Sunday, December 20, 2020

Final Fantasy III


The Light Warriors’ Last Crusade

The 8-bit gaming era was a bit of a dark age for Japanese RPGs outside their homeland, with North Americans missing out on many titles, at least until generations later, such as the second and third Final Fantasies, with the fourth and six entries for the Super NES retitled II and III for Anglophones. Visually-uplifted rereleases would come for the first two games for the Japan-only handheld WonderSwan Color that ultimately saw ports to the PlayStation 1 in the collection Final Fantasy Origins, and a remake of the third title Square-Enix planned for the mentioned handheld, although it turned out to be vaporware, and said remake of Final Fantasy III didn’t come until the following generation on the Nintendo DS, with ports to other systems such as PC and iOS.

The third installment follows four orphans who discover their destiny as the Warriors of Light to vanquish darkness from the world. There is some decent backstory, although the playable characters are largely interchangeable, and the similarity to the narrative of the first Final Fantasy is noticeable. The translation contains plentiful polish, however, as one would expect of a contemporary Square-Enix game, with legible dialogue and an absence of spelling and grammar errors. There is occasional awkward dialogue, although the localization otherwise doesn’t leave room for improvement, with the plot itself neither hurting nor helping the game overall.

The player starts with one character, four ultimately acquired, the job system unlocked once they receive the power of the crystals. There are a variety of occupations, each with various strengths and weaknesses. When a character changes jobs, their stats endure a penalty for a certain number of random encounters until they settle in to their vocation. The rate of random battles is mercifully neither too high nor too low, with a turn-based system where the player inputs commands for each character, and they and the enemy, of which only three can appear at a time in combat, interchanging orders.

The typical flaws of traditional turn-based combat come into play, with character and enemy turn order sometimes varying, and foes don’t decide their commands until they reach their turn, accounting for occasions where the player revives a character only for them to die again the same round. Phoenix downs, the series’ signature revival item, are also in finite supply, although one can possibly obtain magic that revives at low HP or with all HP. On the subject of magic, the remake, akin to the original, has a system similar to the NES and PlayStation versions of the first game where spells are of varying levels, and each use of a spell consumes one point from its respective tier.

Victory results in acquired experience for all characters still alive for occasional leveling, with each gradually increasing proficiency in their current class, along with money to buy new equipment, magic spells, and consumable items. Battles generally don’t take a long time, especially with the iOS version’s turbo mode that can make fights go by quicker. With regards to bosses, they usually can execute multiple commands per round, and the death of all characters results in all progress made in a dungeon lost, permanent saves available only on the overworld, with the endgame a particular offender in this area. Regardless, the gameplay is fairly competent in the end, but not spectacular.

The stingy save system is also the biggest issue with the remake’s control, along with finnicky touchscreen capability on an iPad, alongside other issues such as the ability to view total playtime only when saving the game, the lack of maps for dungeons, and occasional poor direction on how to advance the central storyline. There are some bright spots such as the general ease of the menus and suspend save, but otherwise, the game doesn’t interact with players as well as it could have.

Inarguably the strongest aspect of the remake is Nobuo Uematsu’s soundtrack, with a number of standout tracks such as the overworld theme, crystal dungeon music, the militaristic Saronia piece, and so forth. The sound effects have plentiful diversity as well, although the iOS version has occasional aural glitches, and tracks such as the main battle theme don’t last a long time before looping. Regardless, the game is fairly easy on the ears.

Perhaps the high point of the remake’s visual presentation is the opening FMV, although it’s the only one in the game, the rest using fully three-dimensional graphics with chibi character models, which reflect the quirky noseless character designs, and scenery that has a noticeable degree of pixilation. Battles also have the player’s characters and the enemies telekinetically exchanging blows similar to other early games in the Final Fantasy franchise, and while the remake could pass for a PlayStation 1 RPG, it’s not wholly an eyesore.

Finally, the remake will last players around a day in terms of playtime, with minimal lasting appeal in the form of mastering every job and an extra dungeon and boss; otherwise, the game isn’t fun enough to go through again from the start.

Ultimately, Final Fantasy III for iOS devices is at best a serviceable remake, with strong points such as its job system, localization, art direction, and especially its soundtrack. However, it does have serious issues that players need to consider before purchase and play such as the stingy save system that could potentially lead to a significant amount of wasted playtime, the weak control, and the general lack of graphical polish. While it’s a faithful remake overall, there are definitely better titles out there within and without the Final Fantasy franchise.

This review is based on a playthrough of the iOS version on an iPad Pro.

The Good:
+Decent job system.
+Polished translation.
+Excellent soundtrack.
+Good art direction.

The Bad:
-Player can only save on overworld.
-Weak control.
-Could pass for a PlayStation 1 RPG.
-Visuals lack polish.

The Bottom Line:
A serviceable remake.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: iOS
Game Mechanics: 5.0/10
Controls: 2.5/10
Story: 4.0/10
Localization: 9.5/10
Music/Sound: 9.0/10
Graphics: 6.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 4.0/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: ~1 Day

Overall: 6.0/10

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