Final Fantasy III (Nintendo DS)

Towards the end of the Nintendo Famicom’s lifecycle in 1990, the third installment of Square’s Final Fantasy franchise saw its release in Japan, and would remain there for a little over a decade and a half, and would ultimately become the only main installment of the series not to see international release, although there did come some fan translations for the 8-bit incarnation. There were plans to remake the game for Bandai’s short-lived WonderSwan Colors, although the WSC remake would be vaporware. However, Square-Enix, with a little help from Matrix Software, responsible for titles such as Alundra on the PlayStation, soon afterward remade the game for the Nintendo DS, with this version, Final Fantasy III DS, seeing international release and giving Anglophone players an opportunity to experience the title legally, which is mostly positive in spite of some flaws.

The DS remake features randomly-encountered enemies and a traditional turn-based battle system where the player inputs commands for their party of up to four characters and lets them and the enemy beat each other up in a round. The typical flaws of traditional turn-based combat are present, such as unpredictable and sometimes random turn order, alongside the possibility that enemies can beat the player’s characters to healing and lead to wasted healing spells and items, along with the fact that enemies don’t decide their commands until they reach their own turns, leading to some occasions where the player revives a deceased character, only for foes to kill them again the same turn.

What redeems the third installment is its job system, with new occupations for each character, such as Knight, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, and so forth, unlocked throughout the game, providing plenty variety. There is a catch, though, since changing a character’s job will come with a temporary penalty to his or her stats for a few battles, although they luckily don’t detract much from the thrill of increasing job levels, in addition to normal experience levels. Dated turn-based mechanics aside, the battle system works well for the most part, although a bigger shortcoming is that death takes the player back to the title screen, with no opportunity to restart a lost battle or revive in the nearest town for a penalty, let alone save before difficult boss fights, which would have provided a less frustrating experience.

The stingy save system, with players only able to save on the overworld, is the main flaw with the DS remake’s control scheme, alongside the fact that the developers essentially wasted the potential for use of the system’s top screen, for instance, with automaps for dungeon, a convenience inexcusably absent from the third entry. The menus, aside from the ability to see playing time only on the save screen, are otherwise decent, with no trouble shopping, either, although interaction could have been much better.

The story, though, is slightly worse than the game’s interface, and while it was deeper than average for an 8-bit plotline, it hasn’t aged well, given the rehash of the “Four Warrior of Lights” narrative present in the very first Final Fantasy, although the four playable characters have names and faces, not to mention a little backstory, so the plot does certainly have some redeeming aspects.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of Final Fantasy III is its soundtrack, which today stands as one of composer Nobuo Uematsu’s greatest accomplishments, what with diverse solid dungeon tracks, a peaceful overworld theme, and a decent track for normal battles, although that can become slightly repetitive, given the need to grind at times.

The visuals are another strong suit, even if to a lesser extent, with decent character models, noseless, no less, that appropriately reflect the title’s lighthearted nature more than in, say, Final Fantasy Tactics, although the three-dimensional environments appear blurry and pixelated when seen close-up, and the player’s characters and the enemy in battle appear to attack telekinetically.

Finally, the third installment can take around thirty hours to complete, what with the grinding necessary to make it through the final battles, although lucky players can make it through the game in lesser time, with plenty of post-game content, to boot. Overall, Final Fantasy III DS is for the most part a solid remake that hits many of the right notes, what with its enjoyable job system, music, and graphics, although it does leave room for improvement at points, such as with its dated turn-based mechanics, stingy save system, and shallow, derivative narrative. Nonetheless, it would receive additional love in the future, what for instance with ports to the iPhone and PlayStation Portable, so that wider audiences could appreciate the third entry.

The Good:
+Solid combat with plenty variety.
+Great music and graphics.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Typical flaws of traditional turn-based battle systems.
-Stingy save system.
-Average, derivative plot.

The Bottom Line:
Not the best Final Fantasy, but still an enjoyable experience.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 5/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: 25-40 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License