FINAL FANTASY 3 / Squaresoft / Nintendo DS

Final Fantasy 3 for DS is a joyless exercise in 1980s-style console RPGing. It may have been done over with a 3D coat of paint and some CGI sequences, but that's not nearly enough to convince me that it shouldn't have been left back in the time period where it belongs (or to shell out $40 for it).

The original game for NES dumped you off with four Onion Kids, this one reworks the story a little bit so that each character has something of a personality and backstory, and there is more dialogue and general plot development. Even with these new additions, this is still a very threadbare story - kid falls in hole for some reason, discovers the Magic Crystal which tells him it is his Destiny to gather the Chosen Ones and fight the Big Evil, and off he goes without so much as a blink of the eye.

The game proceeds exactly as the first two Final Fantasy games did, only this one introduces the "Job" system employed later in FF5 and FF Tactics. Here it is in its most primitive form, however, and doesn't have the fun features of the later outings. You still have to get "crystals" which then bequeath certain job types upon you, but you can't retain skills from one job when you switch to another, nor does "mastering" a job really serve you much benefit if you switch over to another. The list of jobs is pretty short, and they are all very basic and unexciting character classes with few unique abilities (picture the jobs from FF1 without much enhancement and that's more or less what you are dealing with here).

As far as the new stuff - the 3D engine looks good and works pretty well. It's smooth, and you can control the game entirely with the stylus if you care to. I like it, but it doesn't actually serve to make the game any more interesting or exciting. The original music has been retained, simply given a MIDI-symphonic "grade up". It also sounds pretty good - this is pre-burnout Nobuo Uematsu after all - but again is not enough to serve as a redeeming factor in an otherwise thoroughly boring and tedious game. The characters have names, a tiny dash of personality, and a pretty character portrait in the style of the most recent FF games, but that is about all. The plot is similarly only minorly enhanced.

The biggest problem with the game is that the difficulty has been artificially inflated to way beyond that of the original release - random battles just outside the first two towns can easily bump you off without a good several hours of level-grinding, and the game retains this extreme grindy pace throughout with consistently tough unavoidable random encounters and some insane bosses. The crappy "job system" and boring, generic plot just do not offer nearly enough incentive to put up with the game's sadomasochistic difficulty. Only for the hardest of grinding fetishists.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video

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