World of Final Fantasy PS4 Review
Next year is the 30th anniversary of Square Enix’s most well known series, Final Fantasy, and with that it is safe to assume plenty of celebratory events, games and merchandise will be pouring out from the Japanese company. Square Enix has never shied away from producing spin-off titles for such occasions. The likes of Dissidia, Theatrhythm, and the many mobile games have brought the massive diverse history of Final Fantasy‘s characters, music, enemies and stories together for crossover games, but are never games that are built like the RPGs it celebrates. While many fans are sat down, hands twitching, awaiting the end of a 10 year development for Final Fantasy XV, another title is happy to bring the feels about Final Fantasy to your console or handheld – World of Final Fantasy is an incredibly charming and love-filled traditional RPG that will give fans of the series a fuzzy feeling inside until the next big entry in the franchise arrives.
Using the cliché amnesiac trope, World of Final Fantasy introduces us to the protagonists twins, Lann and Reynn, brother and sister, and coffee shop owners, who live in Nine Woodshill. Things suddenly begin to take a turn for the bizarre when the siblings have a mysterious woman visit their shop for a drink. She reveals herself to be Enna Kros, a white haired lady who openly confesses to them as being God. She explains that these two average day workers are actually very important people, who, along with their mother, are Mirage Keepers. Enna offers her support by giving her subordinate, Tama, the incredibly happy white flying fox, to the our heroes to assist them in restoring their missing memories as they trip around the land of Grymoire with the use of a magical door portal.
As far as the story goes, this is pretty standard stuff, with surprises and twists you can see coming a mile away, but while that means the main story arc suffers from being forgettable, it doesn’t stop the game from being an entertaining journey. There’s a specific love it or hate it with the two heroes, who play off each other as a comedy duo, with Lann getting the brute of the jokes for being the rush-into-danger hero, and Reynn having a lot of the delivery from being the smart, sensible one. The jokes are all over the place, ranging from genuinely amusing to damn right eye-rolling. We must not forget Tama as well, who loves to extend words by prefixing them with the. It’s clear that this game is aimed for a younger audience – fitting true with what the developers said. This game was meant to introduce the kids of older gamers who enjoyed Final Fantasy, but could use this game as a way to sit down and play with their children and bring them into the series through a lighter and friendly tone. And I just told you all that without even stick the-word the on the-anything…
Story is only a backdrop to what really World of Final Fantasy was created for – to bring an adventure that calls on those feelings fans have for the series. Who doesn’t want to meet up, fight or battle along side such loved characters as Yuna, Cloud, and – laugh all you want, but she has her fans – Lightning. The range of history isn’t limited to the 3D era, as characters pop in from all across the franchise, along with enemies, summons and locations that will sure spring a few memories for older fans. World of Final Fantasy manages to do all this while feeling natural about it. None of the heroes feel forced into the story. Sure, they shouldn’t really exist in the world of Grymoire, but they are, and they fit within the story beats with their iconic traits without interrupting the flow of the game. Some can even be acquired as summons, coming in to battle to do their flashy limit breaks in adorable chibi-esque form.
From the promotional material you might have seen plenty of chibi sized people (who look suspiciously like those Pop! figurines; potential models incoming?). That is because they are the race of Grymoire known as Lilikin. On the other hand, our duo are known as Jiants. Lann and Reynn are two of few people who have the ability to switch between Jiant and Lilikin at will, making them switch from something that belongs in a certain other Tetsuya Nomura game into cute, cuddly explorers. Doing this doesn’t seem to do anything in terms of exploring – same as being able to switch you who you control – but their size does have an impact on World of Final Fantasy‘s battle system.
Battles make for an interesting topic, as while they are clearly using some of the classic turn-based, active time battle mechanics from older Final Fantasy games, where speed is used to fill up a bar before one can attack, use items or abilities, there is a strange, but actually well implemented, capturing element that reminds me of Shin Megami Tensei III. Every monster, known as a Mirage, can be caught using a Prismarium when the Mirage is in an weaken state. Up to four mirages can than be used to fight along side the heroes against any of the enemies that appear in the game’s random encounters.
But things take a turn for the strange with the game’s stacking mechanic. Remember that I said being Jiant or Lilikin can affect the battle system? Well every mirage has a given size of small, medium or large, and these monsters can be stacked on top of each other in a pyramid fashion. It sure looks ridiculous seeing Jiant Lann with a Flying Eye and a baby Chocobo stacked on his head like a balancing trick, but there is actually a very good reason to do it. When Lann and Reynn are unstacked with their mirages, everyone gets to attack (six attacks per turn). However, when stacked, they all form into one entity. All their strengths come together to gain more HP, similar spells can combine to to increase their level (having two mirages with fire each will combine to make fira), and basic attacks do more damage per hit. It’s not all good news as this also means their weaknesses come across as well as their resistance, which can be a double edge sword, as being hit with an element one of the mirages is weak against will incur massive damage, and running out of health means all three elements in the stack will die.
More mechanics play a part to make the battle system seem deeper. For starters, mirages act like an individual character. Each one has a skill board that can use points from leveling up to unlock more skills. Its design is a simplistic take on Final Fantasy XIII‘s Crystarium, but it still allows players to pick which skill they feel would be best suited for their current situation. Mirages can also evolve into bigger forms, coming with stat increases and a whole new mirage skill set. Interestingly, Lann and Reynn do not get gear to equip, rather, they relying on special Mirajewels that allow them to use the skills embedded inside them. The developers seem to want the focus to be on the capturing and use of mirages, but while at first glance there seems to be a lot with its battle mechanics, the further into the game one gets, the easier the game becomes. What could have been a challenging battle system with all these features in place sadly turns into a game that can be left to the auto attack for most cases. Battles also move at an incredibly slow pace unless you move the speed to five in the options, and even then, I often held down R1 to fast-foward the speed – similar to a feature in Bravely Default – that helps against the waiting.
Cities tend to be very linear, being places that contain a few NPCs to give side quests or take the main quest forward. Dungeons also suffer similar. The earlier dungeons are extremely simple, and it’s not until nearly 9 hours that they begin to throw more obstacles and puzzles, such as using mirage skills to melt ice blockades or stack mirages on ancient stone weighing scales to meet requirements to open a new passageway. They eventually grow in size, becoming larger and more time consuming to get through, and thankfully a map is included, which makes getting around the bigger dungeons a bit easier to swallow when the encounter rate seems high in those places.
From the screenshots, you’ll probably already have a feeling on the game’s art style. For me, I found the character design incredibly charming and adorable. It’s a design that translates every fan’s favourite entity of Final Fantasy into cute models. It’s a simple style, but being in high definition allows for some high quality modelling that makes this art glow on screen. While it’s not going to win awards for best graphical technologies, it looks great in its own style, with Grymoire full of fantastic colours and detail, which is only spoiled by the lack of anti-aliasing techniques and 60fps, although the latter isn’t much of a negative for a game based around turn-based combat.
Supplying great fan service is certainly not an issue with World of Final Fantasy, but instead, its problems are with its throwaway plot and eventually unchallenging combat. Thankfully, while the story is full of nonsense, the adventure with Lann, Reynn and company is light-hearted, humorous, but above all, just fun to experience. The writing might not be for anyone, due to its comedy focus and younger target audience, but its charming characters, the refreshing stacking battle mechanics and visual charms make this a rather different form of traditional RPG from Square Enix, one that manages to bring a fun way to celebrate hitting the 30 year milestone of this huge series, while melting your heart with its sickly charms.