Final Fantasy III
As of today it seems you can use Final Fantasy as a synonym for Role Playing Game. The series started of some 20 years ago and since then it has been famous because of its fantastic gameplay that can be played by even the biggest noob seen its simplicity. Nintendo is doing a series of updates of the first games to more recent handhelds. The Game Boy Advance has got quite a few now, but these ports were nothing more than the same game with graphics that got only repolished a little. Final Fantasy III for Nintendo DS however got rebuilt from scratch, replacing 2D-sprites with 3D-environments, and characters using almost everything the DS has to offer. Above all of that we’re dealing with a port of the original Final Fantasy III, a game that has never been released in the West, so we’re getting a game that’s completely new to us. Sounds like a superb formula for a killer-game, right?
The most fun thing about an RPG is obviously discovering the story by yourself, but that won’t stop me from telling how it all starts. A nation wanted to use the enormous power of four crystalls, the Crystals of Light, to themselves. They didn’t know however that there were also Crystals of Dark; the bad counterparts of the immense power sources. The world is based on the balance between these two forces, but when this gets out of balance they call in the help of four warriors chosen by fate; the Warriors of Light. They have to go on a journey to bring balance to the World. Of course this only is the absolute basis, the story evolves as you proceed, but it’s still a little simplistic, it all feels a little cliché and names as “Crystals of Light” aren’t that hard to think of. When starting the game you immediately get dropped in the action, as some sort of prologue. The credits are wisely programmed right after this (which lasts about an hour), without a chance of skipping them.
You’ve got to be incredibly blind or an extreme fanboy from the opposite party when not adoring these graphics. The environmental textures are sharp and it’s filled with 3D-objects and detailed sprites. Travelling is done via a simple worldmap, but most of the action is in dungeons and cities. I do have to mention that the dungeons are more or less bold, probably to keep the framerate right. In a city or a house however, you can – if you’re an RPG-fan, that is – enjoy the atmosphere thanks to books on shelves, plants here and there, … The turn-based battles are accompanied with simple animations. Incredibly beautiful – but not completely relevant – is the intromovie in full CGI-quality.
When discussing the graphics of a NDS-game we shouldn’t forget one crucial thing, that Square-Enix obviously did forget; the second screen. All the action plays on the touchscreen, but the upper screen is – except for an occasional chart – left completely blank. If there weren’t any speakers in the upper part of the DS you could easily cut this one off. The sounds however is of Final Fantasy-quality; the simple speakers are able to bring us nice stereo-music, for which Nintendo once again hired a topcomposer, although unknown to us in the West.
The 3D-conversion isn’t all fun and sweetness. Because of the frequent little animations, for example when entering a house or encountering an enemy, the games plays quite slow. A fight isn’t finished in one-two-three and that’s extra annoying because of the continuous floud of enemies. FFIII is hard in that way that you meet an enemy almost every five steps, and they can be quite the pain in the ass. We like challenge, but there’s a limit to where you accept this enormous amount of battles. The upper screen finally has a use; it can be used as a mirror to check out your frowning eyebrows when hearing the battle-jingle once again. There isn’t a way to buy Phoenix Downs either. Phoenix Downs are potions to revive a murdered character, and you can be sure that in the beginning I loaded previous savegames a lot because I got killed by some stupid rat and didn’t know of this lack of Phoenix Downs. The bossfights are quite challenging too, with bosses making good use of potions. Briefly, Final Fantasy III is a game that can send away new gamers crying.
Aside from being a little too hard sometimes the gameplay is as good as ever. You can use the standard button-control or walk around with touchscreen control. This doesn’t really add a lot of value, but it sure is chill to put your DS down and play with one hand. Especially the battles prefer a stylus, because it simple is quicker to select attacks and enemies with a simple stylus-tap.
Really important in this Final Fantasy is the job-system. According to you job you can or cannot use certain attacks or you’ll have advantages over other jobs, etc. You have to put together a balanced tam of four members, because a team consisting of only Freelancers (all-rounders) will never be good at a specific thing and a team full of White Mages healing each other isn’t that interesting either. You can change jobs whenever you want but it’ll take an adaption-period wherein you’re not worth that much. There’s a huge list of classes, so here we go! You’ve got Freelancer, Warrior, White Mage, Black Mage, Monk, Red Mage, Thief, Ranger, Knight, Scholar, Geomancer, Viking, Dragoon, Black Belt, Dark Knight, Evoker, Bard, Magus, Devout, Summoner, Sage and Ninja. Some of them are just better at something than others or have more health points, but others have a completely unique feature. The Dragoon can jump high into the air for a full turn, coming back with a devastating attack.
Final Fantasy III missed the title of megahit with a near miss. The game is superb, every own-respecting RPG-fan should get it, just because at the moment it’s the only decent RPG on Nintendo DS. The graphics are beautiful, the gameplay and the story keeps you going for hours (almost 70!), but the massive flood of battles ruin it a little and make it hard to enjoy a play session of more than a few hours (with some 50 battles per hour…). And what the F*ck about the second screen? If you don’t use it, make a PSP for Christ’s sake… This explains the 80% score for graphics, as the lower screen on itself is worth more than 90%.