I want to be excited about Final Fantasy III on Steam, but after spending some time with it, I’m mostly just confused.
Yes, Final Fantasy III has been ported to like, literally everything that can play video games. It was a major early sales pitch for the OUYA, even. Buy the OUYA! Look, we have Final Fantasy III! Square Enix support! It’s fascinating how one of the most reclusive games in the series is now something you can find without even looking. But that’s not a problem — the opposite, really.
Final Fantasy III is a great game — one of the best in the whole Final Fantasy ensemble, frankly — so the more platforms it’s available on, the more people can play it. That’s a pretty beautiful thing in this industry of insane capitalist brick walls getting in the way of art: retailer DLC, pre-order bonuses and console exclusives stubbornly refusing to get out of the way of people just wanting to buy and play some darn video games.
Square Enix don’t play that, homie. You can buy a thing, anything, and play its games.
Anti-industry ranting aside, Final Fantasy III really is super cool. It’s the beginning of the job system, one of the single greatest mechanics to ever grace the genre, and the remake (first appearing all the way back on the DS) boosted it up without compromising its more draconian limitations.
Sure, it’s better in Final Fantasy V or Tactics, but there is a lot of creativity on display here that still holds up. Some of the weirder stuff never shows up again. The soundtrack is also super good and surprisingly memorable for the third game of an impossibly huge franchise. Good game, play it, beware lots of grinding, etc.
The problems here are more under the hood, in a sense. There aren’t any glaring technical issues or game-breaking glitches that I’ve encountered (although there is some talk on message boards of a few), but something that’s just really odd stands out about this particular version of Final Fantasy III. Perhaps there is a perfectly logical explanation behind the scenes, but out here, it puts a bit of a damper on the situation.
If you haven’t played Final Fantasy III before and have nothing else to play it on (or PC is just your thing, yo), there’s no harm in going for it. But keep this in mind: this is a straight port of a mobile game.
The promotional material for this new PC version of Final Fantasy III, both in press material and on the Steam page itself, claim substantial upgrades have been added. In fact, two separate bullet points are dedicated to telling us the visuals have been improved. not optimized, but improved.
Unless I’m missing something, and I’m talking on a level that I’d need to go have myself declared legally blind, that isn’t, well, true. Even at lower resolutions, in windowed mode, this game is thoroughly ugly.
Yes, it’s a version of an ancient DS game, but even so, very little in the way of optimization has taken place here. On mobile, the version this really seems like a direct port of, it looks fine. The visuals are indeed higher resolution than the DS version, and the smaller screens of smartphones support the game well. But blown up to, say, 1600×900? Naw, dude.
As you can see in screenshots, all the character models are stretched out to the point where you can see the texture mapping, making them look like they were taped together. Black bars fill in small portions of the top or sides of the screen as needed, since the game doesn’t quite reach 16:9 resolution. The slight, familiar twitchiness of lesser 3D models, generally passable on smaller, handheld hardware, looks soooo bad here.
It’s a mess. Functional, but a mess. Basically, fitting the mobile version onto a PC monitor overexposes what would normally be negligible flaws.
Now, honestly, that would be fine, save for one minor detail. A PSP version of Final Fantasy III exists (also playable on Vita), and it is significantly upgraded from the other two versions. The resolution is natively 16:9, the textures have been smoothed out a little, and it has a bunch of little bonuses not present in the mobile/DS versions that make a big difference.
Most importantly, you can swap between both versions of the fantastic soundtrack, and you can pump up the battle speed, making grinding several times less painful. It’s great, and the definitive version of Final Fantasy III.
The PC version does have Steam Cloud support, Trading Cards and Achievements, which is nice, but I just can’t get past the whole PSP thing. There’s a gorilla in the room, and instead of making me question my drinking habits, it’s making me sad about a several decade-old video game.
Once again, Final Fantasy III is great, and the score below will mostly reflect that. However, having a significantly improved version of the game and not basing the PC version on it just doesn’t make any sense. The higher native resolution and battle speed settings would have made this perfect.