I gleefully arrived at the local GameStop to pick up my copy of Final Fantasy III on the day it shipped. I've always been a big fan of Final Fantasy and the release of FF3 was a long-awaited event for me.
It felt great to finally have my hands on this lost treasure from Square, and I immediately popped it into my DS when I got home to take it for a test run. I was immediately greeted by a sensationally revamped screen.
One of the first things that hit me was the brilliant sound quality for this game. Nobuo Uematsu really got it right with this game's revamped theme music. It's a very well orchestrated rendition of the classics, a sound very reminiscent of FFIX and X.
This rich sound played wonderfully over the DS's speakers, and I very much enjoyed what had been done with this classic theme song. While not anything that just stands completely out of the crowd, the sound effects of various spells and items is a nice addition to the game, adding another level to the overall experience. The audio on this game reminds me more of a console than a handheld, no doubt about it.
The next thing that struck me immediately was the quality of the graphics. These are probably the best graphics I've seen so far on the DS. Once again, it looks much more like a console game's graphics than it does a handheld. Everything is very detailed, from the intro screen to the world around the characters.
The designers did a great job of keeping a 16-bit feel while adding all sorts of fantastic 3D flair and style. All of the characters have facial expressions during conversations (a very nice touch), and whenever you change a specific character's job, their outfit changes to match that job. When you change the lead character's (Luneth) job, the icon on the world map portraying Luneth also switches outfits - another nice touch.
It almost hurts me to write this next part of the review, because I've almost beaten the game at this point and I really do enjoy playing it - but there are some very unfortunate design flaws associated with it.
A few hours into the game I found myself turning off the sound on my DS because the music became unbearably repetitive. The world map overture was stuck in my head for several days because of the sheer amount of time spent there. I opted to pop in headphones and listen to music of my own as opposed to the music of the game. Its great music, don't get me wrong, but there's not enough diversity to it to keep it interesting. And the battle sound effects can be fairly annoying sometimes.
But possibly the biggest annoyance was the presentation of the game for the DS. This game was built more or less from scratch specifically for the system, and it's shown in the graphics and sound. Other than that, it feels like this game could be just as well played and experienced on a PSP - the special DS features just are not used like they should be.
For one, the touch system is very basic. At any time you can switch from the directional pad and buttons to the stylus and back. While sometimes holding the stylus at the far edge of the screen to get your party to run that way can be easier than holding the down arrow, for the most part the difference just isn't enough for me to want to keep my stylus out.
For maybe the first hour did I actually use my stylus; then I put it up in favor of the buttons on the handheld. I really would have liked more use of the touch system for this - maybe the use of it to trace out spells or enhance puzzles in various dungeons. There was so much potential for this that it pains me to see that it wasn't used.
The second, most unfortunate, point, is that for a good 3/4 of the game, the top screen is black. No words, no images, no nothing. Just black. Sometimes you'll see it used during cut scenes, and before and after important dialogue it will flash white, but other than that it is useless. Oh, no, I did forget that it has a very poor resolution image of the world map with icons depicting towns, castles, caves, etc.
While that can help sometimes, it's generally useless because the icon is only activated once you've been somewhere, so there's no need for it at that point. At the very least they could have put cool Final Fantasy art like we've seen in the past up on the top screen, but they didn't even do that. The blankness of the screen makes part of my soul die every time I notice it. Which is a lot.
The 3D graphics are a nice addition, and make the game much better to look at and fun to play, but they also have the tendency to increase the length of travel and battles.
While in the original version of this game a battle against one or two monsters would last a few seconds, because of the effects in this game the battles last far longer and become very tedious, especially when they happen very frequently. Travelling around the world is a pretty sight, but once again, can be slow and painful because of the graphics.
But as I said previously, I really do enjoy playing this game. The job system, while now outdated, is a great trip back into the glorious yesteryears, and the gameplay and storyline are great reminders of the roots of all RPGs.
If you're a casual RPG player, FF3 probably won't be for you. But if you're a diehard RPG or FF enthusiast, definitely pick up a copy of this game. With well over 60 hours of gameplay and new quests, it's enough to keep any fanboy excited for a long time to come.