Final Fantasy III iOS Review
Square Enix loves to remake their old titles. The Final Fantasy series’ earliest editions have become extremely lucrative over the years, spawning graphically updated and retranslated versions on platforms all over the industry. Two Final Fantasy titles have already arrived on the iPhone — the latest, Final Fantasy III, is perhaps the most up-to-date and ambitious remake port thus far.
Final Fantasy III on Apple’s iOS platform is actually Final Fantasy III as remade for the Nintendo DS back in 2006, which originally appeared way back in 1990 on the NES. As such, it’s ideally suited to the iPhone and iPad’s touchscreen interface — it basically already had the same thing, employing the DS’ stylus, so there’s not a huge leap forward in technology. The graphical conversion, too, is pretty much the same as the DS version, which is good — the iPhone handles FFIII’s 3D graphics just fine and the game even seems to have been polished up a bit for the new version.
Final Fantasy III (IPhone [Reviewed], Wii, DS)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: June 30, 2011
For the uninitiated, Final Fantasy III is a fairly cookie-cutter FF experience from the early 1990s. Four heroes set off to save a crystal and fight darkness and whatnot, using a turn-based, menu-laden battle system. This Final Fantasy never made it to the U.S. from Japan before the DS conversion in 2006 — the American “Final Fantasy III” is actually the Japanese Final Fantasy VI. Unfortunately, Locke, Terra and Kefka aren’t in this game.
On the plus side, old-school Final Fantasy fans will find a lot to love here. The game looks great and the translation and localization, since they came about for the 2006 trip over the Pacific, are pretty solid. Story wise, you won’t be blown away, especially if you’ve played other early Final Fantasy games, but the game is competent enough to keep you moving along and killing monsters.
Final Fantasy III is also the first game in the series to include the famous job system. After a while during the game, you get the ability to assign your characters various jobs, each of which has differing skills and abilities, as well as armor and weapons complements. You can choose between a variety of warrior and mage-type classes, like black, white and red mages and monks, ninjas and straight warriors. There’s a lot of customization — job classes number at 20 — and also a lot of strategy to developing your four characters’ jobs as they fight battles, increasing both their character levels and their job levels over time. It’s also strategic without being overly complex (ahem — like all modern Final Fantasy iterations), which reaches a nice balance for a phone game.
There are additional animations and graphical polish everywhere, and it’s nice — to a point. When you’re not dealing directly with story animations, which are fine, the added camera panning and movements tend to drag out an already really long game. Final Fantasy III will keep you occupied for 40 or 50 hours or more, and that’s a lot of time to be playing a game in general. It’s especially a lot of time when much of it is just watching the same animations over and over again.
Wasted time is Final Fantasy III’s biggest flaw. Despite being remade, the game holds on to a lot of old-school conventions that have been left behind by modern game design. Random battles, for example, are back in that infuriating degree common in old Squaresoft games, and you’ll be running into encounters every three steps in most environments. If you’re already not a big fan of the FF series’ menu-based battles, FFIII won’t do you any favors whatsoever — and the redesign has thrown in lots more camera movements that suck up precious seconds. That’s to say nothing of the turn-based battles themselves, which are slow-moving and definitely feel dated.
Square Enix also hasn’t really thought through the migration to iOS thoroughly. Final Fantasy III takes advantage of some great iPhone features — multitasking, for one, which lets you drop out of the game to take a call or send a message or anything else. But the game is still set up in a backwards, old-school way: for example, you can only save “for real” on the world map. It’s possible to execute a “quick save” anywhere in the game, but a quick save is good only for closing the app and then opening it back up and continuing from exactly where you were. Quick saves don’t count as real saves when you are killed, and instead force you to load your last world map save.
This would be just a minor irritant if Final Fantasy III gave you any warning. It doesn’t. Instead, you’re left to find out for yourself that your quick save may as well have not existed, and this is especially frustrating because the game’s flow doesn’t necessarily stop low-level players from wandering into places they don’t belong. The second village you enter, for example, has an open mine at the north end that’s filled with creatures that can pummel unworthy adventurers who have no hope of escape — I learned the valuable real save/quick save lesson here, and had to replay the game’s opening half hour a second time.
There’s a very specific audience for Final Fantasy III — nostalgic old-school iPhone-owning Final Fantasy fans willing to pay for that exact experience. The barrier for entry (including the long running time, the tough difficulty level, the old school mechanics and the extremely App Store price point of $15.99) is pretty much too high for anyone else. What that means, basically, is that the people who want Final Fantasy III on iOS probably already have it, and the people considering picking it up should really know what they’re getting into before purchasing. The game has a strong, classic RPG experience going for it and is packaged well on Apple’s platforms, but it’s also a game from 1990, no matter how much polish is smeared on.
- Great update of an RPG classic
- Nice 3D stylized graphics
- Old-school feel
- Huge amount of content and gameplay
- Decent story
- Lots of customization and strategy possibilities
- High difficulty level
- Tons of random battles and other wastes of time
- Feels very dated — no gameplay updates of any kind
- Really high price
Final Score: 70/100