Generally, people don’t take too well to remakes with high prices, but the Final Fantasy crowd is a different breed. When Square Enix announced the translation of Chrono Trigger to the Nintendo DS a couple of years back people gave nothing but praise to the RPG maker. The title sold extremely and since then the company hasn’t looked back on continually updating and releasing their former hits on more recent consoles and devices.
Most recently Square Enix took one of its hottest Final Fantasy games, and potentially the hardest, and brought it to a different type of medium; the iPad. What you get with this version of the game, sans the animated opening (no idea why they nixed that), is potentially the most definitive version of the famed RPG. You get some fantastic hi-res graphics mixed in with control tweaks that make the adventure a helluva lot easier to get through. While many Nintendo purists might contend that the DS version really isn’t that far off, there are some big differences.
The first difference is the screen size. The use of the iPad is a considerable upgrade in comparison to the DS. For us old folk who really do need the real estate visually, it’s nice to play this RPG without squinting. Being able to see secret passageways clearer is a blessing. For example, when your group runs into the vikings for the first time in the game there are two secret tunnels that lead to some valuable goodies. Having the ability to see the tip-offs to the tunnels is nice on the iPad, which is something that was a guessing game for the DS. Another nice feature to the iPad version is the ability to do that reverse pinching motion to zoom into dungeons to find sparkling tip-offs of secrets. For example, when you’re in Mythral mines that are pretty short in length you fully understand that there is a secret passage somewhere. You do the reverse pinching motion to zoom in to find it. It’s incredibly easy and even more so on the iPad (even in comparison to the iPhone version).
As for the controls, I was really 80/20 with them (positive/negative). For the most part the controls for the game were pretty easy to handle. You get a virtual joystick on the screen to movie your people around. It works with either hand and the joystick can appear anywhere on screen when you touch it. That’s a very flexible option when you need to readjust your hands. Also, it truly leaves little room for problems because you’re deciding where the joystick appears. Other controls like getting onboard the airship (at the beginning) or the Viking ship are basically move and tap. As you play the game you can pretty much ‘assume’ a type of control and more than likely it will be that type of ‘control’. That type of freedom is nice and extremely well thought out.
Moving on to the battle controls….
The controls during battle simple, simple, simple! During battle the lower left side of the screen has all the lovely commands to choose from (attack, magic, guard, etc) that work well. The turn-based game goes through each character during battle and you can choose what to assign them. It’s a very quick process and one that doesn’t get annoying. People with fat fingers, like yours truly, find the giant tapping surface to be precise and quite easy to use. In comparison to the DS and original SNES version of the game, having all the controls literally at your finger tips leaves little need to worry about which button does what. This praise is also extended into the menu selection screen where you can easily switch between jobs and re-arrange equipment/items if need be.
So you’re probably asking, where’s the 20% bad with the controls? Let me start with the worst part. Typically holding the iPad for more than 10-15 minutes (and that’s stretching it) becomes a burden. All iPad owners know how valuable the case/stands are for the device. When I first got my iPad the case was running late on getting to me before I had to leave for E3. I left without it and thought I would be happy on my five-hour flight to Los Angeles. One hour into the process, I switched my iPad out for my iPhone because holding the damn thing up was a bit of a burden without something propping it up. Anyway, this point is related to having better control over the Final Fantasy III party’s movement while holding the iPad in my hands. This control gets far worse when you set your iPad down (propped) on a surface. Once you no longer hold it the game becomes frustrating, as you overshoot intended targets (like doors, caves and specific locations). I found it nearly impossible to play it while propped up by my iPad case, so I played it only when my arms weren’t tired from doing so. Sounds petty, doesn’t it? You’ll find this to be the case, I promise. This was my only problem with Final Fantasy III.
So why should purchase this on the iPad if you already have the iPhone or Nintendo DS version? The game runs nice on iOS (which definitely moves it ahead of the DS version), which makes for a quick experience. The game looks better on 10-inch screen and you get more real estate on the iPad (which beats both DS and iPhone). The controls are much easier to handle in the touch environment as well. What about the price? You can purchase this through the iTunes app store for $16.99. That’s three dollars cheaper than the Nintendo DS version and $1 more expensive than the iPhone. With that said, most fans have griped that Square Enix needed to release a universal version of the game for the iPhone and iPad, but my question is why? The two have zero connection with each other (so you couldn’t play one and then continue on the other device in the same area). Having the convenience of one price for two devices is nice, but honestly I would bet money both wouldn’t be used anyway if Square decided to go this route, which they shouldn’t.