World of Final Fantasy Review
World of Final Fantasy is a bold game. Not because it’s out there trying something new, but because it’s fully embraced the stylings of RPGs past. In an age so heavily titled toward open world and action-based RPGs, World of Final Fantasy is a charming, simple game that holds a surprising amount of depth hidden beneath its cutesy exterior. It's here I gained a real appreciation for what the team was trying to achieve.
Our story starts off with the introduction of Reynn and Lann – the game’s two central protagonists. You’ll meet other characters along the way of course and even some classic Final Fantasy cameos too, but the story is really about these two twins adventuring through a mysterious land called Gymiore.
Sound familiar? Well it should. Right from the start there’s a strong Kingdom Hearts vibe thrown at you along with a bunch of exposition before your characters set out into the world. In that same, confusing sort of way, you have no idea what’s going on – Reynn and Lann have lost their memories but apparently they used to be quite important.
Without delving too far into spoilers, the narrative keeps its distance for a while – drip feeding bits and pieces of relevant information far too thin. You’ll be spending a long time hopping from town to town (going back to the main hub whenever you want, by the way), dungeon crawling, and even meeting legendary Final Fantasy characters before you understand the full breadth of the plot. Then finally once you get to the last quarter of the game or so, the story decides to dump everything on you all at once as it rushes to conclusion.
The rest is set up akin to a Saturday morning cartoon: goofy, exaggerated dialogue between characters, an annoying sidekick, and just enough nostalgia to keep you hooked into what could happen next.
Gameplay is where World of Final Fantasy really begins to shine. Similar to the days of Final Fantasy's past, the game features a fairly straight-forward Active Time Battle system – with a few twists. You can speed up the ATB bar through menu options or by holding R1 and change the menu style from a more modern look to a classic one from the older games. You can even initiate auto-battle by pressing the PS4’s touchpad. It’s all so convenient.
Alongside this traditional battle format is the inclusion of a surprisingly deep Mirage (monster) catching and battling system. Over the course of the game you can catch Mirages you face in battle by first weakening them and then, using special devices called prismarium, “imprism” them to do your dirty work. It’s not unlike your typical Pokémon experience.
Mirages range from smaller creatures such as mandragora, golems, and goblins to larger behemoths and summoned beasts like Ifrit. Fans of the series will be right at home with some of their favorite monsters on display. Similar to the likes of Final Fantasy XIII-2, you can grow and eventually evolve your Mirages with new abilities and skills through individual “Mirage Boards” by spending Skill Points.
Each Mirage is equipped through the main menu in setups called “Stacks.” By stacking Mirages on Reynn and Lann you combine their skills and HP pools to bolster your party. Sure you can use each monster by themselves but stacking them by size and mixing and matching Mirage types can net you some powerful offensive or defensive capabilities. I found myself not wanting to let go of certain ones like Tama despite collecting more and more as I went through the game just because I liked their skill set. That’s the beauty of World of Final Fantasy though – the Mirage customization allows you to play how you want. The amount of options here are nearly endless.
The game allows you to stack large, medium and small Mirages with the twins acting as either a medium or large-sized entity. That means you can setup two presets per character while out on the field. Of course, you’re free to change things around in the main menus, as clunky as they can sometimes be.
Unlocking Mirage skills come in handy for things outside of battles too. Sometimes you’ll need a certain skill like “Sizzle” to make it past large ice blocks in the road. Other times you’ll need to place your Mirages on a weigh table to open pathways according to certain conditions based on their stats. They’re relatively easy puzzles that don’t get in the way of progression.
There are some exceptions to this rule, however. One dungeon in particular had your characters sliding around trying to get to the other side. The first few parts of this were okay but there was one that really frustrated me for a good ten minutes as I desperately tried to navigate to the end. Later on some mini-games pop up that aren’t anything to write home about either but luckily you can skip them.
These dungeons are only a small part of World of Final Fantasy’s world. As you’re thrust into Grymoire you’ll start to recognize the locations you’re traveling through, small as they may be. From Final Fantasy’s Cornelia to Final Fantasy X’s Besaid, the pull of the main series is quite strong here. You’ll even meet some of those classic Final Fantasy characters along the way complete with their original voice actors and musical cues. Despite the obvious nostalgia grab the callbacks are done in a worthwhile, compelling way befitting of the visual style.
On the visual front, the game is fairly solid. It’s clear Square Enix developed with the Vita in mind here, but the translation to the PlayStation 4 is still easy on the eyes. The bright art style and “cute” character designs really stand out in an overall smooth experience. Masashi Hamauzu’s music really shines here too. New themes mixed with classic Final Fantasy arrangements and remixes were a joy to hear.
In my time with World of Final Fantasy, I gained a new appreciation for the more traditional style of RPG. While yes, the ATB system is showing its age, the game proved that mixing things up a little with its Pokémon-like Mirage capturing and training system was a good way to keeps things fresh – at least for the Final Fantasy series. Story and mini-game woes aside, the battle system is pretty fun and the joy of seeing fan favorite characters and musical themes really brought back memories of a simpler time.
World of Final Fantasy isn’t going to break the mold, and that’s okay. It’s a game for the fans and one I certainly think they’ll appreciate.