The Basics: Square Enix has had a field day with rehashing some of their older properties. Re-releases of Crono Trigger and Final Fantasy games on the PSOne; tricked out new versions of Final Fantasy I & II; and now the first real "remake" we think we've seen from the RPG moguls: Final Fantasy III on the Nintendo DS.
The most notable upgrade are the graphics, swapping out the original's sprites and 2D graphics for a texture and poly, everything in the DS version is done in 3D. A strange thing, considering how acceptable 2D is on the portable platform, but no one seems to be complaining. The game is quite cute, possibly the best looking DS game to date.
Square has been speaking about other tweaks, namely in the plot department. Rather than have four nameless heroes, the group you start with will have individuality and personality, most of which feeds back into the overlying plot. Also changed (in the demo at least) is the pacing; whereas the original FFIII throws you smack-dab in the first dungeon, players in the DS version will get to start in a town and suit up, as well as get a feel for the flavor of the world and its inhabitants.
Though this may be the only real respite you're given, Square has the gameplay dialed into a very old school mindset. A lot of the magic restrictions of the original are present here, as is the original's Job system, back before Final Fantasy Tactics made it a known staple stateside. However we've been told the remake will have Jobs not included in the original, as well as improvements to some of the weaker occupations.
What we think: Final Fantasy III has never been officially released in the US, so this will truly be a unique for new and old gamers alike. The demo pulls no punches in its aged gameplay, which is both a good thing and a bit of a readjustment to come to grips with. The Active Time Battle system was never around in the first Final Fantasies, so the remake opts out of it; instead you hand out orders to your team, then watch them hand out the hurt to baddies, and then watch surviving enemies take a shot at your guys. The very turn-based combat may be nostalgic for some, and a turn off for others.
Though the definite shake up has got to be the retained magic system, the big deal is that in the first FF games, certain spells could only be cast a given number of times between inns, which has stayed in the remake! Instead of micromanaging MP and replenishing it on a whim, players will be forced to play it smart with their magic. Squander it too fast and you'll be doomed for the remainder of a dungeon! It adds a certain element of strategy, but it's also a bit of an annoyance – I guess I graduated from gameplay limits once games had become so pretty and shiny.
Which is exactly how this plays and looks, all old school charms and gripes aside. The game looks great for a DS offering; the characters really do exude a certain charm and cuteness that's so appealing; not to mention everything in the game can also be played by using the stylus! Even if the Active Time Battle system isn't in effect, fights seem to flow so much quicker when all you have to do is point at a few menu items, and watch the fireworks show.
It may not have stolen the show at E3, or even Nintendo's own DS booth, but Final Fantasy III has a lot of promise and is proving to be the first honest to goodness, full-blown remake that Square Enix has offered in its run of remakes.
··· Kevin Cameron