Final Fantasy III - NDS - Preview

E3 2006 Hands On Preview

Square Enix has been pumping out hits in the United States since the 80s. Their popularity increased (as individual developers) in the mid-90s, and exploded with the release of Final Fantasy VII in 1997. Overnight Square became a household name to people who had never touched an RPG before. Over 50,000 copies of its soundtrack were imported from Japan, prompting Square to release the Final Fantasy music officially in the US via iTunes. To this day, people still talk about the tragic events that made FFVII’s story so compelling.

Despite Square’s many published titles, and despite Enix’s decision to bring more of the Dragon Quest titles to the States, Final Fantasy III has not made it to American or European shores. Soon that will change, as Square Enix is developing a remake of the only unreleased Final Fantasy. PlayStation 3 will be the exclusive home of Final Fantasy XIII, however, it’s the innovative features of the Nintendo DS that lured developers to create FFIII for the handheld platform.

Since FFIII came out during the days of the NES, you can bet the graphics weren’t all that mind-blowing. Have no fear, gamers, Nintendo DS upgrades are here. Characters that were once flat and barely visible are now full-3D models. The distinct medieval theme of the older Final Fantasy titles has been carried over, filling the two screens with dungeons, old towns and villages, and a retro (but fully 3D) world map.

Taking a cue from The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Final Fantasy III features touch screen navigation. Incase you’re unaware of what that means, it’s where the D-pad is no longer necessary, and the bottom (touch) screen takes center stage. Using the stylus as a guide, players can touch any part of the screen to call the attention of your character. He’ll walk toward that direction and stop when he gets there. Should you decide to take another route, simply drag the stylus anywhere on the screen to make the character move anywhere in the game. Level barriers, story requirements, and other Final Fantasy elements prevent you from having total freedom – a price you have to pay if you want a deep, involving quest that has a conclusion.

Square Enix and diehard importers say the original had a deep job-changing system, but I didn’t get much out of it from the demo. Right now it doesn’t seem that many of those features have even been implemented yet. Many of them will be tweaked for the remake. Chances are new spells will get thrown into the mix as well (fingers crossed).

The story is another question mark. We know it has to do with some major prophecy that involves an earthquake. Monsters are spawned as the world slips into darkness. Before the main villain can take control of the world, four souls are blessed with the light, giving the world a bit of hope in these extremely dark times. You’ll end up controlling those souls – characters with a specific job class and attack set. They’ll have their own story, possibly their own theme songs, and hopefully some intelligent dialogue.

Each character came equipped with two basic magic spells: Cure and Fire. Cure is the health replenish spell that’s been used since the dawn of the Final Fantasy series. Fire is a painful, burning sensation that turns monstrous enemies into a puddle of melted flesh. At this early stage in the game’s development, neither of these spells gave a spectacular effect. The characters were somewhat stiff, somewhat emotionless. The textures, designs, fantasy lands and world map looked good, but there weren’t enough animations in place (nor enough flash to the magic spells) to get a full impression of what the game will be like. The demo was merely a tease to entice and build anticipation, and it worked.

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