Hands on with DS' Final Fantasy III

The only game in the popular RPG series never to make it to the UK is on its way

Hands on with DS' Final Fantasy III
| Final Fantasy III

Most roleplaying games have a story that revolves around some sort of mysterious secret but in the case of Final Fantasy III, the secret is the game itself. For various reasons – including its sheer scale, and hence the cost of translation – it's the only game in the Final Fantasy series never to be released outside Japan.

But thanks to the opportunity offered by the DS, Square Enix has decided to remake Final Fantasy III for a global audience, using the plot and settings of the original 1990 game, but adding new 3D graphics and cutscenes, as well as four new main characters.

Playable for the first time at E3, the version on the showfloor was labelled as being a 'special demo' rather than being part of the game proper. We're not entirely sure what that means, but as it only used one of the DS' screens (hence the single screenshots above) it obviously wasn't finished code.

Still, the demo provided some idea of how the game will play, with use of the stylus to control characters' movement one interesting element, even if initially at least it didn't seem to be as flexible as using the buttons.

In terms of battles, always a key part of Final Fantasy games, in the demo you had to set up actions for the individual members of your team – whether to directly attack or use black magic or white magic such as healing – before the randomly triggered battles. Success bought forth items dropped by the vanquished enemies, as well as experience points.

The latter are important as the game has a job system, by which you build up your characters' power. Each starts off as a freelancer but you use the experience points to level them up, either through the Mage or Knight class structure, with your ultimate goal to reach sage or ninja status respectively.

Each of the classes consists of 11 jobs, each of which has its own special attributes. For example, only summoners can call upon magical entities in battle, and only dragon knights can perform a jump attack.

The battles themselves are shown in 3D, with the camera placed behind your squad looking towards the enemy. Surprisingly, however, at this stage the graphics weren't all that spectacular, especially when compared to Square Enix's 2D sprite-based Children of Mana, which was being demonstrated nearby. Hopefully there's time to polish them before release.

As for any information about how the game will make use of Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection, Square Enix is keeping tight-lipped. In an ideal world however, you'll be able to join up with three other adventurers and play through special quests and dungeons to build up your experience points and inventory – but we'll have to wait until more details are forthcoming to confirm this.

No release date for Final Fantasy III has been announced. It certainly won't be making an appearance in UK shops before September, and may even slip into 2007. Click "Track It!" above to be alerted when we hear more.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.