Final Fantasy III was originally launched in 1990 for the NES. The game never left Japan until a 3d remake was created by Square Enix and Matrix Software for the Nintendo DS in 2006. Since then, the remake has been ported to Wii, Wii U, PSP, iOS, and Android. Following the Steam releases of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy III is finally available for PC gamers. The PC port boasts improved graphics over previous ports along with Steam Trading Cards and Steam Achievement support.
Final Fantasy III follows the story of four orphans who have been chosen by the Crystals of Light to save their floating continent from an imbalance between the forces of light and darkness. The plot line is pretty standard fare for JRPGs, but has weathered the test of time rather well. The story’s biggest weakness is the game’s sparse writing. Most plot conversations are only a few sentences long, leaving little space for character development. The overarching plot on the other hand is much more interesting. Even still, Final Fantasy III manages to be charming and light hearted enough to balance out the shallow writing.
Final Fantasy III was released long before Square Enix experimented with a variety of time based combat systems. Instead, the game uses the turn based, step forward, attack, step back, let the next person move system most of us know and love. The mana system, on the other hand, may be a little more foreign to modern gamers. Spells are first split into two categories, Final Fantasy’s traditional white and black spells. Next, each spell is given a level. Each character can equip up to three spells of each level. As they level up (and if they are currently using a caster class), their mana pool grows, allowing them to cast a certain number of spells from each tier. The system may be familiar to Dungeons & Dragons players who use the D20 system.
Final Fantasy III is the first Final Fantasy title to implement the job system, which would later make appearances in many other titles in the series. The concept is probably one of my favourite mechanics ever implemented in a Final Fantasy title. It allows for a lot of flexibility. Players can build parties based on their play style, allowing the cast of characters to remain the same while experimenting with a variety of character archetypes. Jobs can be swapped between battles, requiring only a few battles to let the character acquaint themselves with their new job. Once that period is over, they will have access to the full range of abilities and gain job experience alongside regular character levels.
One of my biggest irritants with Final Fantasy III’s job system is the dependence on having a certain job in the party to proceed at certain times. For example, several dungeons in the first quarter of the game requires a White Mage in the party at all times. It is not possible to switch in the White Mage on the fly, as needed as swapping from a non-magic using job to White Mage means a trip to the inn before the appropriate spell can be cast.
Despite some of its flaws, Final Fantasy III still manages to be a solid JRPG experience while staying true to the game’s roots. The game tends to be a bit unforgiving at times. Players are free to wander around at will and are not blocked from walking into situations that would require a much higher level to conquer. The tutorial is a bit on the sparse side and the game does not make too much effort to hold the player’s hand. Smart money management will be a must, as gil is a bit short even if the player carefully seeks out every single secret stash.
The controls in Final Fantasy III are perfect. By default, the controller button layout will be instantly familiar to those who have played Final Fantasy titles on the console. The keyboard works well, though I find the default buttons to be a tad scattered. However, rebinding keys for both the controller and the keyboard is extremely easy.
One of the big selling points of the 3d reboot is the complete revamp of the original visuals. Gone are the 8-bit pixel art in favour of a more modern 3d look. The new art style is cartoony, but keep in the spirit of the original sprites. In theory, the PC port of Final Fantasy III is supposed to boast improved visuals, to support the higher resolutions compared to the Nintendo DS’ comparatively miniscule resolution of 240 x 160 pixels. In reality, the game’s graphics have been scaled up a little to fare nicely at full 1080 resolutions, but the skins and the models are still very basic. They clearly have seen little to no improvement over the original NDS game. The only real noticeable improvements are the animated cut scenes. These short videos are on par with more recent numbered Final Fantasy titles.
The audio in Final Fantasy III is a wonderful mix of retro sound effects and a remastered score. Nobou Uematsu’s score translated wonderfully from chiptunes to a full orchestra. The soundtrack manages to hit moody, epic, and light hearted moments with laser like accuracy, while the retro sound effects serve as a constant reminder of the game’s retro roots.
Final Fantasy III boasts a great amount of content for the price. The 3D remake is true to its roots, for better or for worse. The resulting game is long and challenging retro JRPG with a very modern wrapper that will not hold player’s hands through the game. The remastered soundtrack is a pleasure to listen to, but the claims of upgraded visuals for the PC version has been exaggerated. Final Fantasy III is a must buy for the nostalgic, the retro fans, and the JRPG nuts everywhere.
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