So, I finally beat this beast of a game. Here’s my review. Hint: I hated it.
The American release of Final Fantasy 3 in late 2006 carried a special significance; with its release, all Final Fantasy games were - at long last - available in English (fan-translations notwithstanding, of course). There was a pretty good amount of hype, as the graphics were not only redone in 3D, but it was to be more than just a simple graphical/musical update. A lot of the gameplay and story elements were to be overhauled too. So, after having finally played it, you could imagine my surprise to find that the game is no more accessible now than the original NES game - maybe even a little LESS so, in some ways.
First things first: The graphics are pretty nice. The character art was done by Akihido Yoshida, the character designer for Final Fantasy Tactics. The character designs actually fit this game a lot better than it fit Final Fantasy Tactics in my opinion, as it gives the game a light-hearted fantasy look. The 3D graphics are about the extent of what you could probably expect from the Nintendo DS, and the intro movie is cool. Just as well, the music, written by Nobuo Uematsu (arranged by Tsuyoshi Sekito and Keiji Kawamori), is excellent as always. All the aesthetic aspects of the game are pulled off quite nicely - perfectly, even.
The story never was particularly too amazing in the orignal, and even now, with all of its ‘updates’, it’s still pretty lame. One day, there’s a huge earthquake, and the main character, Luneth, goes and investigates some cave for some reason. He falls into a pit, and as he tries to find his way out, he finds a crystal - the wind crystal. It tells him that he’s been chosen to save the world, and that he should come back when he finds the rest of the light warriors. Okay, cool. So, after setting out with his best friend, Arc, he meets Refia - the blacksmith’s daughter - and Ingus - a knight from a nearby castle - they become the warriors of light. They then spend the rest of the game finding the remaining three crystals of light (Fire, Water, Earth), while doing heroic deeds.
One big change that is noticable right from the beginning is that the main characters are not all generic males with no names or personalities. Even so, the new characters have very static personalities all the while, so it’s not very much more than putting a name, face, and adjective on them. Other than that, there are a few more scenes of the main characters talking to the more important NPCs in the game, which is kind of nice. It’s not to say that it was done poorly, but it was clearly not the focus of the game. The focus of Final Fantasy 3 is obviously its gameplay.
…Which is why I could not BELIEVE what I was seeing, as I fought my first battles of this allegedly ‘overhauled’ game. There are some things that have changed from the original game that had potential to make it better, but were mostly ruined by some of the changes that made the game feel even MORE like cruel and unusual punishment than the original.
I suppose I should begin by explaining the game to those that have never played it: Final Fantasy 3 is a turn-based, class-based RPG. Every once in a while, after certain story-related events involving the crystals of light, the characters are bestowed with the ability to change to different classes - fighters, mages, hybrids, what have you. Each new crystal gives you a few more jobs.
That about sums up the things that haven’t been changed. Let’s look into a the minor ones, first, shall we? The first change that a fan of the original might notice is that job changing no longer requires Capacity Points (points gained after battle that allowed you to change classes). Instead, you can change classes immediately at any time; however, all of that characters’ stats are lowered for a set number of fights (the number varies depending on what your current class is, as well as the one you switch to). Personally, I didn’t like this change, because I think that it discouraged changing classes on the fly, for fear of having to fight several fights just to bring that character up to adequate speed. It certainly makes it difficult if you want to switch a job for a boss fight, and you have to have that character fight ten battles to have normal stats.
The second change that a fan of the original may notice is that all classes now have specific abilities, and even job levels. For example, the fighter - who used to do nothing but ‘hit’ or ‘don’t hit’ - now has an ability where it can hit harder than usual, at the sacrifice of its defense for that turn. Job-specific abilities usually become more powerful as their job level increases. I never quite figured out how jobs level up, but I suspect that it just has to do with how many battles a character survives. I don’t think that job levels were such a bad idea, but there were not many job classes where your job level was too important. If a class DID rely on job levels, the job-specific skill usually sucked, anyways.
There is one last change made to the job class aspect of the game: Changes to job classes, and changes to when they are acquired. For example, the Karate Master (Karateka in the original game) is now acquired very close to the end of the game, where it was acquired about halfway through the game originally. Some classes are recieved earlier. Some of the classes that were too good in the original were balanced better. One of the more useless classes, Magic Knight, was replaced with a cooler one called Dark Knight. One last special job can be acquired by some tedious nonsense involving the DS’s WiFi capabilities, which means you’re screwed if you can’t use WiFi on your DS for any reason. So, although most of that means nothing to someone who has never played this game before, the gist of it is that the game has been rebalanced a great deal, so that there are no obvious ‘best’ classes (although there are some that you should have without a doubt, like a White Magic-user).
Some of the nerfs to the most powerful classes were good, but many of the classes that were useless in the original are still useless now. All in all, I think that these changes didn’t wind up making a big difference.
