Final Fantasy 3, now on iPhone

/The stuff of 8-bit nightmaresThis one snuck by me until now, but Square-Enix has released an iPhone port of the 2006 DS remake of Final Fantasy 3. To some extent, it’s hip to bag on Square for the number of ports and remakes they make; I’m not unsympathetic to this and it certainly feels like they release a port of the original Final Fantasy about every 18 months. This one I’m glad to see, though- It’s a game that’s only seen a handful of releases, the last one of which was in ’06.

(five years? Already? Man, I feel old :P)

Final Fantasy 3- the Japanese version, not the “Final Fantasy 3” released on the Super Nintendo here in the states- is sort of an interesting game. The NES version was an unapologetically difficult NES-style level grind, with an early class system layered on top of an improved version of the original Final Fantasy’s battle system. I don’t think I’m going on too much of a limb when I call it one of the best of the grindy, NES-and-early-SNES-era RPGs- it represents an improvement of leaps and bounds over the earlier Final Fantasy games and even compares well against then-competitor Dragon Warrior 3. Unlike the earlier games in the series, it was never ported out of Japan until the recent remake- at the time of the NES game’s release, Nintendo was pushing developers to the Super Nintendo.

The recent DS port was a polished effort which retained a lot of what made the original cool, although with prettier graphics and a somewhat reduced difficulty level. I was honestly a bit disappointed by the latter. Finishing the original was a Herculean task, which required careful planning and foresight- finishing the remake, well, it was a hard RPG in the era it was released, but nowhere near as punishingly difficult of the original.

From the screenshots, it looks like the new iPhone version’s graphics are mostly recycled from the DS port but with higher-resolution textures. Square claims that there have been “new story elements” added, but I’m not sure what that actually amounts to- likely not much given the previous port, which added like one line of dialog per character. At $15, it’s also pretty pricey for an iPhone game.

It’s kind of interesting to see Square testing the water on the iDevices. The zeitgeist seems to be that the iPhone is an up-and-coming gaming platform, although I haven’t seen much in the realm of “serious” games for it; because of the nature of a mobile phone as a gaming platform, games that do well seem to be of the pick-it-up-for-10-minutes variety. Square’s published a couple ports and Final Fantasy-themed tower defense games, but only one “real” game- the mediocre Chaos Rings. I’m wondering if Square’s trying to position themselves to move onto the platform or build up a stock of knowledgeable development teams with these ports.

I kind of wish that Square would get around to paying attention to some of the non-FF games in their old catalog- I think that something in the vein of the Romancing SaGa games, with their reliance on lots of subquests and optional material, would be really well-suited for a mobile phone platform. Sometimes it feels like even Square’s executives have forgotten that there was a time when they were Lucasarts circa 1993 and not Lucasarts circa 2004.

– HC