Final Fantasy III review
Class is in session and Square got a B on their last test


Being perpetually unlucky is a bad thing, folks. Unlike the crappy Final Fantasy 2, Final Fantasy 3 had the displeasure of not being localized on the Origins collection, nor was it given a PSP enhancement during Final Fantasy's anniversary. Nope. It wasn't until the DS version in 2006 that Final Fantasy 3 was finally given its English localization, and it wasn't until 2012 that it got released on the PSP. It's a shame because out of the NES Final Fantasy games, this is easily the best... maybe not in terms of storytelling because Final Fantasy 2 trumps it there, but in terms of everything else, Final Fantasy 3 is the better choice. But there are some things to behold with its updated versions on the DS, iPhone, Android and PSP – the characters are given more depth which makes Final Fantasy 3 a more character driven experience than its predecessors, and the jobs are tweaked to be more balanced so that they aren't mostly situational nor too overpowered. It's not quite perfect, but the effort is appreciated. At the same time, while the class system is a good idea, there are some things that drag this game down.

Classes are derived from the elemental crystals that you find along your journey, and that's basically what this game is all about – gathering crystals. From the beginning of the game, Luneth falls down a hole and discovers a crystal. Once he and the other three main characters – Arc, Refia and Ingus – defeat Djinn and remove the curse placed upon the village of Kazus, the crystal bestows upon them the power to change their fighting style, and it delivers a message that essentially boils down to gathering the rest of the crystals to power up and save the world. While it's not quite as involved nor as moody as Final Fantasy 2's story, Final Fantasy 3 still has its hooks. Our main cast of characters are given distinct personalities. From Luneth the reckless and carefree, to Ingus the stoic analytical thinker, to Refia the independent girl who don't need no man-- I mean somewhat headstrong girl, and then to Arc of the shy, intelligent race of human beings... okay, there isn't a whole lot on offer that you haven't seen before, but the way that each of these characters interact is more than enough to make up for that. There are some amusing exchanges between the four every now and again, which is enough to keep you going through the story.

There are also some little sidestories that draws you more into the world where you have to do things for villagers or something. It gives you the motivation to make sure you keep the balance between light and darkness because you don't want these people to die... at that point, it becomes more about the journey than the destination. You see some sights, you take some pictures, you do some chores for the natives like fetching horns and killing monsters, and then you all band together at the local pub and drink yourselves silly before moving onto the next location. In that sense, there's not a lot of character and plot development, but that's not what it's about – it's about going through a world and being more inclined to save it. Perhaps character and plot development would've been nice to have in this updated version because that's more what people who are into Final Fantasy prefer, but as it is, it's fine.

Don't worry Luneth – it only gets worse from there.

The gameplay is similar to the first Final Fantasy game where in battle, you have your basic commands (attack, guard, items and run away, with an additional option to use a class's special ability) and when you get enough experience points from beating enemies, you level up. Levelling up results in bettering your statistics, meaning that you'll stand a better chance against stronger enemies than you would've at lower levels. Whether you encounter enemies randomly on the world map/a dungeon or fight a boss towards the end of a dungeon, it's kill or be killed in this vicious world. Oh, and you can go to towns, talk to people and buy stuff like equipment, items and spells. The controls on the Android are a bit different from the NES and DS in that you use its touch screen instead of buttons – with an analog stick looking thing for movement, touching whatever we're adjacent to in order to interact with things like people and chests, using a two finger pinching gesture to zoom in and touching menu commands during battle. These controls are pretty tight, but that's not all that the Android version does differently. There's also the quick saving it does before and after battle. However, it's best that you only do this if you're trying to conserve power or want to exploit a trick involving the home command to get out of battle... because you can't revert back to a quick save once you die. Nope. Not at all. You die, you go back to your last big save on the world map. It is a bother to not be able to save in dungeons, and it's especially annoying when you go through a particularly long dungeon only to lose to the boss and have to start again from the very beginning.

