Skip to main content

iPhone review of the day: Final Fantasy III - the ultimate version of the "lost" FF epic

On iPhone
Final Fantasy III
Price: $15.99 / £9.49
Size: 208 MB
Get it now at the iTunes store:US/UK
(iPad version due later this month)

$15.99 for an iphone app? That’s a seemingly ludicrous asking price next to beloved dollar-store time-suckers like Angry Birds. The argument could be made that “it’s less than the DS version” which is sort of true… except that the DS version sold for $40 new in 2006, and the price of secondhand copies is now considerably less. But all things considered, $15.99 really isn’t a bad value for a massively lengthy quest and the highest-quality version of the game yet.

Final Fantasy III, long considered “the one that got away” amongst FF fandom due to it being the only game in the series to be available only in Japan for most of its life, was originally released as an 8-bit RPG on the Famicom (Japanese NES) in 1990. It was heavily revamped and remade with polygonal graphics on the DS in 2006, and that DS remake forms the basis for the iOS version. And as far as ports-of-remakes go, this is easily the best version of FF3 yet.

Gone are the jaggy, blurry-textured character models and backgrounds of the DS game, replaced with redone character models, hi-res textures, and newly redone settings. The facelift is substantial, but most importantly, the visuals convey the same sort of squashed, sprite-like charm of the 1990 original, resulting in a very pretty little mix of old and new visual styles. The increased resolution is also a boon during exploration sequences, thanks to the ability to zoom in on areas to get a closer look at things. Controls also translate to the platform surprisingly well: there’s a little virtual thumbstick for moving about the overworld, towns, and dungeons, and picking your options during the turn-based battles requires just a simple finger tap.

What might not make the transition so well in the eyes of players weaned on more traditional RPGs is the game’s very old-fashioned sense of difficulty and progression. Final Fantasy III was the first game in the series to introduce the “Job System,” where characters can reassign their class (thus changing their skills and stats) at almost any point in the game as need arises. There are areas where you’ll need to very carefully consider what jobs you bring into battle to be successful, as some bosses are near impossible to tackle without the skills of certain specific classes.

Final Fantasy III is also as old-school as it gets in terms of objectives and story pacing, meaning that a lot of plot points materialize out of nowhere and where you need to go next isn’t always totally obvious. But the difficulty level is what might trip up most of the “casual” iOS gaming crowd: this game is downright rough at points. We’re talking dungeons with no save points where you might have to spend half the time running around as defenseless midgets. Oops, did you wipe out at the boss? Back to your last save – which was ten floors and several hours ago.

It might be tough, yes, but there’s a vast amount of content here: It’s easy to spend 30 hours or more on the primary quest, which is none too shabby for an iOS title. Still, is it something that’s easy to pick up and play in short bursts at the waiting room or the airport on some platforms known for low battery life? Not really, and that’s actually Final Fantasy III’s biggest issue. Well, that and the price, but really - $15 for this much content isn’t too shabby at all. As it stands, Final Fantasy III is a superb port of an underloved classic, but it’s still got some caveats to consider before you take the plunge.

Apr 8, 2011