Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Final Fantasy III

After sixteen long years, Final Fantasy III finally sees an official release outside of Japan. However, unlike previous games, Final Fantasy III has been completely reworked. This is more than just a port with enhanced graphics. Final Fantasy III includes some new secrets and side quests in addition to its graphical overhaul. Final Fantasy III may be just about enough to please some hardcore fans, but was the wait really worth it? Well, yes, but the game isn't perfect. The storyline of Final Fantasy III is entirely too simple. The crystals are losing their powers and there are only four warriors that can come forth and save the world from falling into darkness. Sixteen years ago this was a pretty standard story, but when compared to your average RPG today, and current Final Fantasy games, the storyline to Final Fantasy III is a joke. There's nothing in this story that screams epic, and the characters involved aren't developed very well. Luckily, we can let it slide because its sixteen years old. Gameplay wise, Final Fantasy III is pretty similar to most RPGs of today. You'll go roaming through dungeons and towns getting into random battles. There are a few quirks to the game that the DS utilizes. You'll find moments where you'll have to zoom into certain objects for you to examine. It should also be noted that you can use the touch screen almost exclusively in the game. Using the stylus you can make your character run in the direction you want him to, by gliding it across the screen. Taping on things makes your character examine it, and ultimately this is how you open chests and talk to people. It works out, but it feels really clumbsy at times. If you're looking to get through a dungeon with little hassle, just stick to the directional buttons. To its credit, though, using the stylus makes menu navigation much faster, but for the most part, the stylus controls just feel tacked on. Combat is traditional turn based combat. There's no ATB gauge like in later Final Fantasy games. In each round you will choose all the commands for your characters to do, and then watch a round of battle take place. It's simple, but isn't always fun. Mainly because Final Fantasy III is a challenge. If you began with some of the later Final Fantasy games, then this installment may be a little too difficult. Sometimes combat is unforgiving, especially when faced with bosses that attack twice per turn, and have the power to take out a character in a single shot. Even worse, the encounter rate is pretty high and running away from battle is often a wasted effort because you'll fail so many times trying to do so. You'll probably get wiped out just trying to run from battle and failing so many times. There are several moments when you'll be forced to battle for hours just leveling up. This is fine for those used to old school RPGs, but many RPGs of today do not put so much emphasis on leveling up, and it may try your patience after a while. It's great for people looking for a challenge, at least, but for some it may be a bit too steep. The job system is interesting. As you go through the game you'll get crystal shards that allow your characters to use certain jobs. Each job has its own set of abilities that can be learned with it. For example, White mages specialize in the healing arts, black mages in attack magic and red mages can do a little bit of both. You've also got other classes like warriors who can take damage for other party members, thieves who can steal and much more. There are 23 jobs in all. The jobs you choose for your characters also have an impact on your stats. Mages, for example, don't have a lot of strength but they excel in magic. Also, as you gain levels, you'll also gain job levels. So it's not only important to make sure your characters are at a good level, but also at a good job level. There is a slight problem with the job system however. It isn't nearly as varied as it could be. As you go through the game you'll gain more and more jobs that ultimately replace the older ones. In the beginning you'll get a Blackmage; as you progress you'll get a Sage, who is capable of doing everything a Blackmage can do. Thus, later in the game, many job classes become obsolete. It's really hard to compliment the games variety when later on many job classes are more of the same thing. So while the job system is interesting, later games such as Final Fantasy V execute it much better and with more variety. The game looks absolutely stunning, at least for the Nintendo DS. It is by far one of the best looking out there. There are some moments where it looks pixilated, but you can't deny that the game just looks good regardless. The movie sequences are also really pretty to look at and they run surprisingly well. In battle is also fantastic. Your enemies sport some amazing detail and so do the backgrounds in battle. On the whole, the game just looks good. Perhaps the only fault of the graphics is how restricted the animation of characters and enemies are in combat. Your characters won't physically go up and strike an enemy. Rather they just step forward and swing. Very similar to how the Final Fantasy games of the NES worked. It's strange to see, but you'll quickly get used to it. Another thing that seems kind of strange, though, is that the top screen throughout most of the game remains blank. All the action takes place on the bottom screen. There are few moments when the top screen actually displays anything. You'll see the world map as you travel the overworld and while you're in towns. There are certain moments where the top screen has text, or shows an important story sequence, but that's usually about it. Other than that, when trumping through dungeons (as you do often) and in battle (as you also do often) the top screen remains blank. There's nothing wrong with it, but it feels very awkward to play a Nintendo DS game where the top screen is blank. They could've used it to display dungeon maps or enemy information or something. The top screen has no impact on gameplay whatsoever. The music in the game is pretty good, though. It's not as good as other games in the series, and there are some tunes that just aren't great, but the music is by no means bad. There's no voice acting in the game, really, but we can let that slide. Audio wise, the game is good. Final Fantasy III is a pretty satisfying experience for any Final Fantasy fan looking for a good challenge, and to see how far the series has come. However, it may also shed a little too much of its old school charm in some areas, particularly its unforgiving challenge. Still, it's worth it for Final Fantasy fans who want to see just how far the series has come. The Good +Finally a chance to play Final Fantasy III +Great visual look +Good music +The job system is interesting +It provides a good challenge +A fair amount of secrets and sidequests The Bad -The story is not all that great -For some the game might provide too much of a challenge, to the point of frustration -High random encounter rate -The job system is interesting, but there's not nearly as much vareity as one might expect from it -Throughout most of your adventure the top screen is just... blank... for a Nintendo DS game this just feels awkward

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