Final Fantasy 3 is the third entry of the Final Fantasy series. This game is a 3D remake from the original SNES version for the DS and this was the first time it was ported to the Western world. This is also the first time Square Enix had to made a full game from scratch for the DS systems so they enlisted Matrix Software to assist them in development. The game is self a contained story from start to finish and its accessible to newcomers and familiar to long time fans of the series. It is also part of a big universe within the Final Fantasy lore.
Final Fantasy 3 maintains the original story from the SNES version while adding new elements. In this story, you play as four different orphans Luenth, Arc, Reifa and Ingus. They are summoned by a mysterious crystal to be the warriors of light and to fight the looming darkness that will come. You can assign the party format in many different ways and the one who is selected first is the one you play as. The characters in the original were left unnamed and without backstories. Now they have their own distinct character models and designs to help make them more stand out. This is the first game in the series to introduce recurring creatures known as the Moogles.
In this version, they are given names but you can also assign them their own names. They now have more backstory to them and they are gradually introduced as the story progresses instead of being introduced all at once. The characters also have their own distinct personalities to help separate them from each other.
There is also additional backstory to certain events and lore within the game just to fill in any plot holes the original version left.
This setting is more Medieval in contrast to future games like Final Fantasy 7 or Final Fantasy 15 with more contemporary and sci fi elements from the Tetsuya Nomura styled games. The tone is more light hearted as well in contrast to Tetsuya Nomura takes in Final Fantasy games like Final Fantasy 7. The game has many story themes shared between other games such as heroism, the power of crystals, and the internal struggles and tragedies amongst the characters, and the sacrifices they have to make. Villains want to exploit the power of crystals for their own gains and it is up to the heroes to stop them. There is plenty of humor in the game with its lighthearted tone but it is overshadowed by the serious nature of the themes and the bigger story. The game is very long as well too. The story dialogue is a mostly good Japanese to English translation.
The controls are mainly straight foward and easy to learn. You can move around with your stylus or on the d pad. It is similar to the SNES control scheme but integrated into the touch screen design the DS would use. This game introduces Summons which would be a reoccurring gameplay feature in future games. Summons will help out during battle either healing your party or casting massive spells or attacks crippling enemies. Like in the previous games, this is turn based combat system with methodical pacing that requires you to think before you attack. Combat is initiated by random attacks while exploring, or through story moments. You fight various dangerous enemies in the game and you can choose which enemy you want to attack. You can select which type of attack you want to use from job abilities, spells and regular attacks. There is plenty of spells you can choose in the game and spellcasting is a major component in puzzle solving.
There are two types of spells: white magic which is more defensive and curative focused, and black magic which is on the offensive side. You can get more powerful spells as you progress through the game but you can equip only 3 at a time per leveled spell. The higher the characters stats and the equipment they are using, the more chain of attacks they have in their arsenal. You can also select which party member you want to use in combat. You can inflict status afflictions to enemies like sleep or turning them into toads but they can also do the same as well. You are able to guard attacks and reduce your damage intake. You can randomly surprise enemies or they can surprise you in return so either side can get the first strike. When things get too heated, you can escape in most situations. When all of your party members are down and you have no phoenix downs to revive them then its game over.
The combat is a lot more challenging and if you are not careful you can easily die in just a matter of seconds. You have to plan your attacks and use items wisely.
You can now see hit points in the game of how much damage you or the enemy is dealing or taking and this has now become an important gameplay element in the series design. Winning fights give a sense of satisfaction and the rewards you can get are very useful in the long term. Defeating enemies is a way to get items like GIl, XP and the occasional potion or spell. Boss fights are very high stakes and they each have their own weakness which can be exploited to defeat them. Some bosses can change weakness frequently to make things unpredictable. Any hit can be critical and they don’t back down easily.
Jobs are interchangeable and you can change which class you want to be in at any given time. As you progress through the game more job classes and abilities related will be available. You can level up your job class as you defeat more enemies. Each job has its own special abilities, attacks and strengths and weaknesses. One job could increase magic attacks while the other could reduce strength for physical attacks. Once you do change jobs there is a small penalty where your stats are decreased by 10 points for a short period of time. The job system Is one of the best features of the game even though it was nerfed down to make the game more challenging.
You can experiment with combat and jobs to see how it can fit within your personal preferences.
In this game, classes are rebalanced and the Onion Knight from the original is a secret class to unlock. There are also new abilities introduced in the remake such as jump or throw attacks which is also seen in later Final Fantasy games. You can equip many different weapons, armors, spells or magic staffs in the game and you can also dual wield your weapons. Some of them are exclusive to certain classes and each of them has its own special ability such as decreased spell damage or increased percent rate of dealing a critical blow.
The remakes 3D graphics looks very impressive for its time. The character models look well made and the world design details are excellent. The art design by one of the series artists Yoshikita Amano is also highly detailed and intricate. The CGI cutscenes are also still very impressive as well too even today.
The world itself is also very large for a DS game and you can explore by various means from riding a Chocobo, Ship or an Airship. There are a lot of places to explore in the game too and more opens up as your journey goes on. You can buy and sell many different items in the game like spells, weapons and healing items which you earn from either chests or via combat. You can rest at inns for a fee just to restore your health. You can find chests that contain different items like potions, spells or more powerful equipment.
Dungeons are dangerous to explore and are like a maze. Some places you have to walk through lava in order to get across and you better have plenty of potions and fire resistant armor because random encounters with lava can occur anywhere at anytime. In one location, you have to turn into a toad to access the underwater section of a dungeon in order to proceed. The camera can be used to zoom in and out to find hidden switches not normally seen in the default mode.
The musical score is a remixed version from the original SNES score. It is very good and fits perfectly well within the themes of the game. The DS remake has a lot of extra content to peruse. There are new dungeons to explore. The DS wi-fi systems is utilized where you can send mail to your friends or even in game characters like Cid. Mog-Net is where you go to send letters either offline or online. The world has secrets to discover in the rooms you visit. Sometimes there could be a hidden stash containing many different items either for combat or for financial use. There are also hidden objectives in the game that allow you to get special rewards that you can’t normally find through conventional means. Occasionally, you can find dancers and they give an unintentionally humorous dance because the animation design at the time was pretty limited. While exploring, there is special water in dungeons or in towns that heals you for free removing all status aliments and fully restoring you to full health.
This game inherits the flaws from the original version. In the original version, there was no save points due to the technological limitations at the time. The 3DS is more powerful in terms of hardware. There are no save points so if you die in combat during a dungeon or boss fight, you have start all over again. Quick saving is the closest you can get to a checkpoint system but you have to keep doing this continually over and over, especially in dungeons.
There is no map to guide you in the dungeons and it is not really clear on what to do next. You have to pay extra close attention to the dialogue. Backtracking does happen from time to time. Micromanagement is a very common aspect of the game and the menu system is clunky and overwhelming especially if you are new to the JRPG genre. The difficulty fluctuates from challenging to unfair very frequently and random encounters will be annoying as they occur when you least expect it. The gameplay also has a pretty routine system that gets predictable. You go to town, then head to this location then head to the dungeon to fight the boss. Having to visit one store for weapons and the other for armor does not really make sense as it could be merged into one blacksmith store.
Despite the annoyances, I enjoyed Final Fantasy 3 immensely and recommend it highly. For me, it was a great introduction to the franchise.
It gets 4 out of 5 stars.
If you are a veteran JRPG player and a Final Fantasy fan then you would really enjoy this game. I look forward to playing the other titles in the Final Fantasy games like Final Fantasy 4 and 15 and also even the spin offs from Bravely and the Crystal Chronicles.