Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy III may not be the ideal introduction to the series for a beginning RPG player, but for seasoned veterans who want a reminder of how things were back in the day, it's almost perfect; the graphics and sound have been updated, but the gameplay remains the same. If you're a pansy who needs to have his hand held through every aspect of a game and quits at the first game over screen, please move on -- this game is not for you. If you're someone craving an old school RPG but can't deal with how antiquated 2D sprites look now, this game is just what you need.
The cliched story features four chosen ones who must restore balance to the world before darkness takes over. There's the usual search for crystals and crystal shards and the usual bad apples enticed by darkness. Yes, the story is far from original by today's standards, but remember: the story was written more than 15 years ago.
First off, Final Fantasy is hard. Expect to grind and die a lot. I received a refreshing slap in the face when I realized that resting at an inn does not bring back KO'ed teammates. Only a phoenix down or a revival spring will bring life back to them in the first half of the game. That doesn't mean the game is brutal, though. Each successful boss battle feels like a well earned reward. For those who are scared away by difficulty, have faith in grinding. As with almost every other RPG, grinding is a solution to getting your ass beaten by bosses, but that takes all the fun away, doesn't it?
Some may find the graphical overhaul insulting, since characters now look sickingly cute with their round cherubic faces, but I love it. Party members are adorable while monsters still look like their intimidating selves. The effects of magic spells like cura and blizzard look great, even to a 2D FF enthusiast like me. Status-effecting spells like mini and toad actually shrink characters and turn them into toads respectively. The first time I cast toad on my party members, I gave a chuckle at the toad hopping around the map. Dungeons are a bit sparse, but hey, they're dungeons. Fortunately, towns are a little more furnished. Zooming in with the L-trigger will sometimes reveal secret buttons, treasure, and secret corridors which lead to some pretty sweet equipment.
Another updated aspect of the game is the music. While the original music is intact, much work has been put into making this game sound as good as possible on the DS. Everyone should hear the music through some headphones at least once. The music in the opening movie sounds like the score from a Hollywood blockbuster.
Unfortunately, not everything has been given a face lift. The menu system may feel archaic for people who have played any of the later Final Fantasy games. One feature that was painfully missing was the "optimize" choice in the equipment menu. It gets a bit tedious to have to manually equip a character after each job change. Lucky for us portable owners, the quick save feature has at least been added.
The best part of the game are the job classes. Final Fantasy III was the first of the series to feature job changing, which helps the replayability aspect of the game. Don't think that you can pick the perfect combination of jobs and just leave it at that. One dungeon I encountered required me to stay in mini status, which meant all of my melee fighters were useless, so I had to change them into magic users.
Overall, Final Fantasy III is the answer if you've been nostalgic for the RPGs of yesteryear. Just don't let the updated graphics and sound mislead you to thinking this its going to be an easy stroll in the park.
What's Hot: Puts up a real challenge. Great music.
What's Not: Navigating menus is still a pain.