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Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: Final Fantasy III (iPhone/ iPad)

Please note: this review is based on the Nintendo DS game. However, we don’t expect Square Enix to mess up the iPhone port (they certainly didn’t with Final Fantasy I and II). Come release date if there is a significant quality difference, we will re-review the game.

Perhaps the least played and understood Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy III (the real Final Fantasy III, not Final Fantasy VI) was a game that had not been seen outside of Japan until 2006, when a Nintendo DS remake finally saw an official translation hit the stores.

It's always about the crystals

And now there’s an iPhone version (and iPad version to come in April!). Square Enix continues to revisit its back catalogue for iPhone ports, and once again, it’s a retro game worth buying into.

What a good game Final Fantasy III is. Of the initial three Final Fantasy games that were developed for the Nintendo Famicom (NES in the west), Final Fantasy III is perhaps the most influential on the later development of the series. Job classes make their first appearance. Summons, too, are seen for the first time in this game. The story itself shoots for a far more epic star than the previous two games. For the first time there was room and incentive to explore and just experience the world.

Refia - the first Final Fantasy cosplay bait?

That all-important story is a cut above the other two ‘early-era’ Final Fantasy games because of the scale. There’s still the crystals motif, and the concept of four heroes destined to save the world, but for the first time, there’s some deeper back stories and motivations driving the heroics. It’s far easier to become attached to these characters and care about the quest they’re on.

The job system works well, although it is a primitive version of it. At any time a character can shift jobs to anything that you’ve unlocked. Though these jobs don’t contain the variety of the likes of Final Fantasy V, and though there’s some cross-over in roles between jobs making their alternatives inferior and redundant, you’re still going to have fun swapping between Bards, Summoners, White Mages and Ninjas.

Villages remain functional, rather than fun to explore. Buildings are usually shops or inns, NPCs repeat one-liners

There’s a slight penalty to swapping roles – your character will be powered down for a few battles until they become “comfortable” in their new role, but it’s not too onerous. Characters earn job levels as they progress (and this is different from experience levels – there are two levelling systems in Final Fantasy III) and the higher the job level, the more proficient the character at that job.

Visually, the game looks like a slightly updated version of the DS remake. The 3D characters are blocky, but charming, the backgrounds and monsters are bright and rendered well – so all in all, a typical Square Enix Final Fantasy production.

Dungeons remain fairly one-dimensional

Of course, it is also an old game, so the same disclaimers apply to this one that did to the first two – it’s a little obscure in pointing you to your next objective sometimes, random battles are painfully regular, and there’s some substantial difficulty spikes to contend with.

As with other iPhone Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy III is an expensive game by App Store standards, but it’s a good one. Given the choice between this, and some of the tripe other developers and publishers pass off as “RPG,” we know exactly which one we’d go for.

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Review: Final Fantasy III (iPhone/ iPad)
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