The DS remake of the classic RPG is released in Japan.
After sixteen years, gamers outside of Japan can finally play the "lost" Final Fantasy III. This title was originally released only in Japan for the Famicom (NES), and as per usual, Japan received the new DS remake nearly three months before the American release date. I recently got my hands on the Japanese version, thanks to our partners at Lik-Sang.
The Final Fantasy series has changed quite a bit from its Famicom roots. When Square said they were remaking FF III, that's exactly what they meant. This game, despite its 3D makeover, is still 8-bit at its core. The gameplay comes right out of the original, which isn't such a bad thing. FF III introduced the Job System, which has since gone on to become part of at least four other Final Fantasy titles. The system involves assigning characters a job (white mage, soldier, thief, monk, etc.) and upgrading the job independent of the characters' experience level. So while my white mage may be level ten, she only has access to level four spells because she's only a level four white mage. Jobs can be switched at any time.
The story also sticks close to its roots. The previously nameless and dull light warriors now have individual personalities. It's a nice touch, but the game's story still pales in comparison to the epic adventures of later entries.
Final Fantasy III's presentation is brilliant one moment and underwhelming the next. Nobuo Uematsu's score returns along with other classic elements, and it sounds just as you would expect it too. The graphics fall somewhere in between those of Final Fantasy VII and VIII for the original Playstation. While this is quite impressive, especially for the more elaborate spell effects, corners were cut in a few places. Characters never actually touch each other when attacking, so when you initiate an attack, your character will merely take one step forward, swing his sword or cane in the general direction of the enemy, and then step back.
As the first "new" traditional Final Fantasy gamers have gotten to play since 2003's Final Fantasy Origins (X-2, XI, and Crystal Chronicles weren't exactly traditional), FF III has some big shoes to fill. We'll have a full review of the import coming soon.