Review: Final Fantasy III (Nintendo DS)

In this review, we become the four warriors of the light in the Nintendo DS game Final Fantasy III. We find out how this RPG game plays.

This game was released in 2006 and is a 3D remake of the NES version. The NES version and any other 2D versions were never released in North America, so we are stuck with just the 3D remake. Because of this unfortunate development, we can’t really base this review as a game being between Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy IV. This is in part because features have been added to this version, so we’ll review it as-is.

We are growing quite familiar with this series. We tried the first game on the NES which, of course, is Final Fantasy. That game got an OK score. Next up in the series is Final Fantasy II. The Soul of Rebirth version wound up being a great game worth playing.

A spinoff game we played is Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Despite some people saying they disliked it, we wound up considering it a great game to play.

We also played Final Fantasy IV (also known as Final Fantasy II in North America). That game wound up being a reasonably solid game. From there, we tried Final Fantasy V. The Game Boy Advance version wound up being a pretty solid game as well. The next game in the series is Final Fantasy VI. Known as Final Fantasy III in North America, that game wound up being one of the best games we’ve ever played, being one of only two games to score the stunning 100%. Finally, in the series, is Final Fantasy VII. With all the hype surrounding it, we were shocked when it wound up performing so poorly. Given the previous game in the series performing so well, that only added to the shock.

So, now, for the longest time, we’ve had this gap in the series. Today, we finally fill it.

The game starts you off with Luneth. While exploring, a hole opens up and Luneth falls through. Dazed and disoriented, Luneth comes to only to find himself stuck in a cave. To make matters worse, he is attacked by Goblins. After fending them off, Luneth is forced to explore Altar Cave, desperately looking for the exit. Luneth then stumbles across a mystical room guarded by a Land Turtle. After defeating that monster, Luneth is greeted by a talking crystal. The crystal tells Luneth that he is one of four warriors of light destined to restore balance between light and darkness in the world. The crystal then teleports him back outside. Confused, Luneth must seek the elder to make sense of what was said. This ultimately starts a rather large journey.

Like many other games in the series, this game allows players to equip certain items. This includes weapons, shields, head gear, armour, and gloves/bracers. Weapons increase the players offence while the other items increased the players defence. Shields and some forms of head gear can protest characters from status ailments.

One debate you may find yourself in early on is whether to equip a second weapon or a shield. The benefits of the shield include not only added defence, but also added protection to guard against status ailments. While not perfect protection from status ailments, shields to offer some protection. Meanwhile, a second weapon generally doubles a characters offence while also doubling the number of swings a character can execute. There is no one right answer which way a character should go as it depends on the benefits and rewards. In some instances, characters can’t equip shields, so this is an easy decision to make. In other cases, it may be worth it to equip the shield for that added layer of defence. An ideal strategy is to adjust as you go along.

You’ll also obtain different items on top of everything else. Items include potions, eye drops, and arctic wind. Some items, like potions, can recover health taken away during battles. Items like eye drops can remove status ailments (in this case, “dark” status). Finally, items like arctic wind can give you a free spell cast. These items can be very useful during boss fights. Magic keys can be obtained to open locked doors. Also, special key items can enable certain events to take place.

Saving can happen pretty much anywhere in the game, however, how you save depends largely on where you are. In dungeon, you can only perform a “quick save”. This method of saving saves your location and all your stats. The pitfall to this kind of saving is that you are then forced to quit. If you open the save file, the save info is lost. If, however, you are on the open world, you are able to perform a normal “save”. This method of saving saves everything the quick save saves and is much more permanent. You have up to three save slots and you can overwrite the save files at any time as you go along. If you whole party perishes, you’ll be brought back to where you last saved.

At any point in time, you can open up your menu. This menu allows you to not only save, but also use items and spells. You can even check your status and a whole lot more.

As you travel along, you can open up treasure chests. These chests can contain a host of different items. In fact, some items can only be located by collecting them out in the field. This includes offensive weapons and Phoenix Down’s (no store sells them in the entire game, so use those sparingly!).

You may also encounter springs. Some springs recover HP and MP. Other springs remove status ailments. Some springs also heal the dreaded “KO” status. In rare instances, you may also find urn’s that restore everything.