But then you're probably not hardcore enough for this game!! Never mind the fact that really, most bosses require you to exploit an elemental weakness or even just smash them right upside the head with strong attacks, healing every now and again. To aid in making the difficulty harder than Chinese algebra, Phoenix Downs cannot be purchased from stores; they can only be found in chests, meaning that you'll need to conserve them to such holy hell. Oh, and no Cottages and Tents to heal before entering a dungeon? No Ethers to restore MP as there is no MP; it's just that the amount of times you can use spells are limited to your class level? Enemies and bosses having higher stats than the NES original? Bosses that can attack twice in a row? Bloody hell Square! If you're a person who's looking for a hard Final Fantasy game other than Final Fantasy 4, here you go, even if it's only hard because of item limitations rather than actual strategy. Damn, this game got so close and then comes this kind of crap to ruin that!

If you couldn't figure it out, there is a twist to Final Fantasy 3's gameplay, and that's in the form of the class system. You start off as a freelancer, which can equip nearly everything and use nearly every spell, but their stats are so lackluster that you may want to consider choosing your class as soon as possible. You'll gain classes from the first crystal very quickly, and from there, you'll be given the classes from the first game. Warriors, monks, thieves, white mages, black mages and red mages – they're pretty general classes, but they're also good starting classes. As you gain more crystals, you'll gain more classes, ranging from upgrades of the first batch of classes to more specialised classes. For instance, bards sing to cast supporting spells to the party, while geomancers tap into nature to either deal elemental damage or have a chance to inflict instant death. The big one is the evoker – this is the first time in the series that you can summon creatures into battle, and here, it's to either deal a lot of damage or buff up your stats (or debuffing the enemies' stats). You're basically given heaps of combinations to mess with. As you perform actions, you'll gain ability points, which if enough are gained, will allow you to gain a Job Level, which will increase stats. However, you will eventually want to switch to another, usually better job, and when you do, your stats will be reduced by a fair bit until you level that job up by a fair few levels. A good amount of grinding will be required as a result of all of this. The idea is great and the execution is close to being so good, but then each level only increases your stats by little bits, requiring more fights, having it operate at a stop start pace like the first two games.

Luneth VS the internet trolls.

The graphics are presented not with 2D sprites, but with 3D models and environments that are very, very crispy and colorful. It's worth noting that the main character sprites are... chibified; as in, they're cute and adorable to look at, but there's still that whiff of heroism due to their cute little outfits. Because of this aesthetic combined with the story, it has a light hearted, feel good atmosphere. The monsters aren't as chibified as the characters, but then monsters ought to be big and fearsome like the behemoth... or just silly and/or gross for the smaller monsters like goblins and glops of jelly. Oh, and let's not forget the FMV scenes. These are frickin beautiful, managing to really utilize the Android's graphical capabilities. The environments, the textures, the models, the animations – breathtaking is the best way to describe it. It's so easy to lose yourself in these cutscenes especially when the dynamic camera work shows off each scene with aplomb. God, I love these so much. I could only imagine what it'd be like for DS owners watching that intro and then going “man, Nintendo's gone so far after the GBA”.

The soundtrack is remastered using a live orchestra instead of 8 bit tunes. While there aren't a lot of tracks, what's there is fantastic. The enemy and boss battle themes were already good in their original 8 bit form, but with modern recording technology, holy crap, it really encompasses the feeling of being in battle. The boss battle theme is especially impressive as it sounds big, as if you're in an epic battle. That amplifies with the final boss battle theme, with that sense of finality that gives the fight that much more meaning. The other songs convey just the right emotion for each situation, with the calmer situations containing some beautiful music and dungeon music giving you the feeling that there's something lurking around the corner – oh man, I just can't get enough of this soundtrack! As of right now, the Android and iOS versions contain the best recording quality, so do your ears a favor and get those versions, otherwise... well, the DS version is compounded by its weaker-than-smartphones speakers, so that version keeps the music at a damn fine level.

Final Fantasy 3 receives a 7/10. I feel that at this point, the Final Fantasy series is starting to gain some momentum as the ideas start to congeal to form a cohesive whole. Unfortunately, it retains some of the things that held back the first two games like there being more emphasis on grinding, and Final Fantasy 3 seems to try a little too hard to be difficult. However, all it does is remove a few vital items, have no save points and have you fight bosses with high stats. Grinding becomes more important than ever here. It's a shame because the class system, the possibility of unlocking cooler classes, the character interactions and the feeling of being on an adventure makes the game very much worth playing. While the first Final Fantasy game works in that pick up and play way and the second Final Fantasy game had a good story, this Final Fantasy game is the first fully playable and somewhat enjoyable game in the series due to the story and the amount of class combinations you can come up with.

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