REVIEW FINAL FANTASY III FOR IPHONE
In the new frontier of mobile gaming, the industry giants have remained conspicuously silent. Granted there have been a few toes dipped in the water, but the big boys don’t exactly dominate the iTunes store. In that vein, Square Enix has been as tentative as its peers to pony-up in this wild west of gaming. The developer’s entire catalogue can be viewed on a single page. Early on, Square Enix released Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II for the iPhone platform to less then stellar acclaim. Even the developer’s original content has yet to warrant nearly any of the attention one of its console releases generates. Even this, the third Final Fantasy ported to iPhone, failed to garner much attention. All of that being said, Final Fantasy III for the iPhone is by far the most polished of Square Enix’s ports and is hopefully a sign of games to come.
Just a note to keep our remakes straight, this is a port of the remade Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo DS that was originally launched on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Square Enix, back then Square Soft, developed three Final Fantasy games (I, II, III) on the NES, but only released the first one to America. The company then created three Final Fantasy games on the Super NES (IV, V, VI) but only released the first and last in America. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when releasing these games in the US they renumbered them, so that after the original release, Final Fantasy IV for the Super NES was retitled Final Fantasy II, and Final Fantasy VI became Final Fantasy III. Eventually, Square Soft/Enix came to realize its mistakes and over the years the once Japanese-only games arrived here in the west. One of the last games to hit our shores, Final Fantasy III, originally for the 8-bit NES, received a graphic update, along with translation, and made its debut on the Nintendo DS. This iPhone version is a port of the updated Nintendo DS version.
Lastly, it should be noted that even though this is an iPhone game, I played it on my iPad. I tried to take this difference in medium into account when reviewing this game.
Being a port of a Nintendo DS release makes Final Fantasy III an obvious choice to release on a touch screen device. When it comes to the touch controls, this game does everything right. The menu system is smooth and easy to navigate. A moving direction pad makes it convenient to direct your party using any part of the screen. The touch-play may be more difficult on the smaller screen of an iPhone, but the iPad offers plenty of room. None of the controls feel cramped or awkwardly placed.
When the game was released on the DS, you could use the system buttons to navigate and execute, or you could use the stylus and touchscreen. Most ported games try to recreate the controller experience by placing buttons on the touchscreen. Final Fantasy III skips this step and allows you to scroll through menus, organize and assign equipment just by tapping the screen. This small change alters the level of immersion and is a wise step taken by this iteration. Now, with this port, the traditional control is living on borrowed time. Although Final Fantasy III does not do anything that hasn’t been done on the iPad, what it does do, it does nearly perfect.
Game Mechanics Score 4.5 / 5
Final Fantasy III was one of the early console role-playing games and this port adheres to the traditions of the Final Fantasy series. You walk around the world, towns and dungeons with a top-down view on your character. When entering battles your party lines up on the bottom right facing the enemies across the screen.
The graphics upgrade brings it a long way from its 8-bit origins and on the large iPad screen the PSOne (or better) graphics are really appreciable. The colorful environments lure you into the game, making the numerous palette-swapped enemies almost forgivable. The characters wear the costume of job-class you’ve assigned them and their handheld weapon reflects what is actually equipped. These details are clearly discernible on the iPad, but may be difficult on the smaller iPhone.
Final Fantasy III doesn’t rely on graphics for its draw factor. The story is straightforward yet nuanced in its rich details. Every town, every castle, and every boss has its own backstory. You won’t just be called to save a faceless world, but a realm of friends and colleagues.
The one disappointment in this port is the lack of upgrades in other areas. The music and sound effects remain unchanged. With the capabilities of the iPhone OS simple things like voice-acting for the cut scenes, or even cinematics could have easily been incorporated. Yet, it seems some of the more obvious upgrades were simply overlooked. It’s disappointing when you know they can, but they choose not to try.
Ambience Score 3.3 / 5
If you’re a fan of the Final Fantasy series, or of old school RPGs, this is a great way to experience one of the missing originals. The game offers a wide variety of job-classes to choose from and changing around your party dynamics is part of the entertainment.
The game easily offers over forty-hours of enjoyable dungeon crawling and exploration. The game’s linear storyline leaves little in the way of replay value, but this is balanced by the fact that this is a full-fledged RPG on your mobile device.
While there are a few other RPGs out there for the iPhone OS, Final Fantasy III has an old school feel with a new school facelift. This type of RPG, which a player can really invest their time into, is a nice change from the shooter and gimmick games that seem to be plaguing the app store.
Fun Factor Score 3.9 / 5
Final Fantasy III, while having a linear storyline, sometimes drops you into an open world without any sense of direction. For this reason, a good walkthrough will make play many, many times easier. If you save your walkthrough on your iPad, then in the middle of playing press the square exit button, you can open another app and your game will stay as you left it for a short period of time. This is a great way to check your maps and go right back to gameplay without having to reload your entire save. Personally, I use the app Good Reader, which allows you download a page of text off the internet and directly into the app, making it accessible offline.
This is not a world to be taken lightly, as a foraging expedition into a new area can easily result in defeat from a simple random encounter. In addition, the game only saves on the world map, turning some dungeons into time thieves. It can get frustrating to spend an hour exploring a dungeon only to be defeated by the area boss and realize you have to do the whole thing over again.
Forethought and preparation are the keys to success in this game.
Guidance Score 2 / 5
At a $15.99 price point, Final Fantasy III is on the more expensive side of the games that I’ve bought for the iPad. It’s interesting to note that the price of FFIII in used condition, for the Nintendo DS, was $17.99 until recently. However, Final Fantasy III is a fun and addictive game, definitely worth the time if you haven’t played it before.
Thankfully missing from this game is the pointless Friend Code side-quest. In the Nintendo DS version, to try to popularize their wireless connectivity, a player had to exchange in-game mail with other live players to advance the quest. Players had to swap mail with at least ten different people just to move forward and obtain the job-based master items. This silly detour was blessedly dropped from this version.
Something else worth noting is this game’s affect on battery life. Granted I am a very heavy user of my iPad, but even with the wireless turned off, Final Fantasy III seemed to eat battery life quicker than any other game I’ve played. This is especially strange when you consider that FFIII is not heavy on the advanced graphics.
Finally, if Final Fantasy III is any indication of the direction of mobile games then there is a bright future on the horizon.
Final Score 3.425 / 5
Written by Andrew