Last week at the Fusion Tour in Arkansas, we spent some time observing the DS and get got in some hands-on action with Final Fantasy III. Unfortunately, despite the excitement of the Wii, there was always someone playing Elite Beat Agents, and since there were no monitors on the DS stations, there was no moderation of time. As exciting as it was to note that people were all sorts of about the game, there are still disappointed fingers here that were thwarted in the epic quest to rock some beats while helping people out.
There was an interesting mix of people playing Elite Beat Agents, however, and that was certainly noteworthy. People always seem to want to pigeonhole gamers as all looking a certain way, but watching people playing -- and not just messing around, but getting down with it -- Elite Beat Agents was a sobering lesson in the vast array of gamers out there. Maybe it's just the lure of the rhythm game, but it really does seem like gaming is spreading through all corners of society these days.
The first part of Final Fantasy III was available on the tour -- the oft-discussed opening which features Luneth falling into a hole and into the first monster-filled cave. There's not a lot here that is surprising, though it must be said that while the stylus here is a neat touch in theory, it feels gratuitous. It will probably come in handy during the fights, as it's better than scrolling (and it was nice in the playable game here), but when it comes to controlling Luneth, it seemed completely unnecessary.
There is, however, something comforting about the old blue menus and the familiar battle style. Square Enix did a wonderful job breathing new life into the game and it will not disappoint Final Fantasy fans. While this particular installment isn't exactly hailed as the best in the series, perhaps the revamped graphics and added depth of character will be enough to flesh the title out. It certainly looks fantastic. The foundation is clearly visible; for anyone who's played an older Final Fantasy title, the enemies will be immediately recognizable. But there's a spit-polish and a nice layer of gloss over everything. The characters sat down, ate a sandwich, and fleshed out. This really needs to happen for a lot of older, cherished RPGs. It's not that they aren't great in original form, but a lot of older games would easily stand the test of time when it comes to gameplay. It's just that they suffer a little when it comes to graphics.
Unfortunately, as with any RPG, here at the beginning there wasn't a lot Luneth could do, which meant there wasn't a lot for the controls to demonstrate. From fiddling with the battle menus as much as possible, it does seem that the stylus will make that easier, particularly later in game when characters tend to have their skills built up. Here, however, it was as useless as it was for walking. It's usable, but what's the point, really? There's a perfectly good D-pad right there. But don't take this as a rag on the stylus, which we tend to think is one of the niftiest innovations ever to storm the gaming world. It's just better when used to its full advantage rather than just because it's there.
Most of the other games that were available were already out, like Mario Hoops: 3 on 3 and Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis. Those seemed abandoned and forlorn, which was even more noticeable due to the people clustered around Elite Beat Agents. And of course, most of the attention overall was being lavished on the Wii, but the DS was there, and not completely forgotten.