Final Fantasy III had never gotten an official US release prior to the release of the DS remake of the game. The Famicom version had received an unofficial fan-translation, but there was no way to play it legally, until the DS release of the game. Even the somewhat controversial sophomore outing of the series had gotten by that point two updated remakes, for the Playstation as part of the Final Fantasy Origins collection, and for the GBA as part of Dawn of Souls.
Final Fantasy III for the Famicom (as opposed to VI – which was released as III in North America) was the title that introduced the Job system as we know it (with the ability to change jobs almost on the fly), to the Final Fantasy series. The original Final Fantasy had a class system, with the characters upgrading to a more advanced class halfway through the game. However, in the original game, once you chose your class, you were fixed on that path for the whole game. With III, after you unlock a batch of classes, you can change your classes to any available class after that point. This is great, as it gives you an opportunity to change your builds based on what equipment you have at your disposal, what opponents you’re going up against, and what abilities do you need for the dungeons you face.
Narratively, the game expands some on the story from the original game, with more narrative cutscenes expanding the game’s story and building up the supporting cast, and giving a personality to the members of your party, who would normally be just a batch of blank slates. Graphically, the game eschews using high-resolution sprites, as were used in the Playstation re-releases of the 8-bit and 16-bit Final Fantasy titles, and the PSP remakes of Final Fantasy I and II. Instead, like with the DS release of Final Fantasy IV, the game uses polygonal sprites and gameplay environments.
However, from a gameplay standpoint, the shift from a console to a handheld isn’t quite optimized. While the game introduces some quality of life features for the a handheld version – like a single slot quicksave for use in case of a dying battery – there are innovations from other titles in the series where the game would benefit from their inclusion. Tents are completely absent (in spite of being present in the first two games, and almost every subsequent title). There are also no pre-boss or mid-dungeon save points, as was used in the 16-bit titles.
For most of the game, this isn’t particularly an issue, as I didn’t have any issues getting through most of the dungeons in about 30-to-45 minutes. And then there’s the last dungeon. The last dungeon is about 3 hours long, if you know where you’re going, and don’t get screwed on random encounters or get lost. It also has at about 6 boss fights, and several long cutscenes. Once you get through those and reach the final boss fight, if you die, you have to start that entire dungeon all over again to find out if you were under-leveled, your strategy for the final boss was off, or if the RNG gods just didn’t like you that day.
If you’re sitting down at a console, this isn’t as much of an issue, because you’ve basically blocked out a chunk of time to replay it, so this could basically be your next play session. If you’re on an emulator (or using an emulation based console like the Retron 5), you have save-states. However, handheld gaming generally gets broken into chunks – on the bus or train to and from work, in the waiting room at a doctor’s appointment, and so on. Having the final dungeon be that long, without any real way to break it into chunks causes some very real issues.
Other than that, the game plays very well, and I found it really fun to play. However, “Skip the last dungeon, find a Let’s Play on YouTube and watch that” is not something I feel like I should be saying about a game that gets a recommendation. In short, this game does not respect your time.
Also, the box art for the US version of the game is incredibly bland, compared to the European version, which looks beautiful.
Should you decide to get the game anyway, it’s available from Amazon.com