Sunday, August 4, 2013

Game Review: Final Fantasy III (iOS, Android, PSP, 2011/2012)

Final Fantasy III
System: iOS/Android/PSP
Time to Beat: 30-35 Hours

For a long time, American gamers had no way to play Final Fantasy III outside of emulation. We got the (admittedly far-superior) Final Fantasy VI as our version of FFIII, and that was that. As for the original FFIII... despite two decades passing since the original version hit Japanese store shelves, this Famicom classic never got a direct translation from Squaresoft until the mid-00s.

Final Fantasy III for the DS brought the game to the English-speaking audience with adjusted difficulty, semi-three-dimensional graphics, and dialogue/story that barely existed in the original game. Now, years later, we get the third iteration of the game. This is a port of the DS version, upgraded significantly for modern smartphones. These upgrades include modern hi-res graphics that are far superior to the DS version, remixed music, and new postgame content. However, it's relegated to being on cell phones - historically speaking, not exactly a good gaming platform. Does this limit it, or does the game manage to shine regardless? Read on, as I review a cell phone game for the first time on the site. The game also exists on the PSP, but for the purposes of this review I played the Android version.

First and foremost, the graphics. They're a vast improvement on the DS version in every way, shape, and form. The scenery is vibrant and pops right off of the screen. The graphics are bright, colorful, and high-res, using a lot of contrasting colors to good effect (usually green and red). The graphics are so high-res that one could probably HDMI-out the game to a TV and have it look decent. The graphics alone make this game a lot of fun.

The sound is decent. Since all of the tracks are remixes of twenty year old tunes, the soundtrack is hit-or-miss at times. The overworld theme is amazing, for example, but some of the themes are pretty unmemorable. There's also an option to set the soundtrack to a "Chiptunes" version, meaning it'll sound more like the Famicom version. Surprisingly, the Chiptunes music isn't a spot-on reproduction of the original game, which hurts the appeal quite a bit. It's close enough to satisfy the nostalgia of people who remember the original game, but it can't hold a candle to the modernized version of the soundtrack.

The gameplay is much improved over the original Famicom game. The game moves quickly in general, especially in battles. The class system that got its start in the very first Final Fantasy returns here, and makes up the core of the gameplay. While it isn't as refined as it'd be in Final Fantasy V and Tactics later on, the class system here has enough variety to keep the game interesting throughout. You've got the crucial roles like Knight, White Mage, Black Mage, and Red Mage. You've got interesting role-players like Viking, Dark Knight, and Dragoon. All four of the characters are mostly blank slates where classes are concerned; you can set the four of them up in any configuration you want most of the time. That said, it is advised that you make Refia (the game's best character) a Thief for most of the game. This is because of the sex appeal because she's very destructive in that role.

The controls aren't bad at all, proving that cell phones as a gaming medium have come a long way. Yeah, they're pretty weird, but it isn't much of an issue due to the genre of the game. If I were playing, say, Mario 64, I might whip out the "unplayable" word. Equipping characters can be a little bit of a hassle, though. On that note, it's strongly advised that you play this on a smartphone rather than a tablet. With a smartphone, you're basically gripping it the way you'd grip a controller, and the lack of buttons is barely noticeable. On a tablet, however, the controls are a lot more awkward.

One particular gameplay issue is the lack of save points, especially late in the game when you need to traverse several difficult dungeons back-to-back. This is an antiquated gameplay mechanic from the Famicom era, and it seems strange that they didn't make changes to it. For the most part, you can only save on the overworld. However, there are ways around this. There's a quicksave that can be used anywhere if you need to turn the game off. It automatically quits the game, and can only be reloaded once, as is quicksave tradition. As a result, it doesn't help very much with getting through the dungeons themselves. There's also an exploit in the Android version (not sure about the iPhone version) where quitting out of the game mid-battle will start you back at that battle - useful if you're about to take a game over. Other than that, the game is simply old-school in requiring you to be adequately prepared for anything.

It is worth mentioning that this has some new postgame content that didn't exist in the original Famicom version. It isn't very deep, but there are a couple of weapon quests to do and an optional super-class (well, sort of) to unlock. There's also a new uberboss, the Iron Giant. While beating the main story of the game requires 30-35 hours and a level 60ish party, going after the Iron Giant adds another 10-15 hours to the game as you'll need to get the party to level 80 at the very least. The battle is still somewhat difficult even with four characters at level 99; the Iron Giant is certainly in the top tier of Final Fantasy uberbosses. Winning as low as 80 requires some serious strategizing, the perfect class setup, and a lot of luck.

For a cell phone game, this is definitely worth the $15 price of admission. It'd be worth the price on any system, and restores a bit of my lapsed faith in Square-Enix. Now to check out Final Fantasy Dimensions...

Rating: 8/10

Other Final Fantasy related posts from around the site:


  1. I'm glad they did a good job with it. RPGs are well-suited to grinding during dead times for transport, waiting, etc. and those graphics are bright all right. That picture with you and the treasure boxes is the best. The weirdest thing is the Chiptunes version not being the same as the original. Was it in fact too hard to reproduce those particular NES sounds?

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