A few years ago I was given a Nintendo DS Lite for Christmas. The first game I played on it was Final Fantasy III, the last remaining game in the series to be localized for North America. FF3 illustrated for me how well strategic and role-playing games fit on handheld systems. I could play in small doses wherever I happened to be. I could still play games if the television was in use, denying me access to a game console. And I could snap the lid closed to put the system to sleep whenever I needed to run off to aid a crying child. It didn’t take long before the DS had become my gaming companion of choice, slotted with two games whenever possible, and always in my pocket, its green LED flickering in ready anticipation.
This spring I serendipitously fell into possession of a second generation iTouch. At first it only replaced my iPod nano, serving podcasts, audio books, and the remaining soundtrack for my lengthy commute. At home it became a portal for email, Facebook, and Twitter. And since it was now always in my pocket, I also kept a few random free games on it. Honestly, having Facebook and Twitter constantly at my fingertips ate up more of my general gaming time than Angry Birds, but regardless of which app I was tapping, the device I was touching only had one screen.
Two weeks ago Nintendo announced they would be significantly reducing the price of the 3DS. After twenty years of market domination, Nintendo’s handheld legacy appears to be fading. A week later, Sony pushed back the release of their next portable entry in an attempt to launch with a greater impact and a larger, captivating catalog of games. This weekend I wiped a layer of ashen dust from the black case of my DS. Just tidying up my dresser.
Last week Square-Enix released Final Fantasy Tactics for the iPhone (the iPad version is slated for later this fall). It’s basically the port of the recent PSP port of the original PlayStation game released in 1998. FFT is, in my opinion, a beautiful game full of wonderful sounds, detailed 2d sprites, an epic story, and lots of the sparkly particle effects that I am so partial to. It’s also a really strong turn-based strategy rpg. Admittedly, it’s also about the only srpg I have played except for the Front Mission series, but I’ve been looking for its equal, in gameplay if not also composition, ever since. Now I can have it in my pocket.
To ‘celebrate’ the release of FFT, Square-Enix reduced the prices of many of their other games, including the iOS version of the original Final Fantasy which was released on the NES in 1990. The iOS version is not a straight port; the graphics have been given an overhaul to SNES levels, and as a result I am constantly getting confused in the overworld thinking I’m playing FFIV or FFV. In addition, the music has been rescored, and a couple of new dungeons have been added. They also changed the magic system, using a contemporary MP system instead of the D&D style charges of the original (e.g., you may cast four first level spells and one second level spell before resting). I’m not sure I like that yet, as it does seem to make the game easier, but it definitely makes the magic users more viable, especially early in the game – which is where I am, only having just revived the elf prince.
I am pleased how the map ‘spell’ is handled with the new control interface and that Matoya’s broom still shares the secret of casting it. I am also tickled that the hidden number-pushing game is still available when looking to pass some time on the ship. The game even tracks your best times and rewards your efforts.
This past Christmas I got Etrian Odyssey III for the DS. I’ve been excited to play it, especially after the amount of joy I had playing Shiren the Wanderer. But I’m going to be spending another twenty hours or so taking my party (Fighter, Monk, Red Mage, White Mage) through their quest to restore the crystals and destroy Chaos. And then I’ll probably play through again, because I never finished the last dungeon playing with a party of all Black Mages.
And after that: I downloaded the GemCraft app…