, White Mage, Warrior
and Red Mage. Which combination is right for you?

Throughout the game, you'll earn the use of several different vehicles, such as ships, canoes and, mainly, airships. Ships, as you would guess, allow you to travel over any large body of water, while narrow rivers and shallow ponds are canoe territory. Perhaps the most varied of all the vehicles are the many different types of airships. The most basic airship will simply fly you about at low altitudes, such as over rivers, oceans and forests. However, due to this craft being unable to go very high, it is unable to go ever mountains. In addition to this basic version, you'll later gain the use of airships that can fly over mountains, heal your characters, sell you items, hover constantly and even dive underwater.

Occasionally throughout your adventures, some other people within the game will join your team. Although usually little more than simply people following you around, all of them will randomly help you in battle. Some will heal you, and some will even do large amounts of damage to your enemies. Sadly, you cannot command your visitors directly. They will act only when they seem to feel like it. On the plus side, enemies are unable to attack them, so they will never die.

Second only to the gameplay, a solid storyline is also very important in any RPG. And like the gameplay, the storyline in Final Fantasy III is also of very high quality. As the game begins, the young orphan Luneth of the small village of Ur finds himself stuck in a cave opened up by a recent earthquake. After exploring a bit, Luneth stumbles across a mysterious, towering crystal. A voice emanates from the crystal, telling Luneth to seek out the other "chosen ones". Then, without any more help, the crystal falls silent and teleports Luneth to the surface. Upon returning home, he is quickly summoned by the village sages. They tell him that meeting the crystal was no accident, and that it is up to him and the other "chosen ones" to save their world.

The story all starts out pretty standard, as you can see. But it quickly evolves into a twisted plot full of startling revelations and mysterious happenings. This story is epic. It's a real shame that everyone outside of Japan had to wait so long to experience this tale.

If the storyline and gameplay aren't the highlights for Final Fantasy III, then surely it's the graphics. Every single part of Final Fantasy III is rendered in glorious 3D, with yet unmatched levels of detail in any DS game. From buildings to trees to monsters to heroes, it's all in 3D. Not only does it looks beautiful, it all moves seamlessly without ever the slightest bit of lag or slowdown.

This game is beautiful. Need I say more?

And the opening cinematic is absolutely stunning. Pre-rendered or not, it's amazingly well done and with surprisingly low compression to boot. Square-Enix, as always, shows us what a console is made of. In the DS' case, it's made of 100% awesome.

Final Fantasy III's opening cinematic is pure beauty.

It's a Final Fantasy game, so it pretty much goes without saying that it's audio is going to be of the greatest quality. With the original score by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu being remastered for the new millennium under his own supervision, Final Fantasy III is always a pleasure for the ears.

The greatness doesn't stop with the music, though! The sound affects are also of extremely high quality! With crystal clear clangs and clashes of the swords of battle and the light humming of the airship's engine in the background as you explore the vast skies, the sounds are surely nothing to sneeze at! Listening to this game is like a spa trip for your eardrums!

If there's any lacking aspect of Final Fantasy III, it comes in the form of multiplayer. The extent of multiplayer interaction in Final Fantasy III is pretty much just sending messages back and forth. This can be done either locally or over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. The only real plus to this aspect is that sending a certain amount of messages may unlock new quests or items. Then again, all of this can be done with several non-playable characters (NPCs) within the game, removing much of the point behind multiplayer interaction.

But, since this is a remake of a game that didn't have multiplayer in the first place, I won't be faulting it very much for lacking in-depth interaction with several players.

So then, that leaves but one last category: Longevity. Like just about any Final Fantasy game, it will take even the best of players 25+ hours to beat it their first time through, and perhaps slightly less time the second round. Beyond simply playing the game over and over, you can also search for secret items, towns and quests to help enhance your gaming experience. And besides, who doesn't like boasting about having found and beaten the strongest boss in the game? This game will last anyone a long, long time.


Gameplay: 9.5/10
Everything in Final Fantasy III plays beautifully. The battles are in-depth and dripping with strategy. Add to that the vast amount of jobs, vehicles, items, quests and more, and you've got one hell of a game!

Storyline: 9.0/10
The storyline is solid, with very few, if any, continuity errors. The major twist about halfway through the game really throws you for a loop, too! Very gripping plot.

Graphics: 9.5/10
Final Fantasy III is quite possibly the best looking game yet on the Nintendo DS. With full 3D in every town, map and battle, as well as nearly 100 different sprites for the main characters alone, Square-Enix took no shortcuts. The opening cinematic is merely icing on the cake.

Audio: 9.0/10
Every game Nobuo Uematsu touches comes out sounding absolutely beautiful, and this is no exception. It's really hard to believe that each and every one of the songs in this game is based on mere 8-bit blips!

Multiplayer: 6.5/10
While sending messages via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is kind of neat, it's really quite unnecessary. Messages can be just as easily sent to one of many NPCs in the game. Still, this won't really hurt the overall score, as it's more of a bonus feature than anything else.

Longevity: 8.5/10
Just playing through the main story of this game will take anybody over 25 hours. Add to that secret towns, items, bosses and quests, and you've got one long game!

OVERALL: 9.5/10
Final Fantasy III is a triumph in nearly every field. From a solid storyline to gripping gameplay to breathtaking graphics, there's very little wrong with this game. I'd even go so far as to say it's one of my five favorite DS games ever! We waited 16 years to get our hands on this long-lost gem, but the time has finally come. Every RPG fan needs to play this game and experience the true Final Fantasy III.

So then, that's Final Fantasy III as I see it. What do you think of this piece of gaming history?

The Duck Has Spoken.

1 comment:

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