Final Fantasy III is a role-playing game that no fan of the genre should miss.
Playing games that originally came out decades ago is a risky endeavor. For starters, a fresh coat of paint can’t disguise old design decisions, a dull story or high difficulty, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re playing a game that you enjoyed when you were young, can the new product hold up to the memories you’ve built in your head? Usually, this has been the problem with most Final Fantasy remakes so the question is, does Final Fantasy III suffer from those problems as well?
For the longest time (16 years to be more precise,) Final Fantasy III was the missing link of the series in America. But in 2006, Square Enix finally decided to release a three-dimensional remake of Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo DS and for the first time, JRPG fans from the west had the opportunity of playing the only Final Fantasy game from the main series that hadn’t seen the light in their territory. A while later, Square Enix decided to release that port on the PSP with extra content and luckily, that version of Final Fantasy III is a JRPG that no fan of the genre should miss.
In terms of story, Final Fantasy III is pretty conventional. As in most Final Fantasy games (or JRPGs in general for that matter,) the game puts you in the shoes of a group of warriors who have the difficult task of saving the world. But the story isn’t where the game stands out. For the uninitiated, Final Fantasy III was the first title in the series that introduced the job system.
The way in which the job system works is fairly simple. Each member in your party belongs to a specific job (additional jobs unlock as you progress through the game) and these determine the equipment you can use, special abilities your character has and so on. Soon after starting the game you’ll realize that paying close attention to you characters’ job is extremely important, since some enemies are weak against certain weapons or attacks. Additionally, you customize your party so that it has characters with specific roles (jobs include white mages, black mages, warriors and so on.)
The best part about the job system is that it provides flexibility. Are you stuck on a particular boss fight? Load your last save, change your characters’ jobs and try again. Most of the time, this simple, straightforward practice solves most of the problems you might have with specific encounters. Of course, this translates into a process of trial and error.
The PSP version of Final Fantasy III is based on the Nintendo DS remake, so there are multiple additions that weren’t present in the original release. The graphical overhaul is probably the most recognizable feature. There are three-dimensional visuals, FMV sequences, you can alternate between original and re-arranged music tracks, there’s a virtual gallery where you can see illustrations, watch the opening movie and listen to the soundtrack. Finally, there’s a new mechanic that lets you manipulate the camera (zooming in and out) to find secret items.
But despite what the rich visuals might suggest, you shouldn’t confuse this remake for a completely new experience. In fact, Final Fantasy III is still an old-fashioned experience in multiple ways and that’s both a blessing and a curse. The difficulty can be unforgiving and that aspect in particular is aggravated by the fact that you can’t save inside dungeons. Additionally, some of the bosses are simply mean-spirited, since they insist on using devastating attacks just when you’re about to beat them. As a consequence, there will be instances when you’re about to defeat a boss, only to see how the gargantuan creature conjures up a powerful spell that wipes out your entire party. This forces you to load the last save, explore the dungeon and try to defeat the boss all over again.
The user interface has some problems of its own. Although navigating the menus is simple and intuitive, they don’t provide enough information. For instance, if you want to know what a specific job does, you need to select the job, equip weapons and try it. If you were using a mage and switch to a warrior for instance, all your magic points are lost which represents an entire problem of its own. Whenever I wanted to know what a specific job did, I ended up checking a complete walkthrough and reading information that should have been included in the game in the first place. Problems like these might sound insignificant, but Final Fantasy III is plagued with them and it’s a shame to see how the entire experience of playing the game is polluted by little problems that could have easily been avoided. Why are some bosses harder in the remake that they were in the original versions? Why can’t I save whenever I want? Why am I constantly getting stuck in this game?
By the end of the game, the strategic aspect of the game becomes something you need to master or else you won’t be able to progress at all. For me, this meant playing the final boss encounter over and over. But when I finally managed to defeat the creature, the sense of satisfaction I got in return is something I don’t experience very often. That’s something only a handful of titles offer and Final Fantasy III is definitely one of them.
Despite its problems, the PSP version of Final Fantasy III is a terrific JRPG and a worthy addition to the series. There are some problems here and there (read: the ho-hum story, bad UI, unforgiving encounters,) but the incredibly flexible job system, improved visual aspect and gratifying final encounters make Final Fantasy III a game worth playing and an experience worth having.