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World of Final Fantasy Hands-On Impressions

The conversations happening currently around mainline Final Fantasy titles feel a little bit divisive, hesitant, and anxious. Understandably so, as we look at the tumultuous relationship fans have had with a few past and upcoming Final Fantasy titles. Gamescom this year acquainted me with what feels like a bit of reprieve from my trying relationship with the series as of late, all packaged in the form of World of Final Fantasy.

World of Final Fantasy’s aim is to introduce younger players to the series with its cute art style and simple mechanics, but billing it as that alone seems unfair. I worry that pushing only that aspect to the forefront will have some fans sleeping on the title, opting to forget it for this year’s main entry to the series: Final Fantasy XV. In a similar vein to Kingdom Hearts, World of Final Fantasy seems like something a younger generation can use as a stepping stone into the series, while those before them reminisce in the overwhelming nostalgia of familiar faces, icons, and locations.

What I played on the show floor wasn’t very long, but the game easily became one of my favorites of the convention. The artstyle is charming, and the pastel environments looked like something out of a child’s coloring book. The two main characters, Reynn and Lann, could be swapped on the world map. The two characters also had access to a Chocobo for speed, forgoing their more realistically proportioned designs for the chibi look every time they saddled up.

The real love I had for this game came when it reintroduced what feels so far away in modern Final Fantasy titles, active time battle (ATB). Of course, it’s not entirely the same, but a fresh spin on something so familiar felt more than welcome.

Instead of the typical health bar assigned to every member, World of Final Fantasy chooses to mix that up. It’s always an option to let Reynn or Lann fend for themselves, but I chose to stack a Chocobo on Lann. After that Chocobo, I put a baby Chocobo up there too. I had an adorable stack of a chibi Lann, a Chocobo, and a Chocobo hatchling that was not to be messed with after all was said and done. They shared a health bar because of the stacking, and for some of the more pushover monsters this was fine.

After a little while, I realized that barreling into harder fights this way made it more difficult to mitigate damage. And there were a few times where my adorable Chocobo tower strategy got me KO’d. So no, stacking everything together because it’s the cutest way to play is apparently not a viable World of Final Fantasy strategy.

Playing Chocobo jinga was not all I experienced in the demo. When things got a little tough, I summoned Final Fantasy X’s protagonist, Tidus. While I did long to see someone else, he was the only summon available to me in the demo. Classic characters can be called upon much the same way that traditional Final Fantasy characters have summoned Ifrit, Shiva, and others. Tidus came bounding out with a blitzball and did his routine to save my poor cute towers.

The Gamescom demo I played was just a dungeon, with no story tidbits. Sneak peeks of what else was to come weren't completely absent though, as chests scattered about the dungeon showed clips from other sections of the game. It’s disappointing to not get to have a hands-on on with much more of the stuff I saw, but the promise of what was to come that I was shown felt like enough to stay excited.

There’s something special about seeing characters like Eiko Carol from Final Fantasy IX grab a moment in the spotlight, as opposed to the more popular choice of Zidane Tribal. Edgar Roni Figaro, Quistis Trepe, Refia, Faris Scherwiz, and Syldra all make appearances too. These less popular characters are what I long for in Dissidia or Kingdom Hearts cameos, but World of Final Fantasy goes above and beyond in sharing that spotlight with them.

World of Final Fantasy had me pining for the old days, but happy to experience something fresh. It’s something unique for this generation of players, but still something special for the older. I wouldn’t sacrifice a World of Final Fantasy buy in favor of anything else from Square Enix this fall, but instead move it to the top of the list.

 

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