Not Just Another World
For many, the wait for Final Fantasy XV’s approaching release has been torturous. Many of today’s gamers consider themselves fans of the Final Fantasy franchise, and part of that feeling comes from a shared sentiment for the series’ beloved characters and storylines. Well, I’m here to tell you that not only has a new game in the Final Fantasy universe already released, but it has finally brought together the many characters from each of the franchise’s many installments, culminating in an adorable, tactical monster-collectathon.
When Square Enix announced World of Final Fantasy for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, the immediate expectation was another Final Fantasy Record Keeper, where players simply replay some of the most memorable moments from past Final Fantasy titles while remaining true to a budget. Well, after spending 30 hours with the game, I can definitively put that rumor to rest. What we have here is a fully realized experience worthy of the next 100 hours you’re willing to pour into an RPG – assuming you’re a fan of its style.
The first thing that hits harder than Thundaga is how much time went into making every aspect of the game freaking adorable. In the beginning, the tone can be a little jarring. We get something that feels like it’s going for the same level of drama you’d expect from Kingdom Hearts. Then, everything is chibi and the characters practically trip over the sheer quantity of puns they’re able to spew out at once (serious props to Square’s pun department).
Besides its child-friendly appearance, there is a decent well of complexity to the world that Lann and Reynn (twin protagonists) inhabit. While you can be sure to hear a fair amount of butt jokes, a good deal of time went into developing a world in political turmoil. Grymoire is a place under attack from outside forces threatening to annex each city under a single nefarious umbrella. Outside of that, Reynn and Lann must come to terms with their own world, separated from time and the issues plaguing Grymoire. More importantly, they strive to remember who they really are, and how they fit in with the characters and events around them.
In another, more literal way, World of FF also struggles to find a straightforward style through its use of traditional Japanese animation for seemingly random cutscenes throughout the game. Although it’s certainly not illustrated poorly, this style was dispersed with such infrequency that I had to wonder if it was a way to cut down on the cost of animation for these scenes.
Grymoire is where the hodge-podge of previous Final Fantasy titles exist. Also known as the Land of the Liliken, this world collects favorite characters and events (when it’s convenient) from past Final Fantasy games and puts them in chibi form. If you’ve played one of the previous installments in this long-running franchise, you’re likely to find someone you’re familiar with. If you haven’t, World of FF won’t get you caught up. As someone who has far from played all of the previous Final Fantasy games, I saw a good amount of recognizable cameos. Still, when someone I didn’t recognize was presented as a memorable character, I wasn’t confused by the plot (which remains faithful only to the story presented in World of FF), but I did feel a little out of the club.
Besides its entertaining, and sometimes intriguing, plot World of FF excels in its monster collection styled gameplay. Whenever you encounter a new enemy, you’re given the opportunity to capture it and add it to your ranks. Preparing for combat requires a system of stacking up to three members (one of which must include Lann and Reynn in either their Liliken or Jiant forms – small or large). Each creature, or Mirage, you capture is categorized as Small, Medium, or Large, and each stack may only have one of each type within it. This system of organizing stacks combines everyone’s statistics, resistances, and abilities, sometimes forming stacks that account for each member’s weaknesses or creating new, rare abilities that an individual creature was unable to learn alone. Experimentation is key in this regard, as is having a large pool of potential Mirages to draw from. With over 200 Mirages to collect and evolve, World of FF certainly earns its place amongst other games that encourage you to “Catch ‘em all!”
The levelling system does slightly transcend that of others in the monster collection RPG sub-genre. If you’re at all familiar with the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X, there are a few similarities, albeit significantly paired down. Each Mirage has its own Mirage Board, which is a short, webbed tree of abilities and statistic buffs it can learn. Within these trees, there are sometimes empty spaces that can be manually filled with whatever additional abilities you find throughout your journeys. There are also Mirajewels unlockable from these Mirage Boards that allow either Lann or Reynn to receive a new ability or buff within one of their limited unlockable spaces. Sadly, Lann and Reynn do not have their own levelling trees and must either rely on Mirajewels or your collection of Mirages in order to receive anything new and exciting.
When Mirages reach a certain level and a particular area in their Mirage Boards, they are able to transfigure (evolve) into stronger, larger Mirages. Some of the abilities that a Mirage has learned in its Mirage Board will transfer once it has been transfigured, but others will not. Certain Support abilities that a Mirage can learn allow Lann and Reynn to manipulate the environment, from burning trees that block a path, to flying over short crevices. However, during transfiguration, these abilities are forgotten and can create some unintended consequences when the opportunities to use a Support ability arrive. Fortunately, World of FF allows you to reverse-transfigure Mirages to accommodate any stack combination you desire and for the retrieval of those all-important Support abilities.
To the game’s credit, I was always thrilled whenever I had the opportunity to transfigure one of my Mirages to its next stage. For many of these creatures, the next stage really feels like a satisfying step forward. Yet, it was a little disappointing when one reason or another forced me to reverse my Mirage to an earlier stage. For the strategy and clever gameplay variance, this reverse-transfiguration is important and I do not blame Square Enix for its inclusion. I just wish some small considerations had been made so that I didn’t feel punished for wanting my babies to turn into badasses.
Although the game’s tutorials are extensive, there are some tiny aspects that it fails to inform the player of, which can be a little tiresome. The aforementioned loss of a Support ability was something I had to discover on my own, halfway through a dungeon where the opportunity to reverse-transfigure a Mirage was unavailable. There are other times when the game simply expects you to figure out how a certain mechanic operates. During many of my battles, the enemy would use a status ailment or status boost ability, but the game wouldn’t explain what the effect was, instead forcing me to eventually discover the ability and to remember how that specific ability operates for future battles. The lack of information never resulted in defeat, but it left the game feeling inaccessible and somewhat obtuse.
Another minor gripe is how the game apparently does not allow for more than one save file. At one point, I tried to start a new game when I was prompted to overwrite my previous file. Upon refusal of this prompt, I was given no option to save under a new file. I’m still a little surprised by this discovery. By today’s standards, multiple save files are a common practice, especially amongst RPGs. Anything other than that I find to be a little archaic.
The Verdict: 8.9 out of 10
In case it didn’t shine through all of my minor griping, World of Final Fantasy is a lot of fun. If you like RPG’s, Final Fantasy, Pokémon, or all of the above, it’s certainly worth your time. What’s possibly most charming about the game is how it never shies from what it is and where it comes from. It knows that it’s over-the-top adorable, that it’s catering to every Final Fantasy fan, and that it’s trying to recruit some who are too young to even know what Final Fantasy is. Where it most falters is in trying to do all of these things at once and failing to establish a consistent tone, both visually and narratively. The final product still achieves something that is as addicting and entertaining at home on PlayStation 4, as it is on the go on PlayStation Vita.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.