a review of Final Fantasy III (DS)
a videogame developed by matrix software & square/enix
and published by square/enix
for the nintendo DS
text by Brendan Lee
Final Fantasy III on the DS sees Square at its most sweaty and desperate . . . an oozing carnival barker, equal parts chin oil and elephant ear crumbs, swinging a sodden stub of Swisher Sweet toward a tattered Tent of Terrors.
You know, perhaps, exactly what you’re going to find; some pickled multi-necked cow fetus, horrifyingly illuminated by a guttering fluorescent bulb. You’ll stand there, you and your best pal, give the thing a tight-lipped once-over, thrill a bit, slap a few mosquito bites, and shuffle your way out.
Did you just get scammed by that guy?
Did you just flush an E ticket on an A-ticket attraction?
Well, that’s kind of up to you. Matrix has done a fair job of porting the NES classic to the DS – – it uses what 3D the DS has to good effect; the sound is more or less in order. Full-motion video inserts the pastel-colored natsukashiiiiiiiiii knife directly at the base of the spinal column and twists until the blade snaps. Weary of tiresome buttons? Whip out the stylus and castrate what few Pavlovian illusions tapping them still hold – – though not to a FFXII-Gambit level, I guess, which came as breathtakingly close to an Emperor-Sans-Clothes scenario as any in recent RPG memory.
That’s it! If you like this you like this, which means that you like it and you like it so you’ll like it again. In a certain sense, this continual retreading of musty IP is perfectly understandable, even divorced from Square/Enix’s conscienceless coffer-stuffing: it fleshes out all of the fiddly little gaps that previously had to be filled in by the player’s imagination . . . you’re waddling further and further toward making the Final Fantasy universe (gasp!) real. A few more generations, and maybe that’ll be me jumping in place to the victory music from the comfort of my gravy-stained sofa. You never can tell about the future: maybe some scraggle-bearded, wrap-around Oakley version of me will even put out the extra eighty bucks for the vibrating wireless scabbard.
Clips right there onto the sweatpants!
So! A port – – and a pretty darn competent one at that. Somewhere at the Cheeto-scented end of all of our chained realities there’s a version of actionbutton.net rendered largely in bright pink Macromedia Flash, and in that version this review’s lone star is a brilliant shade of gold. Sadly, we toil here at this end of reality, where good children sometimes go hungry and it rains on chocolate layer cakes and mastheads must be followed to the absolute immutable letter.
So! A well-carved statue to the past, placed on a carefully tended hill. You’ve got a backpack full of the very finest sandwiches. You glance at your wrist. Your watch has stopped. A cool breeze ruffles through your hair. What on earth could possibly be wrong with that?
It’s . . . well, it’s quite poignantly wrong. You’re really gnawing the fucking paint chips when you cave to idolatry like that. Think back: when Square killed Aeris . . . why was that the defining moment of Final Fantasy VII? Was Aeris this fascinating, multi-faceted corker of a gal symbolizing innocence and the purity of nature in a World Gone Mad? Or . . . was she kind of a glassy-eyed dud that said […] an awful lot?
Both, I suppose, depending on your views on pressurized cheese. Still, the reason that moment had actual emotional resonance was that she fucking well died. No materia could rescue those perfect brown locks; no amount of gil could rewind the sword out of her angelic vertebrae. Even the mighty Pro Action Replay could only dance her hollow ghost tantalizingly in front of you, like a Kit Kat wrapper caught in a persistent updraft. Sad!
In a medium that, almost by definition, always affords you One More Chance, it said a hell of a lot. There’s only so much that you can save. You’ve got a limited sphere of influence, and sooner or later you’ve got to grab your jacket and head for the exits. It was – – by video game design standards – – a gutsy move.
One that’s been torn from the playbook, sadly. Rather than leaving her in the box, the poor gal’s electrified corpse has been pimped again and again for a few coke-stained twenties per throw . . . and Final Fantasy III is right there beside her, bending from the waist, two black eyes and a run in her stocking.
Saying goodbye stings like battery acid, I guess, but at the end of the day it’s right, and it’s honest.
Give us some honesty.
If Square/Enix has even the faintest desire to avoid the continued strip-mine Disneyfication of its sagging intellectual property, this dry-hump farce-fest needs to end. Square should look the Past right in the eyes, whisper a dry-lipped adieu, and let the overdose of morphine do its fucking job.