Often regarded by fans of the Final Fantasy series as the lost chapter, Final Fantasy III was the only title in the series never to make it to the US and Europe. Now on the cusp of release on the DS, Pro-G caught up with Director and Executive Producer Hiromichi Tanaka to find out more about remaking the game for a new audience.
Pro-G: So why remake Final Fantasy III on the DS?
Hiromichi Tanaka-san: It's been sixteen years since the original version was out and we've had several opportunities to make Final Fantasy III but somehow it never happened. This time we decided to really go ahead and make it. We were considering the PS2 but then we got a call from Nintendo saying they wanted to make a new console and would we please make a Final Fantasy? We thought this would be a good time so we remade Final Fantasy III for the DS.
Pro-G: Can you tell us a little about your role in creating the game?
HT: Yes. On the original I was working on the game design and the strategy of the game, such as the job system. This time, after sixteen years, I work to make sure the game is balanced so it appeals to old fans and new ones. As this is the first time it's being released in North America and Europe, we didn't want the game to feel too old-fashioned.
Pro-G: Was it difficult to convert the game to the DS, especially given it's now in 3D?
HT: Because it's a mobile format and the DS has lots of special functions like the touch screen and also two screens, it was a challenge for us to make the most out of this platform. Since the original game only used a single screen, if we had made the DS version using both screens it would have made the game very different. So in some parts we use two screens and in others just the one. By using one screen it makes it possible to have better quality graphics. Also by using the stylus or your finger you can play from the beginning right through to the end just by using the touch screen.
Pro-G: Were there any other changes made to the game?
HT: Yes. Unlike in the original version, this time the four main characters have names and also a personality which enables us to talk about the story and give them backgrounds. Also, one big difference is the job system. In the original version you could only play as, say, a ninja at a certain stage of the game. We decided to have more flexibility so players can change job whenever they like.
Pro-G: And are there any WiFi functions available in the game?
HT: Well, the original version didn't have any online functions but now it's very much an additional part of the game. Gamers can exchange letters, like emails, with their friends and characters in the game. For other titles, both people have to be online but, for the first time, there is a new feature which means mail can be sent even if the other person isn't online. Using this feature also lets you unlock hidden content.
Pro-G: Like the Onion Knights job class from the original game?
HT: Yes. Because of the revamped job system we didn't have anywhere for the Onion Knights so that class was hidden away.
Pro-G: Do you think the release of Final Fantasy III has benefited from the lessons learnt in other titles in the series in terms of storyline and graphics?
HT: Normally when we remake games it's after like three or five years. Final Fantasy III was only released once and this is a completely new version. We decided to use the DS and by using that console we would try and make the game in 3D because it would help us get close up to the characters.
Pro-G: Do you think Final Fantasy III will be successful in Europe?
HT: The DS itself is doing really well in Japan, North America and also Europe. Final Fantasy III might be an old game but I think it is really suitable for mobile gaming; it's a casual game and a traditional RPG. We hope gamers in Europe can enjoy it as a new game.
Pro-G: You've been involved in the Final Fantasy series since the first game. Have you got a favourite title?
HT: I was involved with I, II and III and, for the developers, it was very important to make each game the most important of its time, on the latest platform and using the latest technology. III was my favourite but now I'm working on Final Fantasy XI, that's my favourite game.
Pro-G: Do you think given that the Final Fantasy games were originally released on the Famicom (NES), that they could be released on the Virtual Console?
HT: It's very much 50/50. Given that they're twenty years old, we'd have to look for the floppy discs!
Pro-G: Aside from RPGs, do you have a favourite type of game or console you like to play?
HT: Before I really liked scrolling shooting games but now I only play Final Fantasy XI!
Pro-G: So what are you working on now? Any plans for the future?
HT: I'm still working on XI as it's on-going but we are also working on a next-generation MMORPG for 360 and Vista but PS3 is a possibility.
Final Fantasy III is being released on DS by Square Enix in the spring.