Long being elusive but not of the Joe variety, Final Fantasy III, the third game of the mainline Final Fantasy games may be the least re-released of the mainline Final Fantasy games. Sure, it got a remake in the form of the DS game which then got ported a bunch of times, but playing the original in a language other than Japanese wasn’t possible… unless you dabbled in unsavory methods of acquisition, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, the pixel remaster series – a series of re-re-re-releases of the first six Final Fantasy games banking on nostalgia with some small changes – deigned it appropriate to revisit the first six Final Fantasy games, including the third one, Final Fantasy III. What with this being an updated version of the original game more than a remake, it’s the first time we’ve seen the original in English in an official capacity.

The plot is thus: Verily! The beings of darkness gnash at the hearts of the innocent and create terror within those that dare resist by the very act of living freely. It is up to those chosen by the crystal to bring light back to the world and thus after falling into a cave it is you, the one chosen by the crystal, but actually four, to restore balance.

From there you go about gallivanting through the countryside, slaying the demons and rescuing the peoples from devastation.

Final Fantasy III focuses less on plot and more on gameplay. However, the plot builds well upon itself whilst remaining noninvasive. The way it unfolds is simple which is unsurprising, but it doesn’t feel clunky which is appreciable. That said, at times it makes the game feels like a “Go here now go herenowgohere” world tour type of thing at times.

Compared to I & II Final Fantasy III‘s world feels quite linear… for a little while. It does open up in places but early on the geography regularly guides your movement. With the rate of leveling and the game’s length it means that it’s easy to seldom think about grinding. It also means that more often than not it’s easy to find the next location at a quick pace.

This time around towns feel more like a representation of towns and less like a place to advance plot, find some items, stock up on stuff and move on. Of course that’s pretty much all you do with them but here they feel more considered. Additionally inns return to having set prices, staying relatively cheap throughout the game. As tents and cabins are not available for purchase, it keeps inns useful without being a drain.

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Dungeons are once more where a lot of the game takes place. Sometimes they offer a bit of challenge and look varied enough to not feel dull in appearance. However, once more they hold the same issues as the previous games; eventually it’s easier to mostly use auto-battle which, in conjunction with encounter rate, makes getting through dungeons a chore. That said, having auto-save takes a lot of pressure away from getting through through them. Neither the original nor 3DS versions had saving in dungeons; considering the length of some this is a massive boon. It’s much easier to put the game down when things start to drag.

The main goal in combat is to stay active whilst rendering your enemies inactive. Magic charges return and there are no restoration items for them which leads to some minor strategic play. Among other reasons, it means regular battles can be a bit variable; sometimes they’re tough and sometimes they’re not. Bosses are a bit the same, though relatively more challenging than not, especially toward Final Fantasy III‘s end. That said, this depends a lot on which jobs you’re using at the time.

Speaking of jobs, Final Fantasy III expands on I‘s system, allowing you to swap to any job you’ve obtained. Doing so is free of the constraints the original and 3DS versions had, giving more incentive to experiment. Some seem superfluous; Most have their own interesting abilities but some seem less worthwhile than others, either due to few equipment options or perceived weakness. However, job levels help mitigate this.

Job levels are separate from character levels in that they essentially determine a job’s effectiveness. Mages cast their spells more powerfully, monks punch harder, scholars get more effective with items, et cetera. They level based on amount of actions taken and so it’s very easy to grind them out. This makes it easy to make a seemingly pointless job viable. It’s also easy, though perhaps time consuming, to make jobs overpowered.

Character levels impact stats for each job. Whilst most gains are static, HP growth is based on a job’s vitality. As such it has some randomness to it but it is manipulable. Character levels are also more time consuming to grind but as previously mentioned it’s seldom something to think about.

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Much like the previous (and following) pixel remasters Final Fantasy III looks fine enough. Everything looks appealing; there’s a nice vibrancy that works for the game’s atmosphere. The sun shining on the ocean in conflicting places remains but it remains a small issue. Otherwise the enemies look nice, as do the characters and locations. Of all the pixel remasters this one gains the most from updated graphics. They really help sell the idea of the game being an adventure but there’s not much else to say. Ultimately much like the others the look evokes nostalgia whilst having a somewhat modern sheen.

The music has a breezy and sometimes whimsical feel to it that fits Final Fantasy III‘s look nicely. The different sounds sit comfortably with each other and flow with ease, reinforcing atmosphere rather than taking away. It’s all good stuff that doesn’t overstep, but a real highlight is the battle themes. They go all in with guitar, bass and percussion as the main sounds. It’s just the right amount of cheese to be quite fun and dramatic without being verbose.

In some ways both II and III are where Final Fantasy started developing its own identity. Much like IIFinal Fantasy III introduced a few things that would become staples, but it feels like a game playing it safe. Maybe that’s relative to II, but it’s hard to deny that III feels more like a sequel to I than it does something following the prior game.

That aside, whilst likely influenced by lack of exposure, of all the pixel remasters Final Fantasy III is one of the easiest to recommend. It plays like a game confident in itself most of the time; Most of the time as, among other things at times there is heavy coercion to try some jobs you might not normally touch. That said, the gameplay is solid, the plot is there but unobtrusive and overall the game provides a mostly lighthearted and fun experience.

Final Fantasy III Pixel Remaster is available on Steam and various app stores.

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