When I picked up Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo DS in 2010, it had been a good long while since I had visited the series.
My last attempt was with Final Fantasy X on the PS2. I don’t think my departure from FF had anything to do with the series itself, but FF games are timesucks. It’s so very easy to absolutely lose yourself in each game. There’s so much to do, so much to learn, so many characters to manage, and so many places to explore. All that is what makes the series great. But it also means that one playthrough can last hours. I remember loosing so much time to prolonged FFVII and FFX sessions. (I eventually finished FFX, but, sadly, have yet to compete FFVII). FFIII for the DS came out in 2006, and it was four years before I developed the courage (stamina?) to buy it. I didn’t have days anymore to lose to games, and I had since resolved to stop buying games that I knew (or felt) I couldn’t complete. (And did that resolution fall by the waist side, for sure.) During my rounds with Professor Layton and older GBA games though, I was yearning for some handheld RPG action. And I did have some extra time, what with my hour-long train rides to work and back. Would that be enough to keep me interested in an expansive RPG?
Having never played the original 1990s Final Fantasy III, the DS game was new but still familiar given my time with other FF games. The basic FF mechanics of exploring, gaining experience, choosing classes, manipulating multiple characters in turn-based play were all there, but with different characters in a different land. And like other titles, the game’s story was complex, and frankly, ridiculously confusing. I do remember the four main characters very well, in their blocky, child-like forms (Luneth, Refia, Ingus, and Arc), a floating ship, and the land of Ur where most of the action took place. Your characters were in search of magic crystals that would save their world from something dark, something Of Darkness. I believe you started out playing as Luneth, who stumbled, literally, across the first crystal after an earthquake. Luneth’s actions set the game into motion, and from there he set off with his friend Arc to find the other crystals, and the other characters. In addition to the crystals and the characters, there were numerous special items to retrieve and (maybe?) plenty of chocobos and moogles afoot. The crystals matched up with the four primary elements: earth, wind, fire, and water; and they were hidden in lands that matched their elements. And there were matching dark crystals, umm…? Maybe just one dark crystal? And I think there’s a Princess?
Aaaargh. Sorry. Look it’s a very big story with lots of parts. It’s interesting but, honestly, I lost track of what was going on about halfway through the game. That said, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t figure out my way around or where to go next. Besides all the traveling and finding and fighting, the game offered a fun class system, which I think was my favorite thing about it. “Jobs,” they were called, and you could choose from several, though, not at first. Everyone started out as a “freelancer,” and new jobs opened up as you got each crystal. Each job brought with it certain traits, some positive some negative, and there were grouped under two classes: Physical (warrior, thief, viking, ninja, etc.) and Magic (er, spell-casters and such). What I liked most about the jobs was that there were lots to choose from and each had obvious strengths and weaknesses, as well as a unique look. There was no guessing as to the difference between the White Mage and a Black Mage or a Dragoon and a Dark Knight. Now, the system behind the jobs was fairly complex (if you want details, check out this FAQ), but it was easy to formulate your four players however you wanted. The idea behind it all, of course, being balance. With a four person team, you could have a melee fighter, a ranged fighter, a mage, and a healer. But, you didn’t have to. If you wanted three tanks and a scholar, you totally could. Whether or not you progressed well as such was another matter.
My experience with FFIII on the DS was fun and satisfying, and I did complete it, so there’s that. It was a little difficult to keep up with the story, but the gameplay and mechanics were not so overwhelming that re-learning everything was required with each play. If I didn’t get back to the game for a day or two, I knew it would be fairly easy for me to pick up where I had left off. And I knew that my team would be waiting patiently for their next moves. So maybe I didn’t get all the characters’ motives or the reasoning behind the crystals (aren’t their crystals in just about every FF game?), but I still had a fine time with the game. The DS graphics weren’t mind-blowing, but they were bright and spritely. FFIII kept me from falling on asleep during my long train rides and subsequently missing my stop. And if that isn’t a good enough reason to get into handheld RPGs, well, then I don’t know what is.
P.S. Can’t get enough Final Fantasy? Well then head on over to the newly re-vamped DISK READ ERROR. They’re devoting a bunch of posts to music from the series. Good reads!