LOS ANGELES--Final Fantasy completists everywhere can finally breathe a sigh of relief, their collections at last fulfilled. Final Fantasy III was always a sort of "lost chapter" in the series' continuity, one that was always passed over for localization--until now. Not only will we at last get to experience the full measure of Final Fantasy history, we'll be able to do it in 3D. We couldn't help but be enticed to the game's presence on the E3 show floor, and we took the opportunity to tool around in one more Final Fantasy universe.
We started off in a small village that was immediately reminiscent of any number of early Final Fantasy towns, replete with separate shops for weapons, armor, and magic. We stopped by the black magic shop to buy a spell (Poison) and talked to a few of the denizens. The shift to 3D has given the old town template a fresh and full look, with lots of little details in homes and shops, as well as in characters. The black mage in the black magic shop, for example, looked great with his smoky, shadowy face, bright-blue robes, and signature pointy hat. The same sort of detail is also passed to your party of four characters, with their varying outfits and simple, smiling, noseless faces. If you remember the nose-free portrait art in Final Fantasy Tactics, you'll see it reprised here, as these games share a common character designer in Akihiko Yoshida (who's also worked on Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII).
Our party didn't show a great deal of differentiation in ability, though, since all were set to the same basic character class (not onion knight!), and so each character has access to only a standard attack, as well as the fire spell. So, no chance to play with the game's job system quite yet, but we did get to dig into a bit of combat with a selection of enemies. When you enter into a random encounter, you'll be presented with the standard turn-based battle system, queuing up the actions of your whole party and then waiting for everything to happen. If you really want to, you can even use the touch screen to navigate the battle menus and select which monsters to attack, though doing things the normal route via the existing controls works just fine, too.
The monsters in the game look good after their markup to 3D, with the ever-present goblins still managing to hold up after all these years. Particularly impressive was a large creature called a land turtle, who managed to fill the enemy side of the battle screen in an imposing fashion, detailed down to the claws on his flippers and the ridges on his shell. The fire spell also has a nice spell animation, with characters calling down a swirl of magical energy that sparks into flame on enemies.
We'll want to delve much further into the game to get a handle on the job system and such, but visually at least, Final Fantasy III is making itself right at home on the Nintendo DS, to good effect. Keep watching this gamespace for more news on this classic RPG as it approaches release later this year.