So, most of the changes I’ve listed until now are either ‘not so good’ or ‘inconsequential’. You might be thinking, “Well, what’s so bad about this game, then?” Well, here’s the two biggest changes that seriously wreck this game:
- Enemies do not determine their actions at the beginning of the turn, but after it has already started.
“What the hell does this even mean?” This causes one obnoxious problem: Let’s say that one of your characters is dead, and you use an item to bring them back to life…in most turn-based RPGs, enemies determine their actions at the same time as you are for your characters, so they can not decide to attack the person you just brought back to life until the next turn. However, since they determine their actions after the turn has started, they can immediately kill the character you just brought back to life - and if the enemy you’re fighting frequently uses an attack that hits all your characters, they quite likely WILL kill them right as they get back up. This is annoying as hell, and I don’t believe that there’s any good excuse for doing this.
- Due to graphical limitations, only three enemies can be in a battle at once. As a result, HP values, earned Gil (money) and Experience points have been raised significantly, as well as enemy difficulty and attack patterns - most bosses and some enemies now have the ability to perform two (sometimes even three) actions in battle.
The specific problem here is that the enemies are now stronger to offset the fact that there can only be a maximum amount of three enemies, and the whole ‘bosses get two turns’ thing. For one, a boss that acts twice can do something like use a spell that hits everyone, and then attack and pick off one of your characters, leaving your entire party at a huge disadvantage with one character dead. Or, if you have multiple characters in critical condition, a boss can attack and kill both of them, while still dealing damage to your remaining party members. Let’s not even talk about the bosses at the end that can take three actions. By the way, did I mention that the last boss can act FIVE TIMES!?
As for individual enemies being stronger, there are a few times in the game where you will encounter a monster party that can, say, use a magic atack that does over 50% damage to fighter-type classes. Now, sometimes, you will encounter two or three of them at a time, and it becomes a 50-50 toss up to whether or not you’re going to get laid flat. A 50-50 toss up EVERY TIME you encounter more than one at a time. Those are HORRIBLE odds for a random battle. All of this adds up to one thing: More places where you have to GRIND.
The biggest shock to me came at the end of the game. Allow me to recount this anecdote: When I played the original Final Fantasy 3, I was able to beat it with my entire party at level 51. If you have completed every sidequest in the game, you will reach the last dungeon (a two-to-three-hour-long trek with six boss fights and no save points) at about level 48. This is AFTER beating all the sidequests, so that you are well above the default level that you would be at if you were to go through the game normally. Now, I barely was able to beat the NES game in this fashion, but that’s about what I’d expect from an RPG made in 1990 (eight or ten levels above of the expected level will barely allow you to complete the game).
Funnily enough, I wound up being at about the same level when I got to the end of Final Fantasy 3 on the DS - 48. So, I tried once, and I lost to one of the bosses just before the final boss, due to their ability to hit me several times. So, I ground until I was at about level 56 (58 by the time I reached the final boss). So, I got to the final boss, and guess what? Being able to take FIVE actions in a turn allowed it to EASILY kill two of my party members in one turn. Needless to say, I got taken to town. So, I ground until I was at level 61 (62 by the last boss), and I was FINALLY able to win. This amounted to roughly EIGHT HOURS of grinding at the end of the game alone, and TWENTY LEVELS above the level you will be at if you reach the final dungeon without doing ANY side-questing. What a joke.
And this, without a doubt, is my bone to pick with Final Fantasy 3 DS. Why the HELL did they adjust the game so that it was HARDER than the original version? This game was supposed to be changed in a way that would make it MORE enjoyable, but in fact, it was changed in a way that made me spend about 50% of the time it took me to reach the end of the game doing nothing but grinding. That’s right - it takes about 20-22 hours to reach the end of the game, but you won’t be ready until you’ve clocked damn near 30 hours. Wondeful, huh?
Other than that, a gimmick was added to the game where you can send mail to NPCs, which sounds fun; however, they never send more than one letter to you unless you send mail to REAL people on WiFi. So, unless you can use WiFi, and know about seven people that have this game and WiFi capabilities, you’ll never get to see the rest of the letters. There’s also an additional sidequest or two that requires you to send messages to people on WiFi. It seems ridiculous to me that they would require you to interact with other people to get additional content for a single-player game.
So, can I reccomend this game to you? Based on my aesthetic, hell no; however, if you absolutely LOVE grinding and classes, maybe you’ll like this game. Maybe if you absolutely adored the original Final Fantasy 3, you’ll like this game. Then again, maybe not - I really liked the original Final Fantasy 3, and abhor this version. I always try to review a game based on the era in which they are released. When Final Fantasy 3 was released, it had a lot of innovations, and its pitfalls were nothing new - almost expected - of the genre. Nowadays, if you want to claim that your game is anything more than just a graphics update, like the many iterations of Final Fantasy 1 and 2 - you better DAMN well make your game feel like a game made in he present - NOT 1990.