Final Fantasy III Review

Title: Final Fantasy III
Developer: Square Enix
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 233 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download, Direct Download
EU Availability: Digital Download, Direct Download

The release of Final Fantasy X | X -2 HD Remaster is quickly approaching.  In ten short weeks, PlayStatiion Vita owners will be able to wield and play the games that brought Final Fantasy both into the PlayStation 2 generation, but also that brought the series into the world of Voice-Acting.  Some simply cannot wait for this release to come.  Some of us can stand to wait a little bit longer.

If you have been following our reviews, you know that we have started a Review Countdown for that collection’s release.  We promise to have all Final Fantasy main series games available on the Vita to be reviewed periodically before the collection’s release day.  Another period is over and it’s time to move onto our next Final Fantasy review, this time from the PlayStation Portable library, Final Fantasy III.

Final Fantasy III didn’t come to western shores until many years after its original release.  Originally localized on the Nintendo DS, and then ported to iOS and then PSP, Final Fantasy III is one of the games that few people were able to play until recent years.  Based on the iOS port of the game, Final Fantasy III is ready to bring adventure to your PlayStation Vita.  Here is our review of the game.

Story

The story of Final Fantasy III has evolved over the years.  In the original, unlocalized version of the game, all of the characters looked exactly the same and didn’t really talk much, similar to how the Warriors of Light acted in the original Final Fantasy.  When Square Enix finally localized and remade it in 3D, though, they added more character and depth to it.  Each character has their own design, name, background, and personality, from the adventurous leader Luneth to the dazzling red-headed Refia.

The story revolves around four orphans whom are brought together by chance and are blessed by the Crystals, beings that hold magic and maintain the balance of the world.  Upon meeting one of the Crystals, they are chosen as Warriors of Light, the beacon of hope that will bring peace to the world in the midst of a crisis.  Shortly after, they are sent on a quest to meet the other crystals to gain their blessings and to stop the dark shadow that is create natural disasters and bringing darkness to the once-peaceful world.

The story is very similar to that of the original Final Fantasy, with finding Crystals and stopping evil.  Final Fantasy III is different in the fact that the characters have more personality as well as the number of characters that temporarily join your party as backup characters, from Princesses to Ancients to Airship Builders.  As you progress, you will gain countless temporary allies that aid you in battle and later on in the game as well, building connections as you travel the world.

Being original from back in the 80s and 90s, the story isn’t the deepest story there is, but it does what it needs to remain interesting, and the character development done in the remake makes it much more enjoyable than its original version.  Nothing will break your heart, but it’s enough to show a group of youngsters on an adventure to save the world.

Gameplay

Final Fantasy III is a turn-based RPG, like many of the series before it, though the battle system is most similar to the likes of its two predecessors, Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II.  Like in those games, you progress through the game as you travel around the World Map, encountering random battles out in the wilderness, going to shops for information and equipment and magic, and roaming through dungeons to encounter boss fights and find key pieces of story information.  This is the general formula for the series for most of its early life.

The biggest thing to separate Final Fantasy III from its predecessors is the inclusion of a Job System.  In the original Final Fantasy, you could create characters based on certain job titles, like Red Mage, Warrior, Monk, Thief, and more.  These kind of jobs are also available in Final Fantasy III, but there is more customization and freedom involved.  In Final Fantasy, you picked a job and were stuck with it.  In Final Fantasy III, you can freely choose and switch between jobs as scenarios change.

There are twenty-five different jobs you can take on, from Warrior to Viking to Sage to Summoner.  You will start out in a Freelancer class and, as you progress through the game, you will gain more.  Each time you visit one of the world’s Crystals, they will give you their blessing and that is in the form of new jobs.  With each job come special abilities exclusive to that job.  Only Summoners and Evokers can use Summon Magic, and only Monks can use Retaliate.  They also increase stats differently, depending on the job you have.

The key to mastering the Job System is in Job Levels.  You have two separate levels throughout the game.  You have a character level, and Job Levels.  Your character level increases as you gain Experience from battle, as normal level-ups happen in similar RPGs.  Job Levels, however, increase once you attack, defend, or just take action in battle so many times, and Job Levels are tied to specific Jobs.  If you have Black Mage at Job Level 50, and you switch to a Red Mage, your Job Level will be back to Level 1.  As you increase Job Level, your stats increase as well as other factors, depending on the Job you have equipped.

