Reviews// World of Final Fantasy

Posted 21 Nov 2016 15:09 by
I think I've said this before, but nostalgia is a powerful thing when it comes to franchises like Final Fantasy, and World of Final Fantasy leans on the nostalgic nature of its fanbase.

World of Final Fantasy takes all of our favourite characters from across the franchise and dumps them in pint-sized form into a new world where they interact in familiar (and not so familiar) ways that all work together to create a cohesive whole, so that it feels natural having Cloud and Squall interacting.

This 'naturalness' partly comes from the art style. You have two form of people in this game - there are Jiants, who are regular-sized humans scaled similarly to characters from the Kingdom Hearts franchise. There are also Lilikin; the tiny pint-sized people that make up the populace of the world of Grimoire. At first the Lilikin can be odd to look at until you realise that they have been scaled to have the same proportions as the 2D sprites a lot of them are based on, with newer characters like Yuna (FFX/X-2) and Squall (FFVIII) recreated in the same art style. The result is something adorable and reassuringly familiar. It might be too cute for some people, but there is no denying that the graphics are beautiful without the need to be too complex or realistic.

You play as twins Reynn and Lann, who awake from a long slumber with no memories of their past. They are told they were once powerful Mirage Keepers, people with the ability to capture and control creatures in order to accomplish great feats. With this being an RPG these feats usually come down to fighting, and they're told that if they go out in to the world and recapture the Mirages they once had they may also learn about their past.

The first Mirage you meet is called Tama, an adorable white fox with a strange way of speaking. She has been tasked with guiding you and offering a helping hand whenever you need one. So armed with a vague goal and a few nuggets of information, the twins set off to Grimoire and begin their adventure.

Because this is a fantasy game there are certain devices that can be used to propel our protagonists forward. World of Final Fantasy chooses to go with a prophecy that instructs Reynn and Lann to go find some keys. By collecting these the twins believe they can find a way to reunite with their parents. If this feels very familiar and contrite I'd urge you to stick with it. The payoff is worth it, and the journey to that pay off is incredibly fun if nothing else.

The battle system is going to be the big draw for a lot of long-time Final Fantasy fans; it is a turn-based active-time battler. Basically, you take it in turns taking actions, and the order of those turns is determined by your agility stats and your position on a bar on the left-hand side of the screen. The more points in agility you have the quicker you move up the bar. When you reach the top of the bar the action pauses and you can choose what to do.

It is a classic system, with a twist. Each twin has a stack of two captured Mirages: a small on top of a medium on top of a large. Reynn and Lann can be either medium or large. For example, you could have Jiant form Reynn with a chocobo on her head with a chocochick on top of that (this is a really good early game healing-focused stack) whilst you could have Lilikin-sized Lann sat in a Magitek Armour with a White Nakk (baby Fenrir) on his head. The Stacks combine HP to make one strong unit, and if the individuals in the stack of similar abilities then they combine to form stronger versions of those abilities.

Using the chocobo + chocochick stack example, they both have Cure based spells. These combine to form Cura (single target strong heal) and Curaga (Whole party, medium heal) so whilst you can brute-force your way through a fight it makes it quicker and easier if you stack according to the enemies you'll be fighting.

There can be a lot of stack juggling, and considering that each Mirage has an associated Mirage Board (a set of unlockable traits and abilities) you can easily get bogged down in the menus. This is a common problem for RPGs and one that isn't easy to solve if the game needs those systems to satisfy the customer demographic they are aiming for.

So, instead of complaining about the cumulative hours I've probably spent unlocking different Mirage abilities instead I'll offer this bit of advice - unless you're aiming for a specific ability you don't need to go into the menus every time a mirage levels up. Stockpile those points and get it done in one go, otherwise you'll break the flow of the game and make things less fun for yourself. This advice works across most RPGs, plus if you suddenly boost a Mirage with half of its board unlocked in a single session that Mirage will feel much more powerful than going through the slow sensation of power creep you'd get doing it one point at a time.

Square went so far as to allow you to carry and level-up a bunch of other Mirages. This means that whilst you have your core team doing all the work, the others with you can freeload and level up at slightly decreased speed than if they were active party members.

There is a multiplayer mode that can be accessed in the hub zone you're introduced to early in the game. It's fun, but can be brutal if you go in with only a basic understanding of the way stacks change abilities. Give it a go - it's fun once you have a team that can hold its own.

Finally, without spoiling anything I'd tell people wanting to play this that if you do not stop playing once the credits roll, it may feel that certain elements of the story were rushed and introduced really late. There is a reason for that that will become clear once you play the game.

I've spent almost fifty hours playing this game and I'm not done with it yet. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable game so far and it has been a wonderful counterbalance to the super-serious RPGs I've played recently, as well as a balance to the upcoming game in the same franchise. World of Final Fantasy is an excellent palette cleanser as well as its own thing. I hope that this is the beginning of a new spin-off franchise because I want more of this, much much more.

Pros:
+ Beautiful art style
+ Fun and likeable cast both new and familiar
+ The battle system is just what turn-based fans have been craving
+ There are multiple anime cutscenes that will make you want an actual TV show
+ I didn't mention the music above, but it is amazing!

Cons:
- Menu bloat if you don't make rules for yourself in dealing with it
- The side quests in the world are a missed opportunity
- Same can be said for the XL sized Mirages and the champion medals

SPOnG Score 8/10

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