Also, as you venture throughout the game, you are given the ability to use the touch screen to “zoom in”. While this may not have any immediate practical benefit on the surface, you can see things you can’t in normal view. While zoomed in, if an object sparkles, it is considered “suspicious”. You can activate that object to reveal hidden passages.

As with most other Final Fantasy games, you’ll encounter a number of enemy battles. These appear as random encounters when not in “safe” locations. The downside of fights is the fact that you always run the risk of dying. A benefit, however, is the fact that you earn a number of things after you win in fights. On occasion, you can earn an item.

Meanwhile, you’ll always earn experience points. How many experience points you earn depends on the enemy you encounter. Difficulty isn’t directly associated with how many experience points you earn in a fight, however, the general non-hard and fast rule is that harder enemies frequently give you more experience points.

The same idea applies to gil. You’ll always earn at least a little gil in each fight. However, note that fights aren’t the only way to obtain gil. Some chests contain gil and selling items you don’t need will also net you some additional gil in a pinch. It’s generally a good idea to keep as much as you can because you usually never know what may or may not be useful later on in the game, but selling items isn’t necessarily completely out of the question.

An invisible stat you’ll also earn is job points. Job points will allow you to level up whatever job you have. At first, it isn’t immediately obvious, but players do take on a job at all times. Initially, it is the freelancer job players will take on. This job doesn’t have any immediate weaknesses as players can earn a little magic and can equip almost anything. Unfortunately, this job doesn’t take players very far and players will likely find themselves switching out their characters for something better at the earliest convenience.

Boss fights can give players special items or advance the plot. Usually, players can earn more experience points and gil, but they are single fights triggered by something in-game.

When players make their way to earning the wind crystal power, this is where the job system becomes more immediately clear. The job system is much like what is found in Final Fantasy V. If a player takes on a job, they will inherit certain benefits both directly and passively.

Passive benefits include the increase in certain stat points. Stat points can include intelligence, agility, endurance, and strength. Each stat can play a small roll in a characters development.

Meanwhile, the more immediate benefits include certain abilities. This can include new commands such as Magic, Throw, Steal, Jump, Study, and more. Each ability can have certain uses that benefits players in different ways.

Another immediate use is the ability to equip certain items. The fighter type jobs allow those character to equip certain kinds of armour and weapons. This can help benefit a characters melee offensive and defensive capabilities.

Meanwhile, the magical type classes may be much more limited in what they can equip, however, they can cast magic which is frequently hugely beneficial to the party in general. The magic system is much like the original Final Fantasy game in that there is different levels. Each level has a pool of points. If you run out in one pool, you only have access to spells in the other pools. In total, there are 8 levels. You can only “learn” three spells in each level.

Magic, in and of itself, is also divided into three different types of magic: white, grey, and black. White magic is largely healing and recovery type spells. This is cast by characters in jobs like the white mage. Black magic is generally your more offensive weapons. A job that casts black magic is the black mage. Grey isn’t used as much, however, it can be hugely beneficial nevertheless. These spells are the summons spells and summon certain monsters in the game. A summoner can cast such spells.

One bit of good news is that, as long as players have multiple jobs available, characters can switch between jobs whenever they like. The downside is that there is a “transition” period (denoted by the two grey arrows). If a character has that symbol and has stats in yellow, they are in transition. It lasts for a handful of battles before characters are in the clear. It is also possible to switch between jobs without a transition period, however, the character must have experience in the job he’s transitioning to already.

Now, while there is some benefits to levelling up the job characters are in, that leaves the question on where that leaves regular levelling. Regular levelling has enormous benefits to the character including maximum hit points increasing. So, there are multiple ways players can improve their characters all at the same time.

So, when players make their way to cities, there are a number of features in them. Most cities, for instance, don’t have random encounters (in fact, the first town is probably one of the only, if not, only town to have a “not safe” area (and this area is a small one). So, for the most part, players won’t have to worry about random encounters here.

In the cities, players can find a host of different shops. This includes the armour, weapon, and spell shops. Weapon shops usually have a sword icon. Players can buy weapons here. Armour shops are frequently showcasing a shield logo. Players can obtain different forms of armour here.

One thing that helps is the fact that if a player can equip an item being highlighted in the buy section, they will light up and move around a bit. Players can also examine the stats of the current weapon or armour and determine if it is beneficial to purchase it or not.