When battles take place, you are pitted against an enemy party and there are turn-based fights.  Since Final Fantasy III came before the Active Time Battle system was invented, you are not stressed for time when choosing commands.  The turns take place with each party choosing commands, and after they are all finished, both parties initiate the commands and the process repeats.  This enables you to rest easy in the fact that the enemy isn’t going to start attacking you while you’re cycling through magic, trying to find what you want to use.

How magic works in this game is also unique.  There isn’t an MP system where you can use whatever magic you want until it runs out.  You have Magic Levels, much like in the original Final Fantasy.  As you gain Job Levels with mages, Cast Times will increase for each Magic Level.  For example, if you have a Black Mage with the Level 1 Magic Fire, Blizzard, and Sleep equipped and only have 13 castings for Level 1 magic, you can only use any collection of all of them 13 times.  The bright side is that if you use a higher level magic, it will not reduce the Level 1 Cast Times.

As you progress through the game, there will be a lot of boss fights and a lot of difficulty jumps.  Final Fantasy III is a game where grinding for levels is needed.  Even at the very beginning of the game, I found myself needing to stop to grind for levels within 20 minutes of playing the game.  The game is turn-based RPG, but it has a bit of strategy in mind, in how you prepare for each dungeon and fight.  You will find many portions of the game where you will need to stop to grind for levels and Job Levels, and different bosses becoming easier with different Job combinations.

Additions made to this version of the game have made it a bit easier to play.  There is a Gallery you can view on the Main Menu once you progress enough in the game and, most importantly, there is Auto-Battle.  Auto-Battle was not in any previous version of Final Fantasy III and it makes the grinding sessions much easier and much faster.  When you’re in a fight, you can press the Select Button to enter Auto-Battle.  This doubles the speed at which battles progress and the game keeps your last selected commands for each character in memory, using them automatically through any battle you go through until you either close the game or turn Auto-Battle off.

If you enjoy grinding for levels in games, this is definitely a game you will enjoy, as it promotes and shows a lot of that type of gameplay throughout the game.  You may not have to grind between every boss fight, but there will be several times where you will need to stop and buff yourself up.

Controls

Final Fantasy III controls very simply, especially given how old the original game is.  Being a PSP game, it will not use the touch screen or Rear Touch Panel, though you can assign buttons to the corners of the screen, if you so wish.  Otherwise, it will not be used as it is not needed.

Movement with your characters is done with the D-Pad or Left Analog Stick.  As the only directions you will ever go are Up, Down, Left, and Right, there isn’t a huge controls scheme needed for movement.  The Start Button brings up the Map, and the L and R buttons zoom in and out, which is useful for finding hidden passages in dungeons and buildings.

The X button is used for selecting a command, talking to a character, or choosing an option in the menu.  Circle is used for moving back in a menu or cancelling a command.  Note that if you’re using an Imported Slim PlayStation Vita, these two buttons’ features are switched.  This is a game were the system is able to change the control scheme to fit Japan’s default controls.  The Triangle button is used to bring up the Menu and Square is used to talked to a temporary party member to get advice on where to go next.

All in all, the control scheme is pretty basic and likely won’t have your head spinning, trying to figure out what to do.  It’s a comfortable control scheme.

Presentation

The visuals of Final Fantasy III are good, but nowhere near great.  The PSP version was made from the iOS version which was made from the Nintendo DS version.  The DS’s 3D capabilities for a large-scale RPG like Final fantasy III were a bit limited in its time.  Square Enix did their best to make it look good and, for a DS game, it did look good.  For a PSP game, though, the visuals are a bit lacking.  Many objects are just part of the walls instead of actual objects, and the character models are covered in small, jagged edges.  Granted, it looks a little more polished than the original DS version of the game, but it doesn’t look as polished as some other PSP games.

The main issue that people have with this version of the game, as also with the versions of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy V, and Final Fantasy VI on the Vita, are the load times for the game.  When you first load a save file or load a battle or town, you will be waiting a little bit for it to actually load.  We did some timing experiments with the game and we came up with the following:

Load a Save File – 20 Seconds
Enter a Battle – 6 Seconds
Enter a Town – 10 Seconds

So, there will be some fair amounts of waiting while you are going into something.  While this is nothing game-breaking, it is definitely something worth noting and something that the game probably shouldn’t suffer from, as the iOS version this was based from did not suffer from load times as long as these.

Overall

All in all, the PSP version of Final Fantasy III is a good way of experiencing the game and preparing for the release of the Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster.  While the game doesn’t look as polished as it should and the load times are lengthy, Auto-Battle more than makes up for it making every grind session quick and easy.  If you’re a Vita fan who loves Final Fantasy and grinding, this game will be something to be enjoyed.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network rates Final Fantasy III a 7/10.

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