Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Game Review - Final Fantasy III

I recently completed Final Fantasy III on the Nintendo DS, and have pondered upon the product. As such, I present you this review based on my reaction on this game. Read on to know more...

Story: 3/5
The story in the DS version, from what I've read of the game, is the same as the original NES save for the fact the four warriors of Light that you play in the game have been given names and back stories as opposed to the original, where they had no names or story, they were just pushed into the events of the game, similar to Final Fantasy I's four heroes. Sadly, this addition, while neat, really doesn't add any depth beyond a few lines of dialogue and some small bits in the start of the game, beyond that, you could replace them with anyone else and it'd not change much. They're not really developed beyond cliche traits, the girl is motherly to the others, one is a loyal knight, one a nerd-ish character who is bullied, and the last and one you start with is the typical adventurous type who is always getting into trouble.

That aside, the story itself is more like a series of random events that move the heroes from point to point until they get to specific parts that involve the main story itself. You stop a kingdom from going to civil war, taking out the evil councilor who was manipulating the King all along. You also rescue a king and his subjects from another councilor (different kingdom) after he betrayed and captured them all. You do this and at the end, some random guy will go, "Oh yeah, here, have this airship, it'll help you on your quest to save the world." And then you move on to the next part.

Remove all that story padding, and the game would be short. BUT, towards the last third of the game's story, when you begin the final series of events that lead to the ending, the story gets decent at least. The Great Sage Noah, before he passed away, granted a gift to each of his three students. Doga was given mastery of Magic, Unei was given the power of the dream world, and Xande was given the gift of mortality. Xande, the main villain of the game, goes insane due to his mortality, and strives to prevent his own end, to the point he causes the powers of the Dark to flood the world, causing time on the surface world to stop, thus granting him immortality. I don't know why it is, but people who are given the 'gift' of mortality always go nuts and want immortality...I suggest from now on, no one give out mortality unless they wish to create a villain who will try to destroy the world to gain immortality.

On the floating continent, time continued on, and the forces of darkness were attempting to move in on it, thus the four elemental crystals that govern the world chose four youths to defend the world and beat back the darkness. So far it's pretty standard and cliche. The whole idea of a mage going nuts and messing with the balance of elemental powers of the world to stop time sounds cool, but really, all you see is a world flooded with darkness until you gain the Water Crystal's blessing and then the flood draws back to reveal a world to explore.

Eventually you come across the other two students of Noah, Doga and Unei, and you must pass their tasks in order to access the final dungeons. In the end, you must fight the duo in order to power a key they give you, and such, you slay them in battle to advance. After all this, you pass the first of the three final dungeons, the Ancient's Maze, and into the Crystal Tower, where at the top you face Xande. I'd like to say this is an epic show down with the build up (such as it was) the story gives you, but honestly, after you beat him, and I walked right over him, you find he isn't the final boss, no, you have a whole dungeon after him to go through.

In the end, his tampering causes a force known as the Cloud of Darkness to appear. It (even though it looks like a green naked woman, the creature is genderless) appears and wishes to destroy the world and return it to the Void. In the end, you face her after teaming with the Warriors of the Dark from the World of Darkness and save both worlds, thus restoring the balance between Dark and Light.

While this story might have been epic back when it came out on the NES, it's just...I dunno, stale. It's not horrible, but it lacks alot of the spark modern RPGs have in their stories. Many elements of this would also be used later in other games. Ultamecia in VIII wanting to alter time to change her own demise, the Necron's wish to destroy the world and return it to the Void, Kuja's sanity breaking when he discovers his own mortality drawing close.

In the end, happy ending for all, but I just can't like this story as compared to others in the series. It's a real shame too, as this game is sandwiched between two games with amazing stories (II, and IV to be clear) and they had good characters, stories, and events that helped the flow of the tale. So in the end, this story was average at best, boring at worst.

Graphics: 5/5

For a Nintendo DS game, this game is beautiful. The background, dungeons, and everything look really good on the hand held. I'd say the graphics are slightly better than that of the PSOne's power. There is alot of detail in the character models, but the environments are really pretty to look at. Not alot I can say on that beyond that I wish the system allowed for more detail on the monster models, since the monsters are based off of Amano's fantastical style of art.

Music: 4/5

The music in this game is really well done. The main problem is that you're just remixing the old NES tracks on the DS, and sticking close to the old songs, thus they're short, and loop quite a bit. Some of the tracks just seem like they could have been so much more, but they still serve their role well. But there are a couple of tracks that just really stick with me, namely the Doga and Unei track that plays when they're involved.

Gameplay: 3/5

The gameplay of III is a sad thing. as it hasn't aged well like some of the other games. While I am a big fan of the Job Class system used in many of the Final Fantasy games, here they are a chore. As usual to the main series, you often gain job classes from the Crystals, and each batch of new jobs offers new skills and abilities to explore, or are an upgrade of an old job class. The main problem is, when you change a job class, unless you had mastered it's job, you had a set time of battles you had to clear before you could use the class properly, as you were depowered until then. This was an annoying feature, and helped to slow down the pace of the game.

Another minus is the fact that the game's upgrade, they couldn't fit the number of creatures on the battlefield like before, limited to only three at the max, thus the enemies are beefed up for the lack of numbers, and alot can take several turns in one round (the final boss acts four times a round) and that can hurt, especially when they can hit a party member that was just revived in that round. It helps add an annoyance factor to the game, as well as demanding that you do a ton of level grinding to ensure you are able to tackle these bosses and enemies.

A final gripe in the gameplay is the fact that there is NO save point in the final dungeons. They decided to leave it out, as it would make the final area too easy. This made me not play the game for a day when I got to the final boss, and got wiped out (despite the fact I was able to beat all the other bosses in the final dungeon rather easily). So I had to restart outside the second to last dungeon and battle aaaaalllll the way back, reacquire the items in those dungeons, and relevel. I rage quit after that and went off to watch Burn Notice.

If they didn't want to put a save point there, make a warp back to the world map or something, it was silly. But that was a big gripe for me, in addition to the other stuff.

Replayability: 3/5

This one is in the middle of the road too, and I think this is partly due to Nintendo wanting them to use the Wi-Fi function of the DS. There are several side quests you can do in the game to aquire more magic, summons, and gear. While most of this comes right from the original game, several new quests were added, and the most annoying thing is, to access them, you MUST send a letter to another player using the game's messaging system. So not only must you have a copy, you got to have someone else who does, message them seven times to be able to unlock the quests. This was beyond stupid and limited the game for those who didn't have friends with the game or wi-fi access, plus it was a pointless tacked on feature. Because of this feature, you cannot access the final job class, ultimate weapons, or superboss of the game unless you message another player.


Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)

While the final score is not an average, the game itself is very average. It's not horrible, but it's not amazing either. The game is surpassed by the two that came before, and the many games to follow. The next weakest game to this I would say is VIII, and that's a ways off from III, so at least the series manages to have a bunch of pretty good games under it's belt before another weak one. I enjoyed the game for what it is, but it isn't much. The characters are, for the most part, flat. The story is sparse and more like a series of unfortunate events than an actual continuing narrative.

While die hard fans might want to give this one a try, others I would say if you want to play a Final Fantasy with the Job Class system, pick up V or Tactics, both are better, and far more enjoyable.

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