Final Fantasy III (Nintendo DS) Review

By Renan Fontes 19.12.2017

Review for Final Fantasy III on Nintendo DS

Final Fantasy III will always stand out as one of the most interesting entries in the franchise. Where most of the early titles were localized for the PlayStation 1 in the late 90s, the third entry was conspicuously left out. It was likewise ignored when the pre-PS1 titles were rereleased for the WonderSwan Color and Game Boy Advance. It wouldn't be until 2006 when the illusive third Final Fantasy would make its way to Western shores in the form of a full remake for the Nintendo DS. Square Enix certainly modernized the RPG, but they perhaps left a bit too much of Square's original vision intact.

Final Fantasy III, if nothing else, is at least consistent with its original Famicom counterpart. Both strive to rekindle the fire the first game set, both take a subdued approach to storytelling, and both are home to one of the most erratic difficulty curves within the genre. Where the Japan-exclusive Famicom version can be excused for being released at the tail end of its generation in 1990, the DS remake has no real reason to suffer from the same flaws outside of providing an experience authentic to the original release.

In theory, that philosophy isn't inherently a bad one. A remake can fix flaws for the better, but it can also emulate them in an attempt to maintain authenticity in regards to the source material. A flaw is a flaw is a flaw, but there is merit in using a remake and a means of recreating the experience of playing FFIII in 1990 for a modern audience. The main problem with Square Enix's remake, however, is how it feels caught between two core remake philosophies: it wants to stay true to the original, but it also wants to modernize the experience as much as possible, creating two conflicting identities.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy III on Nintendo DS

Final Fantasy III, in its original state, is flawed, born from a desire to return the series to a more familiar setting after Final Fantasy II's controversial shift from the norm. The party was made up of four personalityless Onion Knights, the story revolved around collecting four elemental crystals, and classes were put back into the spotlight. While the cast and narrative are more in line with the franchise's progenitor, classes were reworked into a new job system that acts as the main gimmick.

Instead of picking one class for each party member before the story starts, every character starts out as a Freelancer (Onion Knight in the original). Throughout their adventure, they'll be bestowed with new powers that they can all switch between at their own leisure. Job switching allows for a wide array of party combinations and keeps the gameplay feeling fresh. It isn't as convoluted as FFII's levelling system, but it isn't as simple as just existing in a class, like in FFI. The job system is complex enough without being difficult to manage.

The main pitfall with the job system, which carries over into the remake and paves the way for both versions' major flaw, is how it's balanced. Some jobs are simply worse than others. While the design pushes experimentation, it isn't always worthwhile and can even be detrimental. Spending too much time in one job can deprive that party member of useful skills they might otherwise need down the road, which can, in turn, lead to copious amounts of grinding as a means of playing catch-up. It is problematic when the general design doesn't accommodate for all the different party variations.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy III on Nintendo DS

As the core mechanic revolves around job switching, it would make sense that certain scenarios would necessitate other jobs. The issue is the design doesn't present the job system in this way, and most of the game can be played without the explicit need to switch jobs. Party customization is what's pushed front and centre, so, when the time comes, it can be jarring to have to dismantle a party that was working in favour of a situational job.

Although needing to switch jobs to pass one roadblock can be irritating, nothing compares to the frustration found in the dungeons. Dungeons, like in Final Fantasy II, are elaborate and well designed. The problem with them is that they're too big for their own good and lock out the ability to save. This can lead up to hours spent in a dungeon where death means getting sent back to the last save. If dungeons were just generous with saving, Final Fantasy III might stand out as one of the better designed games in the franchise. Unfortunately, the dungeons instead come off as exhausting and tense for all the wrong reasons.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy III on Nintendo DS

While the game design rings true to the original, the narrative has been given quite the makeover. The Famicom version's biggest problem was how derivative it was. It was a sequel that played it incredibly safe, so it is nice to see the DS remake try to play with the formula. Instead of reusing the Warrior of Light premise for the main party, the four Onion Knights are instead replaced with four orphans each with their own personality: Luneth, Arc, Refia, and Ingus. The four leads are well characterized, and they share a strong chemistry with one another, but they suffer from the exact same issue as the FFII trio: they don't grow.

The lack of growth is just one aspect of the larger picture problem. Final Fantasy III for Nintendo DS is caught between paying homage to what came before it, both in its original state as a sequel to FFI and as a remake to FFIII, while trying to come off as appealing to a modern audience. This inconsistency in direction leads to a cluttered narrative that neither invokes feelings of the early series nor the more modern approach. The main characters interact with each other, but they don't have arcs. The writing is more fleshed out, but the story never evolves past its simplicity to match the scale it's going for.

Of all the entries in the series, Final Fantasy III was the one most in need of a remake. It wasn't as messy as FFII, but it lacked exposure. Its DS reimagining should have been an attempt to either present it how it was in 1990, or definitively improve for the 21st century. Instead, caught between two conflicting ideologies, it collapses under its own weight, leaving only an awkward remake of an awkward RPG.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy III on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Unable to pick a direction to go in, Final Fantasy III suffers as a remake of an RPG that was already far from perfect. The job system remains one of the more interesting mechanics in the series, but the game design doesn't play off it well. The story and cast have been updated to feel more modern, but they're still rooted in simplicity. Is it a better sequel to Final Fantasy than FFII was? It is, but it feels uninspired outside of job switching. Final Fantasy II was a mess, but it was a mess that was trying to do something new. Final Fantasy III's return to form is welcome, but it's an unimaginative sequel nonetheless.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (107 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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