This is the season of Final Fantasy – not even mentioning the movie and anime, we are (finally) within spitting distance of Final Fantasy XV. And while that monumental launch is looming on the minds of everyone – especially us writers over at DualShockers – we do fear that the chibi-style World of Final Fantasy may be overshadowed.
But make no mistake; World of Final Fantasy is itself a great experience, brimming with color, life, and character. While it may not carry the same clout as the other Square Enix tent-pole releases this season, the game is a must get for any Final Fantasy fan, and recommendable to everyone across the board.
For those out of the loop, World of Final Fantasy is essentially the epitome of Final Fantasy fan-service. Carrying a similar tone as Kingdom Hearts, the game features an entirely original story using heroes, enemies, monsters, and themes of previous Final Fantasy titles. And though the cameos are a terrific way to pull in fans of the series – who doesn’t love a Sephiroth cameo? – the references are unobtrusive, lending the game to be easily recommendable to people who haven’t ever touched a Final Fantasy game before.
The story is simple, especially when compared to others in the series – teenagers/siblings Reynn and Lann wake up with no memory of their lives. Aided by Tama, a mystical cat-like creature (the set of which is known as “Mirages” in-game), they are tasked to enter the world of Grymoire, reclaim their memories, find their parents, and recapture their lost Mirages. Along the way, players team up with princesses, friends, and foes to try and take down an empire encroaching on the land as Jiant Mirage Keepers.
So yeah, the game is like most other cut-and-paste JRPG’s out there. World of Final Fantasy feels like Final Fantasy-lite from the get-go, and never amounts to more. The 50-hour campaign drags on far longer than its welcome or its ability to keep my interest. But that isn’t in itself a bad thing – in fact, it is exactly how the game has positioned itself. The simple story works perfectly for both Final Fantasy fans looking for a light romp before FFXV’s release, as well as newcomers in the series who may not want to invest too much time.
Although the narrative doesn’t stray away from bleak themes, World of Final Fantasy consistently keeps an upbeat tone. While the light themes and simple story may be negative marks on any other Final Fantasy game, both elements merge well with the overall aesthetic and nature of the title – it feels like a bedtime story or a picture book. Matched with the bright and cheery music from composer Masashi Hamauzu, World of Final Fantasy lends itself to be a perfect second-screen title – a great game to play on the Vita as you watch TV.
Throughout your adventure Reynn, Lann, and Tama will constantly chat it up, despite the fact they have very little to say. The dialogue typically consists of sibling rivalry, general confusion, fourth-wall breaking humor, bad puns, and Tama’s annoying voice, rinsed and repeated ad nauseum. While the chatter is fairly endearing in the beginning, it quickly turns into white noise – more often than not I would just opt to skip through it using the handy fast-forward button (a feature that works in the overworld and in battle).
As mentioned above, a large part of the game is dedicated to Reynn and Lann collecting various Mirages that pop up around Grymoire. Mirages become your companions in battle, and each of them have unique abilities and skill trees to upgrade. Capturing Mirages happen through turn-based battle, with minor notes take from the Pokemon series. However, World of Final Fantasy does introduce a few of its own curveballs to differentiate it from other monster-collecting options.
First, players will have an infinite amount of Prismariums – Final Fantasy pokeballs – to lob at their Mirages. If you don’t manage to catch it on the first go, you can keep throwing the same Prismarium turn-after-turn. However, before being able to throw a Prismarium you have to create an opportunity to capture them – an attribute that differs between different types of Mirage. Some Mirages may need to be hit with a fire ability while another may require to be the healed by Reynn or Lann. The system is balanced and dynamic, forcing players to traverse areas with different Mirages to collect the whole set.
Also, as mentioned above, each Mirage has their own Mirage Board – an orb-based upgrade skill tree that will allow you to boost Mirages’ stat, abilities, and transfiguration for every level it gains. This plays directly to those who enjoy micro-managing stats. After every battle I would rush to the in-game menu to manage my recent round of levels and upgrades.
The actual combat mechanics that define the game seem hokey and ridiculous at first. When entering a battle, you will fight alongside four of your captured Mirages – stacked on top of each other like a totem pole. The theory is that stacking your characters combines both hit points and action points. And while the sight of three monsters balancing on top of each other may look funny at first, it is a mechanic introduced early on and entirely fits with the atmosphere of the game.
More important than the aesthetic of it, the stacking element contains a surprising amount of depth. For instance, each Mirage will be one of three sizes: Large, Medium or Small. In any given stack, you can only have one of each type – largest on the bottom. Because of that, you have to juggle and cultivate a roster of differently-sized Mirages. Additionally, because Reynn and Lann are Jiants that can change their size on a whim, you can have to different loadouts per protagonist.
While your strengths and abilities will combine while stacked, so will your weaknesses. As a result, players would have to constantly keep an eye on their elemental stats as well as their affinity to status abilities.
The game tends to feel fairly linear, between both the dungeons and the story in general. In order to add some complexity to the mission structure, Tose opted to add significant puzzle elements to each dungeon requiring players to explore nooks for hidden treasure, capture mirages or trigger some switches. None of the puzzles ever felt particularly difficult, but matched with the high-frequency random encounters, you will get sidetracked often.
Some of the best sections include champions quests which allow you to follow the story of some playable Final Fantasy characters. Along with a few other diversions like an in-game coliseum, the fleshing out of more recognizable (and frankly, interesting) characters rather than Reynn and Lann was a reprieve from the shoddy dialogue. And while this section may be lost on people who haven’t played other titles, these small side-missions are something fun for fans to work for.
As I brought up before, the game was released for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, but I’m hesitant to recommend one over the other. While the grinding, Mirage catching and light story lend well to playing this game on the go, the colors and graphics (even while cartoony in nature) looked amazing on my 40″ 4K television. In fact, if you choose to double dip and get it on both systems, the game supports an aggressive cross-saving feature that should always keep you updated with the latest version.
Overall, World of Final Fantasy is one of the few PlayStation 4 JRPG’s I can recommend across the board. The game is light-playing, but incredibly enjoyable for Final Fantasy buffs while also being a perfect entry into the series. Beyond a few small annoyances – Tama more than anything – the game is easy enough to play for hours on end or in small, nightly sessions. More importantly, World of Final Fantasy is perfectly suited for both PlayStation 4 and Vita – if you need a light JRPG fix before FFXV, I couldn’t recommend this game more highly.