Meanwhile, the spell store is denoted by the staff icon. In these stores, players can purchase spell “scrolls”. Each spell can be equipped by appropriate spellcasters. While the benefits may not always be immediately obvious, it is possible to find out how many of a certain spell is in the bag or equipped. So, it is certainly possible to figure out if that spell needs to be purchased or not.

Meanwhile, the Inn often has an “Inn” sign above them. In these, players can stay the night to recover HP and MP (does not remove KO and a couple of other kinds of status ailments) for a small fee. Note that there are beds that players can sleep on for free. Springs are also free. So, it is certainly possible to save a small amount of gill by taking advantage of these features early on.

Item shops are, curiously, frequently found in the Inn’s. Many of these shops have a lamp icon above them. In these shops, players can buy some general use items such as potions, antidotes, and other items that cam make adventuring a bit easier.

A final feature in this game is status ailments. As mentioned, there are a number of status ailments characters can suffer. Some ailments, such as confuse and stun, go away once a fight is over.

Other status ailments follow players around until they find a way to remove them even after a battle is over. This includes poison (players will take damage as they walk around too), dark, and stone.

Conversely, there are some status’ that are actually beneficial in battle. This can include protect (raises a characters defence and turns them yellow), haste (increases a players speed), and barrier (bounces all spells off of characters and onto the other side of the battle).

Enemies can also have exclusive benefits. This can include barrier shift which adjusts that enemies magical weakness.

Some status effects definitely make things tougher for players in battle, however, some status ailments are necessary to make it through certain area’s. Mini will allow players to walk through small holes while toad will allow players to pass through submerged entrances. While a relatively minor aspect of the game, it is noteworthy to say the least.

Generally speaking, this game has a lot of ups and downs for me.

An up is that everything is actually well laid out. Everything is, for the most part, pretty straight forward and easy to learn. Different features reveal themselves as you go along and I never really found myself overwhelmed. Probably on feature I missed for a while and found later on is the ability to use a spell on the entire party outside of battle. Definitely something that would’ve helped me in “mini” and “frog” areas early on in the game had I been a bit more observant.

A pitfall in this game is the writing. The lore and background info can be nicely detailed. Unfortunately, some area’s are very spotty in terms of figuring out what to do next. As such, I found myself wondering at times if I am heading in the right direction. Some area’s you need to pass through are area’s that players really don’t have any hints. It just winds up being a process of elimination. Even then, I felt like I was guessing at times. By the end of the game, you’ll have almost every area opened up. At that stage, I wound up just taking hints from guides simply because the area of exploration is so large (3 simultaneous over-worlds to be precise).

Another pitfall is the grinding. While by no means the worst I’ve ever encountered, it did end up being a bit of a real drag at times. In fact, part way through, I wound up thinking about quitting part way through just because the grinding wound up being so boring to me. In all, I was able to make it to the end, grinding my way up to level 55 before entering the final area of the game. It was a tough run to beat the game, but certainly doable at that level.

Some people criticized the archaic nature of the menu systems. I didn’t find them to be bad. In fact, I’ve encountered far worse. Two examples of archaic menu systems worse than this is Dragon Warrior III and Gran Turismo 4. Could it be better? Sure. Personally, it isn’t all that bad to me, though.

Generally speaking, this game is pretty decent. Positives include a nice level of depth with the job system and easy to understand systems. Pitfalls include the writing, the touch and go ability to move from one area to another. and the grinding.

Graphically speaking, this game is certainly decent enough. While I wasn’t blown away by it, the models are certainly reasonable enough and the variety of the different area’s is pretty well done. So, an overall solid effort.

Meanwhile, the audio is decent enough. The sound effects have a good variety. The music, on the other hand, works quite well. The mix certainly does keep things reasonably interesting. It’s unfortunate that, thanks to the length, some tracks get a bit on the repetitive side. Still, I’d say it is quite reasonable.

Overall, this game has strengths and weaknesses. Strengths include a nice level of strategic depth with the different job systems and customization. Pitfalls include the writing, some area’s being easy to get lost (not necessarily a good thing here), and the grinding. The graphics are certainly pretty solid and the audio is also quite reasonable. So, with the pitfalls, this game winds up being OK. It may be very satisfactory for players already into the series or RPGs in general, but I’m not convinced this is a good game to introduce players new to the world of RPG games.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game, finishing with an average of level 58 by the time I completed the game.

General gameplay: 16/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 64%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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